Fucked Up Vs. 13 years in hardcore
As mouthpiece of Fucked Up, Damian Abraham has spent 13 years pushing against hardcore punk’s glass ceiling.
There is no peace with Damian Abraham. Stop to breathe and he’ll stuff the silence with playful yarns. Every riposte sees the ageing hardcore man-child rehash semi- irrelevant pan-flashes from the annals of punk past. But treasuring an anarchic adolescence over baring the burden of adulthood is what keeps Abraham sane.
And quite rightly. Presently, the Fucked Up frontman is having to stabilise the stresses of parentage yoked with the toils of inner-anxiety disorder. All of this topped with the scheduled release of the Canadian sextet’s fourth studio LP, it only seems just for Abraham to vent his opinions on existing in a genre that typically swigs from the fountain of youth. “Everything just feels like it’s fleeting. Like it’s impossible to hold on to. Like it’s intangible,” he begins without prompt.
“I think the weirdest thing is that it makes you realise there has been a passage of time,” Abraham laughs without pausing. He, alongside fellow punk moguls Mike Haliechuk, Josh Zucker, Jonah Falco, Sandy Miranda and Ben Cook, will be marking their 13th year as a functioning group with the Matador approved album, Glass Boys. Yet almost everything feels deceptively new. “To me, it feels like it’s all happened in one fell swoop. It still seems it’s only been two years since we released No Pasaran, but then it’s like ‘Oh shit, that was 13 years ago.’
“Fucked Up really was a band that was supposed to last a couple of weeks once Josh came back from train hopping in America. I remember when we formed, I went over to Mike’s apartment and he had a book on North Carolina’s Antiseen. At that point, they had been together for about 15 years. The idea of being in a band for that long was totally incomprehensible. You look at legendary figureheads like Antiseen or the Melvins, or Poison Idea and think ‘how did they survive that long?’ Now we’re closing in at 15 years as a band. It’s just humbling. How are we able to get the chance to keep playing this music?”
Ironically, purely playing the ‘punk’ only gets you so far in the punk community. It’s Fucked Up’s rhapsodical commitment to sustaining the genre’s legacy that has prolonged their existence. “If you observe between ’77 to ’87 in punk and hardcore you went from The Dead Boys to Youth of Today,” Abraham cites in essayistic fashion. “The trip is staggering. But ever since the mid 90s, there have merely been fluctuations of the genre.
“The speed of which things change has slowed down a lot. It doesn’t feel that long has passed. But then I’ll meet a band who have been around for a while who may admit to purchasing my records as a kid. That’s when I realise that I’m a 34-year-old and I’m really old. But I remember being a teen and having friends that were 40, which in punk and hardcore is just not that weird. It’s this communal stage where everyone’s an eternal hardcore kid. It’s a Peter Pan perspective I guess, especially when you’re reminded that you’re not a hardcore ‘kid’ anymore.”
"In a sense this record is a celebration. Maybe we're celebrating our demise"
Despite his premature death clock ticking, Abraham and his band of matured Lost Boys are forever scrutinising their ageing subculture. Unlike 2011’s flagrantly ceremonious rock-opera David Comes to Life, their newly released Glass Boys is a disciplined ten-track study of combating age and the music industry. It’s a record of genuine purity, stripped of its predecessor’s conceptual guises. “This record is like all of us giving the best version of what we’ve ever done,” Abraham raves doubtlessly. “That’s not to say, however, that it’s going to be the record that people like the most.”
Dissimilar to David…’s anecdotal narrative, Abraham has no character to hide behind. Instead, Glass Boys embraces the band’s closet confrontations. “There’s just time and place and so many other mitigating factors to this record and I find that exciting but also terrifying. Lyrically, it’s like standing there with your wiener hanging out. I’ve done that, but I always tuck it. It’s what they call in the biz ‘a grower not a shower’… But I feel less exposed doing that than I do talking about crying on tour. That’s way more humiliating than doing the mangina.
“This time, it’s like someone made it easier for me to write. It’s harder in the sense that I’m up for judgement in terms of lyrics, but comparatively I feel more passionate about it than I ever have. It was easier for me to find what I wanted to say on these songs. I wasn’t hiding behind a character or hiding behind the motivation of Veronica or David. Even Mike [Haliechuk]’s songs were easier to get. Sometimes, it can be hard to find someone’s passion when they’re writing a personal song. Especially a song, for example, where Mike’s writing about the process by which plants are made. I found it hard to get angry about plants. Whereas this time, Mike was singing about the sense of loss, the sense of excitement and anticipation.”
Haliechuk and Abraham’s relationship has been markedly apathetic since Fucked Up’s inception. Two strong-willed delinquents with differing creative output makes for bombastic quarrels. Yet Abraham declares nothing but respect for his lifelong bandmate. “I don’t want to pretend that everything’s awesome within the band. But Mike and I haven’t gotten along this well since we were kids and living together.
“When the band started, we grew apart. But I think in the last couple of years Mike and I realised that neither one of us expected to be doing this. It was a dream. I feel like I learnt more from Mike on this record than I have talking to him in the past 13 years. What’s more, I felt like I knew exactly what he was saying on Glass Boys because I felt exactly the same way. In that sense Glass Boys is a celebration. Maybe we’re celebrating our demise…
“Realistically,” Abraham backtracks, “I think it’s more of a celebration of how incredible it is to find music as a young person. Punk and hardcore enables you to have this intense awakening. With hardcore this awakening stems from people that don’t feel connected to the culture that’s being fed to them. I remember being a kid listening to Minor Threat and hearing it’s OK not to drink. That was the first time I heard a person just say ‘fuck you, I don’t drink’. I remember being so empowered by that. It’s all about discovery of another world. It’s about trying to hold onto that world … for us especially.”
And Abraham continues to hold fast to this ideology. Amidst his unending candour is a bare-boned punk who loves nothing more than being a dad, talking about records and being part of a community of music lovers. He is seemingly unafraid of the future and more troubled with the present. “I haven’t known what to do since our first demo tape. I do feel though that it’s not like the sky is limitless with this record. I feel we’re hitting the glass ceiling. We’re now defining the reaches of our career and it’s incredibly gratifying.”