|Origin||Edmonton, Alberta, Canada|
SNFU is a Canadian hardcore punk band. They formed in 1981 in Edmonton, and relocated to Vancouver in 1992. The band has released ten full-length albums and have been a formative influence on the skate punk subgenre. Their work has on occasion been included in rankings of the best Canadian music.
In their early years, SNFU built an audience across North America through energetic live performances and a dynamic punk sound. Their 1985 debut album ...And No One Else Wanted to Play has remained influential in underground circuits. They grew in popularity following two further studio albums, but disbanded in 1989 due to internal tensions.
SNFU reformed two years later, in a second incarnation that found greater success. They signed with the prominent indie label Epitaph Records, achieved six-digit record sales and toured in support of larger groups. The band became independent in 1997 after their contract with Epitaph expired and again disbanded in 2005, but reformed two years later.
The group is fronted by the eccentric singer, lyricist, and artist Ken Chinn, credited as Mr. Chi Pig. Founding members and twin brothers Brent and Marc Belke helped create the band's melodic hardcore punk sound with dual guitar work before their departures in 1998 and 2005, respectively. Nearly 30 musicians have played in the group, with only Chinn remaining constant. Since 2014, the band has consisted of Chinn, bassist Dave Bacon, and guitarists Randy Steffes and Kurt Robertson; Batikão Est has served as the group's drummer since 2016. In March 2018 the band announced a hiatus due to unspecified health concerns.
Ken Chinn met twin brothers Brent and Marc Belke in Edmonton in the late 1970s. The three were teenagers who shared interests in the skateboarding subculture and burgeoning punk rock movement. In 1981, they formed the punk band Live Sex Shows with drummer Ed Dobek and bassist Phil Larson. The band broke up later that year after a few gigs.
Chinn and the Belkes began a new group, Society's No Fucking Use, shortened to Society's NFU. The initial lineup was completed by bassist Warren Bidlock and drummer Evan C. Jones. After a few months of gigging, Bidlock departed due to stage fright. The group recorded their debut, two-song demo cassette "Life of a Bag Lady", with Scott Juskiw playing bass as a studio guest.
Bassist Jimmy Schmitz replaced Bidlock late in 1982, and the group adopted the SNFU moniker. Two studio tracks on the It Came From Inner Space compilation LP on Rubber Records followed early in 1983. (These recordings were later re-released on the Real Men Don't Watch Quincy bootleg 7" in 1990.) SNFU gradually built an audience throughout North America on the strength of their aggressive live set, their support for touring acts such as Youth Brigade, the Dead Kennedys, and GBH, and their track "Victims of the Womanizer" on the Something to Believe In compilation LP released on the American label BYO Records.
SNFU's debut album, ...And No One Else Wanted to Play, was recorded in Los Angeles and released via BYO in 1985. The album made an immediate impact in the underground punk scene, with noted artist Pushead writing in Maximumrocknroll that the album's "[r]igorous energy push[es] the limits of power with knocking flurry and extreme excitement." Pushead concluded that the album was "a scorcher."
Jones left the band due to exhaustion in mid 1985. Dave Bacon was slated to replace him on drums, but ultimately joined as bassist after Schmitz's departure in May.Jon Card (previously of Personality Crisis, and later of D.O.A and the Subhumans) moved to Edmonton to join as drummer, and the group toured North America. SNFU's second and more experimental album, If You Swear, You'll Catch No Fish, was recorded in 1986 and released on BYO. Card left the band after the album's completion. With his replacement, Ted Simm, SNFU self-released the She's Not on the Menu 7" EP, which also included the "Life of a Bag Lady" recordings from 1982. Bacon departed in early 1987 due to musical differences and health concerns. He was replaced by Curtis Creager (of Urban Holiday), a former roommate of Chinn and Marc Belke.
The band enjoyed steadily increasing popularity: in 1987, Flipside fanzine voted them Best Live Band, beating the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fugazi. Metallica included photos of lead singer James Hetfield wearing SNFU's iconic 'zombie' T-shirt in their $5.98 E.P.: Garage Days Re-Revisited. SNFU toured alongside Voivod and the Dayglo Abortions, and signed to the larger Cargo Records imprint. Their third record, Better Than a Stick in the Eye, was produced by Cecil English and issued in 1988. The album remains influential among hardcore punk audiences. The group's touring in support of the album included their first trip to Europe.
Due to internal tensions and musical differences, they disbanded in late 1989. Simm returned to his home of Winnipeg, while Chinn relocated to Vancouver and led the short-lived bands The Wongs and Little Joe. The Belkes and Creager formed the Wheat Chiefs, a melodic rock band that released one record, Redeemer, in 1996.
In 1991, SNFU released The Last of the Big Time Suspenders, an album of live material, demos, and studio outtakes, to satisfy their contract with Cargo. The band reformed around the Belkes, Chinn, Creager, and Card, initially planning only a supporting promotional tour. The tour was successful, however, and after several months of consideration, they decided to reactivate the band.
The Belkes joined Chinn and Card in Vancouver in June 1992 and began a new incarnation of the group with bassist Ken Fleming (formerly of the Winnipeg-based skate punk band The Unwanted). Suffering from substance abuse problems, Card was replaced by Dave Rees, who had played in the Wheat Chiefs and former SNFU tour mates Broken Smile. This lineup completed an extensive European tour. Fleming was dismissed due to personality conflicts in December and was replaced by the then-current Wheat Chiefs bassist Rob Johnson.
In 1993, the band signed a three-record deal with Epitaph Records, an independent punk rock label on the cusp of mainstream success through releases from groups like The Offspring and Rancid. SNFU entered a period of heavy activity. They released two demo tracks for their next album as the small-run "Beautiful, Unlike You and I" EP on the Hom Wreckerds Music imprint. The album, Something Green and Leafy This Way Comes, appeared via Epitaph in 1993. This era found them playing increasingly melodic music, influenced by the third-wave punk sound that also owed a debt to the band's own previous innovations. They shared touring bills with Green Day and Bad Religion, and received opening support from Korn and Tool.
In 1995, the band released their fifth studio album, The One Voted Most Likely to Succeed. Both SNFU and Epitaph hoped that the record would capitalize on the crossover success of other recent third-wave punk bands, but this did not happen. Nonetheless, critics acknowledge the record as a "classic of '90s punk" in which the veteran musicians "handle the record's more difficult material with grace and power." The band completed and released the follow-up album FYULABA in 1996, which was produced by Dave Ogilvie and received mixed reviews.
Epitaph did not renew the band's contract after its expiration late in 1997. As a stopgap between studio albums, the band issued Let's Get It Right the First Time, a faux-live album co-released by Megaforce Records and the band's new, self-run label Rake Records, the following year. In March 1998, Rees and Brent Belke both departed and pursued careers in film and television. Despite industry frustrations and the loss of members, Chinn, Johnson, and Marc Belke opted to continue.
SNFU hired drummer Sean Stubbs (of Numb, Jakalope, and Bif Naked's band) to complete their first four-piece lineup. They continued to tour and began sporadic work on a new record, which would ultimately take six years. Stubbs was replaced by Chris Thompson (known as Corporal Ninny) in 1999. They released The Ping Pong EP, featuring five outtakes from the FYULABA sessions, in 2000 via the Alternative Tentacles label. The band also recorded studio sessions with guest drummer Trevor MacGregor (of Treble Charger), which would later appear on their seventh studio album.
In June 2001, Johnson left the band after a nine-year tenure. He was replaced for a single gig by Matt Warhurst (of Ocean 3 and Jakalope), until Thompson departed and the band entered a two-year hiatus. Belke led the band Based On a True Story, with Warhurst, before relocating to Toronto. Chinn formed Slaveco. with Warhurst and several musicians from Ocean 3 and Based On a True Story.
SNFU resumed in May 2003 with Marc Belke, MacGregor, Warhurst, and producer Pete Wonsiak completing the tracking for the new record. The album, In the Meantime and In Between Time, was released on Rake Records the following year. It was heralded as a return to form for the band, with some critics ranking it among their finest work. The album's song "Cockatoo Quill" ranked among the top 20 most beloved Canadian songs in a 2017 poll by CBC Music. Shane Smith (of Ocean 3, Based On a True Story, and Slaveco.) joined the group for touring in support of the album.
In August 2005, the group again disbanded, due to frustrations with the music industry and internal tensions. Belke began working in radio, hosting his own show. Chinn's severe health problems escalated, and he became homeless for a time before entering into assisted living.
In July 2007, Chinn and Fleming planned to play a set of SNFU songs as "asSNFU" at SNFU's 25th anniversary party. With Fleming playing guitar, they recruited bassist Bryan McCallum (of Karen Foster) and drummer Chad Mareels (of Fleming's former group Dog Eat Dogma) to complete the band. asSNFU played a small handful of concerts thereafter before dropping the "as" prefix and billing themselves as simply "SNFU." The continuation of the band in the absence of Belke caused minor controversy; but Chinn stated, "As far as I'm concerned it's SNFU. The band has changed all throughout the years, and this is just another change. That's exactly how I see it ... Those songs are my life. I'll fucking play them 'til I die." In 2008, Denis Nowoselski replaced McCallum, while Shane Smith later returned to replace Mareels. The group embarked on extensive Canadian and European tours.
Open Your Mouth and Say... Mr. Chi Pig, a biographical documentary film about Chinn, was released in March 2010. Produced by the Canadian company Prairie Coast Films and directed by Sean Patrick Shaul, the film focused on Chinn's life, including his drug abuse and schizophrenia. It featured interviews with Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys, Brendan Canning of Broken Social Scene, Corb Lund of the Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans and The Smalls, and Joey Keithley of D.O.A. In April, Jon Card joined the band for a third time, replacing Smith. Shortly thereafter, the band completed its first five-piece lineup in 12 years with the addition of second guitarist and harmony vocalist Sean Colig (of Minority, Savannah, and SideSixtySeven).
Several 2011 dates were cancelled due to Chinn's severe case of pneumonia. The group nonetheless remained active, composing its first batch of new material since reforming. Punk historian and author Chris Walter released an official biography of the band, What No One Else Wanted to Say, via GFY Press later that year. Bassist Kerry Cyr (of SideSixtySeven) replaced Nowoselski at the conclusion of their 2012 tour. The cover song "I Wanna Be an East Indian" was released under the SNFU moniker on Cruzar Media's Dayglo Abortions tribute album, but was recorded by Chinn and unrelated backing musicians.
Their eighth studio album, Never Trouble Trouble Until Trouble Troubles You, was announced for a September release via Cruzar Media, but was delayed. The band embarked upon its first tour of Japan and a subsequent Canadian tour, with guest drummer Junior Kittlitz replacing the ailing Card. Ultimately released in November, the new record was their first release in nine years and their first without founding member Marc Belke. It received generally positive reviews from critics, who acknowledged the new lineup's successful approximation of the group's previous work. Nevertheless, some reviewers were critical of the album, questioning Chinn's ability to continue performing. SNFU splintered late in 2013, as all members other than Chinn departed after the supporting tours.
Between lineups, "I Wanna Be an East Indian" was issued as a one-track digital download single. A new incarnation of the band was assembled in February, when Chinn was joined by returning bassist Dave Bacon, guitarists Kurt Robertson (of The Real McKenzies) and Randy Steffes (a former SNFU and Green Day sound man), and drummer Adrian White (of Strapping Young Lad and Front Line Assembly). Beginning in April, the band played in Europe, Canada, and made their first American appearances since 2001. They returned to tour Europe in July with British drummer Jamie Oliver (of the U.K. Subs) replacing White. Guest drummer Txutxo Krueger (of Total Chaos) also filled in for several dates.
Further Canadian touring was planned for November, which would include the return of Curtis Creager and Ted Simm. The tour was ultimately postponed, and SNFU returned to dormancy. The band toured in 2015 with Bacon and Oliver. On their Canadian dates they performed ...And No One Else Wanted to Play in its entirety to commemorate the record's 30th anniversary. They also performed in Australia and New Zealand for the first time since 1997. Basque drummer Batikão Est (of Estricalla) played with the group during its 2016 and 2017 tours of Europe and Canada, while Oliver remained with the group for studio sessions.
Marc Belke reworked two demo tracks from 2000 and released them as SNFU's "A Happy Number" single on Rake Records in November 2017. The band planned 2018 touring dates, but canceled these due to undisclosed illness and announced a hiatus. During the hiatus, Bacon formed the new band Dangers of Love while Steffes rejoined The Real McKenzies for touring.
Singles and EPs