Fucked Up share ‘Year Of The Horse’ video and talk 10 years of ‘David Comes To Life’
Frontman Damian Abraham on working with Julien Baker and Matt Berninger, what went into their seminal third album, and progress on new material
Fucked Up have shared the sprawling new video for ‘Year Of The Horse’, as the band also celebrate the 10th anniversary reissue of ‘David Comes To Life’. Check out the video below, along with our interview with frontman Damian Abraham.
‘Year Of The Horse’ is the latest in the band’s Zodiac series of albums, released periodically to coincide with the Chinese new year. In recent years, they’ve shared ‘Year Of The Dragon’ (2014), ‘Year Of The Hare’ (2015) and ‘Year Of The Snake’ (2017).
Now they’ve shared an epic 14-minute-long video based on the album, telling a dark tale from a medieval village through with mystical imagery.
“I think of the ‘Zodiac’ records as almost like being the one thing we promised we’d keep doing,” Abraham told NME. “We did not imagine we’d be in a band this long; we thought it would be terribly tacky. I remember talking to people in the band about how we’d always get back together to do these records. It wouldn’t matter how old we got because these things would get more and more pretentious and they’d age like we age.”
Abraham went on: “I really do feel on some level like we’re staying together for the ‘Zodiac’ records at times. “It’s our soul on the ‘Zodiac’ records. A lot of time, people wouldn’t review them. And when they did, they’d just hate them. NME is the only place that gave us love on ‘Year Of The Pig’ [in 2008].”
Elsewhere on ‘Year Of The Horse’, fans have also been enjoying a 26-minute collaboration with Julien Baker – who Abraham described as “one of the coolest people I’ve ever met”.
“I love how she thinks about punk rock,” he said. “Sonically, her music doesn’t sound like GBH but she definitely listens to them and is a student of this music. That’s what I love about punk – when someone can take the energy out of it and apply it to a different part of your life. She just really nerded out.”
The National’s Matt Berninger also features on the record, having become close with the band following a meeting backstage at a festival in Finland some years ago with TV On The Radio.
“I didn’t know those guys at all, but met them backstage and it was one of my greatest memories to just hang out and want to be friends,” explained Abraham. “I spent the whole night with Gerard [Smith] from TV On The Radio, who passed away – just drawing and smoking weed. This is stuff that never happens on tour!
“The guys from The National were just the most awesomely earnest and good people that I’ve ever come across. I was taken aback by how sweet they were as human beings. We wrote to Matt to ask if he’d be on ‘Year Of The Horse’ and he said yes straight away. I guess they were as effected as that night as we were. I still think back to it all the time.
He continued: “This is one of those moments that I’m going to hold on to. Having Matt on the record is almost like a tribute to that night.”
This follows the band’s recent 10th anniversary reissue of their seminal third album ‘David Comes To Life’ – a critically-acclaimed 78-minute rock opera about the misadventures of a a worker at a light bulb factory in late 70’s, early 80’s England.
“This was finally us as a band not trying to be as pretentious,” Abraham told NME of the record. “Obviously it’s a rock opera with so many songs, but it was also us trying to be a little more human for a change. We went a little too far with [2014 follow-up] ‘Glass Boys’ and people were like, ‘Ah, that’s too much! Hide behind a character again! We don’t want to see what you really look like!’ But with ‘David Comes To Life’ we were talking about universal things – the idea of falling in love or the idea that you’re never going to meet anyone; that everything that happens in your life is one bad thing leading into another.”
Following the success of second album ‘The Chemistry Of Common Life’, the band felt as if fans would reject anything that came in its wake – allowing them to be as ambitious as possible and really push the envelope, Abraham explained. With that, the band also created the companion album ‘David’s Town’ – which hit streaming for the first time this week. The concept of that record is to be a compilation of fictional bands that the characters in the story are listening to throughout the story.
“It was just a chance to try new things,” said Abraham. “We just had such a breadth of songs afterwards that it felt like there were so many songs that didn’t fit in but were cool so we fleshed out this universe of what bands these characters might be into. It gave us the chance to role-play as different kinds of bands. Jonah [Falco, drummer] wrote a goth song for the first time: I got to write a really ignorant Kill By Death-sounding song, we got Danko Jones on the record to sing a football hooligan song after talking about how great his voice would sound on one of these hard-glam songs from the ‘70s.
Abraham added: “The whole thing was about trying to make the band as interesting for the people who are into it as it is for you, the person making the music. There are definitely times after that where Fucked Up got really uninspired and the energy was not there – especially at points where we started having kids. The band started to get a little bit slower and stuff. It’s hard to approach with the same level of excitement, but that record is just us being so excited with the possibilities and trying every silly idea that popped into our heads.”
The band’s last studio album proper was 2018’s acclaimed ‘Dose Your Dreams’, and Abraham has told NME that work on the follow-up is progressing well with “30 songs written at different stages” and the frontman also writing lyrics for the first time since 2014’s ‘Glass Boys’.
“Thematically, it’s still coming together,” he revealed. “I’m trying to find a different approach to the way I write lyrics. I’m trying to find a way to write political lyrics without appropriating the political message of them and turning it into something to market your band.
“This has been such an incredible time globally for political awareness. These things aren’t new and people have been dealing with this shit forever, but the awareness and understanding of how systemic and deep some of things are in our society is a lot greater now. Punk bands have always been singing about this stuff, but now that the world knows about it, are we just marketing ourselves by using these issues?
Abraham added: “Ultimately, I’m asking people to give me money for this art. That’s the exchange. If I’m using someone’s suffering to get money then I feel like I’m kind of continuing the exploitation on a level. I don’t want to take suffering and turn it into something for people to mosh to. What you’re ultimately singing about are things that run throughout history.
“White history is something that runs throughout history and colonialism. Is there a way to write about them that doesn’t take someone’s life experience and turn it into a song? I love a lot of songs that do that and were very important in opening my eyes, but maybe now it’s more about getting down to the universals of exploitation.”
Asked about the sound of the new material, Abraham replied: “Sonically, I’m very lucky that I was carried by the very talented people in these band. It’s not going to sound like ‘Dose Your Dreams’. It’s always going to sound like Fucked Up because, let’s face it, I can’t do much else! But at the same time, they’re always trying to take what we do to a new place.”
‘Year Of The Horse’ and the 10th anniversary reissue of ‘David Comes To Life’ are out now. A vinyl reissue of their 2004 compilation album ‘Epics In Minutes‘ will arrive on January 21 via Get Better Records.