Keeping It Clean with FIDLAR

FIDLAR's frontman, Zac Carper, talks cleaning up and the band's new record

Alice Baxley

With a name that stands for, “F--- It Dawg, Life’s A Risk,” FIDLAR’s lead singer/guitarist Zac Carper isn’t really the big-time partier his fans might expect him to be.

“I’m stuck in LA traffic,” he tells me when I call him up. “On the way the doctor’s office. Just living the dream.”

For a band (who headlines the Observatory North Park on Saturday, Oct. 17) that’s known for its no-holds-barred energy, furious live performances and lyrics that detail more alcohol and drug use that would make Keith Richards blush (their most well-known single is called “Cheap Beer” after all), the affable Carper is curiously a low-key kinda guy -- and he’s all but sure fans of FIDLAR's 2013 self-titled debut record will hate their just-released followup, “Too.”

“Will [our fans] like the new record? Probably not. [laughs] Our first record was so much about partying, even though it’s not really a ‘party’ record. It was just songs about me going through s--- and drinking and doing lots of drugs at that time. I was trying to figure out life by doing that stuff.”

And now? What’s changed?

“This new record is about figuring life out by not drinking. Which, by the way, f---ing sucks. [laughs] It’s so hard. I’m wondering now if the whole punk rock s--- is so much about the image thing and that’s how people think of it. I felt like I was this f---ed up frontman in a punk band and you hear about everything that happens with that -- overdoses, death, all that. And this new record is not that. It’s basically an identity crisis.”

Ah, the artist’s conundrum. Satisfy the masses with what they’ve come to know and love, or evolve as a person and deliver art that represents that journey? For Carper, it was a no-brainer.

“This record could have gone two ways: It could have been about what I was going through, or I could have written another record just like the first one and lied. I had to be honest.”

Fidlar, "Too"

For FIDLAR fans that might be anticipating a toothless dad-rock record then with “Too,” they'll be greatly disappointed. The immeasurable energy of the band (which, aside from Carper, is comprised of bassist Brandon Schwartzel, lead guitarist Elvis Kuehn and drummer Max Kuehn) is still there, along with those chainsaw riffs and skate-punk anthems. It’s just that now, instead of taking part in the drunken post-show celebrations, Carper relishes his role in a spectator’s seat of sorts.

“It’s funny to me. You realize how stupid people are,” he laughs while explaining what it’s like to be cleaned up while on tour. “It’s endearing to me though. I get to have real conversations with people. I can actually remember things people say. That’s a major source of songwriting for me, so in a weird way, it’s better. After the show, I go straight to the merch booth and talk to fans and get to know people.”

In an age of ever-increasing social disconnect, manning your band’s own merch booth (especially when you’re at the popularity level FIDLAR is at) is actually more punk rock than people might realize.

“In England, I feel like I’m gonna get mobbed,” Carper explains. “Last time I was in the UK, just walking up to the merch table, these crowds of kids grabbed me and I started thinking: ‘I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die, I’m gonna get trampled.’”

Guess no one ever said rock & roll was a safe bet. But it made me wonder: What would Carper be doing if he wasn’t playing music?

“I’d probably be a criminal. [laughs] My life was not going in the right direction. Weirdly enough, I would’ve either been a criminal…or a computer programmer. I think of that every single day. I was on an airplane going up to San Francisco recently and I was sitting next to this guy and we ended up talking. He was like, ‘What do you do?’ And I was like, ‘I play in a band’ and I go, ‘What do you do?’ And he goes, ‘I work at a tech startup’ and I was like, ‘F---!’ You wanna be me; I wanna be you. The grass is always greener, man.”

FIDLAR headlines the Observatory North Park on Saturday, Oct. 17, with the Frights opening. Tickets are $15 and available online here.

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