Married with band

Pub date February 4, 2009
SectionMusicSectionSonic Reducer


SONIC REDUCER They play together yet dislike each other — that’s Fucked Up. Literally. The Toronto legends of hardcore — add as many "post-"s as you like to that descriptor — and their grew-up-together-but-grew-apart relationship may sound like the tale of so many other long-running rock bands, sticking it out for the big checks, groupies, coke binges, and Courvoisier. Instead the Fucked Up folks appear to be more interested in putting together albums that will stand up against the punk singles on Kill by Death and Dangerhouse that made major indents in their consciousness.

"We were obsessed with those records and wanted to put ourselves in that continuum," says vocalist Pink Eyes, a.k.a., Damian Abraham, 29, sometime TV writer, onetime-reality TV star ("There were some choice moments of me going record shopping juxtaposed with my wife eating a cheap hotdog on the street, me going to an expensive dinner and her going home and doing laundry," he says of Newly Wed Nearly Dead), and frothing, rabid record collector. Eventually, he adds, "we realized that as much as we don’t get along and hate being on the road together, this is the most exciting, most creative thing that any of us will ever do. So we’ll see how it goes."

For their trouble, the group managed to make one of the best rock, punk, or what-have-you releases of ’08 with its second full-length, The Chemistry of Common Life (Matador).

But all that’s natural, normal, and Fucked Up. "We’ve been a band a long time," confesses Abraham. He’s known guitarist Mike Haliechuk, a.k.a., 10,000 Marbles, for about 14 years — since they were 16 — and grew up in the same neighborhood, played in bands, or shared radio shows with the rest. So does familiarity breed hatred? "A lot of us don’t have any shared interests anymore," the vocalist says by phone on the way to a New Orleans show. "But we’re still held together by this thing that is Fucked Up."

After all, "I’m diagnosed with mental problems," Abraham continues with the barest hint of mirth. "But I think there are several people who have undiagnosed mental problems. So we have a bunch of people who are undermedicated and one guy who is overmedicated. People who have crippling record-buying addictions and people who have crippling tastes in techno.

"We do all like sushi."

That search for commonality had to happen after the combo’s first album, Hidden World (Jade Tree, 2006), which made Fucked Up "transition into a quote-unquote real band," explains Abraham. "Prior to that we did a band that was mainly putting out 7-inches and playing the odd show, but then we put out Hidden World and we had the responsibilities of touring and actually playing full-length shows! It wasn’t just kids paying to see a show — it was kids paying to see us, which we weren’t really used to before that."

With Chemistry the members all retreated to their corners to work on lyrics and music separately. "No one person’s voice silenced any one else’s," Abraham says. "I think it was a survival method." The result was a kind of call and response between extremely different makers, a strategy that resolved into a shockingly rich recording that draws from the clean, epic qualities of classic rock as well as the bodyslamming force of hardcore.

"From my perspective [Hidden World] was about identifying social ills," offers Abraham, "and this record was more about trying to understand those social ills, trying to accept and work with the world around us, the forces of nature, government, and religion especially."

And in some ways, among the resonant instrumentals and pummeling rock-outs — music that scrambles the "conventions of punk," as Abraham puts it, much like the sound of Mind Eraser, Cold World, and No Age — Chemistry is about the search for that hard-won community among hardheaded, hardcore individuals. Call these anthems of a kind of togetherness for lone wolves who might wear "Jesus Should Have Been Aborted" T-shirts. "Hands up if you think you’re the only one," the frontman hollers during "Twice Born." The response: "We all got our fucking hands up!"

Still, the fights over the van radio must be monumental. "Mike is the techno fan," Abraham says. "It’s unfortunate because he’s very persuasive and he’s convinced several other members of the band to like it too. I’m resistant, as well as Jonah [Falco, a.k.a., drummer Guinea Beat]. All I can say is thank god for the invention of personal music players."


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