Admittedly, Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley isn’t one to dwell on the past. I don’t truly understand this, because if I was a member of one of the biggest rock bands in America around the turn of the century, rest assured I’d dine out on that for years to come. But different strokes, I suppose.
Point being, Whibley didn’t even know the 15th anniversary for his band’s sophomore album, Does This Look Infected?, was upon us. The band is touring in support of that anniversary, including a show at House of Blues on Saturday, May 5.
Turns out, he really didn’t need to.
“It’s one of those things that came about because it’s what the fans wanted,” Whibley said on a recent phone call. “I didn’t even know it was the 15th anniversary until the fans started asking us to do a tour in support of it. We were actually supposed to be making a new record now, but we figured we’d take a few weeks off and do this instead. But we never really talk about anniversaries; this one just sorta came up because the fans asked. Not a whole lot of thought went into it, really.”
Now, if Whibley sounds somewhat unaffected by a celebration of Sum 41’s sophomore record, well, that’s because he is. Does This Look Infected? came hot on the heels of the band’s 2001 smash debut, All Killer No Filler. Featuring hits like “Fat Lip” and “Makes No Difference,” All Killer No Filler went Triple Platinum in Sum 41’s native Canada and moved more than a million copies in the U.S. as well.
The band likely could have toured on its debut for a couple of years before hitting the studio for a proper follow-up. Instead, under pressure from management, the band cut short its time on the road to get back on the studio and get a follow-up done as soon as possible.
“I don’t think that was the best way to go about it,” the refreshingly candid Whibley said. “But we were young and pressured to put something else out. We were like, ‘sure, okay.’ We just wanted to tour, and we could have toured on that album longer than we did. We probably could have done two rounds on that record … But we were kids (Whibley was only 21 when All Killer No Filler was released) and had no idea what the business was like. We didn’t know you could keep touring on an album. We could have made more money, but at the end of the day, it all worked out.”
Now, I’m of the personal belief that Does This Look Infected? is Sum 41’s best record, despite the band having turned it around so quickly. Sum 41’s debut was quality as pop-rock goes, it felt a bit gimmicky in spots. Does This Look Infected?, meanwhile, is a textbook example of quality songwriting meeting talent meeting catchy hooks.
Whibley disagrees on this notion. While he acknowledges that the band’s sophomore effort does have its moments, it didn’t turn out quite the way he’d hoped.
“That whole record doesn’t really sound the way I wanted it to,” Whibley said. “It wasn’t mixed well, and it’s very boring to me. I can’t hear that record, and to be honest, it sounds like shit. But some of the songs are cool. I don’t think it’s our best record, and most people I know don’t think it’s the best, but many of them put it right up there.”
Sum 41 came along at an interesting time in commercial pop music. By the time the band hit with “Fat Lip,” Napster was already a thing. MTV and Total Request Live were both still prominent figures in breaking mainstream acts. Streaming services and social media were to follow, which have several diminished the impact of both major record labels and terrestrial radio.
Even so, while the band hasn’t had a hit in the United States in more than a decade, Sum 41 remains beloved in its native Canada. Of its six proper studio albums, three have gone Platinum in Canada and another has gone Gold. Each of those six albums has peaked in the top 10 of the Canadian albums chart as well.
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But, for a time, Sum 41 was part of something truly special, particularly to anyone who came of age around the turn of the Millennium. Along with bands like Blink-182, Lit and the like, Sum 41 made catchy tracks that resonate nearly two decades later.
And while Whibley admittedly prefers to focus on the band’s present and future, he acknowledges his appreciation at the band’s rapid ascent to superstardom.
“The crowds were so crazy, and they just kept getting bigger and bigger,” he said. “But TV was such a big deal back then. I remember walking down the street one day and someone stopped me, and I was like, ‘holy shit, that (“Fat Lip”) video.’ The power of TV, man.”
Sum 41's show is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 5 at House of Blues, 1204 Caroline. For information, call 888-402-5837 or visit houseofblues.com/houston. $27-$49.50.