Hardcore band F--ked Up releases an epic double-album ‘rock opera’
Now they have to learn to play as a band again
F--ked Up has spent more than 15 years pushing the limits of what it means to identify as a “punk” or “hardcore” band. The logical next step was to obliterate the very idea of what F--ked Up itself means as a band.
It wasn’t completely intentional, perhaps, but that’s how it worked out during the making of the acclaimed Toronto sextet’s ludicrously ambitious new double-lp “rock opera,” Dose Your Dreams.
It’s some of the best work the band has ever produced, even if they were rarely in the same room together during its long production. F--ked Up has a well-documented reputation for fractious internal dynamics, yet it is still a band in the traditional sense, one that will reunite for a hometown show on Oct. 19 before hitting the road in earnest in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Europe and Australia.
The old gang has got a lot of rehearsing to do before then. Frontman Damian Abraham, who’s notably absent from about one-third of this 90minute epic’s 18 songs, barely touched down in the studio while the opus was being made. Guitarist and resident mad genius Mike Haliechuk and drummer Jonah Falco spent a good year in and out of recording sessions figuring out what this thing was going to be on their own before anyone else joined the party.
Even then, Haliechuk says, Abraham would only come in to do his vocals “every couple of weeks,” while guitarist Ben Cook sings just one song and contributes backing vox on a couple of others; bassist Sandy Miranda recorded her parts in her own home studio; and “we realized very late” that guitarist Josh Zucker “didn’t play on it at all,” despite 11th-hour pleas that he “come in and play one triangle note just so you can be on it.”
Beyond that, it took a vastly expanded cast of characters to bring Haliechuk’s widescreen vision for Dose Your Dreams to life, including fellow past Polaris Music Prize winners Lido Pimienta and Owen Pallett; idiosyncratic local singer/songwriters Jennifer Castle, John Southworth and Mary Margaret O’hara; J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr.; California singer/ songwriter Miya Folick; and fellow Toronto punk Ryan Tong.
“For the first year, it was just me and Jonah,” confirms Haliechuk. “He lives in England now, but every three or four months he would have to come over for some reason and we’d book a week in the studio. The first session was two weeks and we wrote close to 20 songs — with no plans, just a cheque for the studio, basically — and they all sounded different.
“And we were taking Mike Haliechuk, third from right, took the lead role on F--ked Up’s ambitious new double album Dose Your Dreams.
breaks from writing punk songs just because I record guitar in a space that’s like this big, maybe” — he spreads his arms to represent the width of a walk-in closet, basically — “and I’m in there by
myself, with huge amps everywhere on every wall, and it’s just physically exhausting. So I would try to find a way to write in our control room and hook a bass up right to the computer or play with a drum
machine just to give myself a little place to breathe, and then we just started writing differently.”
Learn more of the story behind the band’s new work at thestar.com/music