Before going to work writing songs for the new Sum 41 CD, Underclass Hero, singer-guitarist Derryck Whibley did something he hadn’t done since the group’s first CD. He actually took time to figure out what the purpose of the next album was going to be.
“The funny thing, to be honest, is once you start in this sort of cycle of making records and touring and it just keeps continuing, you start to forget (about having a purpose),” Whibley said in a recent phone interview. “You lose having goals ahead of you. I think that happened. We didn’t really realize it at the time, but we really didn’t set goals for ourselves at the beginning of a record since our first album.”
That’s not to say Whibley and his bandmates, bassist Cone McCaslin, drummer Steve Jocz and guitarist Dave “Brownsound” Baksh, were wandering aimlessly through the writing and recording process on the previous three albums and the 2000 EP Half Hour of Power.
But the inspiration wasn’t there after Sum 41 completed its tour in support of Chuck. And Whibley was unnerved enough by his lack of enthusiasm toward a new record that, for a time, he wondered if Sum 41 had run its course.
“I don’t think any of us really cared what the future was going to be,” Whibley said. “I don’t think we knew if or when we were going to do another record. It was mostly because I don’t think we knew what the purpose was going to be.”
Turns out a little time off was all Whibley needed, and gradually, he began to get the itch to write another Sum 41 record, with a new level of commitment to writing and recording.
“We realized if we were going to do another record, it had to be something that was way more important to us and way more meaningful and musically more creative and artistic,” he said. “We’re going to work a lot harder on it and spend a lot more time and work more closely together. That became the purpose. We had a direction, and there was a goal.”
Except for Baksh. Early in the writing process for Hero, the guitarist quit the band to devote more time to his side group, the metal-based Brown Brigade.
With Sum 41 pared to a trio, enthusiasm was not an issue during the making of Hero. Now fans get to decide if they have the same enthusiasm for the CD as Whibley and his bandmates do.
One thing that can be said with some certainty is that Underclass Hero represents something of a return to stylistic form for Sum 41.
With the Chuck CD, the band stepped away somewhat from its poppier influences and made a CD that showed more of the metal influence that had always been a secondary ingredient in the Sum 41 sound.
That shift toward a harder hitting, darker sound didn’t go over well with fans, and Chuck was easily the band’s worst-selling album.
On Underclass Hero, Whibley stays serious in his lyrics, addressing Bush (“March of the Dogs”) and his absentee dad (“Dear Father”). But musically, the CD brings back more of the pop back into the group’s music, as the band charges through “The Jester” and “Count Your Last Blessings,” while playing both ends of the tempo continuum on “Speak of the Devil,” “Pull the Curtain” and “Walking Disaster.”
One thing you won’t see at Sum 41’s show this Saturday: a script. The band went into this headlining tour without a set list.
“I think we’re going to kind of continue that, even on the headlining tour,” Whibley said. “We’ll just bring songs in and out, whenever we feel like it.”
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