“It’s exhausting,” fun. frontman Nate Ruess says of sudden rock stardom. “Some aspects are annoying, but it’s crazy. We don’t slack or take it for granted.”
Guitarist Jack Antonoff goes into a bobble-head nod. “We know what it’s like to not have this,” he says. “We know 10 years of not having this.”
In a few minutes, the trio will be whisked off to a sound check for a high-noon festival slot at Merriweather Post Pavilion, where it will deliver a bombastic 45-minute set, then hustle to its tour bus and zip up Interstate 95 to Philadelphia for a headlining club gig. For now, the band’s members are in their dressing room, refusing to sit down, talking about how their Queen-size ambitions helped them get “We Are Young,” a hit with a Queen-size chorus, to the top of the charts.
Before it topped Billboard’s Hot 100 in March, “We Are Young” was that song from “Glee.” Then it was that song from the Chevrolet Super Bowl ad. Now it’s that song that’s probably in your head right now: “Toni-i-i-i-i-ight, we are you-u-u-ung.” How about now?
As “We Are Young” unexpectedly soared, the band found itself much busier on the road, cramming radio spots and TV appearances into the gaps of a chain of previously booked club dates — a last hurrah for the loyal fans who have been seeing fun. in small venues since the group formed in New York in 2008. (fun. headlines a sold-out two-night stand at the 9:30 Club on Thursday and Friday.) Although the rooms are intimate, the songs are stadium-worthy. “I’ve watched tons and tons of Queen DVDs, and I just love the thought of a big rock show,” Ruess says.
The band’s sophomore album, “Some Nights,” is thick with refrains that shoot for the nosebleeds with the same melodramatic gusto as “We Are Young.” Nodding to Freddie Mercury, Mott the Hoople, Electric Light Orchestra and Kanye West, the album was overseen by Jeff Bhasker, a producer who has worked with West, Jay-Z, Beyonce and Drake.
Over the course of numerous interviews, the band has burnished a storybook tale about how Ruess persuaded the skeptical producer to get on board by singing him the hook to “We Are Young” after a night of Jameson shots and Ketel One martinis. The band admired the sonic bravura of West’s 2010 album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” and hoped Bhasker could intravenously pump some attitude into their songs.
“The only people playing the roles of classic rock stars are hip-hop artists, now,” Antonoff says. “Kanye’s stage persona, and the way he approaches making albums, and the way he wants to be better than everyone else? That’s reminiscent of Freddie Mercury. That’s reminiscent of the Beatles.”