August 11, 2017

Sum 41 – Personality In Music Videos

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While browsing my Facebook feed the other night I stumbled upon a post by Sum 41. It was a throwback post to a video of their live performance of “We’re All To Blame” on Late Night with Conan O’Brien in 2004. This brought back a momentary bliss of nostalgia as I consider their 2004 album, Chuck, to be one of my favorite albums of all time. I remember staying up late in early 2005 to watch Jay Leno with my Dad because I knew Sum 41 was going to be the featured artist. They played a rendition of “Pieces” with lead vocalist Deryck playing piano instead of his usual rhythm guitar. That performance always stuck out to me. It’s a beautiful song where Deryck is restrained and composed throughout. One of their finer live performances.

This lead me down a path of remembering where I was when I first heard Sum 41. Like most of my generation, I was introduced to Sum 41 in the spring of 2001 with their single, “Fat Lip.” This was a track that couldn’t be missed by any pre-teen or teenager. That impossibly catchy guitar hook, gang vocals and the relentless energy made this song a staple of my 4th grade summer.

As a child without cable, I spent some of my summer days indoors with friends who were fortunate enough to have cable. We would scan through MTV’s rotation daily to get a glimpse of the “Fat Lip” music video. The video was full of renegade youths, skateboards, frosted tips, baggy jean-shorts and about every cliche of early 2000’s you can remember. It was truly glorious.

My love for Sum 41 grew exponentially in the 5th grade. Spending summer recess with my buddy Brandon with an ear-bud in one ear listening to the entirety of All Killer No Filler. I needed the album for myself though. With the lack of cable in our household, my Dad made sure to make up for it in other ways; we had high-speed internet.  I took the only route a young man in the early 2000’s could; Azureus. There are many torrent program names that had their moment in the spotlight; Napster, Kazaa, Bearshare and Limewire, but the early 2000’s was dominated by Azureus. Not only did I sift my way through countless terribly encoded bitrate files to download each individual track of the record, but I learned I could also download videos. This was a whole new ball game. I could have a “Music Video” folder hidden on my Dad’s computer to watch my favorite artists. Finally. Something I could hold over my friends and their precious cable subscriptions.

What started as an obsession to obtain anything I wanted for free online turned into something so much more. I was watching Sum 41’s music videos for “Fat Lip” and “In Too Deep” multiple times a day. I developed a crush for the girl in blue flailing her arms around in bell-bottom jeans in the “Fat Lip” video and found myself laughing hysterically at the humor of the “In Too Deep” video. These videos served as something more than just a vessel for the song, but as an introduction to the personalities of the band.

Deryck (vocals/guitar) was the main focus, but never the superstar. His presence represented a leader who would speak up only when he needed to. He never clamored for the spotlight or put himself above the others, a genuine front-man. Cone (bass) was the lanky goofball. The strong silent type who would always tag along for adventures and be great company. Dave “Brownsound” (lead guitar) was the guitar god. I’m not saying Sum 41 had groundbreaking or impressive guitar leads, but they made the band stand out more than their counterparts. Dave loved every minute of shredding the guitar and his band members always encouraged him. Then there’s Stevo. The pale, buzz-cut maniac on drums. I always admired his incredibly smooth and inventive fills and rambunctious enthusiasm while playing. He’s the wildcard, the miscreant, the guy who takes a dump in a paper bag to put it in someone’s gas cap kind of guy.

Is it crazy that I interpreted all of this from a couple of music videos? Maybe, but that’s the vibe these guys gave off. They weren’t just band mates, they looked like real friends. Their affection and interactions with each other felt authentic and genuine. Their music and videos were the perfect way to display their personalities and brand themselves as the goofy, eccentric and lovable bunch of Canadians we grew to love through the 2000’s. I have no doubt they borrowed ideas from Blink-182 and New Found Glory on how to showcase themselves as carefree, immature rockers, but Sum 41 has always been a different breed. Their next album, Does This Look Infected?, features a lot of metal inspired themes, but still retaining their established personas. This trend has continued throughout the years as the band has evolved (for better or worse).

So why talk about this now? Why reminisce the past? Is it just a circle-jerk of nostalgia? A little bit, but that’s not what I’m getting at. Sum 41 was lined up for success with the release of All Killer No Filler. They had a major label, excellent production value and a full staff of people ready to make them big. All they needed was to sell themselves. What causal fans saw before the era of social media is what I described above. A band that wasn’t focused on the lead vocalist. A band that didn’t take themselves seriously. A band with four members, all with distinct personalities and a sense of comradery. Bands today could learn a thing or two from this approach. Music videos can tell a story, sure, but they can also tell us everything we need to know about a band. A few examples of can be found with The Maine and Tiny Moving Parts latest music videos.

Written by: Patrick Marion

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