Interview with Sum 41: What’s Meaningful?

Sum 41 (Jonathan Mannion)You remember Sum 41. They’re that band you always liked better than Good Charlotte and Simple Plan, when three chord pop-punk had a transitory revival a few years ago. They had that awesome video with the water slides and that other one that was acted out with toys. Their songs were unreasonably catchy but also not so overly polished that they annoyed you. But while their peers have either disappeared off the radar or made some bad choices, the Ontario foursome had made a new record, Underclass Hero. Singer and guitarist Deryck Whibley discusses the making of the album.

Have you been playing a lot of new songs on the road?

We haven’t, actually. We’ve been playing mostly singles.

Is there any one that always gets the best response?

‘Fat Lip’ is always good. ‘Still Waiting.’ Those are probably the best.

When you were writing your new album, did you feel any pressure to live up to the success of those songs?

I don’t know. I think there was a lot of pressure on the record just because we were trying to make something a little more creative and a little more artistic than anything we’ve ever done. I was trying to go past everything we’ve ever done before. It was difficult.

Do you feel like you accomplished that?

Yeah, for sure. There was a long thought process that went along with it, which was different for us this time. I was really trying to think and write about things that had more meaning and were more important to me. By doing that I realized that the things that were the hardest to say and the things that I feared—like things that are so personal it scares you to talk about —those became the things that inspired the record. All the things that scared me the most. So I started putting that in the record and all the songs, which also made it really hard. But it was exciting at the same time.

How do you get to a place where you can express such personal things?

I think it comes from boredom. I didn’t just want to do the same thing that we’d done before. I was trying to do something different and more meaningful. I was trying to figure out what that meant. What is meaningful to me? What is important? I was writing about these things and realizing that what’s meaningful was really deep inside of me. A lot of it has to do with upbringing, childhood, relationships, not necessarily boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, but also with family, just things good and bad. That’s what I started writing about.

Was there ever any fear of what people would think?

Yeah, somewhat. It was a hard record to make because every song was really scary. It was scary to the point where I didn’t even want to show the rest of the band. Anytime I was playing a song for someone I was always nervous. Anytime you write in a very literal way about yourself, and you know everyone’s going to know what you’re talking about you have a lot of subconscious brick walls that try to stop you. My rule on this record was to break down all the brick walls and go through them. A lot of these songs I had tried to write before and just didn’t want to let myself think about.

So was this a really liberating experience?

It was. And I wasn’t really doing it for that reason at all. I feel better about this record than anything we’ve ever done before. I know it’s way more artistic and more important. This is something that I’m probably the most proud of.