Sum 41: ‘Everything Is Just Part of the Journey’
The Canadian rock band’s frontman Deryck Whibley on their new album ‘Order In Decline’ and writing a song about the U.S. Presidential election result
If everyone’s memory of 2000s rock was spiky-haired kids moshing in an empty swimming pool, you have Sum 41 to credit. The Canadian band have always been punk-leaning with that doofus-comic intent (“In Too Deep” and “The Hell Song”), but also showed emotional maturity (“Pieces”) over the two decades that they’ve been active.
Over the phone from his home in Los Angeles, frontman Deryck Whibley says most of Sum 41’s material – including their new album Order In Decline – is never thought about too much. “I didn’t really think about anything, I never really do when I’m going into an album,” he says. While Sum 41 still held mainstream rock dominance when they released Underclass Hero in 2007, guitarist Dave Baksh left the band in 2006 and 2011’s Screaming Bloody Murder was met with mixed reviews.
Even then, Sum 41 soldiered on with rock solid intent, touring around the globe and prepping for their next. They pumped their brakes in 2014, when Whibley was hospitalized due to excessive drinking, something that nearly resulted in his death. By 2016, Sum 41’s comeback was in full swing, now reunited with Baksh and their no-holdsbarred debut on Hopeless Records, 13 Voices.
Watch the video for “Out for Blood”
With the band running on high from that album and Order In Decline as well, Whibley sounds like a content rockstar who can take his rage on stage. A few days ahead of their tour through Europe and North America promoting the new album (out July 19th via Hopeless Records), Whibley spoke to Rolling Stone India about growing up and growing old, his writing process and heavy music. Excerpts:
A lot of bands, through press releases, will say an album is their heaviest and loudest as a marketing tool, but Order In Decline seems back that claim. How did you arrive at this sound for the album?
It just came out that way. I didn’t really think about anything, I never really do when I’m going into an album. I just write songs and whatever comes out, comes out. The fact that I started writing a lot of this stuff on the road, while we were on tour, I guess… that probably inspired me to write something that was energetic, because we’re coming off stage every night and the shows are really energetic and really fun to play live.
“The People Vs…” feels like a metal song. It’s among the more politically charged ones. Is it addressed to anyone in particular?
I think music is always open-ended in some ways. But then there’s always what I think… I didn’t think of that as the heaviest song, but it felt to me like a very Sum 41 song. The way that song came out, I originally had that chorus from the last record and I just didn’t finish the song. It was half of a song and then I just finished writing it one day.
You put a lot of life experiences into 13 Voices, so when it came to Order In Decline, did you at any point feel like, ‘What am I going to write about now?’
That always enters my mind when I’m working on lyrics at the beginning. I never know when I’m going to start writing. I don’t think about it. I sit down and start coming up with the words. I don’t know what they mean yet, I don’t know where I’m going with it yet. It’s just a figuring out process for me. Usually, a couple of words come out right from the beginning and I don’t know what they mean or why. They just fall out and you just follow those first and see where it takes me. As you get a few lines, you figure out what you’re writing about and usually, it comes from subconscious, really.
How do you not look at what other people are doing on the radio or at shows and say, ‘let’s do that?’
I think it’s the case that I don’t listen to the radio at all. I don’t even know what people are doing. I haven’t listened to it in a long time. None of that enters my mind ever.
Watch the video for “A Death In The Family”
You have “A Death in the Family” on this one. Has death always been something you’ll write about?
[Laughs] I don’t know… the song is not really about a death in the family. The title comes from… it was the only way I could describe the feeling after the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Once that happened and Donald Trump became president, it was closest to what it feels like when you have a death in the family. You’re just moping around, didn’t want to talk to anybody, didn’t know what to say or what to do. For about a week, that’s how that felt.
It’s been 23 years of Sum 41’s existence now. What did you think it would be like aging as a musician?
[Laughs] I think when we first started out, when we were very young and in 10th grade – so about 15 or 16 years old – we thought we were going to be big and it was going to last forever. But that’s what you think when you’re 15 years old. By the time we got into our 20s, you realize that sticking around in a band is difficult and the odds are against you.
Do you think of wild times and think, ‘Thank God that’s over with’?
Not necessarily. Everything is just part of the journey, I don’t mind any of it. There’s ups and downs, easy things and tough things but it is what it is. You just move on to the next day.
You played in Asia a few times over. Did you ever have any offers to play in India?
I don’t think we’ve ever had any offers. I’ve always wondered about that, because we do have interest to go, but it’s just never come up. I know there’s lots of places we haven’t gone to that we really want to go to. I mean, we finally only made it to South America for the first time on this album (13 Voices) in our whole career.
Stream ‘Order in Decline’ here.