Kicking around Funland

For those who knew, Fun were one of the greatest underground bands to ever come out of Helsinki. Now, on the eve of their live return, Joel Kupiainen examines what made Fun so special in the first place.

For those who knew, Fun were one of the greatest underground bands to ever come out of Helsinki. Now, on the eve of their live return, Joel Kupiainen examines what made Fun so special in the first place.

Kalle Pajamaa

Around the time of the ultimately forgettable late oughties – New York pop-act fun. broke into the international consciousness of casual music listeners. Meanwhile, a disparate group of music nerds from Finland were busy giggling to a piece of rumour about a local band letting the more well-known group know they’d already used the name. Surprisingly the New Yorkers agreed to re-style their name in favor of a scrappy grassroots-level indie band from
Helsinki.

Why I’d like to read that email is that during their original run as a band, Fun from Helsinki
were able to cultivate a singular image and sound that stood out in the Finnish
underground. If you got to know about the band before hearing them, chances were you’d
be confronted with a rather snarky form of sarcasm peppered with obscure references.
When you got to hear them though, you might well be floored by their music. To the
handful of initiates of the noisier, more angular and abrasive spectrum of North American
indie rock, Fun were something to be very excited about. To others, their music might have
been confounding, but on stage the band had a confident swagger and lopsided charm
that would win them over a lot of supporters.

If you got to know about the band before hearing them, chances were you’d
be confronted with a rather snarky form of sarcasm peppered with obscure references.
When you got to hear them though, you might well be floored by their music

It makes me wonder how and with what choice of words a small band from the then obscure
Helsinki could convince a hot New York band on their way to their breakthrough to yield rights to their name. Then again, we’re talking about a band, that had the sentence “Don’t try to fuck with us, we’re just too damn clever” printed in the liner notes of their first release. For most of their run, Fun never seemed to be much regarded outside of the small and
disparate pockets of noise-rock fans and and the more adventurous punk rockers,
although the band was lucky to be most active at a time, when independent bands still
could make themselves noticed by the strength of their shows. While they garnered
excited reviews in fanzines, both in print and online, they would sometimes be handled as
politely as their music was abrasive. Yet by the time the band quietly ceased their
operations in the early 2010’s, they had generated a devoted local following and managed
to make themselves noticed among noise rock aficionados abroad. For their last show in
their hometown, they opened for Shellac, the band they’d – unfairly – most often been
compared to locally.

Kalle Pajaama

The influence of Shellac and anything by Steve Albini on the band was always obvious,
although the band inserted references, not only to noise rock – but to post punk indie rock in
general – into their music and the liner notes of their records. Killdozer and Melt Banana
were namedropped, The Minutemen, Fugazi and The Boredoms referenced more
obliquely. Still, in the eyes of their listeners, the shadow of Albini would hang over the band
for most of its career. It didn’t help that on their first tour of the U.S. the band checked into
Electrical Audio for a three day session with Albini himself.

For their first recordings though, the band opted for the nearest equivalent – Multi-
instrumentalist and all around amazing guy Pentti Dassum of legendary Jazzcore-trio
Deep Turtle. A self-released 10” (2002, featuring the live-staple ‘Speed like a Hammer’) was
followed by the abrasive in every aspect Szklarska Poreba (2004) on the Helsinki-based
label If Society (a label deserving of a feature of its own). Despite the ceaseless
comparisons, both recordings showed a band that wasn’t afraid to sneeringly wear their
influences on their sleeves while mowing over the listener with amazingly tight riffing and a
pummeling rhythm section.

While the Albini-helmed Zu-Pa! (2007) would expand the band’s dynamics, by the release
of New 13 (2010) Fun showed a rare mastery of their genre. The band had settled into a
distinct groove of it’s own, wherein it could effortlessly pull off any musical idea it had.

The band had settled into a distinct groove of it’s own, wherein it could effortlessly pull off any musical idea it had

In the following years Fun were at a definite peak as a live band. The band had been
regularly touring outside of Finland, although they were by now revered locally as well by
the ever growing ranks of music nerds who like their music angular and loud. In 2013 the
band issued a self-recorded single titled ‘1/3’, the first instalment in a planned trilogy of 7”
singles. The songs sounded like the band always did: expanding on it’s vocabulary. This
trilogy however, would not be completed.

After a period of inactivity following the release of the single, Fun played a series of shows,
supporting Shellac in Scandinavia. Soon, rumours of a break-up started circulating
among fans. The band never made an official statement, but a cease in operations was
taking place. For their last hometown show, the band featured a sextet of free improv
saxophone players on their last number. It felt like it summed up the band in a fitting way.
Always challenging and noisy.

For their last hometown show, the band featured a sextet of free improv saxophone players for their last number. It felt like it summed up the band in a fitting way. Always challenging and noisy

During their absence, the members of Fun kept busy with other bands (Echo is your Love,
Flaming Skull of the Eagle and The Toxics to name a few), while their influence was
apparent on recordings by younger bands (Baxter Stockman from Helsinki would hone the
angular minimalism to razor sharpness, while the Oulu-based Kansakunnan Ylpeys
retained a fuzzy chaoticism). What’s changed is the way people talk about the band. They
are certainly more revered now than ten years ago. Lucky for us then that they decided to
give it another go.

Fun will perform their first show in several years at Helsinki’s Lepakkomies on April 27th
alongside Can Can Heads and Seksihullut. Other confirmed shows include Turku’s TVO
on the 5th of May and stints at the Hässäkkäpäivät Festival in Oulu and LPRHC Festival in
Lappeenranta.

Fun’s complete output can be found on Bandcamp 

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