FIDLAR's Zac Carper Lets Anger Fuel His New Work

Zac Carper’s pissed off, but he hasn’t changed a bit. The FIDLAR frontman is as affable as ever, but a renewed focus and stable personal details have allowed him to start writing material that’s unlike anything FIDLAR has put out before. As for the band, they’re bigger than ever, with all the indie accolades you could ask for and massive shows under their belt, such as the Reading and Leeds festivals in England this past year.

Carper's at his Eagle Rock studio when we talk, running through guitar gear that he hasn't touched in a while – specifically a blackface-spec Fender Bassman that he "bought for $50 from a crackhead," he says with a laugh. He's the most at ease he's been in the three times we've talked over the past few years as he's now settled into a warehouse space in East LA, an area of the city that he says feels like his hometown in Hawaii – it’s a little hood, a little noisy. Carper's lived in both Highland Park and Silver Lake before, the latter of which felt too safe to him. The concept of gentrification comes up, as it does with most Echo Park/Silver Lake residents or ex-pats, and Carper returns to a trope that won't surprise FIDLAR's return listeners: "I like more authentic things, more culture. Once things get 'gentrified,' it loses some sort of culture that I'm missing in life. “

Truth has always been a staple in FIDLAR’s arsenal of tropes. Where most heard and saw scuzzed-out party anthems fit to break drywall to, the band’s sophomore effort, Too, was almost a voyeuristic look into Carper’s battle with addiction and the effects of his hard living on himself and those around him. He’s been sober for two years now, and his sobriety is a horse that’s been beaten to death in interviews — Carper is clean and that’s all you need to know. He is back to producing as of late, and has made his stamp on records like the Frights’ You Are Going To Hate This and SWMRS’ Drive North, both albums that have a twinge of FIDLAR’s griminess to them. It’s been a learning experience for Carper that might feed into his own band’s forthcoming record.

“The one thing I’m learning from them is their ability to open up,” he says. “Punk rock in general, there’s not much collaboration, and that’s the scene I came out of, the house party/punk/garage rock scene. I recorded the first FIDLAR record, and I wanted to do that same thing to another band, and the first one was the Frights. Sometimes I’d push too hard and then pull back, so I tried to balance between pushing them and making sure they were not going to kill themselves.”

The trial-by-fire fashion that’s almost Carper’s calling card has worked well. Both SWMRS and the Frights are on this current tour with FIDLAR, which has them playing bigger rooms than ever – at one point, Carper mentions that FIDLAR is about to perform at the Palladium in Hollywood, a 3,700-capacity room that’s the biggest they’ve done in their own city. While one would assume that Carper’s mindset is now Angeleno through-and-through, a part of him is still back in the islands, where as a kid he would hustle mainlanders at Waimea Bay, promising to protect their cars for a little cash. It was a gritty but honest upbringing, and with the overwhelming fetishization of the tropical culture that was his childhood, he’s felt compelled to write about the shift as of late.

“I’m from Hawaii, and we’re talking about the gentrification of LA, but Hawaii is getting it 10 times worse than anywhere else,” he says. “It’s going straight from culture to a fucking mall, especially the town that I grew up in, so I wrote this song called “Get Off My Rock,” and it’s mainly against the corporations and developers. I’m kind of going more that direction.”

This isn’t “old man shaking his fist at clouds” shit here; Carper’s rightfully worked up. Yeah, there will likely be the odd party song on the third FIDLAR record but if Carper’s taking full stock of the change between his early 20s and his late 20s, it’s manifesting in a way that shows an awareness of his surroundings. FIDLAR may be growing beyond the sonic walls of a ramshackle party house, and that’s a great thing: Rock ’n’ roll needs some teeth nowadays, and FIDLAR could be a vehicle for change.

“I think what I’m trying to focus more is anger,” Carper says. “I don’t know why, but I’ve been pretty angry lately; I’ve been getting older and looking back on things and my generation, the people, the younger people – America is just fucked up right now and it’s been fucked up for a while. Everybody’s just so checked out that they don’t want to deal with it. There’s less aggression in music because I think everybody’s just glued to their self-involved Instagram accounts and shit like that. I think my direction is going to be less ‘me’ and more at something, whatever that something is.”
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Kristian C. Libman