WORDS: GEORGIA RAWSON | PHOTOS: NATALIE WOOD / JOHN LONDON
2009, Coachella. Blood spills so profusely onto the microphone in Damien Abraham’s hand that, post on stage shambles, he’s subsequently billed for the ruined piece of equipment.
Post 80s underground punk, not many bands have become comparable to the Toronto hardcore sextet’s live shows, and while nowadays the band may be slowing their legendary riotous performances down, their records still boast of a wild, untamed musical ride that leaves you just as bewildered, and above all feel alive.
“I look for normality every day.”
“You don’t always have friends who do the same things as you, know the same life, you know?” Comments guitarist Mike Haliechuck when looking back on an almost 18-year long career. Nowadays the band themselves are all approaching their 30s, and with the coming of age, birth of their children, marriages, and other life long commitments, it seems that while musically their sound is bolder than ever before, lyrically they’re reflecting on the one question that crosses any successful musician’s mind at the beginning of their peak. ‘What if I was never in a band?’
The band’s latest record, ‘Dose Your Dreams’, an eighty-two minute and fifteen minute rollercoaster of theatrical proportion, is laced with a narrative of the average 9-5 workers, and the mundane life that these punks so narrowly missed. The track, ‘Normal People’ is apparent in it’s nostalgic feelings of the working class man, a life that the band have lived closely on the fringe of. “This record was about examining my own life, to check in on how far I am or am not from what I think I should be,” reflects Mike. “It’s hard to live at the fringes of anything, and when you are an artist, sometimes you live at odds with the things you see in other people every day.”
“This record was about examining my own life, to check in on how far I am or am not from what I think I should be”
Whilst Mike and his fellow band members have been able to use their punk rock as a vehicle for international touring, selling thousands of records, having their faces printed across the international press, and reaching far beyond the goals any band aspires to have when first starting, it seems that DYD represents a need that even a career as successful as Fucked Up’s hasn’t been able to meet. “I look for normality every day,” he muses. “For years I’ve wanted to try and live a normal life where I wake up and go to an office and someone else is in charge and deals with the stress, but I have no access to it. I wake up every morning into the life a lot of people probably dream of, but its isolating and weird and hard. I know life is hard for most people, but yeah I often crave something regular and more easily digestible for sure.”
However, whilst the lyrical content of the latest record may have taken a darker, and in some way more narcissistic turn, there’s a heavy confliction in how upbeat, from trumpets through to groove ridden basslines and how much, well fun ‘Dose Your Dreams’ is. “I didn’t want ‘Dose Your Dreams’ to feel like an old person record made by an old person who feels alienated from what’s going on in culture right now,” laughs Mike.
The band’s previous record, ‘David Comes To Life’ was a triumphant seventy eight minute guitar riddled opera, but while it held it’s own merit in creativity, there was an underlying staleness of the same punk sound, and it seems that a seven year long break was one of the only ways to break out of it. “We basically broke up after that record. If this record (DYD) was a calculated attempt at getting back into the graces of the world, it would have been shorter and more straight forward I think,” contemplates Mike when asked about the comparison between the two pieces.
“I like the idea of characters inhabiting the things I make”
But whilst it seems a momentous amount of time has passed between the band’s releases, their theatrical approach has lent itself to the world of cinema itself. In 2016 Fucked Up stepped in to compose their own live soundtrack to the cult 1928 silent film, West Of Zanzibar. Two live performances set against the film itself, it seems that the continuous need for diverse characters weaved into a multi-dimension of narratives wasn’t due to stop any time soon. “I like the idea of characters inhabiting the things I make, so the ideas can be embodied by something. I didn’t map out the narrative of this thing with any type of formal structure to make it more theatrical, but I did think of the thing in terms of a film while I was putting it together. To me the record is very visual in its descriptions and expositions, and I think it would lend itself quite well to a film.”
Whilst we may now be almost a decade away from the insanity triggered ages of shirtless, bottle breaking, and bleeding live performances that once cemented Fucked Up as one of the most dangerously charismatic punk bands this side of the century, they’re a band that will remain a wondrous discovery for anyone whose ears come into contact with the truly wonderful, eighteen year long, multi-sensory story of Fucked Up.
DOSE YOUR DREAMS IS OUT NOW | THE BAND ARE ALSO ON THEIR UK HEADLINE RUN. CHECK OUT DATES HERE.