Reality Fucking Sucks: FIDLAR’S Zac Carper on the new album, bad habits, and the state of L.A. music

Founded in 2009, FIDLAR have carried the torch of their Southern California punk pedigree with an undeniable realness – anarchic (sometimes illegal) live shows, actual abilities on both skate- and surfboards, and an impressive balancing act of continuous substance use. In the wake of their self-titled debut in 2013, the band have amassed a rabid, international following of like-minded revelers, and recently delivered their sophomore LP, Too, on Mom + Pop Music this September.

When I connected with singer Zac Carper over the phone, he was producing a record for the band Swimmers in Oakland, California and laying down some guitars. After talking about the level of intoxication required to achieve a desert rock sound, we dove right into it.

The album seems a lot about looking for reality and realness, but also wanting to escape reality. If you had to average it out, do you think that reality actually sucks when it gets down to it?

I mean, yeah. If you ask me on a day where I’m, like, glowing then I’ll say, “Yeah man, reality’s awesome.” But if it’s a day where reality’s bumming me out, I’ll say it’s bumming me out. I think this record is a good depiction of the manic behavior of how I act, trying to do the whole happy/sad thing. You know, ‘look at me, don’t look at me.’ And I’m not a very social person, so it’s weird going on tour a lot, and doing that whole thing, you know what I mean?

Yeah, I definitely noticed that a lot of this record seems to take place in your room, and being stuck in it. I kind of imagined it would be more about being out on tour, you know?

Yeah. I mean, when you go on tour you’re just kind of like in your room also, in a weird way. “Your room” becomes different things. I don’t know if that answers your question. Yeah, reality fucking sucks, dude. And for me, I was going through a lot of fucking bullshit. I was going through a lot of health problems, and I deal with physical pain every day. That can take a toll on your brain after a while.

Would you want to talk about that, or is that personal?

It’s not really personal. I’ve been through so many doctors, and they’ve finally figured out that I’ve got a kind of spine disorder. So, I don’t know, sometimes I feel like it’s just not fair. But then I meet other people, like my friend has a blood disorder, and he’s just the happiest dude in the world, you know? I feel like a big pussy compared to him. And I think going through all that shit, and trying to learn how to deal with life without shooting heroin, without flooding my body with chemicals, was a big struggle.

So I kind of locked myself in a room, and the only way I knew how to deal with it was through writing songs. I don’t know how to write songs about what’s not going on in my life. If I was happy, I would have probably written a much more positive record, but I was just kind of in a bad, bad place. And I think that this new record kind of shows that. It gets pretty dark, and by the end of the record the song “Bad Habits” kind of wraps it all around, where I kind of realize that I’m becoming just like my dad [Laughs].

I liked how with that last song, you took it full circle, and get to this acceptance where you’re like, “Well, these are my bad habits.” You embrace them, in a way.

Totally. And like the way that the whole thing sounds, too. You’ve been around in the music scene. Have you noticed the L.A. music scene is completely like just garage rock punk stuff? It kind of overflowed. When we weren’t on tour, that wasn’t there really. There were some art punk bands, and The Smell was doing like Abe Vigoda and all those kind of bands.

By the time we left on tour and came back, there was this influx of garage rock and punk bands. So I kind of made it a point to make the record sound a certain way. The last song is just like, “I’m gonna do what I want/I don’t care if it’s not what you want anymore.” It’s kind of about sophomore slump. Am I supposed to make just another garage rock punk record about getting fucked up? Then, we just started adding synth shit, and weird edits, and kind of went for it.

But on another level, there’s all that music that doesn’t really involve guitars at all nowadays, and it’s more about solo electronic musicians. So in some ways it’s still kind of a rebellious thing to have guitar/bass/drums, right?

I totally agree with you. I don’t know. I guess for me, when FIDLAR started, I was just trying to look for a fucking identity so badly – like I had no fucking idea what I was, or who I was – that when FIDLAR started I grabbed onto the ‘punk frontman all-fucked-up’ person. I kind of had to disconnect from that, you know? Just figure out who I really am. I think this record shows the process of that.

See more of FIDLAR in Rogue's debut issue.

Story by Spencer Mandel

Photography by Alice Baxley