Sum 41 press photo

Interview: Sum 41 on new music, new tour and new (but familiar) sound

(By: Angela McLean)

If you grew up jamming to Sum 41, you’re not alone — in fact, you’re far from it. Captivating a generation with angsty, early-2000’s hits like “Fat Lip” and “In Too Deep,” it’s easy to understand how the Canadian alt-rock band continues to be heard today. Their seemingly always-on, high-energy personas, pure passion and careless-but-careful attitude have carried the current five-piece through setbacks, injuries, illness, the lowest of lows and highest of highs.

Undoubtedly, Sum 41 has cemented their spot in rock history, while also establishing ground in the pop-punk and metal scenes. With seven albums already under their belt, their latest release ‘Order in Decline’ continues to garner acclaim and has put the group out on the road for an extended string of festival and headline dates. The 10-track LP, which dropped just last month, has been self-described as their “heaviest” to date, reflecting continued growth and maturity in both subject matter and sound.

We caught up (and let loose) with band members Jason “Cone” McCaslin and Tom Thacker ahead of their epic Toronto show at RBC Echo Beach for the inside scoop on ‘Order in Decline,’ switching up sets and rocking out while giving back.

Cone McCaslin and Tom Thacker of Sum 41
Jason “Cone” McCaslin and Tom Thacker of Sum 41 take over the check-in desk at their Toronto hotel on Aug. 7, 2019. (Photo credit: Rebecca Williamson/RUtv News)

How does it feel to be back in your hometowns performing at the tail end of another massive tour?

Cone: It’s awesome! We haven’t played Toronto since 2016 for some odd reason. We played at The Phoenix Concert Theatre in 2016 for our 13 Voices tour then did Warped Tour actually last summer, which is not really our show. This is also actually our biggest headlining show in Toronto. It’s a huge milestone and we have a guest list of over 150 people! There are also surprises in store. We have some production stuff that we’ve never done before.

You’ve been on the road in support of your seventh studio album, ‘Order in Decline.’ Which songs have you most enjoyed bringing to life on stage?

Tom: “Out for Blood,” the first single, has definitely been fun. “Death in the Family” is another good one.

Cone: We’ve only played four new songs from the album so far, but the whole new album… when I listen to it I can just picture them being really good live songs. They’re very almost live sounding to begin with. There’s not a whole bunch of bells and whistles, so with three guitars especially I think we can pull it off pretty well.

You also just got off the Rockstar Energy Disrupt Festival, and played a few other festivals such as Vans Warped Tour. How do you compare your festival sets to your solo shows?

Tom: For festivals, you get a shorter time slot. We’re doing an hour and a half here in Toronto, so we can play a lot more songs. I find that the festival sets are also faster and heavier songs — we don’t really slow it down too much. So, there’s more dynamics in the headlining set, which I prefer. It’s fun to play those other songs.

Cone: Plus, with festivals you stick to mainly singles because you know there’s going to be people there that are not necessarily your fans. We just did this small club tour across the U.S. and we were playing a bunch of songs that we hadn’t played in 15 years or had never played ever! It was just kind of the right atmosphere to do that, because we knew that it was just going to be hardcore fans and they’d know all those songs regardless.

AUDIO – Hear more from Cone and Tom about the changing live music scene for rock and metal bands, particularly around festivals. (2:10)

‘Order in Decline’ was three years in the making for your diehard fans. Was there anything in particular that inspired the heavier sound?

Cone: We never talk about a direction for an album. Deryck will have a couple riffs and then a chorus and some chords. He then sends it to us and I’ll work out some bass stuff and these guys put on some guitars and then it’s like, there’s the song! We don’t sit down at a table and say, we’ve got to make a really heavy album now. It’s just what comes out. It’s much more enjoyable that way.

How would you describe your musical journey and growth as a group?

Cone: When we made our first album, we were 19 and 20 years old. We were just out of high school and lyrically that’s about all we knew. Now we’ve just done so many albums and we’re gradually getting heavier and more aggressive and it’s probably just because of what we like to play and what we listen to and also noticing what our fans like. That subconsciously leads us to writing music that we know we’re going to like to play live and our fans want to listen to. Even our older songs now sound heavier live.

The album’s lead single “Out for Blood” was your first new release since 2017. How did you know that was the song to kick off the new era?

Tom: I think it’s a good representation of the whole album. It’s kind of got a little bit of everything. You know, I think it’s hard to pick a first single because everyone has opinions on it. You’ve got a record label and management all involved and the band and everyone’s chiming in. I think it was down to that or “45” as the first single and I think everyone just leaned towards “Out for Blood” because it was just—I don’t know why! We just all liked it the best.

You partnered with War Child so that $1 from each show ticket sold goes to support children and families in war-stricken areas. Why is it important for you to use your platform to give back, and engage fans in the process?

Cone: With War Child, we’ve been involved with them for years. We went to the Congo with them in 2004. So, we’re always a band where if we really believe in something, we’re going to try and make it work. When War Child and our management started talking about this, it was like, let’s do that, and it was easy to do. I think more bands should do this — it’s super simple.

RUtv News is all about supporting Canadian talent. Who are some of the most-played Canadian artists on your playlists?

Cone: There’s a really cool all girl punk band from Montreal called NOBRO — they’re great. We’re also friends with a lot of Canadian bands like Billy Talent and Tom also plays in Gob.

Tom: We really like Propagandhi from Winnipeg and The Dirty Nil. Check them out!

You’ll be back on tour this fall performing for your fans stateside. How do you plan on changing up the experience but staying true to the vibe of the recent summer shows?

Cone: I think the fall tour is going to be quite different! We’re going to be playing more new songs, the stage is going to look different and I think we’re going to play longer too. We’re in the process of figuring everything out now. We also have new production things. You know, we have a blow-up guy right now — an inflatable skeleton — and we’re going to be getting another blow-up. It’s going to be double blow-up! I think when you do your real headlining tour, of course you can go all out. Fans have a lot to look forward to.

Get a full listing of Sum 41’s upcoming tour dates and press play on their new album ‘Order in Decline,’ available for purchase and streaming now.

Stay tuned for exclusive video footage from our chat with Cone and Tom!

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