It's kind of hard to fully grasp how a band with a swear word in its name could become one of the biggest punk bands on the planet. But that is exactly what happened to Fucked Up, a Toronto six-piece that has gone from relative obscurity to the most important punk group of its generation.
"Everybody, including ourselves, kind of has this immediate reaction to punk as being sort of self-defeating; sort of the bile that lines the stomach that is music," says drummer Jonah Falco. "You know that it's the most important, but it never gets all the recognition it deserves and kind of looks and tastes bad."
But Fucked Up has broken the mould, coming to the forefront of modern alternative rock, due to its creative interpretations of punk, as well as the changing climate in the music industry.
"The people who are kind of at the helm of certain media outlets now are the people who grew up with the original incarnations of punk---or were in bands in the '80s and '90s---and actually understand what the music means and what it is trying to do," says Falco. "Also, the time is right for there not to be Nickelback on the radio."
That said, at first glance Fucked Up is an unlikely candidate to be opening for mainstream acts like the Foo Fighters and Tenacious D (who the group will be touring Australia with in the new year), let alone getting radio play. But on closer examination, it's easy to see why the band has been so successful, even if most radio hosts can't say the name.
After releasing a string of singles in the first part of the decade, Fucked Up released its debut album, Hidden World, in 2006, taking the punk rock of its early years and expanding upon its more creative side.
People began to take notice, but it wasn't until the band signed with Matador and released The Chemistry of Common Life in 2008 that international critical adoration came.
"Although Chemistry is the record that put us on so many people's radars, it was musically alienating," says Falco.
But for a big group of people (i.e. adults who had grown up with punk, but grown out of the genre's steady song structures) Chemistry offered music fans an interesting take on the genre. Paired with Falco's punishing backbeat, Fucked Up employed its guitarists to create a shoegaze swirl of psychedelic garage rock. Lead Mike Haliechuk began the album with heavily delayed and looped lines which never let up through the album's 52 minutes, as rhythm guitarists Ben Cook and Josh Zucker played blistering punk riffs alongside Sandy Miranda's grounded basslines. Leading them was Damian Abraham, whose hardcore yowls sliced through the atmospherics, while keeping the band grounded to its roots.
But even with the album's immense popularity, the group felt it was time to take a step back and deliver the same punishing hits as its early singles with the next album.
Chemistry "was really a step away from that punchy punkness of Hidden World and all the other singles. All of a sudden you have this psychedelic, huge record," says Falco. "We wanted to turn up the intensity and tone down the experimentation---make it a bit more melodic."
In June the band released its third LP, David Comes to Life, an impressive 77 minutes of aggressive punk, and its highest-charting effort to date.
"This is kind of our attempt at a pop record," says Falco of David, a rock opera set in the fictional British town of Byrdesdale Spa. The album follows the story of a factory worker named David who, after falling in love, decides to build a bomb with his partner and evoke explosive change in his politically oppressed town.
"We tried to make this pop record, but of course in Fucked Up fashion, we had to make it as difficult as possible and wrap it in a musical that has a fake town, fake characters and fake labour disputes," Falco says, laughing.
To further the story, the band secretly released a limited number of copies of a fake punk compilation on Record Store Day, months before David's release. The record, entitled David's Town, is a K-Tel-inspired compilation made up of fictional bands from David's hometown.
"We just wanted to make this complete circus around the circumstances of this David thing. We wanted to make it as real as possible and just give it a context and depth," Falco says of the album, which was released without any indication it was a Fucked Up record, minus a smaller version of the band logo printed on the sleeve's corner.
"Of course it was hilariously fun to write '70s British pop-punk, art-rock songs. These are the kinds of records we've been collecting for years and it was really fun to put that in practice. We had our friends sing on the record, we ourselves sang on the record, my wife sang on the record," he says. "It just allowed us to create a bit more folklore about the town."
But creating a fake album isn't the loftiest ambition from the progressive punk band. Falco says to watch for an album with a guest appearance from director Jim Jarmusch in the near future, as well as a split with sludge gods The Melvins.
And let's not forget the hopes of one day turning David Comes to Life into a flesh and blood musical.
"I think we've already taken steps to try to fit it to a script, but I think that's probably further away then we're at now. But yeah, I'd like to see it on stage," says Falco excitedly. "I think that would be one of the most shocking things that I ever felt personally responsible for---actually bringing David to life."
Fucked Up w/Long Weekends, No Joy, PS I Love You
Saturday, October 22, The New Palace, 7:30pm, $15/$20
Fucked Up w/Burdens, Envision, Chixdiggit
Saturday, October 22, The Converse Pavilion, 3:30pm, $15