Deryck Whibley (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Jason McCaslin (bass guitar, backing vocals), Steve ‘Stevo’ Jocz (drums) plus Tom Thacker (lead guitar, backing vocals) total Sum 41, the hugely successful, veteran pop-punk quartet from small town Ajax, Ontario. Bursting onto the scene in 2001 with All Killer No Filler, Sum 41 has since sold more than 12 million albums, and will add exponentially to that number with their latest release, Screaming Bloody Murder. In between conference calls, Stevo takes time out to describe the almost accidental construction of their fifth studio album, and what it’s like to come back after an almost four-year absence.
Tell me about Screaming Bloody Murder.
Deryck produced it and did a really good job. It’s aggressive sounding… big, harsh and heavy. The recording process was kind of weird because it lasted over such a long period of time and our sessions were really spread out, but I think that ended up helping the album. For people that like albums and listening to them from beginning to end like we do, they’ll like Screaming Bloody Murder.
And why such a dark sound this time around?
Well, Deryck’s the songwriter and maybe that’s what he was going for, or maybe that’s just what came out. Generally, our songs are about what’s happening in our lives or something that we’ve experienced or read or whatever. This one is really no different.
Does selling over 12 million albums add pressure or instill confidence when recording new material?
We’ve been doing this for so long that this record felt really easy and natural. We don’t really gauge our success in album sales, we gauge it by live shows, fan reaction and what’s actually in front of you that you can experience and see. Gold records are fun but they don’t really mean anything anymore (laughs). These days, album sales are totally different. Fortunately for us we’re a live band – a touring band – we always have been. It’s great to travel the world and play to sold-out crowds.
Why did you take it slow with this album?
Originally, it was supposed to be an EP and we didn’t even really know we were embarking on recording a new album. We had some songs and we recorded them and we thought, ‘You know, these are actually really good.’ Then some more time went by and we wrote a few more. It was totally unlike previous albums where we write all the songs, then record, then tour. With this one, we took breaks and went on tour a couple times in between recordings. Then before you know it, we woke up one day and the record was just there.
Your last LP, Underclass Hero, came out in 2007. What’s it like to come back after such a long hiatus?
One of the first shows we played in forever was when that the volcano blew in Iceland. It was a crazy, canceled – rescheduled – canceled – rescheduled again trip, and it took forever to get over there. Finally, after, like, 40 hours of travel, we get on stage in Iceland and it was absolutely, f——— insane. We weren’t really sure what to expect because we had been away and weren’t really doing anything, but somehow it was like we got more popular. There are these fanatic fans – that maybe we had before – but it’s like it’s somehow gone up a notch without a new album even being out.
What’s made this possible do you think?
We play a really good show and that gets around, especially now with Twitter and everything. People talk about it – and we can back it up.
Millions of albums sold, world tours, collaborations with music icons…did you dare dream this big when you were first starting out?
I don’t know that we expected anything quite like this, but it’s definitely what we always wanted to do. Even if we hadn’t taken off, I’m sure we’d be doing it in my mom’s basement still – and I’d be living in that house still (laughs). I mean, we were too stupid to excel at school and too weak to get into sports. This was the only thing we could do well. Now, we’ve had this opportunity to do it for 10 years where most bands, especially nowadays, can’t say that. We didn’t expect this, but we’re happy it’s still going – especially when we just take it one album at a time.