Forty-one days into their 1996 summer vacation, Canadian high school juniors Steve Jocz and Deryck Whibley formed a band they called Sum 41 to signify the day. Later they wondered if maybe they couldn’t have come up with a better name. But the short, catchy name seemed right somehow for a quartet that plays short, catchy pop-punk rock tunes. Within months of releasing their first LP in 2001, Sum 41 gained popularity so rapidly in the United States and elsewhere that they went from opening for other bands to being the main act on their own tour. Their “Fat Lip”Video “displaced ’N Sync’s ‘POp’ as the most popular Video on MTV’s normally teen-pop-heavy request show TRL,’” noted Craig Seymour in the Buffalo News. “The rapid rise of Sum 41,” summed up Derek Simmonsen in the Washington Times, “can be attributed to the band’s energetic live shows and the success of its first single, the catchy ‘Fat Lip,’ which combines rap, metal and punk elements.”
Jocz, Whibley, Dave Baksh, and Jason McCaslin attended high school together in their hometown of Ajax, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto with no downtown. They all played in bands that performed in basements and halls rented for concerts, and they were friends. Whibley, who goes by the nickname Bizzy D, started out in
Members include Dave “Brownsound” Baksh, guitar, vocals; Steve “Stevo 32” Jocz, drums; Jason “Cone” McCaslin (born in 1980 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada), bass; Deryck “Bizzy D” Whibley guitar, vocals.
Group formed in Ajax, Ontario, Canada, 1996; signed with Island Records, 1999; released debut EP Half Hour of Power, 2000; released All Killer No Filler, 2001; contributed to Out Cold soundtrack, 2001; performed in Vans Warped tour, 2001; headlined Tour of the Rising Sum, 2001-02; contributed to Spider-Man film soundtrack, 2002; headlined Sum Like It Loud tour, 2002; released DVD Introduction to Destruction (Video Treats to Move Yo Feets), 2002.
Awards: Juno Award (Canada), Best New Group, 2001, and Best Group, Best Album and Best Rock Album for All Killer No Filler, 2002; Rolling Stone Readers’ Picks, Best Single for “Fat Lip,” 2001, Best Video for “In Too Deep,” 2002; Spin Readers’ Poll, Best Band, Best New Artist, Best Song for “Fat Lip,” Best Video for “In Too Deep,” 2002.
the rap trio the Powerful Young Hustlers when he was 11. His mother encouraged him by giving him a dollar for every song he rapped for her. Before forming Sum 41 he also was part of a Nirvana cover band and a Weezer-like group. His former bands were Eternal Death, Chemical Head, Doors of Draven, Keane’s Unbeatable Teens, Kaspir, and Final Notice.
Sum 41 went through several guitar and bass players before enticing Baksh and McCaslin to join the band. Baksh, whose nickname Brownsound reflects his Guyanese heritage, was playing alternative-metal in a Rage Against the Machine-type group called 747. He previously belonged to A.N.D.P., Anatomy, Embodiment, Doors of Draven, Glenn Dogg and P Real’s Punk Hop Explosion Fo Yo Mind, Freight Train Robbas, and Empty Chamber.
Sum 41 ended their search for a bassist when McCaslin, also known as Cone, joined them in 1999. His grunge rock band, according to the Sum 41 website, went through numerous name changes. McCaslin wrote: “Names like Wizard, Lizard Tongue, Presse and the Rippers, Second Opinion, Body Dream and finally ‘The Nights of Even Grable, A Treble Charger cover band’ eventually led to the band’s demise.”
The four friends meshed their eclectic musical roots to create a sound popular with audiences from preteen to 20. Neale Johnson of the Herald Sun characterized their sound as “freshness, hip-hop and metal to boot.” He also remarked that “Sum 41 [is] often described as a cross between Blink 182 and the Beastie Boys.”
Whibley was just 16 when he went to a Treble Charger concert in Toronto. Afterward he went backstage and struck up a conversation with the Canadian hit group’s singer, Greig Nori. At Whibley’s urging, Nori took in a Sum 41 gig. Impressed with the band, Nori took them into the studio and eventually became their Manáger. “It’s like the movies,” Nori told Rolling Stone reporter Gavin Edwards. “You find a protégé, he becomes your equal, and then he passes you.”
Some of the Sum 41 musicians disappointed their parents at first when they decided to pursue music careers rather than go to college. (Today, their parents drive to local concerts in cars with personalized license plates boasting relationships to the group.) Whibley’s father gave him one year to achieve commercial success with the band that had already been playing together for a couple of years. Grabbing the attention of record executives turned out to be easy, though, with their self-created press kit, which included video of some of the pranks they loved to pull. Edwards described the kit’s content: “The band made home videos for its own amusement, featuring remakes of action movies and footage of the members driving around, drenching pedestrians with Super Soakers. In late 1999, they edited the footage into a ten-minute montage with music and sent it off to a bunch of major labels. Within a week, there was a full-fledged bidding war.” The band signed with Island Records the same year.
The band didn’t catapult to stardom with its first release, the EP Half Hour of Power. The group’s second release was a different story. It reached number 13 on the Billboard200 album chart in 2001. Jerry Finn, who had worked with Green Day and Blink 182, and engineer “Jesus” Joe McGrath produced the album. When McGrath made the offhand remark “This album is all killer, no filler,” the album had its name. In his review of All Killer No Filler, Edwards observed that the lyrics are about apathy or breakups and include “radio-ready choruses.” Just six weeks after it was released in May of 2001, the album was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Two months later it had reached the platinum level in sales.
The next few months were very busy for Sum 41. The band opened for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, the Offspring, Blink 182, and Social Distortion, and they played dates on the summer Vans Warped tour of alternative rock bands. At MTV’s twentieth birthday party in August of 2001, Sum 41 jammed with former Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee and ex-Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford. They also appeared on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.
According to Knight-Ridder’s Vaughn Watson, Atari’s Space Invaders and Asteriods, boxer shorts, and Super Soakers influenced the band. The influences you hear in their music, however, are heavy metal, hip-hop, and rap. Steve Marshall remarked in the Daily Herald: “At times, it’s hard to separate Sum 41 from the masses, but they’re saved by their humor. While it sets them apart, they also are at their best musically when they take themselves seriously.”
Although the group’s album sold well in Canada, Sum 41 was more popular south of the border. Jocz told Maclean’s: “It’s strange to be a Canadian band and be bigger in the States. But our kind of music isn’t as popular in Canada as it is in the U.S., and there are a lot more people there.” The group shot the popular music video of its hit “Fat Lip” in Pomona, California, using fans in the video. That video provided a commercial break for the group thanks to the Bomb Squad (or goons)—the band’s so-nicknamed fans—calling in to request it and other songs on MTV’s TRL program.
Simmonsen labeled Sum 41 an “anti-boy band sensation,” while the London Times offered this description of the band: “With their speedy, neo-punk guitar sound wrapped around feel-good tunes about the angst and euphoria of growing up, Sum 41 are the princelings of New Pop.”
After recording their album, the band listened to it and decided to learn how to play better, as well as how to put on a better show. Numerous positive concert reviews indicate that their efforts have paid off. Sum 41 kicked off their Tour of the Rising Sum in December of 2001, a tour that took them across North America and overseas. The group treated audiences to such antics as pogo-jumping through songs, mock guitar battles, and metal-rock song challenges. Concert reviewers especially noted Whibley’s stage presence. Patrick MacDonald wrote in the Seattle Times that Whibley “looked and sounded like a classic English rock star, even though he’s Canadian.… He’s a showman who knows how to keep a crowd pepped up, with fancy moves, jokey comments, singalongs, and calls and responses between band and audience.” Watson suggested, “What makes Sum 41 one of music’s most engaging performers is the way its music wields sarcasm like a machete, lopping through a minefield of aggressive rap-rock and teen pop with wickedly sardonic stuff.”
While on tour, the group developed a reputation for drinking, trashing hotel rooms, and partying—though all four are nonsmokers and no one lights up around them. In spite of their bad-boy ways, Sum 41 has a marvelous work ethic. Jocz told the Times, “We have fun, but we make sure we do a good job.… We take our career seriously.… We want to be famous for putting on an awesome show.” He elaborated to J. R. Griffin in Hits: “I know that there all these pranks and silly videos and that, but we all work really hard—having a good time isn’t easy. If you think about—listen up kids—sometimes when you’re responsible, it’s even more fun in the end.” Baksh expressed the same sentiment to Johnson: “The show’s always the No. 1 priority, we’ll never be hung over or anything when we’re playing.… Because without the show, what are we going to do? We don’t have super huge mega hits like the Rolling Stones. We’ve still got to work hard on the road.”
Sum 41’s hard work earned them numerous awards from readers of Rolling Stone and Spin magazines, as well as Juno awards. Placement on the best-dressed list in Rolling Stone baffled the band, which has a couple members who wear the same stained clothes all the time when on tour. As Baksh remarked to Mac-Donald of the Seattle Times, “Maybe they [the fans] think we do that on purpose or something. Like it’s a new fashion statement: Don’t wash your clothes.”
Sum 41 has a studio in the back of its tour bus where they write songs and practice. “The band, led by singer-guitarist Derick [sic] Whibley [the primary songwriter] is writing new, hard rock-influenced songs on its current tour,” revealed Christina Fuoco in the Flint Journal. The band felt ready to play new songs and shift toward a harder, less pop-punk sound. Wrote Fuoco, “[The band] doesn’t always want to be known for the Beasties Boys-ish, rap-rock ditty ‘Fat Lip.’” Mc-Caslin told her, “[W]e don’t want to be known as a novelty band that’s going to go away. We want to be around for a while.” Perhaps as evidence they plan to stay around awhile, all band members and band Manáger Nori have “41” tattooed in red on their right arms.
In 2002 the group launched their second tour, titled Sum Like It Loud, released a DVD of a show recorded in London that debuted at number one on the Sound-Scan music DVD sales chart, and planned to begin recording their next album for release in late 2002 or early 2003. Nori will produce the new album, which will have a harder edge. Jocz disclosed to Watson that Sum 41’s next album would “not [be] as poppy. We want to be hard but still melodic.… We definitely don’t want to repeat the last album. We don’t want to go lighter. We might as well go darker.”
Meanwhile Sum 41 have enjoyed their popularity. Baksh confessed to The Record’s Ed Condran: “This is exactly where we always hoped we would be at. We’re living our dream. We’re just a bunch of suburban Canadian kids who live with our parents, who happen to be in a successful rock band.”
Half Hour of Power, Island, 2000.
All Killer No Filler, Island, 2001.
(Contributor) Out Cold (soundtrack), RCA, 2001.
(Contributor) Spider-Man (soundtrack), Columbia, 2002.
Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY), August 24, 2001.
Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 25, 2001.
Flint Journal (Flint, Ml), April 24, 2002.
Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia), February 14, 2002.
Hits, May 4, 2001.
Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, April 4, 2002.
Maclean’s, September 17, 2001.
Record (Bergen County, NJ), October 12, 2001.
Rolling Stone, October 11, 2001; February 8, 2002.
Seattle Times, January 25, 2002; January 31, 2002.
Spin, March 2002.
Times (London, England), March 12, 2002.
Washington Times, October 6, 2001.
“Sum 41,” All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (April 11, 2002).
Sum 41 Official Website, http://www.sum41.com (April 10, 2002).
—Doris Morris Maxfield
"Sum 41." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (March 21, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/sum-41
"Sum 41." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved March 21, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/sum-41
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