FUCKED UP on Sunday (June 8), 7:20 pm, as part of FIELD TRIP at Fort York Garrison Common (250 Fort York), Saturday and Sunday (June 7-8), gates at noon. $75, weekend pass $125. LN, TM. fieldtriplife.com.
"Fucked Up started as an aesthetic project," says Mike Haliechuk, sitting in a King Street Starbucks sipping a raspberry lemonade and wearing an enormous fur hat. "That's what hardcore bands are."
Since forming in 2001, Fucked Up have been in a constant process of redefinition (or compromise, depending who you ask). They may have begun by releasing strings of 7-inch records crammed with weird symbols, arcana and misinformation about the band - much of it devised by Haliechuk, one of three guitarists and the primary songwriter/creative intelligence. But their ambition and raw talent outgrew the cramped confines of Toronto's early-aughts hardcore scene.
Before long, Fucked Up were releasing 12-minute singles whose theme was the Chinese zodiac, picking up a Polaris Prize for 2008's The Chemistry Of Common Life and netting a spot on NOW's 50 Best Toronto Albums Ever list for their last full-length, 2011's meta-narrative rock opera David Comes To Life.
"One of the questions some people in the band had, obviously, was, ‘What are we supposed to do as a follow-up?'" says Haliechuk. "We were like, ‘What we do?' And some people thought we had to go even further. It was untenable, kind of. We just wanted to do a record that was more normal. An album-length album. Ten songs."
And so Glass Boys (Arts & Crafts) is the anti-David Comes To Life. Gone (for the most part) are the booming wall of riffs and shifting narrative perspectives. Instead, Haliechuk and songwriter/screamer Damian Abraham are pushing into their mid-30s and aging out of the hardcore scene.
"The last record was about stuff we cared about," says Haliechuk, "but we just put it behind these characters. But they're obviously our own feelings. Now we're, like, one step closer to describing stuff we feel... as humans... for other humans."
While Glass Boys - the band's first record released on hometown indie label A&C in Canada - may be Fucked Up's most straight-ahead release, that doesn't mean they've curbed their natural tendency toward experimentation. Their latest Zodiac Series single, the 18-minute Year Of The Dragon, blends the vein-in-the-forehead throb of hardcore with the soaring riffs of Ride The Lightning-era Metallica, proving that the band is still very much an "aesthetic project."
"If we have ideas that are weird, they'll go in there," says Haliechuk. "One of the B-sides has, like, a five-minute saxophone solo. Another is a disco song or whatever. If we have stupid shit we wanna try: B-side of a Zodiac single. Perfect place."