Fake Problems: This is Growing Up

With all of the fake problems that Fake Problems have encountered during their brief existence, it's easy to overlook their actual musical output. In 2006, the band released their debut EP, Spurs & Spokes/Bull>Matador, to some acclaim, but their arrest for trespassing on a Sarasota strip mall's roof and the mugshots that followed probably garnered more attention. Last year, the band released an EP entitled Viking Wizard Eyes, Wizard Full of Lies (purportedly the working title of Blink 182's breakout LP Enema of the State), which was promptly overshadowed when the band's touring van had an unexpected highway encounter with a thirty pound turkey. Shortly after that, an April Fools story posted at punknews.org reporting that the band had been kicked off of their tour with Anti-Flag for giving the ever-soserious major label punks impromptu haircuts thrust the band into the spotlight yet again. Somewhere in the middle of that, the band released their full-length debut, How Far Our Bodies Go to many positive reviews, and on Feb. 17, the band will release their second album, It's Great to Be Alive on SideOneDummy.

One might assume that all these wacky experiences would lead Fake Problems to write nothing but songs about how great it is to be young and goofy, but that is far from the case. Of course, there are a few wacky/goofy songs in their catalog (they recently released a 12-in. picture disc in tribute to and emblazoned with the image of Evel Knievel), but on each release, Fake Problems have found different ways of balancing their own youthful recklessness with the struggles of growing up and discovering who they are. "It's natural for us to want to change it up every record, every EP and every song,"? says vocalist and guitarist Chris Farren. From the Against Me!-esque folk punk of their first EP to the somber and self-reflective style of Bodies and the raucous energy presented on Viking Wizard Eyes, Farren and his bandmates (guitarist Casey Lee, bassist Derek Perry and drummer Sean Stevenson) have proven to be surprisingly versatile for a quartet of 22- and 23-year-olds. "I'm always looking for new music and new sounds and new types of songs, new ways to write songs and new ways to record,"? Farren says. "I'm a pretty big music fan and I'm very into a wide array of music."?

Maybe it was the band's encounters with poultry and law enforcement that attracted the attention of rapidly growing indie juggernaut SideOneDummy Records. More likely, it was the high quality of their recorded output, that led the label to sign them late last year. With the new label combined with production on the new album by A.J. Mogis (famed for his work with Saddle Creek artists like Bright Eyes and Cursive), there's suddenly a lot of pressure for Fake Problems to become a real successful band. Farren and his bandmates seem to have a pretty good idea of what they're doing, though, and they've even stepped up their professionalism. "On this album we had all of the music written out - we actually had sheet music - and we knew precisely what we wanted with horns and strings, where a piano or an acoustic guitar would go,"? says Farren. Though It's Great to Be Alive doesn't stick to one style like the band's previous releases, it is ultimately more reflective of their overall sound. "When we wrote our first record, we were going for a specific feeling and a specific mood,"? says Farren. "When we started writing this new record we knew we didn't want to make the same record again."?

Though Farren may be a bit goofy on the surface, he is capable of delving deep into his own mind to provide thought-provoking lyrics on each of the band's outings. "Our first record was about being afraid to die and just freaking out about that. Then I took a step back from that and wondered why am I so afraid of dying,"? he says. "A lot of the new album deals with me trying to figure out why religion dictates the moral compass when your morals and morality just comes from yourself and what you believe regardless of spirituality."? Farren's struggle with morality is most apparent on the manic organ-and-banjo-driven "The Heaven and Hell Cotillion"? and the almost theatrical "Level With the Devil,"? but the album's upbeat numbers like "1234"? demonstrate that he now has a more positive outlook on life. "By the end of it I just decided that I can think these things out for myself and I can determine what's good and what's evil without a rulebook,"? he says. "I just felt really happy to come to that realization and that reflects in the title of It's Great to Be Alive."?

Though the band has toured with auxiliary members in the past to recreate the more instrumentally elaborate songs in their repertoire, only the four core members will be in the lineup for the band's upcoming tour. "I kind of like the switch of dynamic,"? Farren says. "We can show that we're still a rock band and we can totally fill it out without the auxiliary instruments, but it's always nice to have [the auxiliary instruments] as well."? However, there's no need to fret, cello fans. Farren promised that the band's headlining tour set to kick off in April will feature multiple horn players as well as a cellist.

Until then, you can see the stripped-down, rock-ready version of Fake Problems when they hit Salt Lake City with headliners Murder By Death on March 3 at Bar Deluxe.