Q&A: Simple Plan
The Canadian pop punk band’s vocalist Pierre Bouvier talks about old and young punk rock fans, and playing in India for the first time
Simple Plan may have moved out of a lot of people’s playlist once their listeners hit 20, but they continue to scale music charts and tour relentlessly with every album release. Their last one, Get Your Heart On! came out in June 2011Â and aÂ day in the life of Simple Plan on tour leaves little room for anything outside of music. “We wake up, usually in a city we don’t know at all, and find food to eat and then head out to soundcheck,” says vocalist Pierre Bouvier, adding that the band chooses to soundcheck with a few fans and a small crowd present. In his interview with ROLLING STONE INDIA, Bouvier talks about the best and the worst times.Â
What kind of crowd do you usually draw to your shows? Fans who have grown up with your music or the younger lot as well?
We’ve been lucky enough to reach a younger crowd with every album. So even though our older fans have been with us from the beginning, there are some fans who have just discovered us on this new album Get Your Heart On! I think it’s pretty cool that there’ll be fans who will be 15-16 years old and then we’ll have fans who are 30. So we have a really wide range of those people.
You recently played in Vietnam as well. There’s quite some following you’ve spawned in Southeast Asia since then.
What was cool with Vietnam was that we played a show that was free. That really allows a lot more [crowd] to come to the show. When we travel to India or Southeast Asia or Australia, there’s a lot more cost involved and then the tickets are sometimes expensive. Some people don’t have that kind of money to come to our shows. But when it’s not expensive, we get to see all kinds of people come to the show ”“ people who are hardcore fans, people who have heard the band only a few times and just want to check it out.
The crowd we had in Vietnam was really big. I think it was at least 23,000 people. It was a really fun night organized by MTV Exit [a foundation created by MTV to raise awareness about human trafficking]. We are really excited about going to new places and that’s part of the reason we’re going to India. It’s going to be good to finally play a show to long-time fans and some new folks.
You made a song called “This Song Saved My Life” on the new album. Which band’s song saved your life?
Growing up I heard a lot of music from bands that gave me a direction… sort of made me feel I was part of something. There are all those growing-up pains ”“ you’re still living in your parents’ house, you want to be an adult but you don’t really know how. The bands I heard gave me an identity. One of them was Lagwagon. They’re not very big, but they were a punk rock band from Southern California. That singer had a really cool voice. It gave me the desire to do something special, it made me feel like I’d found something special.
Have you ever been on stage doing “Freaking Me Out” and actually freaking out?
[Laughs] Well there has always been so much fun and we’ve been often overwhelmed by the crowd [to the extent] that it gets so crazy for sure. You just get lost. I can remember particularly a show in our hometown Montreal in December 2005 and it was the first time we played a certain venue called the Bell Centre and at the moment we had gotten really popular in our hometown and it was a very big show ”“ there were about 16,000 to 17,000 people and I think it was sold out. We got on stage and the whole crowd was really, really loud. Being the home crowd, there were friends, family – our uncles and grandparents – and other young fans. We were really freaking out. It was difficult to see, we were all choked up. Even though we were playing a high-energy song, we were so emotional. I was on the verge of tears. It was definitely a moment we were freaking out.
What about the opposite of that? What’s the worst gig that you’ve ever played, and how did that come about?
We played a show in Hannover, Germany and it was at the very beginning of our career. I think there were about 12-15 people in the crowd. That was definitely the all time low for us. That was definitely the worst moment of our lives. I mean, it was kind of funny almost. I think with us and our crew, there were more people from our side than fans. It was a humbling and an awakening, to say the least.
Pop punk got discovered and punk rock became mainstream almost at the same time as when Simple Plan was breaking out. Where do you think the scene has gotten today?
There are a lot of good bands coming out from that scene. For me, what I would consider the beginning of pop punk was when bands like Blink-182 started getting played on the radio, with their massive hits like “All The Small Things” and “What’s My Age Again?” and all that stuff. Since then, the cool thing is that it’s bought a lot of energy to a lot of pop music, in bands like Boys Like Girls who had a song called “Lovedrunk” which is a huge hit. People became more aware of it and then it brought a lot of great bands to the scene. It’s more than just a style. It’s pop music with catchy music and catchy lyrics but with a certain energy and exciting drum parts and guitars you don’t find in traditional pop music.
It’s certainly caught the attention of a lot of artists from other genres. On your new album, you got Sean Paul to mash up your pop punk sound with his hip hop. What was that like?
For us, the point about doing that was for a very different flavor, especially the song “Summer Paradise.” Sean Paul has got that vibe and for us, we’re Simple Plan and it was a step out of our usual sound. To bring in a veteran of that kind of style brought quite some authenticity to the song and gave it a cool flavor.
You’ve got a lot of other collaborations on the album. You’ve got Somali-Canadian rapper K’naan and English songwriter Natasha Bedingfield to sing on your new album. There’s also power-pop band Weezer’s frontman Rivers Cuomo and Alex Gaskarth from All Time Low, your fellow pop-punks in America. Was it just about making it one big party?
Yeah, for sure. For us it was a guilty pleasure. We really enjoy all those artists; we’re fans of other music, especially as a singer, for me it’s very nice to hear someone else on the album. People like Rivers Cuomo were one of our all-time favorite artists and the album’s been grand. It’s definitely been an excuse for us to enjoy our album even more.
Quick pick: “She Doesn’t Mind” or “Summer Paradise”?
I think they’re both great songs. I think Sean Paul’s new album is one of his best and “Summer Paradise” has proven to be a big hit. I think they go well hand-in-hand.
You released French versions of “Jet Lag” and “Summer Paradise,” but you’ve never had any French songs, is that correct?
No, that’s about it. We released a French version of “Jet Lag” early on with Marie-Mai, a French singer from Montreal. We haven’t done French versions of any of our other songs so far.
So what prompted you to make a French version of a song, after all these years of writing and singing in English?
We’re from a French town, and people know us as a French-speaking band. When we first started, we knew we wanted to go above and beyond Canada and our hometown. So it was very important to establish ourselves as an English band, because we identify ourselves with it and definitely enjoy listening to it [English music] more. After three albums of doing that, we just felt it was time to do something in our first language, which was sort of to pay respect to where we’re from. Now that we’re established and we have successful English songs, we felt like giving a little nudge and a wink to our hometown and people of Montreal.
Are there going to be any future Simple Plan songs written in French?
It’s definitely something that we’re open to.
Simple Plan play at Mood Indigo 2012 in IIT-Bombay on December 22nd, 2012. Register for the event here. Registration fees Rs 999 for non-college entrants and Rs 699 for college entrants.