The members of Sum 41, Dave Baksh (a.k.a. Brownsound/Hot Chocolate; Guitar/Vocals), Mark "London" Spicoluk (Bass/Vocals), Deryck Jayson Whibley (a.k.a.: Bizzy D.; Lead Vocals/Guitar), and Steve Jocz (a.k.a. Stevo 32/Stevo; Drums/Vocals) started out in rival bands in high school. They joke that they met while attending a Hole concert 41 days into the summer of 1996. The band was originally named My Nuts Are Huge Kaspir, but they changed their name to Sum 41 for a Supernova show at the Opera House bar in Toronto on September 28, 1996 in commemoration of that Hole concert.
The group went through several bassists before settling on Jason "Cone" McCaslin to complete the lineup in 1999.
Demo tapes were created to encourage a record deal. The tapes are rare and the only ones known to exist are with Deryck Whibley and Richard Roy. Their first EP, Half Hour of Power (2000), certified as gold in Canada.
In those early days the band carried a video camera with them to film their crazy antics including robbing a pizza place with water guns and performing a dance to Makes No Difference in front of a theater (both of which can be seen on the introduction to Destruction and on some versions of the bonus DVD from Does This Look Infected?). The band submitted the video footage along with their demo tapes to several record labels. 'Island Records', wanting to capitalize on the pop-punk fad popularized by Green Day, signed Sum 41 in early 2000. The band subsiquently released the EP Half Hour of Power on June 27 of that same year. The first single released by the band being Makes No Difference, taken from the EP, had two different videos: the first video was put together using the video clip sent to the record label and the second showed the band performing at a house party; the EP went certified gold in Canada.
Sum 41's first full-length album, All Killer, No Filler, was released on May 8, 2001. The first single released from it being Fat Lip which became a huge hit during the summer, becoming the number 1 track on the U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks for a week. The song remains the band's most successful song to date. Performances on the Warped Tour during the year further increased the popularity of the band. Two other singles were subsequently released, In Too Deep, which had a comedy video of them in a diving competition, and Motivation, a simplistic video of the band playing in a classic garage band theme. The band toured for much of that year, playing 300 shows in 2001, including a co-headlined tour with Blink-182 before returning to the studio to record another CD. The band, along with Ja Rule and Nelly, also covered Walk This Way by Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C. in 2002.
The second album, Does This Look Infected?, came in 2002 bringing in a heavier style, while keeping the smooth harmonies they had become known for. The special edition came with a DVD, Cross The T's and Gouge Your I's. The album peaked at No. 32 on the Billboard 200 chart and at No. 8 on the Top Canadian Albums chart, eventually getting certified platinum in Canada and gold in the United States. Despite this, it was not as successful as its predecessor. The first single released from the album, Still Waiting, peaked at No. 7 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. The track saw them mocking "new-garage" retro-rock under the name of The Sums and was a parody of one of The Strokes' videos. The second single, The Hell Song, peaked at No. 13.
The band followed up with the single for the track The Hell Song which had the band using dolls with their pictures on them along with others such as Ozzy Osbourne and Jesus Christ. Their next single, Over My Head (Better Off Dead), had a video released exclusively in Canada and on their website, featuring live shots of the band. The video was also on their live DVD, Sake Bombs And Happy Endings (2004), as a bonus feature. It has also received limited airing on various music television stations in the USA and UK.
After extensive touring in support of the album, Iggy Pop recruited Sum 41 for his new album, Skull Ring. They co-wrote the first single from the album Little Know It All and joined Iggy on the TV talk show, The Late Show with David Letterman to promote the song. In early 2004, the band contributed to the first Rock Against Bush album by recording the song Moron, which was also a bonus track in the Japanese import of their follow-up album, Chuck.
In late May of 2004, the band traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo along with War Child Canada, a branch of the British charity organization, to document the civil war occurring in the country. The trip ended off being probably more effort then it was worth when fighting broke out near the hotel they were staying at. It would be Canadian UN peacekeeper Charles "Chuck" Pelletier who got the band and the other occupants of the hotel (40 people in total) evacuated from the area using armored troop carriers. The band named their next album Chuck in honour of Chuck Pelletier for taking them to safety. The documentary was made into a film called ROCKED: Sum 41 in Congo, and was later aired on MTV. War Child released it on DVD on November 29, 2005 in the United States and Canada.
When that album Chuck was subsequently released on October 12, 2004 it was a heavier album that had a much more serious mood, without the humor of the band's previous releases. The first single released from the album (as well as the only song written after the Congo incident) was We're All to Blame. The song switching from a fast pace to a slow one represented the band's trip in the Congo, how one minute it was peaceful and the next there were gunshots being fired. The band followed it up with Pieces, a relatively soft song which reached the top of the charts in Canada, and Some Say, released as a single only in Canada and Japan. The last single of the record was No Reason, released at the same time of Some Say, but with no video and only in USA and Europe; it reached #16 on Billboard Modern Rock. The album asa whole charted at No. 10 on the Billboard 200 chart.
Following their Go Chuck Yourself tour, Sum 41 co-headlined a tour in USA along with Good Charlotte with support from Lola Ray and Hazen Street before opening for Mötley Crüe on their Carnival Of Sins tour.
Sum 41 released their next CD, a live set, Happy Live Surprise in Japan on December 21, 2005. The CD contained a full concert recorded live from London, Ontario, Canada and was produced by Whibley himself. The same CD was released March 7, 2006 in Canada under the name Go Chuck Yourself. This version was released by 'Aquarius Records' instead of 'EMI', the band's former label in Canada. The label dispute started when the band had an issue with their producer and their management company, Greig Nori and Bunk Rock Music (Whibley's production company). Since their management company had a contract with 'EMI', after the band left the company and dropped the producer, the contract was broken and they were free to move on. The Japanese version contained a CD with 5 songs from their live performance. It was originally to be a DVD, but the band was unhappy with the way the filming turned out and decided to put out a live CD instead. The footage being incorporated into another project along with the rest of the film from the tour. Following their September 11, 2005 show in Quebec City, Quebec, the band went on a touring hiatus, although on April 17, 2006, Sum 41 played at a tribute to Iggy Pop, joining Iggy on stage for Little Know It All and Lust For Life.
On, May 11, 2006, Dave Baksh (a.k.a. Dave Brownsound) announced in a statement through his management company that he was leaving Sum 41 to work with his new band, Brown Brigade. Baksh's departure from the band was said to have been due to artistic differences, and his desire to play music with a more classical metal sound. On May 12th, Whibley made the first official comment on the subject on the official message board post addressing Backsh's departure. Whibley said that they had no plans of replacing Backsh, and will hire someone to tour with them and play on live shows, although that person won't be in videos, photo shoots, albums, or have any decision-making power in the band.
During the band's touring hiatus, McCaslin started a side project with Todd Morse of H2O and Juliette and the Licks called The Operation MD.
The next album, Underclass Hero, was released on July 24, 2007 to rave reviews to achieve their best charting thus far backed by the first single and title track, Underclass Hero. It debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 and at No. 1 on the Billboard Rock Albums chart while selling over 1 million copies worldwide. It also peaked at No. 1 on the Canadian Albums chart and on the Alternative Albums chart; a first for the band. The membership now featuring: Deryck Jayson Whibley (a.k.a.: Bizzy D.; Lead Vocals/Guitar), Jason "Cone" McCaslin (Bass/Vocals), Steve Jocz (a.k.a. Stevo 32/Stevo; Drums/Vocals).
In October 2007, the band began the Strength In Numbers Tour, a tour of Canada with Canadian band Finger Eleven with Die Mannequin openeing each of Sum 41's shows. During the tour, Whibley sustained a herniated disk and the tour was put on hold while he recovered. After the tour, the band took an extended break.
Their first greatest hits album, All the Good Shit arrived in 2008; the disc was named 8 Years of Blood, Sake and Tears in Japan.
Gob frontman Tom Thacker joined the band and would take part in the writing and recording.
After a delay Screaming Bloody Murder arrived in 2011.
Whibley married fellow Canadian pop musician Avril Levigne.
On August 9, 2011, Sum 41 released the live album Live at the House of Blues, Cleveland 9.15.07 - a live recording of a show that took place on September 15, 2007, in Cleveland, Ohio while on tour for the previous album.
On August 13, 2011, while the band was touring the US as part of the Vans Warped Tour, making up for dates the group had to cancel on its 2010 stint on the tour; the band was forced once again to cancel all remaining dates in the US and Canada after playing only 3 shows, after Whibley re-injured his back. Those cancellation went through their 2011 dates on other events as well.
On November 30, 2011, the band was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance for the song Blood In My Eyes, but ultimately lost to Foo Fighters.
On April 18, 2013, Jocz announced he would be leaving the band and was replaced by Street Drum Corps drummer Frank Zummo a full two years later in 2015.
On May 16, 2014, Deryck Whibley reported that he had a liver and kidney failure due to extensive drinking. He also stated that he had some ideas for new songs, and that the band would be soon starting to make a new album. That album emerged in 2016 as 13 Voices (2016).
In terms of style, the band's early musical style is often compared to Blink-182 pop-punk songs, owing to the catchy melodies and humor present in the work of both bands. More recently the musical genre of Sum 41 has been disputed among fans because of the complex combination of different musical styles. The argument is centralized around the punk streak of the band, and they have been labeled as pop-punk, punk rock and even pop rock. Their lyrics contain some influence and the band's later albums are known for their often politically-driven music.