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We caught up with FIDLAR’s frontman Zac Carper about some music that’s been on his mind this year, ranging from album influences to unexpected heroes.
When we catch up with FIDLAR frontman Zac Carper, he’s in absolute top spirits. “Livin’ the dream, man,” he says cheerfully down the phone from his LA home. “I’m working on some music right now – I have no idea what it’s going to be, but I can tell you it’s house music. I just like making shit! I went down this rabbit hole, and who knows where I’ll end up? It’ll probably end up sitting on a hard-drive forever.”
Carper is making the most of his down-time, given that FIDLAR more or less hit the ground running with the release of Almost Free, their third studio album, back in January. FIDLAR return for both Splendour and a headlining tour this July. These are their first Australian shows in well over three years. We got chatting with Carper about some music that’s been on his mind this year, ranging from album influences to unexpected heroes.
When Almost Free bursts out of the speakers, the first thing you hear is the bombastic and defiant “Get Off My Rock.” It samples the distinctive cymbal crashes from Gorillaz’ “Clint Eastwood,” before locking into a thumping beat based off the classic Beastie Boys single “So Whatcha Want.” Carper notes that it was the first song he wrote for the album, and its distinctive shift in direction was entirely intentional. “It was basically an exercise in me learning how to program beats on the computer,” he says.
“I started out with this loop, really similar to ‘So Whatcha Want,’ and I kind of just built a song over the top of it. As it came together, it started to make more and more sense contextually.” Carper notes that the influence of the legendary hip-hop trio is something that very much served as a guiding light for his creative process on the album. “I’m obsessed with them,” he says. “Of course the first beat I ever came up with sounds exactly like a Beastie Boys song. Instead of denying it or fighting it, I decided to just roll with it.”
No, really: The man who kinda-almost-sorta ran for President ended up serving as one of the more unexpected influences on Almost Free‘s rap-flavoured moments. “It’s so funny,” says Carper. “Honestly, the one artist I was trying to go for was Kid Rock when I rapped on the album. There’s this one song of his, ‘Cowboy,’ that I just love. If you listen to that, and then listen to me rapping, you’ll immediately see the similarities.”
Doubling down on the rap-rock, Carper is proud to state his love for Jacksonville’s finest nu-metal purveyors. “I can honest-to-God say that Significant Other by Limp Bizkit changed my life,” he says. “When I was starting high school, it was the biggest thing in the world. I’m 31 now, and I know now that there is absolutely no denying that record. Any dude who’s my age who says they didn’t fuck with that album is a fucking liar.” Sadly, Carper has never had the chance to tell Fred Durst this in person: “Never met any of those guys, man,” he says. “I wish. That’d be the dream… then I’d really be living the dream.”
“They were one of the first bands on at this festival we were playing over in Europe a couple years ago,” explains Carper of his connection to the Mods.“The way we do things, we basically play a festival and then have to get on a fucking bus to get to the next one. That bums me out, but what I do love is getting to see a lot of the opening bands. Seeing the bands playing the first few hours of a festival, you really get to make some great new discoveries. Of all the ones we’ve made, Sleaford Mods would probably be my favourite.
The Nottingham laptop-punk duo may not be a well-known name in Australia, but in their native UK they’ve got a devoted cult following. Picture angry English beat poetry spat over the top of booming post-punk beats and you’re starting to get a picture of this prolific and criminally-underrated band. “They’re just… so British.” Carper laughs. “It’s insane: The producer guy [Andrew Fearn] is set up with a laptop, beer in one hand, and he just presses the space bar to start the song. The other guy [Jason Williamson] just goes off. I’ve never seen anyone like him.”
When asked if he’d ever consider bringing the Mods out on tour with FIDLAR, Carper is hesitant. “I don’t know if I’d want to,” he says. “It’s one of those things where people are like, ‘Never meet your heroes.’ I feel like I should just let them be them – let them do their thing and we’ll do ours.”
One band FIDLAR will be taking out on tour with them, however, are Sydney garage-rockers Pist Idiots. Currently on a lap around the east coast in support of their new single “Motor Runnin,” Carper discovered the band when he was last in Australia. “I was here, working on the Dune Rats album [2017’s The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit],” he explains.
“I’d been asking around about Australian bands to check out, and I was just getting hit with bands left right and centre. One day, the guys from Skegss came in to visit us in the studio, and when I asked them Pist Idiots were the first band that Benny [Reed] suggested to me. As soon as I pressed play, it was immediately positive. I was like, ‘Fuck yeah! This rules!’ I’m psyched they’re doing the shows with us.”
Also joining in on the fun for the band’s Sydney show at the Metro Theatre will be up-and-comers Neighbourhood Void. They’ve already had a busy 2019, opening for the likes of Joyce Manor and Amyl & The Sniffers as well as dropping a grungey new single, “Kid.” Carper is entirely enthusiastic about the punk trio, who also ended up being exposed to him serendipitously while in Australia on Dune Rats business.
“One of the kids from that band Facebook messaged me, like, years ago,” he says. “Maybe the first time we came out here. Then, when I was in Australia last, I was driving down the Great Ocean Road and I was listening to triple j. They played a song from Neighbourhood Void, and I just became obsessed with that band. I never even put two and two together.” If you’re attending FIDLAR’s Sydney show, Carper insists you get there early: “I really love this band,” he says. “They’re just fucking great songs. You gotta hear ’em.”