Stage Times: FIDLAR

Vomiting, ripped clothes, destroyed stages and... something that can’t be printed here. Zac Carper remembers FIDLAR’s messiest gig history.

A FIDLAR show can be a lawless place. Frontman Zac Carper recalls walking around the venue at one of their past UK gigs while the opening band was playing: “I saw a girl crying on the steps, I saw a kid throw up on the steps, and then I saw a fight happen. All in the same scene!” The LA garage-punks know how to throw a hell of a party, and while it may not be their home country, the UK has always been the life of that party. “We call our fans Fidiots, and there’s something about the Fidiots over there that are so much more extreme,” Carper says. “You can tell music just means so much more to them.”

FIDLAR emerged out of the LA DIY scene in the early 2010s, trading in wild-eyed, shredded-throat songs about skating, surfing and narcotics that soundtracked endless stage dives. Their 2013 self-titled debut was a snotty lo-fi classic; meanwhile, on 2015’s Too, with an elevated 90s-style alt rock sound, Carper began to explore some much heavier themes in the wake of almost dying from an overdose and getting sober. Then on 2019’s Almost Free, the band went for a diverse and gleefully weird sound with pop producer Ricky Reed.

After a quiet period over the pandemic, FIDLAR have been getting back on the road and releasing a string of singles plus an EP, That’s Life, which took FIDLAR back to their rock ‘n’ roll basics. They’re in the midst of writing a new album, which Carper says is coming from a refreshed headspace, over a decade into their career. “It was really encouraging to see that once we started playing shows again, all of a sudden there was this big influx of younger kids at our shows. And we started selling out shows when we didn’t do any marketing towards it. I was just like, oh sh*t, these kids wanna f*cking mosh, dude!

“I think, for 10 years, we were going on tour so much that we were [always] just kinda like, ‘Okay, what do we do next, what do we do next?’ But now, the passion of it has just resparked.”

This month, FIDLAR are coming over for their first UK headline tour in five years, and you can bet it’s going to be as much of a rager as ever. In celebration of that, we asked Zac to walk us through some of the wildest moments of the band’s live history.

FIDLAR - West Coast (Official Music Video)

The gig that made you want to play music

The first gig that made me want to play music was probably Rage Against The Machine. Their first comeback, at Coachella, the first year they reunited. I was like 18 or 19 or something. I saved up all my money, I flew from Hawaii to go to the show, and then I just stayed there in California. Then they played another place and I just worked and saved up money and went to that show. I went into a f*cking real-deal huge moshpit and I was just like, holy sh*t. It was like a drug or something, I became like a f*cking mosh addict. I was just like, I wanna f*cking be in a rock band. It blew my mind. 

Were you always a fan of Rage?

Yeah, I grew up listening to Rage and that’s one of the records that just changed my life. I met Zack de la Rocha a couple years ago at a restaurant. We were waiting in line for the bathroom and I was so starstruck. The only thing I could say was, ‘Hey, my name’s Zac too.’ 

The first 

Wow, I haven’t thought of that in a minute. The first gig for FIDLAR was at Culver City Skate Park. There was this thing called Family Rides, and it was anywhere from 400 to 1000 kids in the city of Los Angeles, riding around the city on their bikes together. And they would do these stops, and one of the stops was this skate park in LA. So we set up on this grassy area, and we found an outlet by the bathroom, and we just get extension cords and stuff. The kids started rolling up, and right when we started playing, the f*cking sprinklers went on. We were like, oh sh*t! So we just scurried and we just had to move everything, and we moved it all in 10 minutes, and then we played a set. It was wild.

What was the reaction like?

It was instant moshing. That was the crazy part. I was just like, oh wow, kids are moshing to us already. Nobody’s heard of us, we had [only] songs on Myspace or something. It clicked in me, where I was just like, oh, you just gotta speed up the songs and make them loud and kids will mosh! 

FIDLAR - No Waves at Reading Festival 2013

The biggest

I mean, Reading & Leeds main stage, that was pretty big. There was this other one – we looked at our Youtube analytics, and we were popping off in Budapest. So we played this festival called Sziget Festival, and it was so big. There were so many people. We were just like, what the f*ck is this? 

It’s funny because when it gets to a certain size, it all kinda is the same to me. There’s a sweet spot for me, where anywhere from 500 to 1500, you can actually feel the energy. But once it gets into the 2000 ranges, there’s such a big divide and disconnect. It’s still fun, but I wish we could just do the 1500s but for four days in a row or something.

Do you get stage frights at big gigs?

Oh, yeah. I used to throw up before shows and everything. And then I would just get blackout drunk. That worked for a little bit, and then it stopped working. 

The smallest 

We played this venue, I think it’s called the Cat Club. I don’t know if it was the smallest size, but it was just two or three people watching us. It was two of our girlfriends, and then a lady that was there in an electric wheelchair. And in the middle of our set, she went from one side to the other to exit. It was just slow motion. 

When you’re playing those shows that no one shows up at, is it terrible or do you just have some fun with it?

It’s funny, because I think in your head you dread it. You’re like, that’s so embarrassing. But most of the times when it happens – and I learned this from this band called Dune Rats – they would say RIFF: Remember It’s For Fun. They call it the RIFF System. And we just kept that as a mantra. So whenever there would be less people, we would try out new material, and it would actually be more fun and experimental. It’s all about what you tell yourself in your head, right? You just have to flip it. 

FIDLAR - Move On (Official Audio)

The best 

The one that always sticks out in my head is this placed called Espace B in Paris. It was our first time in Paris, and our label people and our whole team said, ‘Just remember, Paris, they don’t really like rock music that much. They’ll just watch you and cross their arms, so don’t get bummed out on that.’ But we played, and it was the f*cking psycho-est show ever. It was a small venue but it was packed, and kids were going so hard. They basically almost destroyed the venue, and we had to book it out of France because the venue owner was trying to make us pay for it. We didn’t f*cking do it, you shoulda had security!

When you’re feeling that energy, does that make you play a better show onstage?

Yeah, 100%. The kids that get thrown up onstage from crowdsurfing or whatever and then something happens – I think at that Paris one, some kid was falling while stage diving and grabbed my shirt and just ripped my shirt off. I was just like, okay, I guess I have no shirt now! Just the crazy things that happen, it makes it a little bit more fun than just playing a set.

The worst

Honestly, the worst show we ever played was probably South By South West. We were playing 18 shows in three days, and you play for the f*cking La Croix stage or some sh*t. Those are the ones that I don’t really dig that much, the industry shows, where we’re playing to a bunch of booking agents or a bunch of record label people. I don’t like that sh*t. I feel like a lobster at a seafood restaurant, and they’re like, ‘Ooh, I want that lobster.’

The weirdest

Alright, I have to set the scene. We got asked to play in Highland Park on New Year’s Eve. It was a bunch of our buddies’ bands playing. So we buy drugs, get to the venue, and it’s a full-on just trailer park. And we’re like, okay, whatever, we’re gonna do this no matter what. So we set up just outside of a trailer, and it was super hard to play because everybody was just so f*cked up and they were just running into us. While we were playing, this girl climbed up on the trailer that we’re playing in front of, and pulls down her pants and takes a sh*t right off the trailer. That was the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to us. I mean, there’s so many others too. With FIDLAR shows, that’s the standard. But that one’s scarred in my memory.

FIDLAR start their UK tour on 9 November – find tickets here.

Photo credit: Daniel Knighton/Getty