The journey of a rock band is usually a long and fraught affair. There’s the standard years spent in the garage’s and local clubs of your town and, even once you’ve secured a record deal, there’s usually the endless (and often fruitless) task of getting the public to notice you. But the times they are a-changing. Rock has become the current flavour of the month in Britain and you can’t move for seeing the latest hit band splashed all over the pages of every magazine going. That flavour of the month for November, is Sum 41.
On average it takes until the third release that you can come to the UK and headline to 4,500 people and it’s taken Toronto, Canada’s Sum 41 all of one hit single. Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave off the coast of Afghanistan, you’re ears will have hit upon ‘Fat Lip’, a huge dollop of phat rhymes combined with punk ‘n’ roll sensibility’s and lovingly topped off with a chorus the size of Jim Royle’s arse.
‘We picked up a lot of fans and, you know, it sort of came with ‘Fat Lip’’ Sum 41 drummer Steve Jocz hastily admits, ‘Actually, when we wrote ‘Fat Lip’, we just wanted a song that had hip-hop and metal and rock and punk in it so we didn’t even think it was going to be a single. But I don’t think we could have gotten all of those fans if we didn’t have the first group of fans who said we were cool so then other kids would say ‘Oh these Guys are Cool’ and ‘We like these guys’.
It’s here we begin to hit a slight nerve with the Sum sticksman. You see, among those of a more cynical nature, Sum 41 come across as a band who have wrote a decent hit single and are currently riding it’s coat-tails to the very maximum. A band born with a silver spoon in it’s mouth, if you will. Maybe this is a misguided preconceived conception, but it’s certainly one that our Steve doesn’t like being thrown at him.
‘It’s not like we didn’t tour at all, ‘cause we did’, interjects Jocz in a scornful manner, ‘We toured for, not years and years, but we toured for like two years in a shitty, stinky little van.’
Two years, eh? Wow! Am I the only one not getting bleeding heart syndrome here?
‘We sort of just exploded after a little while and I kinda like how it happened. It’s a lot better than being back in the van now that’s for fuckin’ sure. I don’t have to get sick all the time.’
Well, at least that’s out of the way but, with tensions mounting at a rapid pace, it’s time to bring up that age-long question: Are you punk?
The view on punk rock has altered drastically since it first hit the streets of London in 1977. Think about the early images of punk rock. It was edgy, sadistic and ugly. The sort of music that got an entire nation riled. But it wasn’t just the music, it was the attitude. Non-conformist and in your face whether you or anyone else liked it or not, you either joined the movement or it gobbed at you as it flew past in a snot-infested haze. But as it approaches it’s 25th Aniversary, anyone hitting power-chords and lashing out chirpy, radio-friendly pop melodies can be classed as a punk act. Sum 41 are one of these acts that are having the term ‘punk’ laid on them. So, What do you say? Are you punk, punk?
‘No’, states Jocz uncategorically, ‘We don’t give a fuck about any of that punk stuff. I don’t even think punk rock is around anymore. Half of the punk rock bands around right now, aren’t even punk rock bands. They’re just rock and roll bands, just like we’re a rock and roll band. If you’re a punk rock band then you have all these punk rock rules and regulations you have to live by to be in this little club. You have to act a certain way and write certain kinds of songs and then, if you do that, it starts driving your music instead of what you wanted to do. It’s easier to just be a rock and roll band so that way we can do whatever the hell we what.’
But surely ‘punk’ bands like Green Day, The Offspring and Blink 182 have made your road to success a substantially easier one?
‘It’s certainly made this kind of music more accessible and regular kids can like it. It’s not an underground thing anymore, anyone can listen to it.’
And in that statement lies Sum 41’s universal appeal, anyone can listen to it. It’s not a rebellion in anyway whatsoever, it’s just fun, bouncy, guitar-based pop-music that your parents won’t tell you to turn down if you’re playing it too loud because they secretly like it.
‘The key to our success is that we’re all friends and everything we’re doing is to try to have fun. We’re not just another band and we do so many things like we do rock, we do metal, we do hip-hop, we do all sorts of stuff, you know? We could polka or disco if we wanted to! We just do a lot of things and we’re fun. So many bands take themselves so fucking seriously and it’s just stupid, ‘cause the fun helps our music more than anything else.’
They may not be serious, or in anyway punk rock, but at least they’re fun. This is all well and good, but fun bands have a track record for having the life expectancy of a Spinal Tap drummer. Where are Sum 41 going to be in five years time?
‘We’ll probably all be fat and one of us’ll be dead, one of us’ll be stuck in the drug clinic, typical rock and roller shit. We’ll still be playing shows but no-one’ll be there. I like to be negative and then when something positive happens, it comes as a surprise.’
And as for the future? We’ll leave that, and probably an impending court case, to Steve.
‘I’d just like to bone a few celebrities. That’s the sort of stuff I’d like to do. Maybe make the Sum 41 and Pamela video, except all of our penises put together aren’t half as big as Tommy’s!’