No label, no problem: I Fight Dragons approach ‘The Near Future’ on their own terms

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You might know them for their use of Nintendo Game Boys and other video game systems mixed into their music, or you might know them as that band who wrote the theme song to the ABC TV show The Goldbergs. In any case, I Fight Dragons have actually found a lot about themselves throughout the past several years. As far as they’re concerned, they just want to write music that they personally care about and they want to have fun doing it.

Shortly after forming in 2008 and attracting a serious buzz in their hometown of Chicago, I Fight Dragons received an offer to sign with Atlantic Records, which they accepted, resulting in one full-length, KABOOM!. It was during this time when the band discovered a lot about the music industry and even more so about what they wanted to do with their band. The band and label couldn’t see eye to eye, though, and in 2012 I Fight Dragons and Atlantic parted ways.

Vocalist/guitarist Brian Mazzaferri says it was absolutely heartbreaking after putting so much effort into the album, and then the label deciding it just wasn’t what they wanted—even when their song “The Geeks Will Inherit The Earth” went to No. 1 at Denver radio station KTCL.

“When things were going really well in Denver at their radio station, we thought we were kicking ass and then it was absolutely heartbreaking to feel like we had done our part,” Mazzaferri says. “I felt like I had put myself through the fire in terms of trying to write the best possible songs that were I Fight Dragons songs. But also, trying the absolute best that we could, so that was kind of taking a toll on me and then when we got out of the system I was absolutely bummed out.”

After another year of figuring out what to do, they decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign titled Project Atma, to provide funding for their next album. The band reached their $20,000 goal in just 36 hours from the launch of the campaign and went on to raise more than $115,000.

“In my head I was like, ‘Man, what happens if we are only able to make $15,000, I really want to make this record.’ So I was trying to do the math in my head,” Mazzaferri says. “Then it blew me away that we reached past our goal within 36 hours. It was insane. it was, like, the craziest couple of days ever.”

After the project was funded, I Fight Dragons went into a yearlong process of writing with a new mindset, something different than writing material for their previous label. Instead of trying to write material that had commercial aspects and potential hit singles, it was time to go back to their roots.

“The mindset was totally different,” Mazzaferri says. “It was just time to write complicated stuff, arrangement-wise, and just getting crazy.”

The band released their new album, The Near Future, in December 2014 only on vinyl and digitally. Surprisingly, the album hit No. 5 on Billboard’s Vinyl Album Charts. While many bands may give up after having such a negative outcome from a label, it may have been just what I Fight Dragons needed in their career to realize what they actually have.

“I feel like we’re on cloud nine for how well the album has been received, and we spent the last year-and-a-half just really sweating because we wanted to do well,” Mazzaferri says. “We were hoping people would appreciate it and we are going to continue to grow and do different stuff. We feel so happy toward people who are buying it and sharing it and now we’re just planning for what’s next.”