Tearing up Brick Street Bar Oct. 6 will be two high-energy pop punk bands, Steel Train and fun. These two bands have more than just their sound and a two-and-a-half month tour in common. Guitarist Jack Antonoff is strumming chords and ripping riffs for both of them.
But that doesn’t mean these acts are identical.
Steel Train is a pop punk band that plants its roots in the New Jersey underground punk scene in the 1990s. Today, Steel Train has moved past its underground beginnings thanks to their addictive melodies and relatable lyrics, not to mention their adrenaline-pumped live performances. Opening for fun. at Brick Street will be one such performance.
Antonoff said they enjoy college town shows more than a traditional club show because the people involved, the students, are truly excited to have the band there.
“There’s an excitement at college shows that is just not always present at a regular show and it rubs off on the band,” Antonoff said.
Steel Train takes that excitement and tries to create an atmosphere at their shows reminiscent of their New Jersey punk scene background, something Brick Street patrons can expect.
“We’ve been trying to create something really unique, like a traveling circus, where we’re different than everything else,” Antonoff said.
In an industry that defines success or failure by how much you sound like what’s hot and what’s not, setting yourself apart is a difficult mission, but that isn’t slowing down Steel Train. The band successfully juxtaposes dark subject matter with upbeat rhythms and music, something other artists do not usually attempt.
For Antonoff, pop music is emotional and uplifting.
“If a song has really dark subject matter and is very morbid, I use the music to put a more optimistic sound to it,” Antonoff said.
He also aims to combine a larger-than-life sound with an intimate music connection, two opposite approaches to music that rarely go hand-in-hand.
Steel Train is not shy about their subject matter and what they’re trying to communicate. According to Antonoff, they don’t have much of a filter, and he describes their music as unhinged.
It is this unhinged sound that makes fun. a perfect match for Steel Train, seeing as fun.’s music has an erratic hodge-podge of musical influences ranging from show tunes to 1960s pop.
fun. was formed in 2008 when lead singer Nate Ruess’ former band, The Format, dissolved.
“It felt like a pretty seamless transition,” Ruess said. “As soon as I found out The Format was breaking up, I think I just hung up the phone and called Jack (Antonoff) and Andrew (Dost) and I think by the end of the week I was out in New Jersey from Arizona recording and starting this whole thing.”
As far as influences go, Ruess said the band is all over the place.
“We’re all pretty different people and we’re all just huge fans of music, so it’s really diverse,” Ruess said. “I’m not sure how to describe either guy’s influences because they’re just so unique and they’re just kind of all over the place and I think that’s kind of how I am too.”
Though only the three members go into the studio to record, there are six on stage live. Ruess said that knowledge combined with the band’s music video for “Walking the Dog” gives listeners insight into what shows will be like.
“I think that video kind of helps translate how we are live because we like to be all over the place and having a good time,” Ruess said.