While I would love to see All Time Low and Gym Class Heroes at The Pearl Theater or Something Corporate at The House of Blues, there was another show that caught my eye. Honestly, there’s no contest for me. Sum 41 will be performing at Brooklyn Bowl with Plain White T’s and one of my favorite fun bands, Bowling For Soup. Since I haven’t seen Sum 41, they are a definite bucket list item for me and it will be one of their last shows, ever. In May, Sum 41 announced that they would be disbanding after finishing their current world tour and the release of their final album, Heaven and Hell. Of course, I was heartbroken to hear this news but it made me all the more determined to see them while they’re still together. Let’s take a look back at their extraordinary career, shall we?
Sum 41 came to fruition by original band members, Deryck Whibley, Jason “Cone” McCaslin and Tom Thacker and Steve Jocz aka” Steve O” in 1996. Dave “Brown Sound” Baksh joined the band in 1998. They decided to name their band based on the day it all started, the 41st day of summer so “Sum 41” became the name of the band. They were a bunch of kids who grew up in suburban Toronto and out of their love of punk rock bands like NOFX and Pennywise, they attended The Warped Tour. That whole festival experience became their goal. They would go on to play The Warped Tour the first time on July 20, 2000.
They released their first extended play album, Half Hour of Power in 2000 and we were introduced to Makes No Difference and their fun, pop punk rock style. Let’s face it, they were kids having the time of their lives, of course, they are going to produce a fun extended play.
In May 2001, All Killer No Filler was released and Fat Lip, In Too Deep and Motivation flooded the alternative radio stations and the airwaves with the notorious and unforgettable videos. I personally remember playing these songs when I was getting ready to go out with my friends or blast Sum 41 from my car stereo while cruising. Their music would get me in the mood to have a fun, happy go lucky evening and it worked!
Wasting no time, Does This Look Infected was released in November 2002. We would be introduced to The Hell Song, which was written about a close friend who was diagnosed with HIV. For such a serious topic, Sum 41 created a really inspirational and optimistic song! One of my favorite songs was on this album, Still Waiting, was one of those anthem songs for me. Right off the bat “Am I still waiting for this world to stop hating?” Well, yes actually, we should all do our part to eliminate hate but that’s another article for another day.
While the past two records were a compilation of fun, pop punk and carefree type songs, the next album would change course. The band went to The Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa to shoot a documentary “From The Front Lines” for the Canadian Charity, War Child. This experience would alter
each of their lives forever. I highly recommend and encourage you to check out the documentary on YouTube. Learning about the war torn area and how the children fit into that society is a heartbreaking reality for kids who aren’t even old enough to drink.
During their trip to The Congo, Sum 41 was seriously afraid for their lives as bullets were flying and the tanks came rolling in. Each member came to the realization that it could all end right here, in this way. It was a humbling experience as the band reminisced about other bands who were at their local bar having a beer. They would end their trip a bit earlier than expected due to the escalation of violence in their immediate paths. A United Nations Peacekeeper named Chuck would orchestrate and direct the bands escape from their very dangerous space in The Congo back to safety. The band casually mentioned that if Chuck could get them home safely, they would name their next album after him. Chuck would be released in October 2004. Chuck would prove to be a little harder and more serious from their first two studio albums. It’s safe to say that this album was highly influenced by their experiences in The Congo.
Incidentally, Dave Brown Sound would leave the band in 2006 citing creative differences as the reason for his departure. Dave always wanted to play metal and had been responsible for the heavier riffs in Sum 41’s discography. Everyone moved on amicably into their own directions and with Dave’s departure, Sum 41 would turn back to their Pop Punk roots and release Underclass Hero in May 2007. Additonally, Deryck Whibley would go on to produce this album himself. I know I am always impressed when artists step out of their main songwriting role and head into the genre of producing. It makes me so much more interested in what they’re planning next. I have mad respect for Deryck and all of his encompassing talent.
Screaming Bloody Murder was released March 2011 and when Mr. Brown Sound himself heard the album, it was rumored that he stated that he never should have left the band. Perhaps, Dave, but I believe these things happen for a reason. It would prove to be a sweet reunion in 2015 when Dave would finally rejoin the guys! More about that later…
During the time between Underclass Hero and Screaming Bloody Murder, there was turmoil for the band personally. Deryck and Avril Lavigne would divorce and while that is super sad for us who love both of them, we can only imagine the heartbreak they felt. Ending a marriage is one of life’s most stressful and significant events in our lifetime and the pain will manifest itself in a variety of ways. If you’re writing, recording and producing a studio album while making a documentary (Don’t Try This At Home), it may just come out as a big “f*ck you”, which is incidentally what happened while recording Screaming Bloody Murder. It was a tumultuous time and the guys partied way harder than you can imagine.
April 2013, Stevo announced that he would be leaving the band. We understand he’s in real estate and doing quite well. Everyone wishes him all the best. Frank Zummo would enter the picture as the new drummer of Sum 41.
Pay the Piper? It was April 2014, when lead singer, songwriter, producer and overall badass, Deryck Whibley collapsed in his kitchen. The hard partying ways were catching up to Deryck. He was rushed to the hospital and was told that he was in liver and kidney failure. He nearly died four different times while hospitalized but the doctors were able to get him stabilized and on the road to recovery with very strict precaution. If Deryck were to have another drink, he would die. To everyone’s delight, Deryck is clean and sober today and thriving in his personal life. In 2015, Deryck married Ariana Cooper and the couple have two beautiful daughters. I am personally so happy that Deryck found his happily ever after and is still entertaining us to this day.
Finally, in October 2016, we see the guys have matured quite a bit in their professional and personal lives with the release of their sixth studio album, 13 Voices. With the return of Dave, the album sounds more heavy metal and less pop punk.
The next album, Order In Decline, was released in July 2019 which I rank as one of their best albums. It’s honest and raw feelings being screamed into the microphone with the heavy metal guitar riffs, I could identify as feelings I was having on so many issues of our time. I know Deryck said he didn’t want this album to be a “political” album but to his credit, the creative process is one where he allows the words and feelings to flow. Being advocates and humanitarians, you cannot help but write about those topics which is the main reason I love Sum 41 so much. They truly care about their music and their fans but they also care on a grander scale of humanitarianism. So, with the murder of George Floyd, the protests in the U.S. and rise of authoritarianism, the question is which side of history do you want to be on? For me, again, I have nothing but mad respect for Deryck and his band, Sum 41.
In May 2023, Sum 41 announced they would be disbanding which is really sad for this Elder Emo Mom but I cannot help but wonder if Deryck has something bigger and better up his sleeve? I don’t know about you but I will be tuning in to see what Deryck, Dave, Cone, Tom and Frank will be doing next. The world is their oyster and whatever they do, we, the fans who love them will always relish the memories of seeing the guys aggressively jump and play their instruments while screaming the lyrics that we identify with on so many different levels.
We have one final album to look forward to and anticipating its release either late 2023 or early 2024, Heaven :x: Hell. This album will show a duality of the band with a Pop Punk / Metal and the diversity of the band. I fully expect this album to be badass and a grand finale of sorts.
Thank you, Sum 41, for all you’ve done and contributed musically over the past 27 years! We’ve grown so much over the past quarter of a century together. There were good times, bad times, scary times but
you’ve been there through it all and have emerged victorious. We, the fans, thank you; love you and look forward to whatever comes next for you and for us.
If you were lucky enough to score tickets to the side show at Brooklyn Bowl on October 20, 2023 or if you attend the When We Were Young Festival on October 21 or October 22, 2023, I hope to see you there! I’ll be the Elder Emo Mom in the crowd rocking and pumping my fists to the beats of Sum 41, don’t be afraid to come say hello!
Special guest writing by Tammy Ware-Cashell; live photos of Sum 41 at Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas in 2018 by Courtney Ware for ZrockR Magazine. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.