Sum 41 want you to know that just because their new album, Chuck, has song titles like "We're All to Blame," "The Bitter End" and "There's No Solution," they are not going through a major blue period.
They'd also like to inform you that just because they almost died earlier this year while filming a documentary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (See "Sum 41 Run For Their Lives During Violent Outbreak in Congo"), they're not suddenly embracing each day as if it were their last.
"This record is a little more serious, I guess, and it's like we've evolved a little bit. But we were heading in that direction with our last record anyway," lead singer Deryck Whibley said. "I mean, in every single interview, people ask us why this is our 'serious record,' which is really surprising because there are, like, two songs that are maybe sort of serious."
OK, so they're not exactly going the way of Radiohead or Dashboard Confessional, but on Chuck, Sum 41 display an impressive level of maturity, from the pseudo-political artwork in the liner notes (bomber planes dropping television sets, little girls clutching missiles) to the compositions on the album (songs feature cellos, acoustic guitars and pianos). It's even more impressive when you consider that on their last album, 2002's Does This Look Infected?, they were dressing up like zombies and playing with action figures in their videos.
"When we started out, we were just getting out of high school, and when you're in high school, your bubble is very small," drummer Steve Jocz said. "As you get older, you start reading the newspaper, and in our case, we've traveled the world like four times, and we've seen all these different places and different cultures."
Those trips around the world include the well-documented incident in the Congo where Sum 41 found themselves caught in the middle of a civil war and were saved, as bombs exploded all around them, by United Nations volunteer Chuck Pelletier. To show their gratitude, Sum 41 named their album after him, but since that day in the Congo, they've only exchanged e-mails with him.
On October 22, after their concert in Vancouver, British Columbia, the band will finally get to spend some time with the man who saved their lives.
"He's back in Vancouver, he lives like a half an hour away. So after the show we're going to see him. He wants to get stupid drunk, apparently. Typical Canadian!" Jocz said. "We'll probably do a couple of shots, smoke some cigars. We'll give him some little presents and stuff, too."
Obviously, they're still a band that likes to party, despite their new semi-serious trappings. And they're still unapologetically huge fans of everything '80s, a fact that is apparent in the video for "We're All to Blame," Chuck's first single. Following in the footsteps of their videos for "Fat Lip" (which featured the band masquerading as spandex-clad rockers Pain for Pleasure) and "In Too Deep" (where Whibley nails a 'Triple Lindy,' like the late Rodney Dangerfield in the 1986 comedy "Back to School"), the clip for "We're All to Blame" is a picture-perfect homage to "Solid Gold," the 1980s TV show featuring some of the most cheesily choreographed dance sequences in history.
"We had an idea to be on this other '80s show, but we couldn't get footage. So my girlfriend suggested we do 'Solid Gold,' like competing against the dancers," Jocz said. "I was talking with [director] Marc Klasfeld, and we were talking about the video ideas and he was like, 'Oh my God, that's incredible!' And once we were talking about it, I wasn't sure anybody else would like it. Like, 'Hey guys, we're going get dancers!' 'No, we're not!' "
"Like all of our videos, they always sound kind of weird, like a joke at first," Whibley added. "Then you think about it and the stupidest idea always ends up being the best one."
In addition to working with Klasfeld on the video for "All to Blame," the band pops up in his comedy "The L.A. Riot Spectacular," opposite Snoop Dogg, Emilio Estevez and, er, Ron Jeremy. And they'll also appear in the Jenny McCarthy-penned "Dirty Love" ("I get to make out with Jenny," Jocz laughed.) And then there's their massive co-headlining tour with Good Charlotte, which kicks off October 21 in Seattle. Sum 41 promise that their stage show will put to rest any lingering notions that they've become dour, world-weary artistes.
"We've always actually been a band that likes a big set, which comes from our metal influences. When we did the All Killer No Filler tour, we had a mountain of skulls we played on. So this time we're going to come up with something better, that doesn't suck," Jocz said. "I don't think we're becoming this serious band at all. I'd like to think that we're still goofballs."