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Ignited we stand

fun's orchestrated punk pop draws a rabid following

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It's a kind of supergroup, except for the fact that the three members of fun aren't necessarily well known.

After the Format, an Arizona-based power-pop band that made records for the Elektra and Atlantic labels, called it quits last year, vocalist Nate Ruess hooked up with Anathallo keyboardist Andrew Dost and Steel Train guitarist Jack Antonoff to form fun. Last week, Nettwerk Records released the group's debut album, Aim and Ignite, which places Ruess' Freddie Mercury-rivaling vocal range and Dost's frequently lush arrangements into a punk-pop and emo-friendly setting.

"It's kind of the vocal sensibilities of the Format with an ear toward ornate orchestration and the Steel Train spiritual ethic of freedom," says Dost. "Nate and I are a bit more structured — or at least we over-think things — and Jack tends to go with his gut. And I think it's a potent combination."

The album was produced by Redd Kross' Steven McDonald in tandem with longtime collaborator Roger Manning, of Jellyfish fame. Both were big influences, says Dost, but fun's musical inspirations don't stop there.

"We grew up on Southern California Epitaph pop punk bands. I think we all have a good, solid knowledge base of '60s pop, but I wouldn't say that's our obsession by any means. Typically I listen to a lot of Debussy and stuff like that, and I think that's where those harmonic sensibilities come from."

During the writing of their debut album, the musicians commuted between Dost's native Michigan and his bandmates' homes in New Jersey. The keyboardist also continues to work on a number of other recording projects — including his forthcoming children's album and a very odd collection of songs about Christopher Columbus — but he figures it's fun that holds the most potential of anything he's been involved with.

"As far as songwriting goes," says Dost, "I think it frees up your brain when you know that your singer can do anything."

He thinks, or at least hopes, the feeling is mutual when it comes to the band's instrumental work. And fans appear to be having no problem making the transition: "We're just incredibly grateful for the reaction and for the fan support so far. It makes me want to never stop touring. Which is really bizarre for me, because I normally would just rather stay at home."

In fact, Dost says audiences across the country already seem to know every word to every song.

"People were going nuts even before the record came out, and I think YouTube helped that," he says. "It's wild to hear a room full of people singing along and it seems like every single one of them knows the words and is singing at the top of their lungs.

"It's so weird to feel that this thing that was in your head — or that the three of you wrote in this bedroom in New Jersey or while walking along the beach in Michigan or wherever — suddenly that little sentiment that was a germ in your head is now being yelled back at you by 300 people. And someday, hopefully more ..."

bill@csindy.com

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