Fun. bandleader Nate Ruess doesn’t play any instruments, so he devised an unusual method for capturing the sweeping pop soundscapes he imagines, such as on the recent hit “We Are Young,” featuring Janelle Monae: He sings the melodies into his iPhone, part by part.
Then it’s up to his bandmates and/or producer to make sense of it all.
“I just did it the other day with a drumbeat, actually,” he says of the technique. “You can’t even imagine how terrible it sounded. I listened back the next day and I was like, ‘Seriously?!?’ It was just horrid.”
The Arizona-bred Ruess, 30 — who brings his period-emphasized Fun. to The City today — doesn’t know when his brainstorms will hit.
For instance, he was in a house full of partying musicians when the kaleidoscopic opener for the trio’s new sophomore album, “Some Nights,” occurred to him: “I had to go sit in a car with my phone, a bottle of alcohol and a pen, and I couldn’t even write down fast enough the ideas that were happening. And afterwards, I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh. This is going to be a really good album!’”
Indeed. “Some Nights Intro” segues into a Queen-elaborate title track, then into the tempo-shifting brilliance of “We Are Young,” already heard in Chevy ads, covered on TV’s “Glee” and possibly destined to be one of the biggest prom anthems of all time.
“The ‘We Are Young’ chorus just popped into my head one day, and I started waking up with it for about a week,” Ruess says. “It just wouldn’t stop beating down on me.”
Initially about the arrogant bravado of Sarah Palin, the lyrics eventually expanded into a 20-something, night-on-the-town singalong.
Ruess has achieved the ABBA-sleek sound simply by being a big music fan and obsessing over different albums.
“There was one point where all I listened to for three years was Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tusk,’” Ruess says. “I even read a book on the whole recording process. And what happens is, suddenly all those songs start to mutate with one another and become a song that’s in my head.”
He has cut a deal, too, with his live-in girlfriend, who understands his impulsive muse.
“If I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea, I have to run into our restroom and turn the faucet on as loud as possible, so she doesn’t hear me mumbling into my phone,” he says. “I try really, really hard not to wake her up.”
IF YOU GO
Where: The Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday
Tickets: $20; sold out
Contact: (415) 771-1421, www.ticketfly.com