When the likes of The Weeknd, Justin Bieber, Drake, Alessia Cara and Sean Mendes sparked all kinds of hysteria in Canada’s music industry by dominating the top 10 spots on the American Billboard charts last December, the five members of Montreal’s Simple Plan could be excused for just offering a shrug. After all, they have been present in the U.S charts for the past 14 years!
Ever since lead vocalist Pierre Bouvier, dual guitarists Sebastien Lefebvre and Jeff Stinco, drummer Chuck Comeau and bassist David Desrosier arrived on North America’s music scene in 2002 with their punk fuelled `No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls’ released, helped along with contributions from Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus and Good Charlotte’s Joel Madden, Simple Plan has been one of a very few number of new Canadian bands to make an impression state side.
“It’s an interesting but challenging time for music,” noted Lefebvre, in Toronto to promote the band’s latest release, `Taking One For The Team’. “Rock bands in particular have to come up with something really special. They are competing against so many great singers and so many innovative sound producers, the competition is really tough.”
In the case of Simple Plan, they have succeeded by developing and refining a `Simple Plan sound’ which is anchored on their original punk rock roots but has been refined over the past 14 years to incorporate more melody as they’ve matured. “We are constantly trying to make our records more relevant, that will always be our biggest challenge,” Lefebvre explained.
When each album release requires about two years of touring around the globe to satisfy their demanding fans, it’s hardly surprising there are sometimes four or five year gaps between records, the gap between their 2011 release, `Get Your Heart On’ being almost five years.
“Our new record has only been out for a couple of months and we already have fans asking when the next one is coming out,” laughs Lefebvre. “But most of the fans recognize there is a process involved. We tour the record for two and sometimes three years, we take a break and then go into pre-production on a new album and we won’t release it until all of us agree that it’s as strong as we can make it. It was the same with `Taking One For The Team’, we could have released it last Fall but we all felt there was something missing, so we keep working to write songs that we feel are up to our fans’ expectations.”
Instead, the band released a series of singles, starting with “Boom” in August before following with “I Don’t Want To Go To Bed” and “I Don’t Want To Be Sad” to give their long-suffering fans a taste of the complete record to come.
Launching with the power-rock drive of “Opinion Overload”, Simple Plan reflect back on their initial punk roots but the maturity of tracks like “Singing In The Rain” featuring R City and the inclusion of rapper Nelly on “I Don’t Want To Go To Bed” shows the band is prepared to get at least a little adventurous.
“We want people who have never heard of Simple Plan to like our songs and we want our long-time fans to feel we are evolving as a band,” Lefebvre explained. “We always want to take a chance on a couple of songs to see what different sounds we can develop. Think back to when we featured “Untitled” on our second album. That song featured strings and a piano, and none of us play strings or a piano live, but that song just happened to fit the album. Same with “I Don’t Want To Go To Bed” on the new album, which has that rap feel or “Kiss Me When Nobody’s Watching”, that’s kind of Tom Pettyish.”
“If we can gauge the evolution of Simple Plan over the past five studio albums it’s that our punk songs become more punkier, our pop songs become more poppier and our melodic songs become more melodic” continued Lefebvre. “If anything, we try to exaggerate everything but as soon as Pierre starts to sing, it’s a Simple Plan song.”
Hardy surprising that as soon as Taking One For The Team dropped, Simple Plan hit the road, touring, first in Europe, then Japan before squeezing some promotional activity in Toronto before heading back to Europe where they will be performing through May and June before hitting the concert festival circuit this summer.
This means Canadian fans probably won’t see a fully fledged national tour until early next year.
“Simple Plan has always been a touring band, even before the current economic climate of this business made it essential for bands to play live to survive, we were out there playing places like China, Singapore and other places in the Far East other bands weren’t playing,” observed Lefebvre. “There’s obviously a lot of demands on our time which means that sometimes it’s like four or five years between concert appearances. So some fans who didn’t see us when they were like 16 eventually get to see us when they’re 21.”
Lefebvre notes that when a band puts a record out every four or five years, “It’s almost like starting all over again” but Simple Plan relishes the challenge. “Now we have social media like Twitter and Instagram to get the word out about our upcoming tours and new albums and our fans are the best. They spread the word we are coming so we know in advance that our concerts are going to be a success.”
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