Photo courtesy of Zack Vitiello.
Damian Abraham sings in your mom’s favourite Toronto-based hardcore band, Fucked Up. Both highly dysfunctional and internationally acclaimed (not many bands can have a feature review in The New York Times that doesn’t mention their band name once), Fucked Up gained word-of-mouth notoriety through their batshit insane live shows, their prolific output of limited-run 7″ records (many of which now sell on eBay for hundreds of dollars), and bizarro collaborations. Their Polaris nomination for The Chemistry of Common Life—a record that has seen almost universal critical acclaim—comes at the end of a year that saw the band open for the Stooges at Massey Hall, get banned from MTV, play a twelve-hour set in NYC (with bonkers guests including Moby on a cover of “Blitzkrieg Bop”), and saw Damian become both a dad and a Fox News correspondent. When he’s not crushing pint glasses into his head (or being a super sweet dude that your mom would actually love), Damian is telling Torontoist about the strangeness of being nominated for a major music prize in a country that has always kinda sorta ignored them.
Until this year, we in Fucked Up have never felt part of the Canadian “music community”; we’ve never really toured Canada, never received any sort of grant money, and I wasn’t even a part of SOCAN until last week. It wasn’t because we felt we were too good for Canada or anything moronic like that, it was simply because the scene we came out of has forever been ignored by the Canadian music industry and, as a result, has had to find a home outside of the “Cancon” world.
Southern Ontario hardcore bands have, for years, managed to tour the world and inspire legions of people and yet never once had one been on the cover of NOW, featured on MuchMusic, or awarded a grant. Career Suicide (from Toronto) has managed to self-finance two successful tours of Japan, there are bands throughout Europe and America doing No Warning (also Toronto) covers, seeing a homemade Left For Dead (Hamilton) shirt has become so common on tour that it doesn’t really even phase me now, and—for better or worse—Grade (Burlington) invented the the entire genre of screamo. Yet, until very recently, none of these bands received any sort of acknowledgement within the Canadian music scene.
So, for us, the prospect that one day we would be nominated for something like Polaris would have been completely laughable. And somehow that is where we find ourselves. This shift is thanks in large part to the changing face of the Canadian music media. More and more, people in places like Exclaim!, MTV News, Eye, and NOW have been covering hardcore music. Fucked Up, being the media whores that we are, have been the band that has benefited the most from this, and hopefully it’s a trend that continues and isn’t a mere case of tokenism. Being nominated for the Polaris Prize is one of the most exciting things to have happened to our band, not only because of the prestige of the award but because it was something that until this year would have felt so far out of the realm of possibility.