Fuckin Whatever
[Photo via TikTok/@fuckinwhatever]

It’s been nearly five years since Adam Lazzara, John NolanAnthony Green and Ben Homola took to privately closing out their summer tour stops with improvised, instrument-less displays of their far-reaching creative talents. Now, the Taking Back SundayCirca Survive, and Grouplove supergroup, Fuckin Whatever, are actively collaborating for the first time ever.

It seems a strange twist of fate that a collective first forged in the spirit of togetherness would be reunited by the throes of isolation. But had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic, their experimental sonic excursions—aptly characterized by the internet as psych pop—would likely still have been confined to unreleased cellphone recordings.

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While these early songs still remain vaulted (for the time being), the band have already released two official singles. “Trash” and “I’m Waiting On You” are currently available on Bandcamp ahead of their debut self-titled EP, which drops June 4. The release will directly benefit the live performance community, with 30% of digital sales going to the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA).

Don’t mistake the endeavor as a fleeting quarantine project, though. Likening the project to a “therapy group” from which they derive creative empowerment independent of long-established expectations, the group have no more intention to slow things down than they do to plan them out. But that’s precisely the point.

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Alternative Press caught up with Lazzara, Green and Nolan to talk about the supergroup’s formation, their free-flowing collaborative style and what fans can expect to hear on their upcoming self-titled EP and beyond.

This supergroup have foundations in the 2016 Taste Of Chaos tour, and, true to your name, it sounds like it was a pretty casual inception. Can you give us the story behind it?

ADAM LAZZARA: All of those shows were outside of the cities. So, after they were done and everybody had gone home, there was nothing to do. [We were] just in big, old parking lots. I remember walking in on [one of these sessions], and everybody was chanting. At first, I was like, “What did I just walk in on?” But I went with it and started chanting. Next thing I knew, it was just what we’d do every couple of nights. It felt really therapeutic. [Anthony] and everybody had been Wim Hof breathing, so I wonder if that wasn’t the catalyst for it.

ANTHONY GREEN: That tour was funny. [Taking Back Sunday] were headlining, so they played a lot longer than we did. But, from the very first day, it was like, “All right, let’s get into a routine where we hang.” There were always people exercising outside all day long and hanging out in production. The whole tour was made up of people that had been touring for so long. So, right out the gate, everybody was like, “All right, how are we going to get through this summer, being away from our families and making it worthwhile? We’re gonna get in shape, hang out, quit drinking…” Then it turned into us barbecuing every night and drinking twice as much.

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JOHN NOLAN: I feel like Anthony, Ben and I were talking about wanting to make more music at the end of the night. We had all this time, and [Saosin’s] set was shorter, so [Anthony] was raring to keep making music. I think we were just trying to think of a way we could do that. A lot of times we were backstage, and no one had any instruments. I don’t remember exactly how the idea came out, but I know that’s what started it. We were like, “Let’s just keep making music somehow.” And we were just standing around together, so we used our voices, and Ben banged on whatever was around for percussion.

GREEN: Yeah, it wasn’t a one-person origin. We were all huddled together, and there was a creative energy bouncing around. Then somebody brought out their phone, and we were collectively like, “Oh, let’s do this thing.” People would come in and out of it, but I definitely remember at one point being like, “Oh, we should do this tonight because we’re here. We’re in some spot. This bathroom would be cool for it.” We’d usually smoke weed or have a beer and just relax. We’d start humming a word or phrase… “Fuckin whatever” was a phrase sang on one of my favorite demos.

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At the time, did you expect to revisit the groundwork that you’d been laying down?

GREEN: I wanted to make it the biggest band ever. At the very beginning, I remember thinking, “We’re going to be some big group with 18-minute long songs.” Then it was like, “OK, everybody has more shit that they have to do.” So, when the pandemic hit, I hit up John like, “You have all those old things? We should just put them out ‘cause we’ve got nothing to do now.” He said, “Yeah, that’s a good idea. Maybe we should just do another one.” 

NOLAN: I was listening through those phone recordings we had from the tour. They’re interesting to listen to, and there are moments that are pretty amazing, especially considering that everything was improvised on the spot. But there’s also a lot that’s pretty rough, and they’re not the best recordings because they’re on phones. It’s a pretty challenging listen, to put it politely. But I thought, “Well, if we have one song that we record properly, that would be better.” Then, once we did that first song, it just never stopped. We kept going immediately.

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What was remote recording like in such a free-flowing creative capacity?

LAZZARA: It was really great. There’s no preconceived notion or expectation. It’s just this fun thing to do. Under the weight of the pandemic, it’s hard to get into that creative space and let whatever come out of you. This was a good vessel. Anthony would send over an idea that he had, just him singing for a while. That would evolve to someone layering “oohs” and “aahs” or something, making chords with their voice, which would then evolve to the next thing. But being as we were sending them around, we’d have this period of time where we were waiting to hear what the next person would do. It was fun working on it, and then there was also the excitement of waiting to see what it was going to turn into.

GREEN: I loved the feeling of singing something, sending it over and having John cut it up and make a chorus. I was like, “Oh! That’s so cool!” Then [Adam] would sing on it, and it was like, “Holy shit!” It was cool to see everything happen like that.

NOLAN: We made an unspoken agreement that we weren’t going to critique or change each other’s ideas. It would just be like, “All right, that’s the part. That’s awesome. I’m going to see what I can build on top of that.” I think that you can get really bogged down when you start getting into editing each other’s parts. That can take up weeks of time. So, we cut that out of the whole process. It was just like, “OK, this is your idea? All right, here’s my idea.” And it just kept going like that.

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GREEN: It was almost an accident. There hasn’t ever been a thing that I felt I needed to critique on anybody else’s contribution. Maybe it’s because I’m focused on what I can contribute. But when I hear what John does to the song or his part, I’m just in awe of it. And when Adam sends his vocals over, I’m not thinking about how I can change or critique them. I have so much respect for what he does, and I know that everything he puts out is already filtered already through the insanity of his mind. I’m just lucky that he shows up to the table. It’s crazy.

LAZZARA: Yeah, it hits you so hard that it turns your hair blond…

GREEN: It’s 2021. I had to do it. Life hands you lemons, you put lemon juice in your hair. 

LAZZARA: But I agree with Anthony in that I’m blown away by what everybody sent. It’s like, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe that I get to do a thing on this.” Even just as a listener and a fan, it was awesome.

GREEN: You organically stay out of somebody’s way when you have respect for them and they’re good at what they do. Everybody brings their best flow-state, creative, inspired-self to the table. This project has enhanced my creative muscle and my life. The band aspect of it is the literal last thing we deal with. All of us are just trying to champion each other. We’re really focused on creating a space where we can make songs that make us feel good about each other and ourselves. That’s the main focus. Then we have a really cool team of people that are helping us organize the songs.

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You have two tracks currently available on Bandcamp: “Trash” and “I’m Waiting On You.” How do you feel that these tracks represent the overall stylistic leanings of your forthcoming self-titled EP? Why were they the best way to introduce fans to this new project?

NOLAN: I feel like “I’m Waiting On You” is a pretty good overall representation of the EP. It has elements of every song on it. So, that was a good one to get out there. And we felt that “Trash” was one of the most immediate songs. The second you hear it, you’re just like, “Yes!” It doesn’t take any time to get on board with it.

GREEN: We just liked them. We got hyped about them. I think I tried to change it like six times, too. Every time we do a new song, I’m like, “Can we put it out tonight? Can we put it out just like this?” And they’re like, “No, we should wait for everybody.” And I’m like, “But it’s so good. I just want everyone to hear it right now.”

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Were there any challenges that you encountered in translating your early collaborative efforts into something intended for distribution? 

LAZZARA: Anytime I approach something new, I always have this brief period of time where freak out and have extreme self-doubt. Then I remind myself of the spirit of the whole thing and approach it like that. I don’t think we thought as far as getting it mixed or ready to distribute as we were doing it. We were thinking more about trying to impress one another and come up with something good. It wasn’t until later that we thought, “Oh, we could put this up on Bandcamp and try to raise money for the venues that are hurting right now.” Then we really started to brainstorm about how to get them mixed and all that.

NOLAN: It took care of itself. We were recording and producing everything ourselves, and it was coming along really well. But since it was done ourselves, it was still pretty rough. Then we handed it over to our friend, Mike Pepe, who’s a great engineer, producer and mixer. We basically gave it to him and were like, “Can you make this sound professional?” And he did. He gave it back to us, and it sounded even better than anything we had heard up to that point. We didn’t have to think about it too much, luckily.

GREEN: We’ve set up the infrastructure of the band so that the four of us just make stuff and get really excited about it. Then we’re like, “Hey, how do we share this with people the right way?”

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Did any of these EP tracks draw on your original 2016 collaborations, or are they totally new?

NOLAN: It was all totally new.

GREEN: We talked about going back and listening to some of the tracks to develop some, but we haven’t actually done that yet. The possibilities for this project are limitless because the sound is so vast that it can be anything. I feel like it can work and be appealing in so many different ways. I just know that it sounds different than anything I’ve ever done, and I get overly excited about that.

NOLAN: There are definitely ideas from those rough demos that we could always revisit. We might do it at some point. So far, everything has been so exciting and spur of the moment that we haven’t wanted to go back and do that yet. Everything has been working so well with everyone coming up with stuff on the spot.

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How do the EP and the creative process behind it reflect your dynamic as collaborators and friends?

GREEN: It’s all super focused on encouraging each other creatively. That’s the foundation of everything. It makes me feel better about myself, like I belong on the Earth and that other people are there for me. It’s not like, “We’re making songs that we can go make money off of.” This is a little therapy group for us. We’re all professional musicians in groups where we have to make money, not just for ourselves but for our employees and families. This project isn’t any of that. This is all fun. It’s a special dynamic of a bunch of people who have been in bands with people for long periods of time. Having something that’s fresh encompasses a whole new energy.

LAZZARA: I agree. When you’re approaching creative things, it’s often hard to get that [critical] voice out of your head. But working on this has been really empowering. It’s people that you trust and respect that you’re sending these ideas to.

NOLAN: All of us have had the shared experience, for a long time now, of having expectations every time we’re making new music with our bands. It can be complicated to navigate that and not have it affect your creative process, knowing that people are expecting a number of things from it.

GREEN: No matter how much time and energy you put into it, if it’s not something that they wanted, they might not like it. All of your hard work might be written off. To have something new that isn’t attached to any of that is relieving.

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One particularly notable aspect of this EP is that it was recorded entirely without any traditional forms of instrumentation. What did your writing process look like in this respect? Were there any calculated approaches to sonic innovation?

LAZZARA: It just happened as we went. For me, I would get the file and go into the garage to listen to it. Then I’d get snacks for homeschool. Then I’d go back and listen to it again. And then I’d do something around the house. And then I’d go back and listen to it again. The whole time, I was really pumped about the idea and what I was hearing. It was like I was getting little pieces of a new record every couple of days. I think we talked more about how whatever goes than what we should or shouldn’t do.

NOLAN: I think we had one text discussion where we talked about whether or not we’d play guitar or piano on a song. We just briefly discussed that and felt that we shouldn’t bring it into [the project]. That was the only semi-rule that we put in place. We were going to continue going without any traditional instruments. Other than that, it was all very organic. And because we had that template that was laid out from the touring era, I thought, “OK, how do we bring that vibe to a recorded song?” That was the starting point for me, trying to recreate that [rather] than innovate or do things in a thought-out way.

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LAZZARA: There were times when I’d put my headphones on to record my part, and I’d try to picture myself in some of those places. I really remember Red Rocks being a cool thing because there’s a tunnel that goes from the stage to the front of house. We were in there one day, so I was just trying to picture myself [there] as I was recording. 

GREEN: There have been tracks where I’ll get a thing from Ben or John, and I’ll just start singing stuff on it. It’s weird. Sometimes an idea comes out really easily. Sometimes it takes a little work and finesse. But when we do stuff, I always feel like the lyrics and melodies always come really easily. There have been a couple of songs that have just been drums and vocals, and everything gets put around it. I think that’s really cool. I’ve never really done it before. The process has been different. Everything adds as it goes.

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What went into the decision not to bring guitar, piano or other instruments into it? 

GREEN: It was like a two-minute conversation. [Laughs.] We were like, “Should we do this? It could be really cool.” But then we all decided collectively that [the lack of traditional instrumentation] is what sets this apart and makes it sound different than anything we’ve ever done. In the way that sometimes something’s limitation is its strength, maybe we just use this limitation as a prime feature.

NOLAN: It was clear right from the start that working within those restraints was making us more creative. There are things on these songs that sound like a keyboard or a guitar and definitely could’ve been done that way. But by making that part with a voice, chopping it up and running it through effects, it comes out as something unique. And, for me, the melody [may not be] something I would have thought of if I was playing it on the guitar. It makes it into something that you would not have thought of otherwise.

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To that point, not only are you diverging from traditional forms of instrumentation, but you’re also straying into new genre territory relative to your career foundations. What prompted this divergence into the realm of psych pop? Did any other artists serve as notable inspirations for your sonic development?

GREEN: Honestly, I think it came from a spot of us all not having anything but our voices, hands and feet. And that’s an ancient thing. People started making music before there was language. They were just tapping and using their sounds. We just didn’t have any equipment out. We couldn’t have our crew leave it out, so we were just like, “Oh, let’s use what we have.” That just so happened to be what the first human beings ever made music with… And we had our iPhones! [Laughs.]

NOLAN: I also think, as much as it sounds different from our other projects, the melodic sensibilities are all exactly the same as what we’d do in our other bands. The big thing is removing electric guitars and rock drums from the equation. It changes everything, really.

GREEN: But I love that we’re “psych pop.” I didn’t ever say that or hear [the other guys] say it. I think that got imposed on us. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a label imposed on anything I’ve done where I’m like, “Fuck yeah!” I’m “psych pop” all the way to town.

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LAZZARA: I didn’t even think about it until we had released that first song. I saw people writing “new psych-pop project,” and I was like, “What’s psych pop? That sounds great!” [Laughs.]

GREEN: Another parent at the skate park was like, “What’s up with this psych-pop thing that you’re doing?” I was like, “ I don’t know. What’s up with it? What did I do? What the fuck?” Then I found out what they were talking about, and I was like, “This is the coolest shit.” 

How have you been able to relate your new stylistic foundations to those that you’ve already established under your other outfits? 

GREEN: When I’m making stuff, I’m thinking about Fleet Foxes, Animal Collective, Daft Punk… Cool shit like that. It’s the same. I think that all of us are probably bringing the same type of creative bullshit that we bring to anything. It’s just easier in this [project] because we champion each other like fucking kings.

LAZZARA: We are who we are. We each have our unique voices, and they’re in line with who we are as creative people. I don’t think it’s that far off. It’s funny because when we were talking about it and recording it, I don’t think anybody but Anthony thought much further than, “Man, this feels really good. It’s helping to fill this hole that’s developed.” That alone was enough. So then the next idea was, “Well wait, if we released this maybe we could help people out and be able to keep doing it beyond this one release.”

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GREEN: There was a really cool idea for a video where we were going to go into empty venues and film ourselves singing in them. It’s still something we might do. But the coolest part about this project when we first started doing it was that we were like, “Yeah, let’s just raise money for NIVA.” Then all the government money went through, and we were like, “Should we still do that?” But they’ve been raising money for gig workers and crew members, and they do a ton of cool shit with their organization. We’re still trying to make sure that we’re giving back as much as we can to the thing that inspired the project.

LAZZARA: I found out that it’s a complicated process. Even though they approved all that money for NIVA, it’s going to take a while before the venues actually see it. So, they still have a need to raise money.

GREEN: It’s a funny contract. They’re like, “Yeah, we’ll give you the money… In a thousand years.” [Laughs.]

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On that note, the singles are currently available on Bandcamp, with sales benefitting NIVA. Do you intend to ever release the tracks and larger EP across all streaming platforms, or will they remain Bandcamp exclusive?

NOLAN: We’re talking right now about how we might do that. We’re still in the process of it, but it does look like they’ll eventually get to the other streaming platforms. We’re just working on how and when.

LAZZARA: Every year, John, some friends and I will get this cabin up in Boone, North Carolina. It’s a “no technology” weekend, so we bring a ton of records and only listen to vinyl. I think it would be awesome to have a Fuckin Whatever record on vinyl to listen to during that trip. So, if not for anything else, we need to make it happen so we can do that.

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@fuckinwhatever##fuckinwhatever ##newmusic ##goodhairday ##alreadydead♬ original sound – fuckinwhatever

Why did you start with just Bandcamp?

LAZZARA: Bandcamp was the easiest way that we could donate the money.

GREEN: Bandcamp gives the most to the artists. They also do this thing where [on the first Friday of the new month], they’ll donate everything. So we were like, “Oh, if we do this through Bandcamp, we could raise the most money for the organization.” We’re making it up as we go. [If] there’s interest in doing more shit, we’re making more shit. At some point, it’ll be streaming, but we’re taking baby steps and making it up as we go.

NOLAN: It was the easiest way for us to do it ourselves without having to get a lot of people involved. And with trying to raise money for NIVA, if it’s streaming on Spotify or whatever, I don’t know how much money we’d end up raising for them. On Bandcamp, people will pay extra for an EP, and you can see money in a very clear and immediate way.

LAZZARA: If we were raising money through Spotify, we would hopefully stream it about a million times and be able to donate like seven dollars.

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Which song from the EP are you the most excited for your existing fans to hear? Why?

LAZZARA: Every single one. They’re so exciting to me and so different. It was awesome when we got the mixes back. Normally you get the first round of mixes, and then you make a bunch of revisions. But [Mike Pepe] just got the project. One of my favorite things about any kind of art, be it a painting or good writing, is getting lost while I’m taking it in. That’s the thing about these songs. One of them is like six minutes long, and every time I’ve listened to it, it feels like no time has passed at all. That’s why I’m excited for everyone to hear it. I hope that they can experience that too because it’s euphoric.

GREEN: I agree, but “Original Sin” has some lyrics and melodies that I feel will fuck you up to hear. Our parts go back and forth underneath John’s. There’s something crazy happening in that song.

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NOLAN: What was crazy about that song and “I’m Waiting On You” is that we had what could have been songs on their own before Adam added his vocal ideas to them. Once he added his parts, it shifted the songs around and made them into something totally new. Part of it is having this whole thing that Anthony’s already done, and then Adam just brings this whole new element into it. It’s almost like another song jumping out of nowhere, and you’re like, “Holy shit!” I went back and rearranged both of those songs and sometimes repeated stuff that Adam had done. It literally went from something that you would listen to and be like, “OK, yeah, the song is done” to “Holy shit, this is not done, and it can be so much better than it already was.” That’s really exciting to me, having that total surprise.

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Do you anticipate collaborating on future projects under Fuckin Whatever following the EP release? If so, where would you like to see your next iteration take you in terms of sonic progression?

GREEN: We’ve had conversations and talked about doing a whole record where we just do a ton of features. Then three seconds later, we’ve had the conversation where we do no features. So, I think we’re going to land somewhere in between or on one of them.

NOLAN: Based on what we’ve discussed, I think anything could change. We basically haven’t stopped making music. We’ve always had some ideas kicking around, so that’s going to continue. The next thing that we all would really like to do, whenever it’s safe, is to actually get together in person. I think that will lead eventually to a full-length album. But our only thought process is to continue by the same approach of being open creatively and supporting each other. I don’t think there will be any discussions about what anything will sound like.

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If you all were to visit that feature idea, who would you most like to have on?

LAZZARA: Sting.

GREEN: Sting is great. I love Robin Pecknold so much. There’s a hip-hop artist from Chicago, Noname, who’s incredible. There are so many.

NOLAN: With the vibe of what we’re doing, I feel like someone like Wayne Coyne would make sense. I don’t anticipate him being into it, but you never know.

GREEN: I do! We’re online friends. We’ve spoken in real life a few times, and he’s so cool. It would be great to have Wayne Coyne sing. I would love to have Julien Baker sing on a song.

NOLAN: Yeah, we’ve definitely got to bring in some more female vocalists at some point and stop all this falsetto nonsense. [Laughs.]

Fuckin Whatever’s debut EP drops June 4 with 30% of sales benefitting NIVA. Preorders are available here.