Fucked Up discuss the influences behind ‘One Day': Adolescents, Undertones, Riley Gale & more
"After retreating into the fantasy world with Year of the Horse, this record is like we’re returning to real life," Fucked Up vocalist Damian Abraham says of the band's sixth proper album One Day. It's titled One Day because guitarist Mike Haliechuk wrote and recorded the skeletons of these songs in a single day, and then passed the recordings around from band member to band member, who also had just one day to write and record their parts, and that sense of urgency helped make this one of the shortest, most down-to-earth, most traditionally-punk Fucked Up albums. It's got that trademark Fucked Up formula of mixing classic punk and hardcore with whatever else pops into their heads, and setting Damian's distinct bark against soaring, melodic backing vocals, with a few detours like the slow-paced "Falling Right Under" and the Mike Haliechuk-sung power pop of "Cicada." It's a record that often finds Fucked Up at their most concise and their catchiest; I'd call it a return to form, but in reality, Fucked Up don't have any album in their catalog quite like this one.
To get an even better idea about what informed this album, we asked Damian and drummer Jonah Falco what their influences for One Day were, and both gave very detailed responses. Jonah named bands ranging from the Adolescents to The Undertones to Queen to Hole to life experiences and a couple more conceptual answers; and Damian named Redd Kross, the Dunedin sound, the deaths of fellow musicians Riley Gale, Wade Allison, and Gord Downie, and an array of life experiences, loved ones, close friends, and other important elements that go beyond just musical influences. They had very interesting things to say about each pick, and you can read on for their lists.
One Day is out now via Merge. Pick it up on "blue jay in milky clear" vinyl.
JONAH FALCO'S INFLUENCES ON ONE DAY
The Adolescents - “Kids of the Black Hole”
I have many clear memories of the earliest Fucked Up practices that get visualised in my mind often. The excitement of sneaking away to practice with a band of essentially strangers, what I wore, what we played, what the room smelled like. It all gets pretty foggy after that but I remember having this kind of pivotal moment of decision in which the Adolescents s/t LP became a common love and somewhat musical compass for fucked up. The jewel of that LP is “Kids of the Black Hole.” There were many moving parts, long lead lines, big melodies, aggression, tension, triumph. There is a practice recording somewhere in the ribbons of time that has a really early “complex” FU song that was a direct analog to the music on KOTBH. Its sounds have totally faded from memory now but it still feels so close to my fingertips. The first crack we took at something like that was “Jacob’s Ladder” on Chemistry, but we really diverged into our own world after that. “Roar” on One Day is our new "Kids of the Black Hole." A 3.5 minute punk song that swirls upwardly, halts meaningfully, and expresses so much about feelings of place, meaning, generational stress, and personal and emotional legacy.
The Undertones - “My Perfect Cousin”
I’ll let you readers pick out which song you think sounds like the Undertones on One Day (it’s obvious to me), but the songwriting toolkit that years of listening to their records has left on our respective creative desks is massive. Long arcing guitar leads might have come to us from the adolescents and the wipers but that urgent sense of melody has a lot of genesis from the Undertones. A sense of brevity and playfulness that hasn’t gone away.
A weekend in Armley with some dollar bin bangers
The process of making this record - each member starting from scratch with the material and building the songs without the “normal” collective guidance of a band - meant that each person’s experience recording this record was different. Mike at his own personal ground zero developing a new song writing style for himself, Sandy having to wade through a mountain of dense guitar layers, Josh dropping in, and Damian balancing on top of it all. I was the second person in the band to receive this new material, and to take it on I traveled up to Leeds to record with James Atkinson (formerly of the incredible hardcore band Voorhees, and the insanely greasy Gentlemen’s Pistols) at his studio, The Stationhouse, in a retrofit Victorian police station on a blustery and mostly unattended road. He and I had only worked together closely once before, and it was a big leap in our working relationship to come and spend 3 days working so intensely on this material in this way. He also kindly let me sleep above the studio between our 8 hour shifts of “what the hell do I do with this?” Lucky for me we get along like a house on fire and spent the time between takes swapping stories of lives lived on tour and joking about b grade 70s rock while vetting drum takes that could very well have been painfully wrong….and believe me sometimes they were. After our first day of recording, we had a world class night of drinking in pubs that were tucked away beside mills on back roads, and later sinking beers at his house, drooling in front of the record player bonding over some sensationally overlooked grubby rock and roll gems. Images of records by Slowbone the Wonderboys, Guy Darrell, and Hamlett are the only three legible photographs that remain of the first day of tracking.
I sing a lot of backups on this record and in particular on “I think I might be weird” I was thinking of the song “Killer Queen” by Queen. I don’t have the rich leathery lustre of anyone on Sheer Heart Attack but I wanted to bring as much theatre to it as possible. I also like to sing in multiply voiced harmonies to mask my insecurities about tuning etc so the inspiration remained close at hand throughout all the vocal takes.
Contrary Motion and Counterpoint
I jokingly referred to Mike’s style of writing on this record as “chamber hardcore” which is a riff on something my father - a musician - once said in reference to The Meters (he called them Chamber Funk). In The Meters, a small ensemble in which each member is often playing an individualistic and sparing part which beautifully interlocks with the others to create a fantastically living piece of music. The lock-in moments on “One Day” are really big and pay off in great amounts, and what makes these moments of clarity are not singular ideas gently changing positions, but a bustling city scape of riffs and ideas bouncing off of one another and breathing around each other.
It’s hard to consider ‘conceptual simplicity’ as a stand alone inspiration on One Day, and the concept was not my idea so I’ll admit that I’m projecting my own observations on the process into this rather than talking deeply about a blueprint. Since we began, Fucked Up has always centralised ideas on each of our records. Each of our records are “about” something. Usually these concepts and ideas are represented in narrative terms, the largest examples being records like David Comes to Life - a rock opera - and Year of The Horse - an actual opera. Narrative concepts in the scope of how Fucked Up writes music extend all the way across our discography, yet this is the first strictly musical concept that we’ve tried to execute. The parameters were time-based, but it was about creating a record’s worth of songs in One Day, which in turn changes the way you relate to your instrument, your decision making process, your skill level, and your creative process. What was essentially just a time limit has led us to an entirely other level of creative thinking.
Hole - “Came Down Wrong” and “Miss World”
Every now and again, Fucked Up settles on a musical device that gets really put to work. For many years it was the reliable and wonderful note, B. In other years is was playing guitar leads on the G-string while letting the B and E strings ring out. In other years it was “The Undertones beat” (see inspiration #2). At some point in the tracking of Dose Your Dreams we discovered the wonders of an open-G chord and all its cousins along the fret board, best exemplified by our song “Came Down Wrong.” There was a moment at early Fucked Up practices when Mike learned how to play “Miss World” by Hole and would riff on it jokingly, we’d end up covering the song and Damian would sing it in a funny voice, or Sandy would take the mic…eventually the joke riffing start becoming a song. No it isn’t some FU song you all know and love…much like our eureka moments with “Kids of The Black Hole” whatever song this was is temporarily lost to the sands of time but lives rent free in my memory as this greatly melancholic and expressive open-g based bit of guitar rock. Fast forward to “One Day” and you’ll find a song called “Cicada” which uses some of those same hanging suspended chords that live in the neighbourhood of the grip of an open G chord. We’re in a new era…I can feel it.
DAMIAN ABRAHAM'S INFLUENCES ON ONE DAY
My long suffering wife Lauren and our three kids
This record was really framed by me being home with the family. Because the vocal recording plans for the LP was postponed indefinitely by the arrival of the pandemic, I ended up sitting on the instrumentals in my head for a long time before I actually sat down to write the songs. Many of the topics are born out of things I thought about spending so much time with them. And when I was finally able to get back in the studio and start working on this record, most of it was framed by needing to make breakfast/ lunches in the morning and dinner after school; It added strict structure to my recording time.
My mom and Wenda Thompson
Losing my mom in 2018 and then my step-mother the following year was crushing. Both were incredibly strong people that I loved very deeply and I cling to the memories of them. “Broken Little Boys” is me struggling to figure out how to break the cycle that produced the world they had to deal with.
Riley Gale / Wade Allison / Gord Downie
The last time I wrote a lyrics for a Fucked Up album: Gord was singing them, Riley and Power Trip were just beginning to explode and Wade had all but retired as an Austin music legend. Losing them was very difficult. They were three of the greatest people I’ve gotten to know. Love to them forever and everything we do as band is in celebration of the ones we've lost.
Dylan and Candle Studio
I’ve been recording vocals at Candle for a decade; first working on Glass Boys with Leon there and most recently with Dylan. Over the course of the pandemic, Dylan was one of the first people I was able to see when things started opening up again and then we did: "Year Of The Horse," “Oberon,” and “One Day” pretty much back to back. In the down time in the studio, I was able to work on others projects and experiment in a way I have never felt free to before. It was one of the most creatively rich periods I have ever had in music. I really credit Candle for that. Sadly, Candle has been lost to Toronto’s continuing love of affair with condos for short term rentals.
Food is an essential part of recording for me; be it the 45 cent grilled cheese sandwiches at Gale’s while recording "Hidden World” or ordering “King Slice” while recording “David” vocals. When I first started recording at Candle, there was an incredible sandwich shop called “Nonna's Place.” When it shut down, Thai Nyyom stepped in and literally filled the void it left for me. Their Vegan Thai Rice was what fueled “One Day” vocal sessions.
Few bands have had a “perfect” career as Redd Kross: two bothers that have a 40 year creative partnership and have never have put out anything less than a classic. The influence is not something that shows up sonically but they are a huge influence.
The Dunedin Sound
A small college town in New Zealand perfected pop music in the early 80’s. Of all the global punk mutations, New Zealand’s is one of the few that could be called “beautifully sweet”. Start with Toy Love, The Enemy and The Clean and go from there. This is the music that drive me to be a better songwriter and sets a standard I can never meet.
The great thing about doing a podcast is reconnecting with people I’ve lost touch with. I hadn’t spoken with Elgin in 15 plus years when he came on the show. A few things we discussed that day around: raising kids, dealing with loss and trauma, really stuck with me and wound up inspiring ideas for a couple of songs on the LP.
People always ask me how I manage to not lose my voice while doing vocals and I really think the trick is getting a relaxed as possible. Cannabis has been my way of doing that for the last 10 years. This time around I experimented and alternated my approach to the sessions. Sometimes I would smoke flower, other times it was dabs and I even went back to doing some session without cannabis. It was interesting how it would alter the recording experience.
Thee Burger Dude
I started eating Vegan out of boredom during the pandemic. Seeing the Thee Burger Dude make these wild vegan recreations of the American fast food items I longed for really inspired me on different things to cook. Many lyrics were thought of while making Seitan roast “beef” and vegan horsey sauce.
Fucked Up are also touring and hitting the NYC-area on April 28 at Brooklyn Made and April 29 at White Eagle Hall. All dates:
Fucked Up - 2023 Tour Dates
Fri. Jan. 27 - Saskatoon, SK @ Winterruption - Louis’
Sat. Jan. 28 - Edmonton, AB @ Winterruption - Starlite Room
Thu. Mar. 9 - Bristol, UK @ The Fleece ^
Fri. Mar. 10 - Exeter, UK @ The Cavern ^
Sat. Mar. 11 - Cardiff, UK @ Clwb Ifor Bach ^
Sun. Mar. 12 - Sheffield, UK @ The Leadmill 2 ^
Mon. Mar. 13 - Newcastle, UK @ The Cluny ^
Tue. Mar. 14 - Glasgow, UK @ Room 2 ^
Wed. Mar. 15 - Manchester, UK @ The Deaf Institute ^
Thu. Mar. 16 - Nottingham, UK @ Bodega Social Club ^
Fri. Mar. 17 - Brighton, UK @ Patterns ^
Sat. Mar. 18 - London, UK @ Lafayette ^
Thu. Apr. 27 - Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
Fri. Apr. 28 - Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Made
Sat. Apr. 29 - Jersey City, NJ @ White Eagle Hall
Sun. Apr. 30 - Washington, DC @ Union Stage
Mon. May 1 - Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom
Tue. May 2- Milwaukee, WI @ Shank Hall
Wed. May 3 - Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall
Thu. May 4 - Indianapolis, IN @ Hifi
Fri. May 5 - Cincinnati, OH @ Woodward Theater
^ = with Big Cheese