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With a moniker as abrasive as Fucked Up, it would be easy to prejudge the Toronto indie-hardcore punk outfit as either ridiculous or talentless. But their measure of success (they won the Canadian version of the Grammy, the Polaris Music Prize, in 2009 for their album The Chemistry of Common Life and have gotten rave reviews from TheNew York Times) obviously derails those conclusions. Still, if you ask front man Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham what he thinks, he’d be squarely in the camp of the prejudgers.
“I am living proof that it does not take any talent or even hard work to have a sustainable career in music,” he says. “Except for being away from home on tour, this is the most ridiculously easy way to make a living.”
Depending on what one considers to be a “sustainable career,” that answer is pretty subjective. But if it means that the almost-300-pound vocalist has a roof over his head and plenty of greasy food—his admitted fare of choice—to shove down his gullet, then Fucked Up have pretty much made it.
When asked to describe the secret of the band’s success, Abraham is full of half-baked theories: that they’ve been lucky enough to swirl their way into the good graces of Internet and print tastemakers because a lot of their early fans got jobs in the media; that the band’s timing and knack for being in the right place have been impeccable; that it’s all been driven by happenstance.
What about the name?
“Yeah, I suppose that has had something to with it, too,” he says. “I’ve been asked so many times that if given the chance to start over, would I want to change our name? My answer has always been ‘No.’ All of this happening to us has been a surprise, and I think if I changed one piece of the Jenga puzzle, it would all turn out different.”
Abraham, who became a father last year, is utterly matter-of-fact when discussing the band’s future. He realizes success in the underground does not equate to financial security and sees the rigors of his live performance—he’s been known to cut himself onstage—as anything but long-lived. He also wants to spend time at home with his kid; slogging through foreign cities and dingy clubs for a good portion of the year is not his ideal way to begin fatherhood.
“One or two records, at the most, is all we have left,” he says. “I can’t imagine myself doing this kind of thing onstage when I’m 45. . . . I can barely imagine seeing myself doing it now, at 30. I’m sure all of us will find a way to stay involved in music for the long haul, but this is not a lifetime situation.”
There’s also the issue of how he feels about his band mates. While it’s not quite as tenuous as the Noel and Liam Gallagher or Shaq and Kobe situations, the group have never really bonded through friendship, Abraham says. They’re co-workers, joining forces for the common goal of getting the job done.
“We especially don’t like to be out on the road too long because we’d probably kill one another if we had to spend too much time together,” he says. “I definitely have friends in the band, and there are times when all of us get along, but those moments are usually under extreme duress, like getting stiffed by a promoter or something.”
One thing everyone agrees on is that their loyal fan base deserves every opportunity to hear and see Fucked Up at their best. That’s why, Abraham declares, they put every bit of their dysfunctional verve into making their followers happy. So taking part in the Fuck Yeah Fest—ironically, no connection to Fucked Up—Fan Appreciation Show this Saturday at the Glass House is a no-brainer. The purpose of the show is to give fans the opportunity to get close to their favorite bands.
“Despite everything, being able to do what we do is totally amazing,” Abraham says. “None of it would be possible if there weren’t people out there who liked to listen to our songs and watch us play them in person. We definitely do what we can to make sure they are satisfied.”
Remember: Beneath the laissez-faire exterior and—for lack of a better term—fucked-up intra-band dynamics, Fucked Up care about you.
This article appeared in print as "Get Fucked Up While You Can: Canadian hardcore punk band gets catapulted to musical success despite unprintable name, sees the end in sight."