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Oct. 30, 2019

Interview with FIDLAR

Interview with FIDLAR

We had the honor of interviewing FIDAR with co-host Sean Ulbs of The Eiffels.

"Over the course of 13 songs, FIDLAR’s third album Almost Free touches on many of the tragedies and irritations of modern life: existential dread, gentrification, the...

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We had the honor of interviewing FIDAR with co-host Sean Ulbs of The Eiffels.

"Over the course of 13 songs, FIDLAR’s third album Almost Free touches on many of the tragedies and irritations of modern life: existential dread, gentrification, the inescapable sway of the super-rich and the self-involved, post-breakup telecommunication, performative wokeness, the loneliness of sobriety or the lack thereof. But through sheer force of imagination and an unchecked joie de vivre, the L.A.-based band manages to turn feeling wrong into something glorious and essential. In the age of joyless self-care, Almost Free makes a brilliant case for being less careful, for living without fear of fucking up, and possibly embracing any incurred damage as a lucky symptom of being alive.

Produced by Ricky Reed (a 2017 Grammy Award nominee for Producer of the Year, known for his work with Leon Bridges, Kesha, and Halsey), Almost Free skids along with a relentless energy, a sustained rush of feeling. Even in the album’s most languid moments it’s still wildly kinetic, with guitars that thrash and buzz and sometimes wander into ethereal terrain, heavy and unhinged rhythms, vocals that shift from manic to fragile and back again.

Despite that volatility, Almost Free came to life through a far more gradual and deliberate process than the band followed for their 2013 self-titled debut and their 2015 sophomore album Too. Mixed by eight-time Grammy-winner Manny Marroquin (Christine and the Queens, Dirty Projectors, Kanye West) and mastered by multiple Grammy nominee Chris Gehringer (Rihanna, Chvrches, St. Vincent), the album taps into the insights Zac’s recently gleaned in producing for The Frights, SWMRS, and Dune Rats. At the same time, Almost Free achieves a graceful cohesion that the band largely credits to Reed’s guidance in sharpening their songcraft, as well as his aligning the disparate sensibilities of FIDLAR’s two lead songwriters. “Elvis is really into garage-rock and blues, and I’m usually listening to new shit,” says Zac. “There’s a yin and yang happening, and Ricky was able to offset everything so it’s not so rock & roll and not so SoundCloud rapper—there’s a balance.” 

In the spirit of contradiction and contrast, much of Almost Free centers on FIDLAR’s love-hate relationship with L.A. and its endless tensions. Partly inspired by the band getting kicked out of their house after Highland Park went trendy, the album-opening “Get Off My Rock” fires off on the thoughtless upheaval that happens when people with too much money claim a neighborhood as their own. And on “Can’t You See,” Almost Free portrays a particular species of L.A. creep, summed up by Zac as “a musician who’s high on coke at a party and showing you his music on his iPhone, and punishing you by making you listen to it.” With its slippery groove and tongue-in-cheek lyrics (“Meditate, you can get rich quick/Don’t talk, just like my shit”), “Can’t You See” originated with a demo that Elvis submitted on a whim. “I figured no one would be into it, since it didn’t fit into what we’ve always done, but Ricky really responded to it,” he says. “It was freeing to realize I don’t have to write a certain way for it to work for FIDLAR—the songs can take all different shapes.”

Whereas “Can’t You See” unfolds with an elegant precision, “Alcohol” sinks into FIDLAR’s most supremely base instincts. Built on a serpentine riff and thunderous drumming, the track emerges as a transcendent party song with a dark undercurrent. “I was sober for a long time, and I remember sitting in a meeting listening to someone’s story and thinking, ‘This is just making me want to get fucked up,’” says Zac. “Eventually I started drinking again, and that song is what came out.” Elsewhere on Almost Free, themes of addiction manifest in the self-effacing sing-song of “By Myself” (as in “Well, I’m cracking one open with the boys, by myself”) and in the bleary and brooding stomp of “Kick.” “‘Kick’ is really about trying to g


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