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Fun. with Grammys

With a trifecta of top nominations, the 'We Are Young' hitmakers keep their momentum going

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When he was asked to join the band Fun., Andrew Dost had a sense that the new group had serious potential. Dost had already served as a touring drummer for frontman Nate Ruess' previous band, the Format, and had huge respect for him, both personally and musically.

"Nate is just a fantastic guy and in addition to that, he's an amazing performer, an amazing frontman, and an amazing songwriter," says Dost, who has all the more reason to be amazed now that the indie-pop band has truly become THE breakout band of 2012.

Earlier this year, the group's "We Are Young" single — which features guest vocals from Janelle Monáe — shot to the top of Billboard magazine's Hot 100 singles chart. It would go on to hold that spot for six straight weeks, while the title song from the group's Some Nights album has proven to be a strong follow-up single and remains in the Top 10.

If all that weren't enough, the New York City-based group was nominated last week for Grammy Awards in all four top categories: Best New Artist, Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Album of the Year.

Despite all the attention, Dost says the band has been keeping its eye on the task of being a touring band.

"I guess we're just kind of going about our business and trying to keep our heads down," he says. "We just want to keep working hard and making good music."

Indeed, the trio is experienced in the ways of the music world. Ruess' band the Format signed with Elektra Records in 2002, going on to release two full-length albums and several EPs. Guitarist Jack Antonoff's other band Steel Train, which is still together, released three albums and two EPs, while Dost's former band Anathallo had four albums and two EPs under its belt before breaking up in 2008.

When the Format came to a halt, Ruess wasted no time in enlisting Dost and Antonoff for his new project. Aim & Ignite, Fun.'s 2009 debut, showcased an obvious talent for smart and catchy power pop, while this year's sophomore album, Some Nights, embraces new influences with an assist from producer Jeff Bhasker of Kanye West and Drake fame.

The trio picked Bhasker to produce after a 2010 tour in which the group began falling for contemporary hip-hop and R&B in a big way.

"We had started listening to Drake, and I think we had always been fans of Kanye West," says Dost. "These guys are really pushing it forward."

In fact, Dost likens the impact of Kanye's album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, to that of the Beach Boys Pet Sounds, which he first heard while in high school. "When you get inside a work of art like that," he says, "it really kind of changes you."

Orchestration, ornate instrumentation and electronic elements notwithstanding, Fun. is still a pop band with lots of guitar, big melodies, and plenty of energy. Synthesizers enrich the sound, with anthemic tunes like "All Alone" and the aforementioned "We Are Young" evoking the grand pop of Queen, complete with heavily layered vocal harmonies, soaring melodies and larger-than-life musical structures.

"We really wanted to do something that would last and be powerful," concludes Dost. "I hope we achieved that."

scene@csindy.com

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