Zac Carper received the worst phone call of his life on March 18, 2013. His garage punk band, FIDLAR, had just embarked on a tour with Wavves while the singer and guitarist, now 28, was attempting to kick heroin. “I was with this girl, and we were both drug addicts,” he says. “She was pregnant, and she overdosed on heroin while I was on tour.”
Apparently, his girlfriend got a staph infection from a bad supply and possibly a dirty needle. When she got to the hospital, she had a terrible fever, and then her heart stopped beating. “That day, I found out that my girlfriend was dead,” he recalls, covering his eyes with his hand. “I felt such guilt and shame over it. I was the one who introduced her to getting high. She had a miscarriage with my kid. I didn’t know what to do besides drink my life away.”
The band, whose name stands for “Fuck It, Dog, Life’s A Risk,” first started playing together six years ago. They were notorious around Los Angeles for getting wrecked, having run-ins with the cops, and singing about cheap beer and shitty drugs. Guitarist/vocalist Elvis Kuehn, 25, and his brother, drummer Max Kuehn, 24, had been playing music together since they were 11 and 10 years old, respectively. Their father, Greg Kuehn, is a SoCal punk legend, having played with T.S.O.L. and X.
The brothers started a band called The Diffs in their early teens and opened for established acts like Adolescents and the Circle Jerks. Later on, Elvis worked as an intern at Kingsize Soundlabs recording studio in Los Angeles. In 2009, he met Carper, who was an engineer there. Carper recruited his friend, bassist Brandon Schwartzel, 29, to join. The two had been living in their cars on the streets of Silver Lake, bonding over poverty, homelessness, and cocaine.
What most people don’t know is that Carper’s drug and alcohol addiction nearly ended his life and the band several times. “I would say I wasn’t going to do dope,” he says, “but three days later a needle would be back in my arm.” Now sober for a year and a half, he gulps down a glass of water at Café Stella, a restaurant down the street from where he used to score drugs.
Carper laughs. It’s not clear why this is funny, but I imagine that it’s hard for him to talk about. The waitress comes over to ask for an order, but Carper says he’s not hungry yet. His brown eyes are soft and honest, and he looks slightly malnourished. He admits that he’s going through a lot of emotions from his past. He looks down at his forearm, a tattoo of the state of Hawaii, where he was born. He got the ink to cover the track marks that used to be there. It’s a reminder to keep himself grounded.
After his girlfriend and unborn child passed, he started drinking heavily on tour and continued afterward. “I would wake up and go to a bar first thing in the morning,” he admits. “I would always start the day off with a pint glass filled with vodka. It was extremely hard to lose my girlfriend. She was really important to me, and it just sucked.”
“I was like, ‘Dude, you are fucked up right now. You’re a mess and you’re 80 pounds. You need help,’” remembers Schwartzel. Carper admits he wasn’t yet ready to change: “Brandon kept finding heroin and needles in my room and then throwing them away. I would flip out and go buy more. It was my medicine, you know?”
In April of that year, he overdosed on heroin three times. The song “Overdose” off FIDLAR’s sophomore album, Too, set for release on September 4th, is a direct exploration of the incidents. The song is creepily atmospheric, with jangly guitars far removed from the group’s usual thrashing. Carper sings, “I’m kicking and I’m screaming that I got a disease, anything to get a fix and hurry up, so make it quick/ Yeah, I’ll take another drink and throw up in the kitchen sink/ I’ll really try not to overdose again/ I just wish I was dead.”
“I remember the first time I overdosed. I was just like, ‘What the fuck happened?’ and my drug dealer was like, ‘You were fucking dying on my floor,’” says Carper. His dealer shot him up with Naloxone, also known as Narcan, which is used to reverse the effects of opioids during an overdose. He continued to shoot up heroin and couldn’t feel anything. “I was thinking, ‘Why the fuck isn’t this drug working?’ So I shot up the next day and overdosed again.”
His drug dealer told him that he wasn’t allowed to fix at his house anymore. A few weeks later, Carper overdosed for a third time. “The problem was that I was the frontman of a punk band,” he explains. “Everywhere I went I had people fucking giving me coke, speed, just wanting to do drugs with me. I didn’t know how to cope. I couldn’t deal with life, really, so I just did a bunch of drugs.”