“Mike thinks big pic­ture, and I’ve al­ways been the guy who dis­rupts the big pic­ture. This time, I just de­cided to see what he has planned.”

FUCKED UP’S DAMIAN ABRA­HAM,

Exclaim! - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - BY JOE SMITH- ENGELHARDT PHOTO BY JOHN LONDONO

DAMIAN ABRA­HAM HAS BEEN THE FACE OF FUCKED UP FOR THEIR EN­TIRE CA­REER, BUT HIS TIME IN THE SPOT­LIGHT IS OVER.

The Toronto punk act’s lat­est record, Dose Your Dreams, is their most son­i­cally di­verse yet. As the band add a load of dif­fer­ent el­e­ments to their mu­sic, they’re also sub­tract­ing one key one: Abra­ham’s voice. The vo­cal­ist — whose on­stage an­tics have been the most high-pro­file el­e­ment of the band through­out their ca­reer — only ap­pears on two-thirds of the record, and his in­volve­ment will be even more limited mov­ing for­ward. And Damian Abra­ham seems more than okay with that.

“It took a cou­ple more years than I thought or hoped, but I think we’re hit­ting that point now where — I know to a lot of peo­ple I’m still es­sen­tial, but I don’t think my role in the band has to be what it has his­tor­i­cally been for it to still func­tion,” Abra­ham says. “I think that my hope is we can find ways for this band to grow with­out hav­ing to have me be the guy hold­ing it back.”

Abra­ham, in con­cert, has been the face of the band — a beer glass smash­ing, scream­ing, strip­ping, crowd-mem­ber-spin­ning whirl of fu­ri­ous en­ergy. He com­monly wraps him­self in mi­cro­phone cords and reg­u­larly leaves stages cov­ered in his own blood.

In the stu­dio, Fucked Up are a com­pletely dif­fer­ent band, guided and con­trolled by a very dif­fer­ent leader. If Abra­ham is the id of Fucked Up, Mike Haliechuk is the super­ego. The band’s thick, lay­ered gui­tar sound has been driven by Haliechuk’s close at­ten­tion to de­tail since their be­gin­nings, when they ex­clu­sively recorded and re­leased seven-inch sin­gles, and he’s main­tained that grip through­out, from their full-length de­but Hid­den World to Dose Your Dreams.

Across the band’s his­tory, who and what Fucked Up are has been a push and pull be­tween two dis­parate vi­sions: the punko­ri­ented indie rock of 2008’s Po­laris Mu­sic Prize-win­ning The

Chem­istry of Com­mon Life or 2011’s rock opera David Comes to Life on the Haliechuk side; the straight­for­ward hard­core punk ag­gres­sion of 2014’s Glass Boys on the Abra­ham side. T his ten­sion be­tween two vi­sions has ex­pressed it­self through­out Fucked Up’s ca­reer. The elab­o­rate, am­bi­tious sounds of Dose Your Dreams are a di­rect re­sponse to the stripped-down di­rec­tion of Glass Boys, it­self birthed in re­sponse to the more densely com­pli­cated David Comes to Life.

For Abra­ham, Glass Boys was when he re­al­ized his time in the band was com­ing to a con­clu­sion — he wanted it to be the end for ev­ery­one. “We got suc­cess on our own terms, do­ing what we want to do, but then it was like, now what?” he asks. “That was re­ally where I wanted that record to be, like, our last state­ment.

“I think that’s why I had a re­ally hard time with this record,” he con­tin­ues, “be­cause as far as say­ing what I feel needs to be said, I think I said that on the last one. I’m not say­ing it won’t come again, but I won­der what it would take to get that in­spi­ra­tion again.”

Haliechuk is the com­plete op­po­site. The gui­tarist felt Glass

Boys wasn’t as con­fi­dent-sound­ing as it could have been; a per­fec­tion­ist, he wanted to take the band’s sound to places they hadn’t gone be­fore.

“As much as Glass Boys was a re­ac­tion to the one be­fore it, this record is kind of a re­ac­tion to that,” Haliechuk ex­plains. “I re­ally stepped in this time like, we need to sort of blast this thing out and make a very max­i­mum record. It maybe takes the most amount of chances and it’s the most dif­fer­ent.”

Fac­ing un­cer­tainty about the band’s fu­ture — and Abra­ham’s role in it — when it came time to record a fol­lowup to Glass

Boys, they sim­ply couldn’t co­or­di­nate sched­ules, es­pe­cially given Abra­ham’s in­creas­ingly var­ied ac­tiv­i­ties away from Fucked Up. So Haliechuk and drum­mer Jonah Falco sim­ply booked stu­dio time, started record­ing and came to the band with a ver­sion of Dose

Your Dreams that was mostly com­plete.

“My ini­tial re­ac­tion — and his­tor­i­cally my re­ac­tion — would be to say ‘Fuck you, I’m not do­ing it that way,’” Abra­ham ad­mits. “I think, for the first time ever — cer­tainly the first time when we’ve done an LP — it was just like, ‘I’m go­ing to shut up and say yes.’ Mike is some­one who thinks in terms of the big pic­ture, and I’ve al­ways been the guy who just dis­rupts that big pic­ture. This time, I just de­cided to see what he has planned.”

Haliechuk didn’t have a plan though. When he and Falco en­tered the stu­dio in 2016, they didn’t ex­actly know what they were go­ing to cre­ate, but saw there were a ton of dif­fer­ent in­stru­ments ly­ing around. What came as a re­sult is a very wide-reach­ing al­bum in terms of sound that in­cludes ev­ery­thing from disco, psy­chrock, in­dus­trial, punk and straight­for­ward rock.

“We showed up and there were drum ma­chines and synths and stuff set up, so we fucked around and learned how to use these things,” Haliechuk says. “A cou­ple of the songs, like ‘Nor­mal Peo­ple,’ ob­vi­ously have this very ’70s kind of gritty Su­per­tramp thing go­ing on; ’70s gui­tar mu­sic has synths all over it, but a lot of it was just what was in the stu­dio. We didn’t have a plan, so what­ever was there at our dis­posal was some­thing we tried to in­volve.”

When Abra­ham first heard the re­sults, he had no idea how his voice would fit with the mu­sic. The vo­cal­ist says there were a lot of parts on the al­bum that he would have typ­i­cally put his foot down on, but af­ter ac­com­plish­ing what he has with the band, his pri­or­i­ties were else­where. Abra­ham had started work­ing on a pod­cast and a wrestling show for Vice that took up most of his time.

“I wasn’t a fan of it at all,” he says now. “I was cer­tainly not in favour of tak­ing that ap­proach to a record. I was very much think­ing we should strip it down. We should do some­thing straight­for­ward. Then I got an­other job.

“There were times where I would be like ‘Oh, I kind of see what’s go­ing on here,’ where Mike would be like, ‘You should sing this,’ and I would be like, ‘No. Some­one else should sing this and I’ll do some­thing else on the song or not be on it at all.’ I think there’s a lot of room for the band to breathe.” I t was a light bulb mo­ment for Fucked Up, free­ing Haliechuk and Falco, with bassist Sandy Mi­randa and guitarists Ben Cook and Josh Zucker, to ex­plore new pos­si­bil­i­ties in the band’s uni­verse. A whole host of new voices have been in­vited into their world on Dose Your Dreams: Di­nosaur Jr.’s J Mas­cis, fel­low Po­laris Mu­sic Prize win­ner Lido Pimienta, folk singer Jen­nifer Cas­tle and more take the mic. Iron­i­cally, it all stemmed from an idea Abra­ham had long be­fore the record was con­ceived.

“A cou­ple of years ago, [Abra­ham] had this idea where he said he wanted to do this al­bum that was a mul­ti­tude of voices,” Haliechuk re­veals. “Sort of in­di­rectly, I feel like this record was a trib­ute to that idea, where he wanted to do a record that was more the­matic and had a bunch of dif­fer­ent voices.”

Am­bi­tious con­cepts are not a prob­lem for Fucked Up. Since their de­but record, off and on, they’ve fol­lowed the fic­tional story of David Eli­ade. First ref­er­enced on the song “David Comes to Life,” he’s since grown into a char­ac­ter who can serve as a stand-in for Fucked Up them­selves, say­ing in char­ac­ter what they maybe can’t in in­ter­views. His story ex­panded on the full-length

David Comes to Life, which strad­dled a line be­tween fic­tion and re­al­ity, blend­ing his sto­ry­line with ex­pe­ri­ences the band mem­bers had gone through.

David’s story, in brief: Work­ing at a light bulb fac­tory in 1980s Eng­land, David falls in love with ac­tivist Veron­ica Bois­son and the two plot to build a bomb to de­stroy the fac­tory. The bomb fails, killing Veron­ica, leav­ing David feel­ing guilty and the nar­ra­tor agree­ing. The story gets a lit­tle meta, with David and nar­ra­tor Oc­tavio St. Lau­rent fight­ing for con­trol of the plot, ul­ti­mately end­ing in Oc­tavio ac­cept­ing his role in Veron­ica’s death and David re­turn­ing to the fac­tory to re­live the story.

Dose Your Dreams re­vives David’s tale while reimag­in­ing the world he lives in. David is drugged while work­ing in an of­fice and sub­se­quently gets fired; he meets time-trav­el­ling revo­lu­tion­ary Joyce Tops in an al­ley while hal­lu­ci­nat­ing. Joyce sends David on a vi­sion quest where he re­al­izes the true na­ture of cap­i­tal­ist life. Not want­ing to re­turn to this, David dives deeper to find the mean­ing of ex­is­tence and, af­ter a long se­ries of twists and turns, he learns to strive for a bet­ter ex­is­tence in spite of harsh re­al­i­ties.

Fucked Up ex­plore a num­ber of top­ics across the record, in­clud­ing love, ex­is­ten­tial doubt, sui­ci­dal ten­den­cies, cor­po­rate cul­ture and anar­chy. Af­ter the mu­sic was writ­ten, Abra­ham’s other jobs were tak­ing up his time and cre­ativ­ity, so Haliechuk went ahead and wrote the lyrics with­out men­tion­ing that he was rein­tro­duc­ing David’s story.

“I didn’t know un­til the press re­lease came out,” Abra­ham says. “I hadn’t heard [the al­bum] in the proper or­der be­cause the meta­data on my com­puter as­sem­bled it al­pha­bet­i­cally. I never heard the proper track list­ing un­til the day the al­bum got an­nounced and that press link went out. I got a press link and was like ‘Oh shit, there is a story.’”

Ten­sion in the band has less­ened, but com­mu­ni­ca­tion is­sues per­sist. Even now, Abra­ham still doesn’t know all of the de­tails of what Haliechuk has planned. “I feel like I’m ex­pe­ri­enc­ing this record the same way other peo­ple are,” Abra­ham says. “I had no idea. I still have no idea what the Raise Your Voice Joyce com­pi­la­tion is about.”

When the band re­leased David Comes to Life, they also re­leased the David’s Town com­pi­la­tion as a com­pan­ion piece. The com­pi­la­tion claims to be recorded by bands from “Byrdes­dale Spa,” the fic­tional town where the record is set.

With Dose Your Dreams, the band are do­ing an­other com­pan­ion called Raise Your Voice Joyce: Con­tem­po­rary Shouts From Con­tem­po­rary Voices. And Haliechuk says there are even more re­leases planned.

“There are a bunch of records com­ing out in the uni­verse, but I sort of want them to just fil­ter out and peo­ple can fig­ure out what they are,” he of­fers, mys­te­ri­ously.

Abra­ham ad­mits that he and gui­tarist Josh Zucker over­ruled Haliechuk when it came to writ­ing David Comes to Life, and that the orig­i­nal vi­sion may in fact fi­nally be re­flected in Dose Your Dreams.

“I think do­ing that wrestling TV show that I did, I hon­estly feel like that was such a fan­tasy and such a ‘Wouldn’t this be amaz­ing if this ac­tu­ally hap­pened’ thing. When it fi­nally did hap­pen, I was able to let go of some of the con­trol that I was hold­ing onto in Fucked Up,” Abra­ham says, “and sur­ren­der to this be­ing some­one else’s chance to have their vi­sion come true.”

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