By Daniel Kohn
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When FIDLAR hit the Observatory stage for Burgerama in March, they weren't quite sure what to expect. They'd played some of their best shows at that venue, but as part of such a deep lineup, the band weren't sure how many fans were there for them. By the time the foursome finished a whirlwind 40-minute set, the answer was quite clear: A shit ton.
Swirling mosh pits and crowd-surfing youths aside, the Los Angeles-based quartet have made in-roads not only with the notoriously fickle, insular Orange County punk community, but internationally as well. For the better part of 18 months, FIDLAR have been touring almost nonstop throughout Europe and the States with a live show that's known for its electric energy and wild antics. (For example, singer Zac Carper has been known to put either a friend's or band mate's phone number on his amp, then telling fans it's Justin Bieber's direct line.) Formed in 2009, FIDLAR (an acronym for "Fuck It Dog, Life's A Risk") honed their craft by playing several noted punk venues and DIY art spaces in LA, but their legendary house-party sets are what helped them catch on with the younger punk crowd. They would play almost any party anywhere, including in Fullerton, which they describe as an "insane" romp that got gloriously out of hand. Combining their balls-to-the-wall brand of surf punk meets garage rock with rowdy crowds, the local police departments were often unwelcome guests.
"I think a kid who plays with Underground Road to Candy Land jumped off a roof into the crowd," Carper recalls.
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But that's hardly the craziest thing to have happened. "We were playing in front of a trailer, and a girl was leaning over the roof of an RV and peed off it while we were playing," he says. "It's always involving a roof with that kind of stuff."
Although they're proud Angelenos, FIDLAR love playing in OC, especially the Observatory and its Constellation Room.
"The Observatory crowd is hard to beat," says bassist Brandon Schwartzel. "There are a lot of kids who are really into [our] kind of music."
And with good reason. FIDLAR released their self-titled debut earlier this year via Mom + Pop for nearly every format—except cassette, for which the band sought local indie Burger Records to produce 500 limited-edition tapes. "I actually emailed Sean [Bohrman] at Burger and asked him if he wanted to put out the tape of the record, and he was down to do it," guitarist/vocalist Elvis Kuehn explains. "They knew who we were and had seen us play. Plus, they're really nice dudes."
"We've all been fans of the label," drummer Max Kuehn adds. "They put out a lot of cool bands we like."
Although the guys haven't had the time to produce an album's worth of new material because of their busy tour schedule, FIDLAR just released a split 7-inch single with their friends the Orwells through Mom + Pop and Burger. Titled "Awkward," the single is similar to songs such as "Cheap Beer" and "Max Can't Surf." Carper's lyrics often touch on the daily life of someone in his or her mid-20s, which is one of the band's most appealing traits.
FIDLAR landed on the top of many Best New Bands lists in 2012, and opening for the Hives and Black Lips gave the guys a new perspective about staying disciplined on the road. (For them, that means no skateboarding while on tour.) But there's one thing they won't give up, at least not yet: playing the DIY art spaces where they got their start.
"It's become a little too hard to do now," Max says. "We still like to do them, and they're fun, but [those shows are] cramped and tough to play."
Not a bad problem to have.