Hey, we're going on tour again for a minute in May. MAYbe you want to come check us out?
May 3 Lawrence Kansas (please no tornadoes this time, thanks) @ Jackpot Music Hall
May 4 Denver Colorado @ Larimer Lounge
May 5 Driving
May 6 Somewhere? (I think either Vanuatu or Cook Islands)
May 7 Las Vegas @ Bowling Festival
May 8 Pomona, CA Glasshouse
May 9 San Francisco, CA Rickshaw Stop
May 10 Scotty's Garage in Berkely
May 11 Anywhere NOT in Washington (State)
May 12 Victoria BC @ Sugar
May 13 Vancouver BC @ The Biltmore Cabaret
May 14 Edmonton AB @ Avenue Theater
May 15 Saskatoon SK @ Amigo's
May 16 Regina SK @ The Exchange
May 17 Winnepeg MB @ WECC
Then probably Thunder Bay and Sudbury or something
Hey, check out this old-style FU interview I did with Artist Advocacy (I think). Thanks to Erik Ziedses Des Plantes ("Eric Zines Of Plants"). It starts out kind of boring because we're just talking about FU specific stuff, but later on gets exciting because we're talking about the music industry (again) and like, trying to figure out whats the deal with punk? Anyhow, thanks for reading.
First off, how have things been with Fucked Up? How have your recent tours/shows been going?
Pretty good. We just did sxsw, and before that did a week and a half of shows in the parts of the midwest and east coast US where we're most comfortable. Things have been on autopilot for about a year - we've recorded a new single (Year of the Ox) but other than that we've been avoiding writing a new album and have just been concentrating on vacationing and doing little tours and random space filler things. Shows have all been pretty good. I'm sitting on the train heading north from Austin and I've got 3 or 4 songs without having to skip any songs on Ipod shuffle, so life is pretty good (Angel-gate by DJ Shufflemaster, Judy by C12, Trinity by Trust, Head over Heels by Tears for Fears, fyi).
In the time since The Chemistry Of Common Life came out, Fucked Up has seen some legitimate brushes with the mainstream, be it through Damian’s appearances on Fox News, or the fact that you all made a second appearance on MTV in Canada. As someone who has been involved with the music scene for years now, what has all of this attention been like for you?
It happened at such a gradual pace that there really isn't anything remarkable for us. It's like if you have a friend you haven't seen for a few years, and when you see them, their hair has gotten a lot longer or something. To you, it's a shock because you haven't experienced the change at a daily rate. For them, it's just hair growing in miniscule amounts everyday. I also think the pace of change for the way the music industry works has been almost as fast as how we've changed ourselves. If we'd been on MTV in the late 90s it would have been a really significant thing. Being on a station like that now is less remarkable, because the lines between "mainstream" and everything else are so much more blurred. Certainly from my perspective as a working indie rocker, all I ever really see is big indie rock bands in the media. Pitchfork I know is a lot more trafficked website than even Spin or Rolling Stone, which were music media monoliths when I was growing up (and had subscriptions to both of them), but it still for some reasons seems like more of an event if we're mentioned on one of these conventional media outlets, despite them actually being smaller than Pitchfork, which we're on all the time. I think "mainstream" isn't really even a useful term anymore. I would use "conventional" media, I guess. Is Animal Collective a mainstream band? Because they sell a shit load more records than a lot of the bands you see on MTV. And conventional media attention I feel doesn't really help us in a conventional sense either. Nowadays you need to play the media for its reverberations rather than for any direct effect. When we had our first article in the New York Times, there was a huge spark in the traffic on our website (like by 1000% for a few days), but it didn't really translate directly into record sales or anything tangible like that. Even though the article interested people enough to go to our website, it didn't mean that the average New York Times reader wanted to buy a hardcore album.
It was useful in that our appearance in convential media was itself a media event in the indie press, where it did actually started helping us. So it's this weird post-modern scenario where bigger indie bands will get conventional press, but conventional consumers won't really take a second look at those bands, or buy their records - but getting bigger press is a story that will help you with more indie press (like this interview question).
I was talking to my friend the other day who works getting commercial spots for bands on our label group (Beggars Banquet), who explained that when The xx got a big AT and T commercial spot, the company was expecting a lot of perks from the label, because they felt the ad had done a lot to help The xx sell records. What was actually happening was that The xx just getting that spot was a story in itself in the indie press, which in turn led more indie kids to check out the ad, to a greater extent than conventional consumers were checking out The xx because of the ad.
So basically, you can't really make a division between mainstream or anything else, because we live in a world now where a band getting a commercial is a bigger commercial for the commercial than the commercial itself.
Over the years, it seems like the mask of mysteriousness that surrounded the band has kind of receded. How do you feel about this? Do you feel like you have to be more selective about subject matter in songs now that more is known about you, or that you might need to streamline what you are trying to say at times?
I was reading the other day about this thing "mysterious guy hardcore" that we apparently invented, or did, or something, when we were first a band. At some point we just made the decision to do a 180 and be the most transparent band we could possibly be. Most of this is because Damian has been the face of the band for the last few years, and he is a really open person and likes being in the spotlight. It was fun to be mysterious, but it's also fun to do it this way.
Fucked Up’s songs have contained several outside references, whether they be literary, philosophical, or political. What concepts/authors/issues have been inspiring you these days, if any, and why?
It's hard to say, because we haven't been producing anything lately. I mentioned before that we've been on autopilot. We only really start collecting ideas and concepts when we're recording for a record. We've been on tour full time for almost 2 years straight at this point, and we haven't done a lot of creative work in that time. What I'm hoping is that all that time off is going to result in a massive outpouring of creative energy when we're forced back into the studio by our label this summer.
Chemistry was a sprawling album that experimented with a great deal of sounds, to great success, I might add. I know from reading Looking For Gold that your personal music tastes fly in every direction at once, so do you ever feel trapped by expectations to continue to produce things that might fall under the genres of “hardcore” or “punk?” Basically, what is the most frustrating part of your songwriting process these days?
A little bit. We'll always be a punk band, mostly because of Damian's voice, but also because thats just where our heads are at. We weren't ever so steeped into a genre that we would paint ourselves in a corner, and I think that has been our working definition of punk music, which means that we've always been able to go in almost any direction we've wanted. We just recorded Year of the Ox, and it has a string quartet that plays on about half of the song. The bside sounds like Simple Minds and uses a 808 drum machine, has a 4 minute saxaphone solo, 2 synth tracks, and the entire lyric is a paraphrase of a book from the bible. And both are still heavy enough songs that they couldn't be considered anything other than punk music. I know a lot of ink has been spilled trying to figure out if we're still a punk band, but that just isn't the sort of thing you think about when you are on the inside. I just write music once or twice a year, and then try to travel as much as possible with the rest of my time - whether that output is punk or not, is just not something that's part of my deal. I listen almost exclusively to electronic music, and have done so for almost the entire time that we've been a real band (Baby Ford "Oochy Koochy"playing now), so the internal vibe of the band is already so convoluted, if we had to decide on a style, it would just not be possible. The most frustrating part of the song writing process now is sort of deciding what direction to go in right now though. We're starting to write this new album, and we are a little stuck.
I know that bands saying "we're not really caught up on style" is one of the most annoying things you can read in a band interview, but people need to understand that like, but the time you are reading that interview, the band has been trying to write music for like 7 years, is no longer even really passionate about the kind of music they played when they started the band, and is doing their band full time, which doesn't mean sitting around in a studio being influenced by stuff 24/7, it means dealing with lawyers and agents all day and other shit that is so far from the creative process that you feel like you'd be making a bigger dent in the culture as a file clerk, and that pretty much the only instance in a bands history when they have time to think about what kind of music they play is, is when they are entering "visual/ghettotech" as a fake genre on their myspace profile in 2002.
You have a 7" coming out for Record Store Day this year that has several different covers that pay tribute to great record stores you’ve been to while on tour. Besides the stores featured, what other great stores have you had the chance to visit recently, and how have they contributed to your continuing love of record collecting (ie: any good finds you may have picked up, any additional insight to the culture of independent record stores and collecting)?
I have to honest and say that I am the last person who should be answering this question. I hate records and going to record stores is my least favourite part of tour. I think independent record stores are great, and I collected punk and soul 45s for a good chunk of my early adult life, but those days are behind me and the only thing I'm collecting now is dust on my record collection that I've been trying to sell for 2 years but haven't been in one place for longer than 2 weeks to be able to do it yet. I feel the same way going into a record store as the milkman walking into a supermarket - ie, how many bottles can I sell to this person, and what is this awful milk coming out of the speakers?
In a recent interview with Exclaim!, Ben mentioned that you guys are working on a new album, and that he’s pretty sure it’s going to be called David Comes To Life, and that it will be a musical. This is a concept I know you all have been kicking around for a few years now, just from following Looking For Gold. What finally drove you guys to work on it, and what can you say about it so far, in terms of sound, concept, etc.?
This is the real deal. It's going to be like any other rock musical - totally in service to the bloated rock egos of a group of people entering mid adult hood at such a frantic pace that only the pomposity of a rock opera can properly assuage the fears of tarnishing a creative legacy based precisely on the fact that not once have they ever let their fears get to them to the extent that they would commit such an obvious attempt at covering a creative void as a rock opera. Just kidding. It's basically going to be like our other full lengths - long, loosely self referencial, somewhat thematically linked. It will be called David Comes to Life, and if you've been paying attention, you've already heard 3 songs from it. We haven't decided on any concepts really, but what I can say now is that the idea is to try and make a more personal record. We hide ourselves behind songs about plants and religion and all that stuff, and this time we are going to try to make a record about normal things like loss, redemption, love and pain on a more human level than we've been able to do so far. The album will be seperate from whatever stage stuff we may be able to produce for it at some point.
If the album proceeds as mentioned, how will it be presented in a live setting? Any chance we’ll see actual on-stage acting?
Yeah, thats the plan. It won't be us, obviously, because we can't sing or act (ok Ben can)...but we're going to basically just try to write a collection of songs and themes that can easily lend themselves to other media, and then have someone else take it from there.
When Chemistry came out, Fucked Up did that 12-hour show in New York, and from recaps I’ve read, your set at SXSW this year was quite crazy itself, in terms of location/how the set actually went. What compels Fucked Up to stage such unique live events, when your regular live show has already garnered a pretty great reputation?
We're like how Nike isn't really a shoe company anymore, they just make ads. We're like the music version of Nike - we don't make music, we just try to make up ideas about how to present it in unique ways. We just do this because we have to. Not in a survivalist annoying way, but like literally. We are a hardcore punk band trying to be popular in a cultural environment where not only are the styles of music that are popular changing on almost a quarterly basis (shoegaze - shitgaze - wavves - chillwave - darkwave - wilsim publogy), but also that the entire cultural environment in question is itself quiet literally one long reaction to and kind of against punk music, and therefor as a cultural expression, about as anti punk and hardcore as a genre can get. About when we were writing Hidden World, we made a pretty conscious decision that we didn't want to be a big fish in a mostly small and stagnant hardcore world. We knew that almost every person who had ever done something important in indie rock (ie "the mainstream") used to either be in a shitty punk band, or grew up going to punk shows in the 80s, which meant we knew we'd hit the soft spot for a lot of people in useful places, but also that all those people had made their successes after giving up punk and moving on to more palatable projects, and that we couldn't really think of any hardcore punk band that had broken into the mainstream/indie world while they actually existed as a band. Punk has always been something that people love to name check, but also like to keep at a distance. A punk band can pretty much only be important if they've been broken up for 15 years. Either that, or they have to be punk in secret, like Husker Du. A broad faced punk band can only really expect a life of quarantine. Think about the defining tragedy of The Ramones, one of the most iconic and influencial American bands ever to exist. Even while a million people were wearing Ramones tshirts in every country on the planet, they existed under this constant sense of under achievement, because they just wanted to be legitimate rockstars, and all they were ever allowed to be was a popular punk band. This sense of failure of the Ramones project permeates like every interview they did. They were footnotes at their own last show, the bulk of the story about what famous guests they were able to conjure up, like Eddie Vedder or whatever. Can you imagine how frustrating that must have been? These guys that had watched on the sidelines for 20 years as their cultural output, that influenced everything that would become even remotely popular in music was relegated and marginalized?
Think about all the literature about punk and indie music - you had punk in the 70s, which created hardcore in the 80s after people got fed up with how mainstream punk was, which created post punk in the late 80s after people got fed up with how violent and insular hardcore had gotten, which created indie rock in the 90s after post punk bands realized they could be rich and famous if they just tweaked their sound a bit, which created the parallel mainstream of grunge in the mid 90s after the music industry realized it was the 90s and their power and influence was such that they could sell anything to anyone without even really trying, which created like I guess post-parallel-mainstream indie rock in the late 90s after people realized they were being had and that Kurt was dead anyways, and the Soundgarden was writing lame shit like Spoonman , but also created post-grunge like Staind and shit, but ALSO created lame-punk like Green Day (who were actually good) and The Offspring once record executives realized that kids were so disillusied by the record industry at this point that they could sell punk to them again as a marketable form of common disillusionment, which created I don't know, parallel-indie rock 2, in the early 2000s, when people realized how lame that was, to be tricked by punk AGAIN, but also that it was the same amount of kids trying to listen to cool bands, but this time we had the whole decade of the 1980s to learn about how to market indie rock so that this time indie people could do it themselves, so here we are in 2010 and pretty much every new new genre has been a reaction against punk in someway, so that a contemporary punk band trying to be popular in even a slightly mainstream way has like 19 successive genre movements stacked against it, going back almost 50 years to the inception of punk itself as at once a fake-genre created to sell disillusionment (and also Vivien Westwood tshirts) in the first place, but also pretty much the locus of every youth oriented music style that would follow,to this day, the reference point for almost everyone working in the music industry right now, and pretty much the exact place where western civilization switched from being a top-down centrally organized modern enterprise to the mixed media, post modern, consumer driven and at least somewhat youth-oriented organizational structure of today, and were the pattern of of perennial reactionary musical cyclus can be traced back to. The entire history of post modern youth culture has been one long turn against punk, and people wonder why we have to try so hard to be popular.
In the same interview with Exclaim!, Ben said that “Everyone in Fucked Up knows there is a expiration date on the band.” What would be the reasons for you guys to quit, seeing as how, at least from my perspective, your creative well is far from dry?
We won't, saying that is just one of the ways we are "creative". People like the concept of exclusivity. Think about how much more you would sit around the house if you didn't think your life was ever going to end. People only really get excited if they think something is about to disappear. This is one of the first things we learn - a baby (or a dog), only wants something if it's also wanted by someone else, or if its about to be taken away. This is how the economy works as well - it's called artificial scarcity. Think about the slight shudder of panic when you hear about something you have to rsvp for. It's more than likely something you don't even want to go to. But if there is a chance you may not get it, suddenly it's the only thing you can think of. Thats life. Thats how you should treat every relationship. Sorry, you might not see me again, we'd better have sex now. Oh sorry, we might never come to Newport Kentucky again, you should probably come see us this time. Hey well, you could buy that beanie baby tommorow, but I can guarantee you that the factory just stopped making them.
Finally, is there any part of Fucked Up that you feel is under-addressed? Feel free to talk about those aspects here.
If you can think of something about our band thats been under-addressed, I'd like to know.