In October, the band fun. and fashion designer Rachel Antonoff launched The Ally Coalition, a non-profit aimed at promoting equal rights for the LGBT community. The band stopped by the Bowery Ballroom last week with Ben & Jerry’s to play a few acoustic songs and kick off the 2012 Fall Campus Consciousness Tour, a campaign geared at educating students and mobilizing them to get involved in social and environmental consciousness.
It was a steller afternoon. Music was heard, human rights were discussed, free ice cream was eaten. And on top of it all, Andrew Dost of fun. agreed to talk to us about his band’s new project.
What made you guys decide to start the Ally coalition?
We’ve been fairly outspoken for some time, supportive of human rights. And we’ve worked with a few groups like The Trevor Project, Revel and Riot and the HRC, and we realized that we have a voice of our own, a unique voice, and we wanted to be able to do whatever we want: put some money here, host an event there, do whatever. We wanted to have our own umbrella, our own home for all of that.
The idea has been around for a while, then our management paired us with someone who could help us get it off the ground, get it organized. It’s been really nice so far. We’ve gotten a lot of encouragement and help from other people who want to get on board.
You just said you felt like you guys have your own voice. What separates Ally Coalition from all these other foundations and support efforts?
I think what is powerful, if there is something powerful that we’re doing, is that we’re normal people, we’re straight guys—I’m married—and I want other people to have that same right. I think the key is just to get people talking. We’ve had some success this year, and while people are listening to us and paying attention, we want to use that to talk about things bigger than just our records or whatever.
That’s great, because it seems like music has pulled away from politics, this decade especially.
I think people don’t want their bands necessarily to be political. I think if a band like Rage Against the Machine gets political, it’s cool and it’s ok. But if a band like … I don’t know …
A more commercial band?
Yeah … I think it seems silly or seems forced or seems very trivial. And somewhere along the line it became, I think just uncool. I think it’s not cool to care or put yourself on the line.
I agree with you; it’s unfortunate.
It’s hard to put into words, and I don’t know when or why it changed. But I think somewhere along the line it became uncool. It became better to just do your thing and shut up and play, and I think that lack of care has extended in some circles into the music even. I think it’s cool to just not care and do whatever.
I’ve always had the most respect for artists who do care, like Kanye West for example. He puts such an amazing amount of focus on his work. He wants it to be big, he wants to be the greatest, and I think people resent him for that. I think people resent that he wants to be the greatest and the biggest artist in the world. But I think that’s neat. I think there’s no shame in wanting to be The Beatles. And in that same sense I think it’s cool to want to make the world a better place. I think the world is worth caring about. It’s worth devoting whatever energy and time and money you may have to trying to help the world out.
It sounds like you want to use the stage to do the most you possibly can.
Yeah, we’re just so personally connected to the issue. And not on a personal level. I just think it’s the year 2012. I can’t believe that not everyone on earth has the same rights. It blows my mind and makes me very sad.
How can our readers get involved with The Ally Coalition?
We have some templates and stuff on the website, but I think more even than The Ally Coalition, I think talking to people is important. Take your uncle who voted for Romney at the Thanksgiving dinner table: I think without making a pest or a nuisance of yourself, having enlightened, informed discussions with people when it comes up is the most that anyone can do. That’s what we’re trying to do—start a discussion, get people talking, have people realize that it’s ok to disagree and it’s ok to try to change someone’s mind as long as you’re respectful, enlightened and informed. I think just talking to people is really how this can get better.
What’s next? Any long term goals both for The Ally Coalition and the band?
For The Ally Coalition it’s just to help in any way we can to get laws to be different. For all the talk about anti-bullying, and the government having anti-bullying websites and programs, the government is a huge bully at the moment. I love Barack Obama. I voted for him. I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he’s doing, but until the laws change, the government is still bullying the LGBT community. You can’t tell people not to bully someone and then deny them rights at the same time. I think that’s absurd. So getting these laws to change, helping that happen in any way we can, that’s the long term goal attack. As well as just being a safe haven for anyone who cares or feels like they don’t have a home anywhere else.
Long term goals of the band: keep making music that we enjoy playing, and I guess just keep touring and making records we’re proud of for as long as we can.