Fun. is everywhere: blasting from our radios and TVs, streaming from our iPhones and computers, selling out concert halls from here to Japan. Fun. won two Grammys in February. Fun. is unstoppable.
And yes, that's Fun., always with a period, the wildly popular indie rock trio of frontman Nate Ruess, plays-a-little-of-everything Andrew Dost and Bergen native Jack Antonoff, who plays guitar. You might not know their names (yet), but anyone with even a passing acquaintance with a radio should recognize their biggest hits. The anthemic "Some Nights" rocks on practically an endless loop these days, and "We Are Young" won the Grammy for song of the year.
"It's a funny thing to even think about," Antonoff says of being in the Grammy conversation – let alone winning. "We just try to exist in it."
The band's other Grammy came for best new artist, but the guys have been in the game for years. In 2002, Antonoff and some friends formed the rock outfit Steel Train, and he took the reins as lead singer. Ruess, meanwhile, had put together the indie rock group The Format in 2001, and Dost had played for the band Anathallo before recording a solo album.
After The Format disbanded in 2008, Ruess recruited Antonoff and Dost for a new project, which they dubbed Fun. Their debut album, 2009's Aim and Ignite, drew positive reviews, but 2012's Some Nights well and truly caught fire. It went platinum in February, shortly after Fun. performed and nabbed awards at the Grammys, and their song-of-the-year "We Are Young" topped the charts for six weeks and has sold more than 6 million copies.
So how do a bunch of guys rocket suddenly from a decade of relative obscurity to a couple Grammys and all the stardom they can handle?
"I think that people get breaks," Antonoff says. And years of touring and performing and recording – which he compares to pulling back on a bow and arrow – don't hurt.
"When you do let it go and you get that break, it flies all that much harder because of all the work you did," he says.
Antonoff has flown high and far from that 8-year-old Bergen kid sitting in the car listening to his dad sing along to The Beatles. Born in Bergenfield, he grew up in New Milford and Woodcliff Lake and spent his elementary years at Solomon Schechter Day School.
"I love Bergen County," he says. "It has a really amazing vibe. You can go to Teaneck and Fort Lee and Bergenfield, and they're all completely different.
"And it's next to the greatest city in the world," Antonoff adds. "I was able to grow up peering over the ledge and soaking up as much of the culture as I could, but still living in what I think is a normal environment."
That culture provided an endless supply of musical influences, especially during the '90s. After growing up listening to stuff like the Beatles, he fell hard for stuff like Alice in Chains and Smashing Pumpkins, plus Jersey punk rock. Nowadays his influences run the gamut from Springsteen to Robyn – assuming he has the time to listen to them.
Fun. has spent much of the past year performing almost constantly, whether on tour or on television. Their caravan includes three buses and three moving trucks, and their days are a whirlwind of meet-and-greets, press and performances. Free time is rare and treasured.
"We get so little," Antonoff says, "so my idea of fun is sitting on the Internet getting lost in a YouTube rabbit hole."
An almost unprecedented two days off in Mexico a few months ago let the guys chill out in their hotel rooms, lie on the beach and even eat when they wanted to eat. In other words, he says, they had a chance to do what they never do these days: "Nothing."
All the more impressive, then, that Antonoff lends a healthy chunk of his effort to gay rights efforts. He and his bandmates are loudly outspoken straight allies in the fight for marriage equality, and Antonoff has written forcefully on the subject for The Huffington Post.
"It should be important to everyone," he says. "It's a human rights issue. We live with this status quo idea of what's right. Things will change quicker when everyone gets involved."
Most people, Antonoff insists, don't understand the issue. Equal rights confer more than "just" marriage, but adoption access, hospital visitation rights and a hundred other things most people take for granted.
It's a pretty big deal for such a visible group of straight guys to push so hard for gay rights – and that frustrates Antonoff to no end.
"The fact that it could be called courageous," he says, "puts a spotlight on exactly what's wrong here."
So with international stardom, worldwide touring and civil rights activism already on their resume, what's next for Antonoff and Fun.? Pretty much whatever they want.
"We keep setting these goals we think are impossible and then meeting them," Antonoff says. "Just when you think you can't get any higher, you get to go to the inaugural ball and meet the president. It's all great stuff."