Chances are, it’s been a few years since Sum 41 popped up on your radar. The four piece haven’t released a full-length since 2007, and few albums since 2001′s runaway success All Killer No Filler have managed to spawn catchy, radio-friendly rock hits like “In Too Deep” and “Fat Lip.” Or maybe you have been hearing Sum 41 and you just didn’t realize it—the once bratty pop punks have consistently developed a heavier and more mature sound that doesn’t sound much like their earlier work.
Either way, the Canadian rockers are back in action this spring. They have a new album, Screaming Bloody Murder, and a new outlook on what’s important to them. OurStage caught up with bassist Jason “Cone” McCaslin to talk about the evolution of the band, the struggles of putting together the new album and how Sum 41 doesn’t count on radio for their success.
OS: First, to clear up a mystery: why does everyone call you “Cone”?
CM: Umm, I mean it’s just one of those nicknames that I got in high school when I was fifteen or sixteen, something like that. It’s actually kind of a really stupid story, but I used to eat a lot of ice cream all the time. And so Deryck and all those guys—before I was even in Sum 41— they just started calling me Cone. And so when I joined Sum 41, they just kept on calling me Cone. Just one of those stupid high school things, really.
CM: I guess the original idea was, Deryck had four or five songs written so I’d fly down to LA and we’d just kind of do these four or five songs that he had. We started talking about, “You know, maybe we should release an EP.” And then once they were recorded—and we kind of almost did fully record the EP except for mixing, really—we just decided that we liked the songs a lot. We started thinking about how EPs don’t really… they kind of go unnoticed. It’s just kind of a waste of time to do as an EP. So we decided that we really liked the songs and we didn’t want the songs to go unnoticed, and Deryck was writing a lot. It was like, “You know what? Let’s just wait and as you write some songs we’ll all fly down to LA and just record them as you have them.” That’s basically it.
OS: You guys had to pay for some of the cost of this album out of pocket—how did it get to that point?
CM: I guess we went over budget. I’m not really sure. We recorded the album, and then once it was kind of done we listened to it and we all decided we didn’t feel like it was complete. There was something missing about it. And Deryck was still writing songs, he was kind of writing songs all through the process of recording. He had these two songs, which are “Time for You to Go” and “Maybe You Don’t Want to Know,” and he said, “Yeah, I’ve got these two new songs. I think this could be the piece of the album that we’re missing.” So we went to the label and said, “We’ve got two more songs we want to record.” And to them, we were kind of done. They gave us all the money to record, and to them the album was done. So when we said there was two more songs we wanted to record, they said, “No. We’re not gonna pay for this.” And we just liked the two songs a lot, and we wanted them on the album, so we just said, “Okay fuck it. We’ll just pay for it then.”
OS: Deryck has given a few interviews regarding the new album where he seems to have a very “fuck what everyone thinks” attitude about whether or not people like the material. Do you feel the same way?
CM: No, I don’t know if it’s… we’ve talked about this many times, and when we talk about it as a band it’s not like we’re all, “Fuck everyone, we hate everyone.” We’re not bitter and jaded, we just feel like we have a real connection with our fans and we have a really strong fan base. So basically by saying that, we’re not really saying “Fuck you, fuck you.” We’re just saying if radio doesn’t play it, or if video channels don’t pick up our video, then it’s not the end of the world to us. Where ten years ago it was like, we were always told we had to be on the radio. Now it’s like yeah, it would be cool. We’d love to be on the radio. If our song gets played on the radio, we’re happy. We’re excited. But if it doesn’t happen we’re not pissed off and bummed out. We’re just like, “Okay, well fuck it.” We have a strong fan base, and people are still coming to our shows. We have a lot of fans around the world, and we still tour around the world playing really good shows…