By Graeme Wiggins
VANCOUVER – The Zodiac series continues with Year of the Snake by a band that is anything but tired.
Anger has long been a driving force in punk rock music, but in order to carve out a 15-year career like Toronto’s Fucked Up have, you’re going to need more than just anger to bring to the table. With their upcoming release of Year of the Snake (the eighth release in the Zodiac series) and touring in celebration of their first album Hidden Worlds, Fucked Up have always managed to mix forward-thinking music and anger in equal measure.
“We’ve always been a project interested in trying to do different things. We will always be a hard punk band, but we all like different types of music and ideas,” says lead guitarist Mike Haliechuk. “The last record we did has a pan flute on it, so maybe we’re almost at the end of what we can experiment with.”
That said, the band’s new release still endeavours to take their sound to uncharted territories. He continues, “It’s more on the experimental side for those 12-inch (releases). It starts out hard, then gets really trippy. It’s about psychedelics and rebirth, real hippy shit.” This trend for pushing their sound will likely continue. “The next one is “[Year of the] Horse”, which we have a demo for; it’s gonna be an album-length song in a bunch of different movements, like a symphony or something. Right now it’s like 50 minutes. It’s very epic.”
Despite trying new things, Fucked Up aren’t against celebrating their past. As drummer Jonah Falco says, “Right now we’re in the middle of celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Hidden World so we’re touring that record in full. It’s something we never would have done as a project 10 years ago, although we did do it once around the time of its release.”
With all the years spent playing as a band, refining the evolution of their sound, the live show remains pretty much in the same space as when they began. As Falco puts it, “The Fucked Up live show was kind of fully formed really early on in the band — vocalist connecting with the audience, and the band trying to create the most interesting context for that to happen in. We’ve just gotten more proficient at playing, and maybe better at tuning.”
There’s been a lot of talk in music circles about how the current political climate is ripe for a punk resurgence. That political anger will somehow translate into a newfound relevance for the anger that punk and hardcore has brought to the table. Falco sees this as missing the point. “Attributing political energy and newfound dedication to punk music at the hands of a lot of potential misery seems opportunistic and also near-sighted. Punk never disappeared and neither did those people that chose to steer independent music communities toward ground-level involvement in real political issues.”
Fifteen years in, that punk rock anger can be hard to keep up. Families and other pressures can alter or change that anger. For some punk bands, getting old means giving in. For Fucked Up, though, because they definitely have more to offer, they aren’t close to quitting yet. “Maybe anger isn’t or wasn’t always the motivation that made us work. It definitely greased the gears, but I think Fucked Up has always been about exploration and working within the framework we know best to push that,” Falco says. “In that sense, we’re not that tired at all.”
Fucked Up perform March 19 at the CobaltFucked Up, The Cobalt