Amid the content-farms and digital churning of our modern era, it’s important to remember that there are artists that are playing the long game. They spend years allowing songs to take shape, and enter the studio with a desire to make something that’s not just for likes and clicks. Detroit’s No Fun Club spent half a decade working on the songs for their newest record Regressing. But don’t let the album title fool you – this band isn’t backsliding anywhere.
Started by guitarist and songwriter Jake Rees in 2018, No Fun Club gradually added regular members. Patrick Budesky joined in 2019 on lead guitar, and the rhythm section of Nick Wing on bass and Evan Laybourn joined shortly after the pandemic. After spending a long time writing and rehearsing, the band started tracking in early 2022 at Eureka Records with producer Tyler Floyd. While their past work had a homespun, fuzzed-out aesthetic, all the wrinkles have been smoothed on Regressing.
No Fun Club have learned how to let their songs breathe. Regressing moves from moments of heartfelt emo to these wide-open slacker refrains. The band has no problem riding the fine lines between genres. The second track “Winona” is a perfect example of how they mix and match their rock aesthetics. Upbeat, driving riffs give way to a spacious middle section before building into gut-wrenching howls near the song’s end. “On Your Rader” is an album highlight, with its catchy choruses and background vocals sounding like Death Cab For Cutie and Cap’n Jazz had a summer fling. There’s a cinematic quality to these songs. When listening, you can almost hear the great lakes and plains of the American Midwest. Even the album’s cover looks like the opening shot of an indie film. This is a band that has thought intensely about their art, and it’s audible in every moment of this record.
From the earnest strums of “Crazy Train 2 Redux” to the twang on “Kelly Green,” No Fun Club proves they are pushing themselves to create something timeless. Bucking the trend of releasing singles for “engagement,” they have made an album that feels like one cohesive story. You won’t find better proof that American rock music is alive and well.
This is the first time y’all have spent time in a more professional recording setting. What did you learn?
This was the first time we recorded in a real studio, but we had worked with Tyler Floyd in the past recording at his home studio, so thankfully he made that transition very easy for us. Over the years we’ve gotten very comfortable working with Tyler, and I think there’s something to be said for working on multiple projects with the same engineer over the years and developing a shared language and understanding of how the other works.
We did, however, learn the importance of pre-production and ironing out arrangement decisions early on in the process. Before booking studio time with Tyler, our mix engineer, Whit Fineberg, listened through our demos and gave notes on which sections/arrangement decisions were working well and which ones weren’t, and we went back and changed around certain sections that weren’t working well in the demos. I’m glad we committed to these decisions before entering the studio and didn’t lose too much time chasing ideas that weren’t working. I think as a songwriter it’s easy to want to feel 100% in control of each decision made on a record, but I think what I took away from making “Regressing” is the importance of letting collaborators give open criticism and taking that criticism in good faith and making revisions to serve the song.
How was the writing process for this album different than the EPs you’ve released?
Most of our songs, including the bulk of “Regressing”, have started out with demos of the full arrangement that I’ve tracked in GarageBand at home and sent to the band, and then we’ll iron out parts all together before heading to the studio. With this record, however, there were a handful of songs that went through several drastic arrangement changes even before starting pre-production with Whit. “Crow in the Crosshairs” actually started its life as a dance-punk track, and then I tried a few more pop-punk-type arrangements before landing on the slower, darker version we have now. “Kelly Green” was originally a more straightforward rock ballad without the country shuffle beat, and “Power Out” was all acoustic.
“Crazy Train 2 Redux” was also the first song that our lead guitarist, Pat helped write. Pat had the whole arrangement and a handful of lyrics, and I took the lyrics and wrote a melody over the instrumental with them. On our first EP, former bassist Arthur Jones wrote a couple of instrumental parts that were fleshed out in a similar manner, but this is the first time someone other than me has contributed lyrics for one of the songs, and I think it turned out amazing.
In the future, we’re planning on trying a more collaborative approach to writing and arranging. Pat and I have talked and we’re going to have me try writing the songs on acoustic guitar only and letting him, Nick, and Evan flesh out the rest of the arrangements.
Who took the cover photo? What drew you to it?
I (Jake) actually took the cover photo. I recently moved to the outskirts of the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area, and that part of town transitions very quickly from a denser urban area into rural farmland. Suburban sprawl has started to creep further outwards from town (including my apartment complex), but along the main road my complex is on, there’s a few very old buildings left from when the area was more rural, including the shed featured on the album cover. Across the street from the shed, there’s a Burger King and bank, which I feel like is a pretty stark contrast with the shed and some of the old buildings on the other side of the road. I feel like the shed represents a sort of steadfastness in staying true to yourself despite outside pressures, no matter how much it wears you down, and that’s the kind of person I wished I was more of when I was writing these songs, feeling lost and alone and confused while figuring out post-college life, getting a 9-to-5 job and balancing it with pursuing music, dealing with mental health issues, and moving out on my own.
What do you hope listeners take away from this record?
Writing this record was pretty emotionally cathartic for me, and I’m very grateful that anyone has listened to it at all, much less enjoyed it. I’m hoping if anyone takes anything away from it, it’s that 1) if they’re feeling lost and confused with the direction of their life they aren’t alone and that 2) if you want to be in band and make records you can just do it and find someone who will connect with it – you don’t have to be in a band that tours all the time or sells out venues or has a big record deal to make cool things. All of us in NFC have been playing in bands for a long time and haven’t had much “music industry success,” but we’ve been able to have a lot of cool experiences and meet a lot of really great people through consistently and persistently putting ourselves out there. DIY music and local bands are so important, and if you want to start a band you should do it.
Featured image by Spencer Isberg.