Toronto-based hardcore outfit Fucked Up never expected their band to go very far when they formed in 2001, let alone all the way to Brazil. A few weeks ago, they played São Paolo for the first time, opening for Dinosaur Jr. For singer Damian Abraham, it was a landmark moment in a career filled with critical acclaim and accolades. Even if they were only there for a total of 27 hours.
"One of the goals of the band when we started was to play in Japan and Brazil," he says. "It was great to walk in the same footprints of the bands I love. When we said, 'One day, we'll play Brazil, one day' . . . Getting to go down there was a check-it-off experience for this band."
Fucked Up have been one of the most creative and progressive hardcore punk bands of the '00s. In their native Canada, they were awarded the Polaris Award in 2009 for The Chemistry of Modern Life. With nearly 70 instrumental tracks per song, the band showed early on they're capable of adding ambitious elements–even a flute–to the hardcore sound that few in the genre had ever contemplated.
On the group's fourth full-length, Glass Boys, released in June, the six-member band continue to balance their proclivities toward adventurous sounds with shit-kicking hardcore. Abraham–the chief songwriter with guitarist Mike Haliechuk–says that lyrically, the new record reflects the struggles that he's had in coming to grips with the band's success.
"It's strange to fathom that this creative endeavor that is Fucked Up was to become my job," he explains. "I may have fantasized about it, but I've almost cast myself into the role as the villain as compared to when Fucked Up started."
Though the group's profile has grown incrementally over the years, their tour calendar is spread out to prevent internal conflicts between band members who need to tend to their respective families and get a break from the road. Keeping with their punk ethos, Fucked Up still travel mostly by van (minus the plane trip to Brazil, obviously). Their current nine-show jaunt across the West Coast is about the longest they stay on the road at any given time.
According to Abraham, the coast is one of his favorite areas to tour. "It's a pot smoker's paradise," he says.
While they may not be a household name in the hardcore scene, Fucked Up are stars. They've opened for the Foo Fighters; they were even featured on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and hung out with him in Toronto while he filmed his short-lived program The Layover. In the iconoclastic chef, the band found a kindred spirit.
Despite the attention they receive for their sound, Fucked Up are reluctant to embrace their stardom. Abraham's powerful grunts mask his sensitive side, but, as with his bandmates, his is at peace with how the band have evolved.
"If you would have told me that I could support my family from this when I started, I wouldn't have believed it," he says. "That I'm still able to express myself through music and people still care enough that I'm still able to do this is unbelievably gratifying."
Fucked Up perform with Tijuana Panthers and Rat Fist at the Glass House, 200 W. Second St. Pomona, (909) 865-3802; www.theglasshouse.us. Fri., 7 p.m. $16. All ages.
Daniel Kohn is a writer based in Southern California. With bylines in an assortment of outlets, Kohn primarily specializes in music with other interests ranging from sports to food. As a transplant, Kohn loves the beautiful weather and is glad he no longer has to deal with brutal winters. If you see him, say hi and of course, he’s always willing to down a beer or two…if you’re paying.