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Shane Timm tunes Jack Antonoff's guitar on the stage at Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn before a fun. show in June. (NPR)

He Keeps fun. Running

by Jacob Ganz
Jul 14, 2012 (Weekend Edition Saturday)

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All Access: fun. guitar picks alongside tech Shane Timm's keys and back stage pass for the band's European tour. A Tech's Nemesis: Jack Antonoff's 1968 Gibson ES-330 electric guitar. Guitar tech Shane Timm (right) and fun.'s keyboard player Andrew Dost on stage in Brooklyn.

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Jacob Ganz

When NPR's Scott Simon spoke with singer Nate Ruess of the band fun. three weeks ago, the band was wrapping up a marathon tour of the United States in support of its album Some Nights and the hit single "We Are Young."

"We haven't really been home since," Ruess said of the tour that began in February. And indeed, after enjoying just a few days at home in New York, fun. flew to Europe for more concerts. Over the course of the summer, Weekend Edition Saturday and NPR Music will continue to check in with members of fun., as well as the band's touring crew to see what it takes to mount a successful tour. In the weeks since that first interview, the band has played in Paris, London and Germany, and braved the mud at the Scottish festival T in the Park, where they played on the same stage as New Order, Alabama Shakes and Skrillex.

This week Scott Simon checks in with Shane Timm, the band's guitar technician, who says the Scottish festival was a little bit of a mess. "It was the craziest thing I've ever seen as far as festivals go," Timm says. "Festivals [here] are nothing but mud and rain and puddles, but everyone is completely dressed and ready for it. We did not know that was how it was going to be, so we're walking around in tennis shoes getting completely covered in mud. We had to throw our shoes in the tub and let them soak for a while, but I think it was worth it."

Timm's voice echoes in the empty hallways of the building where he's helping the band set up for a show at Club Bauhaus, in a former art school building in the town of Dessau, Germany. "It's a really old building. It looks like what your typical high school looks like," he says.

As fun.'s guitar tech, Timm is in charge of the backline — every piece of equipment that the band uses while it's on stage, from cables to keyboard stands to drums and microphones and guitars. How much stuff does a band like fun., on its way up the charts, cart around?

"I would say probably as much as what a circus does, minus the animals," Timm says, before groaning at his own joke. "The last time I counted, I had 45 backline pieces that I gotta keep track of." That load fills a "really, really big trailer ... from floor to ceiling" and can weigh up to 13,000 pounds.

Before he joined the band last year, Timm, who is slim, with dark, center-parted hair and a wisp of a goatee, had never worked in the music business before, had never been on tour with a band.

"He looked like a pirate," Ruess joked. "So it was a little weird for, I would say, the first two weeks, getting used to the guy."

Now, Ruess says, "This guy is with us forever. It's been unbelievable to watch him grow into an incredible guitar tech. He kind of runs the stage and makes sure everything is working for everybody."

Timm says he started trying to make himself invaluable from the moment he walked in the door. "I remember the very first day that I even met them I was really freaked out," he says. "I was like, 'OK, these guys are professional musicians, this is going to be intimidating. I can do it, I can do it.' And Jack [Antonoff], one of his guitar pedals was screwing up, so I took it apart the very first time I met them, right there in the rehearsal studio, and I fixed it."

"I fix things," Timm says. "That's what I'm good at." He previously worked as a technician for Mercedes Benz and BMW. "I fix a lot of stuff, everything from cars to guitars to even household items," he says. "if it's broken I'm just going to try to fix it before I buy another one."

It's another piece of equipment belonging to Antanoff that gives Timm the most trouble: a red, vintage 1968 Gibson ES-330 electric guitar. Timm says he's fixed the instrument so many times it'll eventually be "a very old body with all brand new parts."

"It's like it's a person almost, and it wants to just mess with me. And it could be as simple as like, [Jack] just set it down on the ground a little awkwardly and for some reason as it wobbles around on the floor a wire decides to go," he says. "But every time I tackle it and I fix it, ... I fix something new."

Timm is learning the ropes of being on a major tour alongside the rest of the band. Where smaller bands (like the one fun. used to be before they scored a No. 1 with "We Are Young") pack everything into a van and do as much as possible themselves to save money, Timm is a part of fun.'s growth. There's more equipment to keep track of, more shows, more fans.

"The schedule is really busy and really hectic, and we don't always get to see a lot of each other," Timm says. "A lot of the time we're tired. We're worn out. We just want to take a nap." But the crew and the band try to spend as much time hanging out as they can, even if they have to squeeze it into a short drive.

"When we were in Scotland on the way to T in the Park, it was like a 30-minute drive, but that 30 minutes [was] everyone laughing, making fun of each other, talking about what's been going on; it just kind of refreshes you," he says. "It makes you go, 'All right, here we go. We're still us. We're overseas, we're really busy, we're all tired, but this is awesome.' "

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