Toronto hardcore outfit Fucked Up had one of the most critically successful albums of 2011 with the conceptual David Comes to Life, their first album to crack the charts in any way. On Saturday, playing to a packed audience at L.A.'s FYF Fest, a a two-day event that saw performances from Warpaint, Refused, M83, the Faint, Beirut and dozens more, Fucked Up frontman Damian Abraham still seemed shocked anyone came to see his band.
"We're in a band called Fucked Up, I'm 300 pounds and I'm bald and I scream. I am not meant to be in a position to be traveling around the world having kids sing my music, yet I am," Abraham told Rolling Stone backstage.
The surprise success of David Comes to Life has created many surreal moments for Abraham and his bandmates. "We were brought to a lot of places we'd never been before, like award shows, the Juno Awards, being on tour with various bands," he says. "When I saw The Year Punk Broke as a kid I thought, 'I would love to be able to tour with Dave Grohl. He looks like the coolest person in the world.' Last year we're on tour with the Foo Fighters and it's like, 'This isn't meant to happen.' Somewhere there's a band with a really handsome singer who sings amazingly who is fucking so pissed at me."
Besides his wonderfully self-effacing attitude about the band's rise, Abraham has perspective on Fucked Up's place in indie pantheon.
"I think the perception is David was a little bigger than it really was. Album sales-wise it was still very modest, which is awesome, because I never wanted to be in a big band – I wanted to be in the Melvins," he says.
A journalist in Toronto, where he hosts the TV show The Wedge, Abraham is equally pensive about the music world in general and the changes he's seen in the last decade. "Think about where music is versus where it was 15, 20 years ago. When I got into it, it was a very 'holier than thou' time," he says. "The Nineties was like, you had 'Free Mumbia' shows and festivals being done in the name of Tibet, and now they're being done in the name of just partying."
What's refreshing about Abraham is rather than casting stones at bands he considers sell-outs, he indicts himself. "I'm as guilty as anyone else," he says. "I like free clothes as much as the next person. We take money. Festivals are not always paid for by the ticket-buying public. It's paid for by behind-the-scenes stuff."
On his TV show Abraham interviewed Twin Shadow, who said, "Now everyone's guilty. Now all these bands have to admit that they have to do shit too." Abraham agrees.
"We live in a time where there's no Fugazi. There's no band that you can say, 'That's the moral higher ground, that's the way you should be doing it,'" he says.
Would Fugazi be able to maintain that integrity today? "I think they would've been that moralistic, I think Ian MacKaye would've been that moralistic," he says. "But I don't think you'll see another band like that."
Given Abraham's thoughtfulness about Fucked Up's own place in the market, it should perhaps come as no surprise he envisions that as the theme of the follow-up to David Comes to Life. "I think [it's] just examining our role as a band in the last couple of years," he says. "I think this is going to be our most straightforward record as far as us talking about the role of a band in ourselves."
However, he does caution, "I have not run this by the rest of the band, so they could shoot it down and be like, 'What are you fucking doing?'"
Drummer Jonah Falco says the band has begun creating the music for the next album. "We've got, like, 40 half-songs. We're slowly chiseling away and making full songs out of them. So you can expect some kind of musical sculpture out of there," he says. "And our tentative songwriting is like the equivalent of carpet-bombing – so highly inaccurate and potentially very destructive."
Despite the temptation to do a sequel to David Comes to Life, they are consciously going in another direction.
"I think it'd be dishonest to try and make exactly the same thing again, because that's not what you'd want to do," Abraham says. "You want to try something new. Obviously, we're working with a fairly defined sonic palette. But I think there are different ways we want to try things."
While there is no timeline for the next album, Abraham has goals in mind. "Everyone in the band is a real workhorse except for me," he says. "They actually practice every day. So we're gonna be hopefully recording in the winter, maybe for next fall. I like records coming out in fall because that's my power season. That's my birthday, so I feel like when I was in school if I made any advancement it had to be in September."