INTERVIEW: SUM 41 DISCUSS STAYING TOGETHER FOR OVER 20 YEARS, OUR CURRENT POLITICAL CLIMATE, THEIR NEW ALBUM 'ORDER IN DECLINE' + MORE


Photo by: Ashley Osbourn
Twenty-something years ago, a group of high school kids from Ajax, Ontario left individual projects to form what we now know - notoriously, as Sum 41.

Sum 41 started out in 1996 as a NOFX cover band under the moniker Kaspir but later changed their name for a set with Supernova which fell on the 41st day of their summer vacation. It was at that very show, when the band first got discovered by esteemed producer and musician Greig Nori. They went on to land a deal with Island Records - after relentlessly sending demo tapes and live footage to record companies in 1999 and premiered their first EP Half Hour of Power that summer.

Their seventh studio project Order in Decline is said to be their heaviest release to date, adding to their already phenomenal six full-length album discography.

Sum 41 have been touring internationally for close to two decades - often gigging 300 days a year. Travelling and performing for audiences across the globe has given them a firsthand look at what is going on - in the United States and beyond.

"We are lucky enough to tour around the world, so we go to different countries and see all this chaos that happens in not just America, but all over," comments bassist and backing vocalist Jason "Cone" McCaslin, reflecting on the inspirations behind the new album.

Founding member and front-man Deryck Whibley put together song ideas that would eventually become Order In Decline during a three year touring stint in support of the band’s comeback record 13 Voices. Within three weeks of returning home, the majority of the music for the new album was written and ready for lyrics. Whibley unconsciously penned verses reflecting his reactions to the division, racism and hate around the world.  

Though inspired by our current political climate, Whibley insists that Order in Decline is not a political album.

"The last thing I wanted to do was write a social or political protest record, and Order In Decline is not that. It's also very hard not to have feelings about everything that's going on in the world," expresses Whibley.

Deryck wrote a track-list full of his most honest and personal songs, set to fast and full riffs from lead guitarist/backing vocalist Dave Brownsound, harmonious chords from guitarist Tom Thacker, and the heavy, heart-thumping rhythm section of Cone and drummer Frank Zummo.

Each member recorded their material in their own homes before everything was produced, engineered, and mixed by Whibley in his studio.

With the release of their highly-anticipated lead single and video for "Out For Blood" and Order in Decline out later this week, Sum 41 are back with ten tracks featuring the familiar anthemic vocals, guitar solos and infectious energy that fans have known and loved for decades.

Q: Being a band for over 20 years, how has Sum 41 grown and evolved?

Like a lot of bands do, we just got better. When we wrote the first record, we were 19 and 20 years old, we were fresh out of high school - playing local shows whenever we could. Then after we got signed, we started touring - playing 300 shows in a year. We just rapidly got better as musicians, better at writing songs and better playing live.

Q: After all of these years, what's the secret behind staying a band for so long?

I don't know what the secret is but I think it's the fact that we met when we were in high school - in grade 9, and we became friends before we were even in a band. Then we were in different bands and we played together in our bands, then we ended up forming Sum 41. It goes a long way to know each other that well and I can tell - when I look at Dave or when I look at Deryck, by the looks on their faces, I know what they're thinking without them even saying anything. Stuff like that, we just know each other so well and we have a long history of friendship.

Q: With so much popular music coming out of Canada currently, have you noticed an incline since you guys started Sum 41?

When we were growing up in Ajax, with the scene in Toronto, which was 40 minutes away, I felt like there was a ton of bands back then too. Maybe now Canadian bands are just getting noticed more but I remember growing up thinking how many great bands there were just in our area that weren't getting enough attention. I feel like there's always been a ton of great bands in Canada.

Q: Order In Decline is your second release with Hopeless Records, how does the experience differ from being on a major label to an indie label?

Our experience with a major label in the early days was really, really good. We weren't really told ever what to do and we basically marketed ourselves - they just had the money to be able to do it for us. We had all the ideas - it was basically all self promotion but they had the cheque book. Our experience is always good and I think it's still good with Hopeless - so it hasn't really changed. There's just less money now because record companies don't have as much money. Our "In Too Deep" video was hundreds of thousands of dollars, our videos now are a fraction of that. It's only changed that way - our experience with labels has always been pretty good  - no matter if it's indie or major.

Q: How was it recording and doing everything in your own studios?

We all went down to LA to meet and do the pre-production for the record, so we were all in one room for days and days, working the songs out. Once they were at a place where we all really liked them, we then just had to record them. We all have really good home studios, so we were able to just go home and record in our own houses and send files around - 'cause you can do that now and not have to pay for big, expensive studios.

Q: With the album's political inspirations, were there any specific messages you were looking to get out?

Deryck writes the lyrics but thankfully we all agree on basically everything - when it comes to politics. When this record came about - on our last touring cycle, we were constantly watching CNN on the bus. We are also lucky enough to tour around the world, so we go to different countries and see all this chaos that happens, in not just America but all over the world and all this divide that's happening in multiple countries. So, there was no message or preachy undertone - it's more just about how we feel about things.

Q: Are there any stand-out tracks on the album that you personally connect with?

Lyrically, I really love "Never There" because, knowing Deryck since I was 14, I know that he has never met his father. So, that one kinda hit me hard. Musically - and as a song, I like the first track called "Turning Away." I love it just because it has everything we do in one song - it has a nice piano intro and a fast, catchy chorus, it's got guitar solos, it's got heavy riffs, so it's kinda like one of those all-in-one songs that Sum 41 does. Those two songs are at the top for me and obviously, the lead single we all love - 'cause it's the first single.

Q: How does the sound on Order in Decline compare to your previous releases?

We've done heavy and aggressive stuff before - Chuck was heavy, Screaming Bloody Murder was really heavy, so I think it's just a natural progression for the band. We don't ever really talk about a direction that we're going to go in and say "we're going to make a really heavy album," it just kind of happens that way. I think it was kind of inspired by the last touring cycle off 13 Voices - where we did a really long three year tour and stuff was starting to get written. It was just going in a heavier direction - probably based off the fact of seeing what our crowd was really into, how they were reacting to certain songs live and what parts of songs people were reacting to - and just very inspired by touring that album.

Q: Since you are moving in a heavier direction, can we expect any upcoming Pain for Pleasure performances on your tour?

Pain for Pleasure always rears its dirty head once in a while. I don't know if there's gonna be any more Pain for Pleasure songs but the one hit single that they do have, always gets played once in a while. So it's possible!

Q: Anything else you'd like to share?

The record's out July 19th - it's called Order in Decline and we'll be touring it for the next two years.



Connect: