Fun.'s Nate Ruess on His Favorite Songs, From Weezer to Wilco

The frontman also discusses his band's future

Nate Ruess of fun.
Kyle Gustafson/For The Washington Post via Getty Images
Nate Ruess of Fun. performs at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.
By |

More than a year after releasing their hit single "We Are Young," fun. is only getting bigger; the band is up for six Grammys and just announced a three-month summer tour with opening act Tegan and Sara. While vacationing in L.A., frontman Nate Ruess took some time to share a wide-ranging playlist of his favorite songs, including Fleetwood Mac, Tame Impala and A$AP Rocky. "I have time off," said Ruess. "And obviously I love any chance that I get to talk about music."

Video: Fun. on 'We Are Young'

The band is set to tour the U.S. and Europe this year, and Ruess still getting used to headlining huge venues. "It's tough, because we're only coming off of really one album that people know, and then another album that people are starting to get used to," he says. "So it's hard to put together this big show and kind of change up set lists and stuff like that. But the weird part is we want to be on tour for another year. We just did a show in Colorado right before Christmas, and it was 7,000 people and sold out. We had never played before to that many people in our lives and I think it might have been our favorite show ever, just because we're still getting better as a band."

Ruess added he's working on a hip-hop project. He can't say who, but he says it's not his hero Kanye West. "I'm just not at liberty to say, so I don't even know why I said it," he said. "But [Kanye] kind of got me off of my ass as far as acknowledging there's great music happening today. I think the older that I was getting, the more jaded I was becoming. I don't want to be a nostalgic listener. There's too much good stuff out there, and I just think it's up to me to work a little harder to find it." Here's Ruess' playlist of influences and current favorites:

Wilco: "More Like the Moon," More Like the Moon EP, 2003
There
's all this talk in my world about how instantaneous a song has to be in order for it to be great. I'm of the opposite belief; I like songs that take a while to appreciate. This song – a b-side that came out after Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – I might have spent a month straight where I listened to it every single night, in my bunk, on tour. Like, on repeat. It has that good, tantric Wilco vibe. When Jeff Tweedy sings, "Why don't you come to me now more who you are?" it hits me in the most amazing way. It very subtly changes up the beat and becomes hypnotic. There's also classical guitar solo, which seems pretentious but fits so well. It's got a little bit of a jazz vibe, but it works.

It'd be such an honor to work with those guys in any capacity. As a lyricist, I love Jeff Tweedy. He has this ability to make you think that he's not singing about anything and it makes no sense, and then he throws in a random line that somehow now you know what the whole song is about.

Weezer: "El Scorcho," Pinkerton, 1996
When Weezer first came out, they were playing a small show in Phoenix, and I remember begging my dad to take me. This song has always been so relatable to me. It does such a good job of saying "Hey - I'm over here!" It's a love song – Rivers is waving his arms out to someone. That's been my whole existence, basically.

I remember the radio station in Phoenix had played it on the radio and I was able to get my cassette player out quick enough to record it off of the radio. I spent the whole weekend having to mow the lawn and do chores, listening to "El Scorcho" on repeat. When Pinkerton came out, that changed everything for me. It made me want to be in a band. It finally felt like I was starting to belong to something. I know Rolling Stone trashed Pinkerton at first when it came out, but now it's a five-star classic.

Fleetwood Mac: "Not That Funny," Tusk, 1979
Tusk
followed Rumours, and I feel like it went through the exact same process Pinkerton did. It didn't necessarily duplicate – there was a little more deconstruction involved. I can say safely Pinkerton and Tusk are two of my five favorite albums of all time, and they're both coming on the heels of these incredible, kind of slick massive commercial albums. "Not that Funny" has this lo-fi quality to it where the guitars are just buzzing like a swarm of bees. It's such an aggressive song, especially for the time and band. He just keeps shouting, "It's not that funny, is it?" and you almost feel like he's reprimanding you. I feel like I've done something wrong. And it's fucking awesome.

Tusk is crazy also because there are, like, three or four Lindsey Buckingham songs that are all kind of the same chord progression, and he uses a few of the same lyrics, too. It's almost like he just decided to do four different versions of the songs and put them on the album.

The Long Winters: "Scared Straight," When I Pretend to Fall, 2003
The touring keyboardist from Harvey Danger started this band. It's a brilliant album, the way I always want power-pop to be, which is super, super smart. The lyrics can go from serious to funny in two seconds. I feel like that's been absurdly lost in music today.

I love songs where you can turn it on and it just takes you completely to a certain point in time. I was at my messiest as far as being a human being when I heard it, which was probably in the mid-2000s. It was right after a breakup, and probably the first time in my young adult life that I was not in a relationship related to high school. It's a whole different freedom – anything is fair game. It didn't work, by the way. I think I ended up just getting back into my high school relationship at that point.

Tame Impala: "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards," Lonerism, 2012
Far superior to anything I've heard in a long time. It has such a good melody. I remember George Harrison saying that had the Beatles stuck together, they would have just sounded like ELO in the Seventies. But I think they might have sounded like Tame Impala. Everybody's using samples now, there's a lot of electronic music, which is totally good, but it feels like the guitar is being forgotten, which is just a terrible, terrible idea. Tame Impala is bringing back the guitar in an awesome way.

Miniature Tigers: "Angel Bath," Mia Pharaoh, 2012
We take this band on tour all the time. They're amazing and haven't even hit their full potential yet. Their album kind of sounds like a mix between Beck's Midnight Vultures, ABBA and a Kanye West production. It's freaking amazing. Charlie [Brand], the singer, sent me a new demo where he uses a Fleetwood Mac sample. I could make a few adjustments and make it a Fun. song. I'm having a really, really hard time not stealing the song from him.

A$AP Rocky: "Fuckin' Problems," Long.Live.A$AP, 2012
Everybody steps up on this one. I expect Drake, Kendrick Lamar and A$AP to be awesome. But nobody surprised me more than 2 Chainz, who came from a different rap world than what I'm used to paying attention to. He's unbelievable.

Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T, 2 Chainz: "Mercy," Cruel Summer, 2012
Kanye's able to push a bridge into hip-hop so well, which is something that wasn't necessarily known for having bridges in the first place. It goes from the beat into a whole different world. But to be honest, all you gotta do is put Pusha T on a song and I'll love it.

x