F***** Up's singer Damian Abraham is not quite the punk expected, writes Scott Kara.
Considering the way Damian Abraham - or "Pink Eyes" as he is more commonly known - sings, you'd think he'd be one scary prospect to talk to. As vocalist and instigator of crowd mayhem for Canadian six-piece F***** Up, he screams, shrieks, and shouts with a voice that shreds his quite often indecipherable words into lethal shards. It's thrilling and beautifully caustic stuff.
But on the phone from his home in Toronto, Abraham doesn't shout once. He's polite, jolly, and, as it turns out, adores the jangly moments of our Flying Nun bands.
"I'm a huge fan of Flying Nun, so New Zealand is like hallowed ground to me," he laughs in his cheery Canadian lilt ahead of the band's support slot for the Foo Fighters next week. And among the many influences you can hear in F U's music, the Flying Nun one shines through.
"Yeah, there's a bit of English twee pop in there too, but absolutely, I think the Flying Nun take on pop is equally as much of an influence, especially on the new record. Bands like the Bats, and the way of making beautiful music that's outside the traditional definition of what is beautiful, are definitely a big influence on us."
That new record is melodic 18-track monster David Comes To Life, a hardcore, punk-inspired pop concept album set in an industrial town in Thatcher-era Britain, of all places. More on that soon.
Because first, even though it's a concept album, it's more catchy and inviting than 2008's raging, stroppy and wildly sprawling The Chemistry of Common Life.
"It was important for us to make a record where you don't have to buy into our concept - although hopefully one day a bunch of high school kids will perform it as a rock opera. Hopefully," he laughs.
"We also wanted it to be just a simple record where people could take as much from it as they want. And we are a band of nerds. We have always been music nerds and I think that is an ongoing thing with us."
But why would a band from Toronto set their album in a British industrial town during the reign of the Iron Lady?
"It was a right wing, neo-liberal, real conservative type of society back then. The unions were broken," he says.
"But at the same time I think it was a really romantic period with the birth of DIY culture, which is something our band has, and some people may say has exploited, but I'd like to say benefited from," he laughs. "It was a time of great depression but also great hope. It's like the Star Wars trilogy and we're in the Empire Strikes Back stage at the moment," he chuckles again.
He talks about his admiration for 1970s English new wave band the Desperate Bicycles who released their own music and inspired like-minded bands to do the same. "Their thinking was: forget the record company, forget everything, if you have faith in your music you can put out your own record."
And that's the philosophy F U have built themselves on, and though Abraham admits it's not easy and often expensive, they are doing okay (although it was recently announced the band will be going on hiatus because of Abraham's family commitments).
While they have been together for 10 years, and released three albums, it's the long list of vinyl releases on seven and 12-inch record that is most impressive. At last count there had been 60-or-so F U vinyl releases.
Abraham and guitarist Mike Haliechuk (aka 10,000 Marbles) bonded as friends around the "ritual of buying records, specifically punk 45s. And these little pieces of plastic contain the great messages of life."
And for Abraham he believes the 7-inch is the ultimate format for pop music. "It's the perfect length for a pop song - and punk and hardcore and whatnot, all this music descends from pop. And for us, as soon as we could put out a 45, we just wanted to put out more."
Now they are supporting the Foo Fighters - the biggest band in the world right now - which is reflective of the standing this rowdy band hold now. Not that Abraham's thought too much about it. "I don't know," he laughs, "I just think it's more reflective of how lucky we are."
Who: F***** Up
Line-up: Pink Eyes (Damian Abraham), vocals; 10,000 Marbles (Mike Haliechuk), guitar; Mustard Gas (Sandy Miranda), bass; Concentration Camp/Gulag (Josh Zucker), guitar; Guinea Beat/Mr. Jo (Jonah Falco), drums; Young Governor/Bad Kid/Lil' Bitey (Ben Cook), guitar.
Latest album: David Comes To Life, out now
Past albums: The Chemistry of Common Life (2008), Hidden World (2006). Also see Couple Tracks: Singles 2002-2009