Fucked Up talk their epic psychedelic new album Dose Your Dreams...
Canadian punk collective Fucked Up have always enjoyed a taste for the epic.
The band take the furious energy and intensity that punk always brings, but defy every other characteristic and cliche in that genre. For starters there are six of them, a grand collaboration, then there’s how they approach songwriting. Every Fucked Up album is a story, a concept brought to life in an LP that spans well over an hour.
Their much-acclaimed 2011 album David Comes To Life told the story of David Eliad, a worker at a light bulb factory in late 1970's England. As the album played, David fell in love, became radicalised, tried to blow up a factory and accidentally killed his lover. He then realised he was a character in a story and fought for control of his life with the narrator, resulting in an epic battle of wills that lasted almost 78 minutes.
In Dose Your Dreams, we meet up with David once again. David now works behind a desk and is very bored, something that changes when he meets the elderly Joyce. Joyce opens his mind and sends him on a spiritual journey, which plays out over the course of the album’s 18 songs.
The story might be familiar, but the way it sounds is very different. The punk power has taken a backseat in favour of drum machines, sprawling psychedelia and spacey rhythms, with strings from Arcade Fire man Owen Pallett thrown in for good measure. It’s been compared to Screamadelica and The Stone Roses, a long way from the raw punk rock of their early days.
As the album hits shelves, we spoke to guitarist and key songwriter Mike Haliechuk about this sonic departure…
When did you start putting songs together for this record? Do you write constantly or do you sit down as a group and agree it’s album time…
“Usually we do, but not this time. Our label got a grant, right after the last album, and we got given that to make a record. We didn’t have a plan, me and Jonah (Falco, drummer) went in and started f**ing around and that’s what we basically did for two years. Normally we get the songs down and then we rehearse a lot as a band, but this time there was really no plan.”
It’s a very different sounding record to what you’ve done before, was that as a result of all that time to experiment?
“We’ve realised that what people want from us is something bombastic. This is our fifth record and we knew we needed to have something new to say, something interesting. It wasn’t particularly calculated, but we did want to find a way to write songs that didn’t just sound like fast, four on the floor, punk songs.”
Was anything too experimental?
“Oh yeah. A lot of bassy, drum machine-led stuff. That got junked. I tried to learn the cello over the last couple of years and that led to a couple of real Anna Meredith style choral vocal songs. They stuck around for a while until we figured out that there was such a thing as too far.”
At what point did the rest of the band get involved?
“Me and Jonah recorded a lot over a summer. He lives in England so we worked when we could for about a year. Once we had enough music, I started writing the story and when I finished that I called the band in.”
When did you come up with the idea for the story?
“The Raise Your Voice, Joyce character idea was one I came up with a couple of years ago. Originally the idea was to do a 12” inch, four songs, one story. Couldn’t that get going. But I kept the idea and I kept making all these puns about the name. Then I realised that it could be a continuation of the David story and she could be a great foil for him. Then all the lyrics came very quickly.”
Do you ever see yourself writing an album without a central concept? More like a compilation of different topics?
“I don’t really see myself as a musician or a writer, I don’t have any training, I don’t have a drive. Some people are in bands to get things off their chest. There are things they have to tell you. That’s not me. I got into hardcore and punk because of the aesthetic and the community. That’s what I liked. 15 years I’m having to come up with things to write about. I have no drive to tell people what to do or how to feel about things. I don’t want to share things with the world, I need to couch my songs in a story and a narrative. Deep down, I know it’s really about me and how I feel, but I have to hide.”
When did you decide on Dose Your Dreams for the title?
“It came from a tweet I did about five years ago. Normally when we do records the title is the first thing we have down, but not with this one. I liked the way it sounded, it’s a cool name.”
How is your live set coming together? Are you going to play the record through in full?
“Live is a translation of what we do in the studio. It works better when Damian (Abraham, singer) is in charge. He works the crowd. We know a lot of this record is experimental, but I do think a lot of it will work live. I don’t think we’ll do this record in full. It’ll be 10 of these new songs and 10 hits. Live is fast and banging, we’re an intense live band and that doesn’t fit with all of these songs.”
Are some of these songs just too complicated to do live?
“We’ll have to use tracks for the first time, which will be a big deal for us. Also, a lot of these songs are just album tracks and that’s where they belong. You make a record for people to listen to personally, they don’t all work in a big public setting. Some are more like personal whispers, others are bigger and work live.”