Interview: Simple Plan
The 2016 Calgary Stampede seemed to be doomed with stormy weather, but iconic Canadian pop punk band Simple Plan had no problem singin' in the rain. Under The Rockies sat down with guitarist Sebastien Lefebrve and drummer Chuck Comeau to talk about touring, their new album, and what it was like to work with David Hasselhoff.
You guys just played some shows with Blink-182. How was that?
Sebastien: It was fun. I’m happy to see them out there, having albums and playing again. Just seeing them live brings us back to 2002 when we played with them at Pop Disaster.
Chuck: It’s always a pleasure, they’ve always been very nice and very cool to us throughout our career. It was only one show unfortunatley, we were supposed to do more, but we were already doing shows in every city they were hitting in Canada so it kinda didn’t work out on that level, but it’s cool. I’m a fan so I love seeing their show.
Sebastien: Mark was checking us out on the side of the stage for a couple songs, so that’s always fun.
Chuck: They’re sort of in our era but they’ve also been a big influence as well - they’ve been around a little bit longer than us. It’s fun to be apart of their show.
This is your longest break between albums (5 years). Why the long break?
Chuck: 4 and a half, I’d like to correct!
Sebastien: We did a lot of touring in that time. We were very lucky with the success and response of Get Your Heart On so we were around the world playing a lot of shows. “Summer Paradise” came out towards the end, so it made the tour even longer and a lot more fun, which was great. We’re kinda slow at writing and all that, because we take our time - we are proud musicians, we want our albums to be great.
Chuck: The only record we wrote really fast was the second one. First one took a long time, the second one was the only one that was really quick although it was still 6-8 months. Third album took a long time, fourth album took a long time, this album took a bit longer than we wanted. You have to go and tour for a year and a half to two years on these songs, so you wanna make sure you’re proud of them, that they’re great, and that they stand up to all the stuff you’ve done in the past. We have a lot of fans that enjoyed those four albums and they’re important to them - when you put out something new, you want to be able to match or do better than what you’ve done in the past. I think you want to protect the legacy of the band, and make sure you don’t put out stuff that make people say, “they used to be my favourite band, now they’re just whatever.” You want to push yourself and create something that can rival what you’ve done before in your career, so that’s why it takes a bit of time.
Are you ever worried that you’ll go in and make the same record twice, or is that why you take this time - to ensure that you don’t?
Sebastien: I think there’s a lot of amazing bands and artists that do that - they put out what you expect them to put out. It’s cool and works for them, but we’ve always wanted to stay true to ourselves and have that Simple Plan sound that people want to hear but always have a few songs that are out of the box as well.
You guys have been a band for over 15 years. You’ve managed to keep all the same members, which a lot of bands - especially in the pop punk scene - struggle with. How do you think you’ve managed to keep the same members and survive for as long as you have?
Chuck: I think it comes down to the fact that before we were in a band, we all knew each other and we were all good friends. I think that makes a huge difference. We didn’t just get together just to be in a band, we got together because we enjoy hanging out and we enjoy playing music together. That’s been a huge factor. Also just the fact that the longer this band goes on, the more we realize how special it is and you want to protect it even more when it’s been that long. Now we’ve come to a place where we all enjoy what we do. I think that’s a big thing too is that we still love it. We still enjoy hanging out, we still love travelling and love playing shows, so I think that makes it a lot easier. It’s all about talking to each other, and if there’s a problem, we just sit down and have a discussion and solve the issue - we don’t let stuff linger.
Sebastien: Also, we have great fans in a sense that there’s always been people that want to see us and want to buy our albums and come to our shows. If we put out an album and nobody came to see us anymore, I guess it’s harder to stay a band then. We’ve been lucky to always have support and loyalty from our fans, so that helps as well.
Last summer, you played a few dates on Warped Tour, and on this album, you have a few pop punk collaborators like Jordan from New Found Glory and even Julliet Simms. Was this kind of going back to your roots, or are these just artists you admire?
Sebastien: Both, I think. We’ve toured with Jordan many times on Warped and at different festivals around the world. It’s fun to have him on the album because he’s our friend. Other artists just spice it up and give a different flavour to a song.
Chuck: We enjoy trying different things, but at the heart of who this band is and what we still love is that sound - that high energy, in your face, pop punk vibe that we’re known for - and we don’t want to run away from that. We truly still enjoy it. When a great new pop punk song comes out, that gets me really stoked, the same way it would when I was 16 or 17. We wanted to create an album that had that throwback sound, that our fans who have been around since our first album would listen to and go, “That’s the band I love and that I grew up loving.” That’s important to us, and we’re not embarrased by it at all. We embrace the fact that we come from that scene and we’re proud to be part of it. We’ve tried different things but that’s still our core sound that we love and enjoy playing.
Did you discover any new bands that you like during Warped Tour?
Sebastien: PVRIS was one of the big ones last time we did Warped.
Chuck: We’re actually bringing them on tour with us, we’re doing 6 dates in eastern Canada. We love them so much that we invited them to join us. Neck Deep was on too, they’re cool. There’s a lot of cool bands coming out all the time. There’s a band called Story Untold from Montreal that we used to help and they just got signed to Hopeless and are coming on our U.S tour. It’s fun to try and help young bands that are coming up because we had older bands that helped us when we started, so we try and give back in that sense.
Do you think you’ll expand your Canadian tour to include western Canada?
Chuck: I think the idea was to hit it in two legs - all the western dates are in the summer with the festivals. We hit Vancouver, Winnipeg, we’re in Calgary now, going to Edmonton for K-Days... For us it’s cool to play shows outdoors when it’s nice, and they’re all like cheaper tickets usually which is rad and more people can come out. We’re doing the east in November, and the plan is right now to come back in 2017 and do more shows in this part of Canada, because we love playing here. It’s always important for us to play from one ocean to the other. We’ve done it in a different way than usual, and I know some fans are not stoked, but we’ll do that next year. We know. We read the comments!
You’ve done a few music videos for the album already, which was the most fun to film?
Sebastien: "Singin’ In The Rain" was a lot of fun. It’s fun to play dress up and it’s such an uplifting and happy song. The way the art department made everything look so vintage and cool - I just love how it came out.
Chuck: It’s rad that we already have four videos out for this record. It’s crazy. I think we enjoy making videos. “I Don’t Wanna Go To Bed” was a fun, crazy, over the top concept. We like not taking ourselves too seriously in videos and having a good time with that. Out of the four we’ve made so far, they’re two different styles of Simple Plan - you have that sort of playing live, not really conceptual, in your face performance - which is Boom and Opinion Overload
Sebastien: I brought out my guitar I used for the "Shut Up" video and the "Welcome to my Life" video for Opinion Overload, throwback style.
Chuck: Yeah, and then you’ve got the more storyline and conceptual [music videos], and that’s fun. I love both sides of it.
What was it like working with David Hasselhoff?
Chuck: It was crazy. We got to go to his house, and he had all the posters and gold records of himself, it was kind of surreal. He was very nice and very kind - he was really funny too. Once we had the idea for the concept - the whole Baywatch homage - it felt a lot cooler and better if we could have a cool cameo. Having him was the ultimate.
While bands always want to tour on new material, fans want to hear old material. Does playing old songs live ever get old, or does it take you back to when you were writing the song?
Sebastien: It doesn’t get old. Even when we have a new album we always make sure that the show is more of Simple Plan’s greatest hits. There’s some songs from the first and second album that we just have to play every night. We reintroduced “Crazy” and “Perfect World” which we weren’t playing on the previous tours just to switch it up. I think for us it’s important to give the fans the wide range of emotions that they can have when they listen to Simple Plan.
Chuck: We’re the kind of band that enjoys playing what people want to hear. Some bands are like “we don’t play that song anymore.” We get a kick out of seeing an amazing crowd reaction, so we’re not the kind of band that’s gonna be snobby about playing older songs. We still really enjoy it. What’s interesting is that with this album, a lot of fans are bummed that we’re not playing more new songs. I think it was really well recieved and the fans are really enjoing it. There’s two types: people that complain there’s not enough old songs, and people that complain there’s not enough new songs, so you can’t win, but we try our best to come up with the best combination.
Sebastien: We were just on tour in Europe and the cities are very close, so some people would come to a lot of different shows so we’d switch up the setlist on purpose to make sure the people that came a lot didn’t always see the same set.
What do you guys have planned for the rest of the year?
Sebastien: Trying to find as many Pokemon as I can. Just kidding, touring. It hit me recently because we’ve been announcing a lot of cool tour dates, we’re going to Mexico, we’re going to Australia, southeast Asia, we’ve got the big U.S and Canadian tour coming up, and I looked at the poster and called my mom and said, “see you at Christmas!” because we’re bascially busy until Christmas.
Chuck: I think we have 45 or 50 shows until the end of the year, so it’s a lot but it’s gonna be awesome. It’s all about going to see the fans and playing them the new songs and the old songs, and next year I think more touring. And maybe some new music at some point in all that. We’re working on that.
Catch Simple Plan in eastern Canada this November with guests All Time Low and PVRIS. Their new album, Taking One For The Team is out now via Atlantic Records.