Fucked Up: ‘I Think We Were Trying To Push Our Own Boundaries’

Fucked Up are no strangers to the Polaris Music Prize. Having been declared champions of it back in 2009, they were invited to fight for it once more.

Posted 6th November 2012, 10:31am in Features, by Sarah Jamieson

Photo Credit: Daniel Boud

Fucked Up are no strangers to the Polaris Music Prize. Having been declared champions of it back in 2009 for their incendiary second album 'The Chemistry Of Common Life', they were invited to fight for it once more with their latest, rather ambitious conceptual rock opera. Within their third effort, the six-piece tell the tale of a love shared by a lowly lightbulb factory worker and an activist, which ends in disaster and sorrow, and it's with their 2011 album that they gain their second nomination for Polaris. What's it been like for the Toronto punks to be asked back? Well, a bit like returning to high school, it seems…

How does it feel to be returning to the Polaris this time around? Are you guys excited?
Damien Abraham: Yeah, I dunno! It feels weird this time.

How come it feels weird?
D: Well, because we won last time and history has so far shown that the second time you're nominated, you don't really have a chance. Along with the fact that - I dunno, maybe you guys thought we had a chance last time - I didn't think we had a chance last time, but this time it's even more unlikely that we do! [laughs]
Sandy Miranda: Last time, I felt like we had a chance and I was actually the only one to vote for us, at our pool on our table, but this time, I don't think we're winning at all.
Jonah Falco: It doesn't feel weird necessarily to me; it just feels weird to be back. We've done the most exciting thing that could've possibly happened to our band and it happened to us at this place. It's hard to know how to feel now, when you're back. What do you do when you're back? It's sort of a, 'What should we expect?' rather than a weird feeling.
D: It's like, in Junior High, when I was a kid and I went back to visit one day. I expected it to be awesome, but everyone was like, 'Oh… what're you doing here?' It's like 'Oh… you guys won that time. What are you? Greedy?'

We're sure that won't be the case at all.
D: You never know! [laughs]

With this latest album, it was a big deal for you guys. You got to create and explore something pretty different to what you've usually done.
D: Oh, absolutely.
S: Yeah.

Is it just exciting to think that's been acknowledged, first and foremost?
D: Well, that's the thing! You make a record and you hope people appreciate it. Beyond that, you never really expect… Once again, 'Chemistry…' for me meant that I felt everyone was going to hate the next record because people were really positive about it. So, when people like 'David Comes To Life' and the fact that we were nominated again is crazy. It's very gratifying. Unbelievably gratifying.

With 'David Comes To Life', were you really trying to push your boundaries even further?
J: I think that we were trying to push our own boundaries, rather than 'the' boundaries, simply because we had to follow up what we had done. Every time we do a record, it seems to turn out a lot better in favour or our perceived aspirations, than actually what it is. We kinda just go in with our heads down, thinking that we have to try and top what we've just done. Then, people get something really great out of it. It was the same with 'David Comes To Life', we went in with our heads down and pooled all of our resources and had to build on what we had already done rather than push anything in particular. We weren't trying to find the thing that we hadn't done yet, we just had to find a way to make what we had done bigger and louder, and not even in just a musical sense.
D: I think that once you try to second guess what people want, that's when you start seeing records by committee. You're like, 'Okay, they want a hard part here, they might want a rap part here…' I mean, with the first Goldfinger record, every song's a different style. It's like they were trying every single genre. Not to bring it back to Goldfinger like I always do… You know, that great Canadian Polaris winning band, Goldfinger? [laughs]

And in terms of the Polaris Music Prize as a whole, how important do you think it is in supporting Canadian music?
D: I think it's hugely important. I think it gives an opportunity to recognise a bunch of record - through the long list and the short list - on an international stage. It's an award that has resonance internationally. For us, it was more of an achievement for us locally. We were a band that went to England and toured England way more than we toured Canada. We've still probably toured the UK six times, for the two Canadian tours that we've done. But it was one of those things, when we had won this award, it felt like, 'Wow, I'm a Canadian who won a Canadian award' as opposed to someone who plays in a band that happens to be from Canada.
S: It's special because it's not a popularity contest. It's just based on merit and creativity.

There does seem to be such a broad spectrum of genres included in this year, especially.
D: Exactly. It's like, 'Who's to say that one record in one genre is better than another complete different one?' And I think for us, and everyone that's won this award - apart from maybe Arcade Fire - it gave them a chance to be spotlight, locally or internationally.
J: Canadian content is kind of a dangerous game, because Canada is so small and there is this reliance on fostering local culture. It's kind of a blind label: 'Canadian content.' So, something like this which is highly specified in each genre, and also doing something that has a mandate based on artistic merit, doing focussed on that - as opposed to just regionalism - is really big. It gives each one of these bands, each one of these records, a much larger character than it would if it was just a blanket "Canadian" award. This is really valuable towards Canadian content and the sort of thing that that really needs to achieve.
D: And a lot of awards in Canada, and everywhere, wind up being very political. This is an award where there have been a lot of artists that have won it that have almost been anti-political: it'd have been in the awards best interest for someone else to have won it. It's refreshing to have an award where you don't know what's going to happen when the jury members go in that room.
J: There's probably a keg stand. [laughs]
D: They just get so high that they pick a record at random! 'Fuck it, that one!'

So, what's it like to be apart of this ever growing scene, where Canadian music is becoming cool?
D: It's funny because growing up in Canada, I kinda resented a lot of stuff that was fed to me as Canadian culture. Then, I fell in love with these Canadian punk bands that I found a music culture that I enjoyed a lot more. I think what's happened now is, finally, the Canadian music culture on the larger levels reflects a lot more of the diversity that's been here in this country for years. You have bands that play more aggressive music, you have bands that come from a more hip hop background. You have a bunch of different artists coming from different backgrounds. Growing up, Canadian music culture is quite uniform in a lot of ways. It never really reflected a lot of the awesome stuff that was happening at that time, but I think now it finally is.

Fucked Up's new album 'David Comes To Life' is out now via Matador Records.
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