February 19, 2014


Meet the Punk Singer Behind "The Smiths" Shirt From 'Jimmy Fallon'

We saw plenty of star power on Monday night’s debut episode of The Tonight Show with Jimmy FallonLady Gaga and Mariah Carey made cameos, U2 performed and Will Smith was his first interview guest. After chatting with the former Fresh Prince, the new Tonight Show host presented him with a gift: A t-shirt picturing Will Smith's family doctored up to look like a tee from the incredibly influential English rock band The Smiths. Check out the exchange and the shirt in the video above.

As it would turn out, the “Smith Family” shirt was created by a punk frontman named Chris Farren, who sings and plays guitar in the Naples, FL-based indie punk act Fake Problems. Farren had no idea his Morrissey-inspired shirt was going to appear on national television, and he immediately tweeted his surprise after seeing Fallon hand his work to Will Smith. We reached out to learn more.

Were you watching the broadcast when your shirt made its debut?

I was watching–I was trying to drift off to sleep because I had to wake up early the next morning to get on a plane.

What was the first thought that ran through your mind when you saw it?

When I first started watching the show and found out Will Smith was on, I had a brief daydream about Jimmy Fallon showing him the shirt, or Will Smith coming out with the shirt on, and I thought, "Haha, that is crazy, I am an idiot." And then like 30 minutes later that happened and I was just... I guess in shock is really the only way to put it. I couldn't process it. My friend called me the moment it happened and I was so out of it that I barely remember the phone call.

Do you have a small company where you do this, or is this just for fun?

I made a [different] shirt with my friend Heather [Gabel, Laura Jane Grace's wife] last year, and realized it was a fun, creative way to put different non-musical ideas out into the world. So it was in the back of my head that maybe I should think of another design. My friends at Night Owls Print Shop produce and ship out the shirts for me. I was shipping them myself at first but it became too much to handle.

Do you have any idea how Fallon or his people found the shirt? 

I really don't know. It was on the front page of Reddit for a little bit, and I also know someone who knows someone who works for Jimmy Fallon. 

You immediately took the chance to link to the webstore where you sell the shirts. Have you gotten a bump of orders? 

We got a good amount of orders–nothing like website-breaking or anything, but a nice bump for sure!

Are you worried about people making rip-offs now?

There are so many rip-offs already, on Etsy and on eBay. I asked one guy to take his down and he was very mean to me. He was going around advertising his ripped-off design on pictures of ME wearing the shirt on Instagram. I'm trying to figure out with my PEEPS (yeah, that's right) my actual rights in the situation.

Tell me about how you got the idea to make this shirt.

I had the idea at the end of last year, and like most of my ideas, I thought of it and then immediately showered myself in self doubt and did nothing for a few weeks. Then I just decided to bite the bullet and make a super small run, and they sold out in like 20 minutes.

You mentioned that you made a shirt with Heather Gabel last year. Explain this whole "My Spirit Animal Is A Goth Teenager" thing.

I made a tweet that said "My Spirit Animal Is A Goth Teenager," and at a wedding a few months later, Heather told me we should make that into a shirt. So we did! I love Heather and I love that shirt and she totally made me realize I could do more cool stuff.

You are the singer and play guitar in a band that I enjoy, Fake Problems. What’s going on with your band? Is this T-shirt going to help make you guys rich and famous? 

It definitely helped us pay to finish up some recordings we're working on. Right now we have a bunch of songs being mixed, with plans to unleash them in some way shape or form later this year.

Check out the "Smith Family" shirt at Farren's webstore.