Fat Wreck Chords documentary set to crash The Roxy

Culture Music

When Greg Pratt, managing editor of the Nexus Newspaper at Camosun College, received a Facebook message three years ago from Texas filmmaker Shaun Colón asking him to help produce a documentary, he originally laughed it off.

“You know how it goes. You get a random email from some yahoos in the south saying, ‘I want to make a movie with you’ and you’re just kind of like, ‘yeah, sure’ . . . thinking it would never happen,” said Pratt.

But three years of hard work and a successful Indiegogo campaign later ($35 000 raised, 404 per cent the original goal), what started as a disregarded Facebook message has now become Fat Wreck: The Punk-umentary, a history of San Francisco-based punk rock label Fat Wreck Chords, which is making its Victorian premiere at The Roxy on Nov. 26.

Pratt had just written an extensive piece about Propaghandi, his favourite band, for Exclaim! Magazine, which Colón took notice to and decided that he would be the right guy to collaborate with. Pratt agreed to help out as a joke, but soon found himself on a plane down to California to interview some of his favourite punk idols, including Propaghandi, NOFX, and Lagwagon, who have been with Fat Wreck Chords since the beginning in 1990.

Fat Wreck features many of the popular stars of the label, including the president himself, Fat Mike (also from the band NOFX), and vice-president Erin Kelly-Burkett, who both started the label out of their apartment together back in 1990. Since then, the couple has separated, but the label has stood the test of time, continuing to sign punk bands that have that ‘fat’ sound.

The film is a mixture of interviews with bands signed to Fat, archival performance footage, montages of band discographies, and even puppets. That’s right: puppets in the likeness of major fixtures on Fat Wreck Chords playfully act out anecdotal stories of Fat Mike and other band members that perfectly reflect the shooting-the-shit rambunctiousness of punk music. They’re all in the biz because they love doing it, not because they want to make a ton of money making music.

Puppets carry the show at many points of A Fat Wreck, including this felt facade of Fat Wreck Chords founder
Puppets carry the show at many points of A Fat Wreck, including this felt facade of Fat Wreck Chords founder Fat Mike. Photo provided.

It’s not only hard work from the DIY duo of Fat Mike and Kelly-Burkett that allowed the company to stick around, even through shifts in the industry like the decline of record sales and illegal downloading — it was sticking together no matter what. At Fat Wreck Chords, you are part of the family. The documentary examines how punk rock provided an outlet and a community for many young kids who felt like they couldn’t, for whatever reason, connect at home or in their daily life.

As Fat Mike says in the film, “Punk rock is really about a family . . . it’s a chosen family.”

Anyone who had the ‘fat’ sound and wanted to make music because they loved it, did well at Fat. Jason Cruz, vocalist for Strung Out, says in the film, “You’re on Fat Wreck Chords because you’re going to put everything you got into it.”.

“They do whatever the f*ck they want and make it fun for everybody,” says Chris Cresswell of the Flatliners. “They really give a shit.”

“I would hope that people see [the film] and don’t think of music as a career,” said Pratt. “You make music because you have some desire to.”

“Just don’t try to make music to get rich, which has kind of been one of the punk rock rallying cries forever.”

While never getting too heavy, the film’s playful angst is balanced out by grounding and heartbreaking recounts of band members previously signed to Fat Wreck Chords who have passed on, and the legacy they created for the Fat family and the punk rock community. The film will be sure to uplift you and make you bang your head in equal measure.

Fat Wreck: The Punk-umentary is available on VOD and Blu-Ray/DVD today, and premieres at The Roxy on Nov. 26 at 7 p.m., with a Q&A with Greg Pratt to follow. Tickets are $12, cash only; 17+ only. More information can be found at afatwreck.com and on Facebook.