Indie pop group fun., well-known for their breakthrough 2012 album Some Nights, has recently been named “Free & Equal Ambassadors” by the United Nations. Through this initiative, the trio now speaks out for LGBT rights and dignity worldwide through the esteemed international organization.
Fun., comprised of musicians Nate Ruess, Jack Antonoff and Andrew Dost, released their first album, Aim and Ignite, in 2009. They would reach the mainstream in 2012 with the aforementioned Some Nights, which debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 albums chart and was certified platinum. The signature single from the album, “We Are Young,” performed with Janelle Monáe, held the #1 position on the Billboard Hot 100 pop charts for six straight weeks. It would go on to be certified five times platinum and would win Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards. Additional singles from the album, including the eponymous “Some Nights” and “Carry On,” ended up being certified four times platinum and twice platinum, respectively.
According to the United Nations Free & Equal Coalition website (unfe.org), Free & Equal is “…an unprecedented United Nations global public education campaign for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality. A project of the United Nations Human Rights Office being implemented in partnership with the Purpose Foundation, Free & Equal will raise awareness of homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination, and promote greater respect for the rights of LGBT people everywhere.”
Fun. is no stranger to LGBT advocacy work. In 2012, Jack Antonoff, with his sister, fashion designer Rachel Antonoff, created The Ally Coalition, in which musicians and other artists are encouraged to use their fame and their voices to speak out in favor of LGBT equality. After two years of doing just that, Antonoff and the other two members of fun. are now being recognized internationally by the United Nations, allowing them to continue their advocacy work, all the while reaching more people than they ever could have imagined.
Recently I had the chance to speak to Jack Antonoff, the lead guitarist of fun. and the founder of The Ally Coalition, in this exclusive Hotspots interview.
I’m sure a lot of your fans would love to see you again down here in Florida. When will you be back?
Shortly! We love Florida. We love playing there. It’s always a blast. On my first tour when I was 15, I went to Florida. So, it always feels like the place where things got started.
Why do you feel it is important to speak out for LGBT equality?
It’s the human rights issue of our time – it affects everyone. I believe that if we all don’t have freedoms, then none of us really are free – just some of us are more privileged than others. If you are someone who does not have those freedoms, it’s important to speak out because you’re specifically oppressed. If you’re not someone who’s being oppressed, it’s important to speak out because that’s the only way change can happen. It’s important for everyone to be making noise about what’s going on. It’s very rare that we live in a time where we have such a massive universal human rights issue, and it means everything for everyone to stand up together.
How did you all get the idea to start The Ally Coalition movement?
We’ve been very outspoken for a long time. We did a partnership with Revel & Riot, which is an LGBTQ political art organization, and it was so incredibly successful and we raised so much money — it made us realize the power that was there when we got specific about what we were doing instead of speaking about things in a broad sense. We realized there’s a lot more we could do under the umbrella of an organization.
Have you received feedback from LGBT fans about your advocacy work?
We’ve received tons of feedback – both positive and negative. You learn so much when you get into this – everything from the most positive stuff in the world to learning how to be great advocates without speaking for people, which is a really important thing and really a massive part of what it means to be an ally.
Do you have a fan interaction that touched you personally?
We’ve had amazing interactions with LGBTQ kids who talked about feeling less alone when something as mainstream as our band recognizes them in a certain way. But I think the most special interactions are when I meet people who are just straight kids from some random part of the country who never thought about this stuff. They talk to us after a show and speak about how much it means to them now that they have all the information because that’s really the biggest issue – information. People aren’t inherently bad or homophobic or transphobic – they just don’t have all the information.
How did it come about that you were approached to work with the United Nations?
We were approached by them and it was a complete no-brainer because it was something that we were very proud to be asked to do and very proud to be a part of. It means a great deal to us and it’s very inspiring for us to see the work that they do and the inspiration that they spread – it’s all great things.
There have been many court decisions across the country in favor of marriage equality in the past year. Does it make you feel hopeful that nationwide marriage equality is on the horizon? How long do you think it will take before the freedom to marry is extended to everyone from coast to coast?
It makes me feel extremely hopeful, but there’s also a feeling of every time you get a step closer there’s also part of you that’s like, why can’t we just go all the way right now? I think it’s wonderful if you look at the progress over the past couple years versus the past decade. It’s been absolutely amazing and things are rapidly moving in the right direction. My hope is that in the next five years all these denied rights will be corrected.
The House refuses to take up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act for a vote. Do you think President Obama should exercise his executive order power to pass ENDA for federal workers?
I absolutely do. To me, with almost every other political issue there are so many different areas to it – so many grey areas, so many opinions, but when it comes to peoples’ rights – the rights to the workplace, any rights that should be afforded to innocent people – I don’t see anything that could possibly stand in that way. I think it’s anyone’s job, in this case it’s the president who has that power, to push that forward.
To read more about fun.’s contribution to the United Nations Free & Equal campaign, visit unfe.org/en/actions/fun.