When Sum 41 wrote last year’s All Killer No Filler, the bandmembers were all still in high school.
Toilet-dunking bullies, drinking buddies, unrequited puppy love, impish practical jokes and weekend parties were what their lives consisted of, so that’s what the sang about.
But now they’ve toured the world, experienced some real-life trauma and tapped into current events (at least a little bit), so the boys in the band — singer/guitarist Deryck Whibley, guitarist Dave Baksh, bassist Cone and drummer Steve Jocz — are in a slightly different place, and as a result they’re penning some harder, more sobering songs.
There’s still a lot of humor on Sum 41’s new Does This Look Infected? (November 26), and the music is still exuberantly pop-punk, but there’s a far more serious subtext than the band has ever exhibited.
“A lot of stuff happened in the past year that opened our eyes to new things,” Whibley said. “The whole last year has been really crazy around the world. There’s been so much stuff going on and it’s been so televised. I think we’ve all become more aware. When we were writing the last record everything was happy go lucky. Now this time we’ve seen a little bit more and our eyes have been opened up a little bit.”
The most personal track for Whibley is “Hell Song,” about a friend of the band who recently contracted HIV.
“It’s one of my favorite songs on the record,” Whibley said. “It’s about this girl I used to date who I’ve known forever. Just last Christmas she found that she was HIV positive, and it was so brutal. She doesn’t sleep around. She’s only had two or three boyfriends and one of them used to cheat on her all the time, and then he got it and gave it to her. It’s the heaviest thing that’s happened in our group of friends.”
“Still Waiting,” another serious track, features the chorus “So am I still waiting for this world to stop hating/ Can’t find a good reason, can’t find hope to believe in.” Whibley wrote it after the events of September 11, 2001.
“It’s not directly about 9/11 or the war on terrorism,” he said. “It’s about the war on everything. It’s about the world as we know it. It’s no secret that the world doesn’t get along and there’s all this hatred. It’s everything to do with how this world functions.”
“Mr. Amsterdam,” another of Whibley’s favorites, is about the complacency of contemporary pop culture.
“We depend so much on new technology to make sure that we don’t have to do anything,” Whibley groused. “Everything’s being laid out so we can sit at home and do nothing and never leave our homes. You can order all your groceries from the computer. You can do anything you want. You can just sit there and become fatter. And I think that’s bad.”
The caustic “No Brains” is about a former bandmember. “That’s just a basic ’f— you, I’m done’ kind of song,” Whibley said. “This guy was our old singer and I was best friends with him. We had this big falling out.”
In addition to the serious tunes, Does This Look Infected features a couple of songs about what Sum 41 know best. “Over My Head Better Off Dead” deals with those times when you can’t remember what you did the night before.
“It’s not about being f—ed up or drunk,” Whibley said. “It’s more about the aftermath when you’re hearing everything you’ve just done the night before, and you’re like, ’Ah, f—, I’m better off dead.’ I don’t regret any of the things I do and I don’t mind doing them, I just hate hearing about it. Being told every morning, ’Dude, what did you do last night?’ drives me nuts.”
Similarly, “All Messed Up” is about burning the candle at both ends and in the middle. “It’s about those kinds of nights,” Whibley said. “It’s just about being really messed up and in that whole cracked-out kind of state.”
After a pause, he chuckled and realized aloud, “That seems to still be a recurring theme for us.”