DIY Hardcore punk bands receiving mainstream attention isn’t exactly a new phenomenon but the instances are few and far between and the results are invariably very messy.
Whether it’s Gallows, Nirvana or Napalm Death, bands who have all experienced mainstream attention on different scales, the ripple effects felt by their explosion from the underground are always impressively far reaching.
Fucked Up hail from Toronto, Canada and are unlike any hardcore band before them. Which is why they hit the cover of the NME last month. Although the foundations of Fucked Up’s music is unmistakably punk, they are so much more than that. This year’s ‘Year Of The Pig’ eighteen minute progressive hardcore single was a fantastic example of how far into the unknown the band are prepared to take their music and new album ‘The Chemistry of Common Life’ continues the journey.
James Sherry caught up with guitarist Mike Haliechuk to get the lowdown on the latest record out now on Matador Records.
It really sounds like a lot of thought was put into the multi-layers of music. Is this the case of was it a bizarre accident?
I guess when we in the studio last time we had a better idea of what each song was like while we were recording so we didn’t have a lot of room to put any other stuff on,” explains Mike. “This time, we had almost no idea what each song would sound like so it allowed us to experiment with any little idea we had in the studio. First we recorded drums then left it for a few weeks while we were on tour. We’d listen to the drum tracks and get some new ideas to add in. After six months of doing that, with new ideas for each song coming every couple of weeks it gave us enough time to put as much onto the record as we could.
With your previous album ‘Hidden World’ I presume you had those songs written when there wasn’t so much touring going on and you had a lot of time to spend on the songs. A lot of bands seem to fall into that trap of having a successful first album then go on the road for a year and their label says ‘ok, we want a new record! and the ideas get thrown together into that disappointing second album…
Well, It was a lot like that!
But it doesn’t sound like it!
We did write a few songs while on stage, but with the amount of breaks we had we could listen to the stuff again and again and add to it a lot which helped. We’d go to the studio, record a little bit then come back to it later and do a little more. Space things out.
You have done a lot of touring; it seems that you’ve been to Europe a lot in particular, how many times have you come over here?
I think in total this has been the seventh trip over. We’ve only properly done mainland Europe twice, but the rest of the times we would come over here. We actually came to London for just one show once! We just like London so much, I guess that explains why we keep coming over!
What is it about London that appeals to you so much?
I think it’s the whole cosmopolitan feel to it. It’s such a mixture; you can walk 8 or 10 miles from the east end and cover so much ground. Shows are great as you take a lot less money with you than you would in the States because the dollar is so ridiculously weak right now. The shows are really working over here too, they’re getting busier, and it’s always real good atmosphere from a huge variety of people.
You do seem to play very different places and different venues, and you always seem to have the right band playing with you, like The Shitty Limits, rather than some industry shit or an agency favour…
Well we come from a community, rather than just being a manufactured band so we always have great bands to play with. And a lot of our friends are in great bands so we are lucky to play with them often.
What about the Gallows tour earlier this year, was that a good experience?
Well they picked us to play with them. It was really good opening for them; normally a lot of opening acts get eaten alive, I know when I was a kid going to shows I didn’t want to see anyone other than the band I came to see. Everyone else is just a waste of time, like I paid to see these dudes, not you! But we had a gnarly reaction from the crowd, they could get into it and we had a lot of fun. There wasn’t a bad show on the whole tour.
The Astoria show in particular seemed to work. A lot of punk bands’ sound gets swallowed up in larger venues but yours manages to fill the venue perfectly. And of course it helps that frontman Pink Eyes gets so involved with the crowd.
The crowd make the show man! Even if things aren’t going for you sound-wise, the crowd can always turn things around. If you let them make the show it takes the pressure of us a little! Getting down and dirty with the crowd is the best part.
How different is it being on Matador Records compared to your previous involvement with Vice?
Vice, for us was just a London-only thing, we just had our friends set up all those tours before. It was good, and this is good now. It’s different I guess, there’s a lot more work involved what with promo and all that. Even though Vice is such a huge piece of culture it was still a friendly thing and this is a real big step. Matador has a great history and we’re gonna get involved in a lot more things through them.
Like Gallows, who have obviously came from a similar DIY community as yourselves and have subsequently been thrown into the mainstream, do you find it a battle to hold onto your roots?
I’ve seen them a lot of times now and we know them well; I think a lot of people are sceptical, which is fair enough, a hardcore band going into the mainstream, I would probably think that if I didn’t know them that well. Personally I think that Gallows are just like any other hardcore band but happened to be a right place at the right time. I think they’re really honest.
I guess a lot of people of this generation haven’t really seen music like this before, especially if you’re not tuned in to underground scenes. A lot of kids will think of them as a new indie band who are really exciting, they’ll turn up and see them and you guys and just be blown away. They’ve really caught the right moment.
That’s the thing, these kids have just seen something they really like and there shouldn’t be anything frightening about that. I know when I was a kid I would have been thankful to have a band like Gallows or Fucked Up showing up.
And you’re back here now in November?
“Yeah we are. Should be fun. Bring it on!”
See Fucked Up at the following dates. Buy their records now.
07 – LONDON 93ft East
08 – BRIGHTON Freebutt
09 – BIRMINGHAM Barfly
10 – OXFORD Zodiac
11 – EXETER Cavern
12 – CARDIFF Clwb Ifor Bach
13 – STOKE Sugarmill
14 – NOTTINGHAM Bodega
15 – COVENTRY Kasbah
16 – GLASGOW King Tuts
17 – SHEFFIED Corporation
18 – LEEDS Cockpit
19 – MANCHESTER Roadhouse