After almost two decades of avoiding drugs of any kind, Fucked Up’s Damian Abraham found that regular marijuana use could almost eliminate his once-chronic and often crippling anxiety attacks. With a clearer state of mind, he and his band wrote a new June 3rd LP, Glass Boys, that traded the grandiosity of 2011’s David Comes to Life for 10 noisy, throat-exploding blasts of hardcore punk dealing with how success and ambition inevitably change a band that started as scrappy underdogs. “You have to find what works for you,” he explained to Rolling Stone after a recent Austin show, going on to talk about selling out and why the new record is more personal than the last.
How did you find that marijuana was what works for you?
I was in Denmark on tour and had been hospitalized for a panic attack. I was in there for three hours, and I asked someone if I could hit their weed. It was a very special moment because it wasn’t like all these voices in my head went away, but these anxious thoughts I had fell by the wayside and I could focus on what was actually awesome, which was that I was in a band that people were here to see. Instead of focusing on the bad things like, “Oh man, there’s only 50 kids here,” or “Oh shit, that kid in the back just left,” or how the sound is terrible, none of that is nowhere near as important as the fact that people have paid and sacrificed something to see me do something.
What does this new attitude mean for your writing?
There’s a B-side for the new record that’s about hitting this moment where all these little injuries to your psyche that have been inflicted on you by the people around you and the things that alienate you, you get to a point where the bleeding kind of stops. The wounds are healed and the scars kind of fade. We finished David Comes to Life, and that record came at a point where we were consciously doing a rock opera. And once we were past that, I was just done. I didn’t want to do another record. It was just like, “We’re done.”
We went to an awards show in Canada — that’s not anywhere I’d really want to be, and I was thinking that I’d bought in. That’s where this new record came from, the anger of getting every wildest dream we’d ever wanted and realizing to do that you have to compromise. Would your 22-year-old self be OK with the 33-year-old self making that compromise? You can try to resist it, but you will be changed. I’ve said what I want to say about that on this record. There hasn’t been a record since our third 7-inch where I’ve been this psyched to write the songs.
With David Comes to Life I was always writing from inside this character because it was a rock opera. This time, I’m writing about shit that really affects you. It’s things I was feeling personally that I wanted to get out there. If Fucked Up had ended at the end of David Comes to Life there still would have been things I’d wanted to write. Not apology, but a justification and awareness that there have been some compromises we’ve all had to make in this band.
Is it clarifying or apologizing?
I think clarifying is the right word. There’s a sense of guilt and apology because there was this thing that was so pure and gave all of us our dream, and we used it for all it was worth. Hopefully, we did right by it in the long run. I feel this is a record where I have said exactly what I want to say. It’s a very loose concept. Every record should have some sort of concept because it’s where the band is at that certain time. If you try to figure out where the band is at a given moment you’ll drive yourself crazy.
There’s a moment with every indie or buzz-band, which is what we were, where you have to just be your band instead of staying a buzz-band. We got a hardcore backlash, which was a good thing. We’re just going to keep on doing what we do. It’s not like we’re going to try some dubstep stuff on the next record. That’s not who we are.
How do you keep progressing?
It’s about trying to push it. I’ve seen Mike [Haliechuk] develop into an amazing guitarist. We’ve always loved that My Bloody Valentine layering of guitars and that wash of sound where you let the melody come out of that wash. For Mike, and [guitarists] Ben [Cook] and Josh [Zucker] too, it’s been about taking that wash of guitars and adding different elements. It’s just a matter of taking the elements that are Fucked Up and pushing them forward. I feel like it’s the height of our power at this moment. I’m getting more control with my aggressive vocals and, luckily, the damage I’m doing to my voice is in the low range, so I think I can keep this going for a while still.
Is there a song you feel shows that progress best?
“Glass Boys,” is one because Ben does this great vocal on the song and Jonah does some harmonies that are really new for him and us. I’ve learned more about Mike from his lyrics in that song than I have in all our years together in this band, because he won’t talk about this shit. I’m always looking at him wondering how this stuff is affecting him, because we both grew up in hardcore. But with that song I hear that he feels the same way about this that I do: insecure, happy, nervous. I heard that and realized we’re a lot more alike than I thought.