Pierre Bouvier of Simple Plan
It’s been almost two years since we’ve heard anything new from Simple Plan, but don’t think that they’ve been on vacation. Planning the follow up of two smash hit albums with sales of over seven million copies can keep a band busy! Simple Plan (Pierre Bouvier on vocals, Chuck Comeau on drums, Jeff Stinco on guitar, Sebastien Lefebvre on guitar and David Desrosiers on bass) have been slaving away on their third studio album that drops on February 12th. Teasing fans with the single When I’m Gone, Simple Plan is sure that they’ve written their most diverse album to date.
Bringing in the heavy artillery of Nate “Danja” Hills (who has worked with Timbaland, Justin Timberlake and Duran Duran) and Max Martin (who has worked with Kelly Clarkson, Avril Lavigne, and James Blunt) the band put together a collection of songs that took them into unchartered territory and challenged them to push themselves in new directions both lyrically and musically; fusing together different genres of music.
Self-titling the album only seemed natural considering how personal the album is to the band. Self described as “angry, negative, depressive lyrics over really poppy, uplifting music” the band recruited producer Dave Fortman (yes the same one from Ugly Kid Joe!) to produce their album. Having produced albums by Evanescence and Mudvayne, Dave added the polished edge that the band needed.
Currently on a whirlwind press tour and playing holiday shows across the United States, frontman Pierre took some time to chat with us about the new album, the personal inspiration behind some of the tracks and everything new in the world of Simple Plan.
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette | December 2007
Let’s start with the single When I’m Gone. It delivers a pretty loud message – can you tell me what the song means to you as a band and what you want people to take away from it?
I think for me the song represents what we went through as a band when we first started, it’s about getting out there and seizing the moment and doing what you want to do; to be passionate about it and to not worry about what everyone else is going to think. As far as what the fans take away from it, I think it’s the kind of song where if you listen to it you could probably take your own message from it, it’s general in a way. It’s about beating the odds and doing something with yourself.
Production-wise on this album you worked with some pretty heavy hitters and people that have very diverse backgrounds. You worked with Nate “Danja” Hills (Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, Duran Duran, Nelly Furtado), Max Martin (James Blunt, Kelly Clarkson, Avril Lavigne), and Dave Fortman on the album, can you tell us what they brought to the table for the band?
Let me straighten it all out for you, Dave Fortman was the producer of the album, he produced the whole record. He produced the Evanescence record and we went with him because I think he has a great way of making something sound really rock and at the same time sounding really polished, so it sounds clean as well as heavy. He’s done stuff with Mudvayne as well so he definitely knows how to make something big and rock. We co-produced a couple of songs with “Danja”. I think with him, listening to everything like Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake, it’s something that we wanted to introduce into our sound without getting away from who we are, we just wanted to infuse it in there. We did a couple of sessions with him and wrote a couple of songs. Instead of getting inspired by a guitar or piano or a vocal line we just let him write a beat and we built the song on that. It just gave it a new flavor and it was a way to change it up and get something fresh. Even though we wrote all the melodies and lyrics, it gave us a way to get inspired by a different point of view. There was one song that we co-produced also with “Danja” called Generation that wasn’t quite finished yet. Max Martin heard it and really thought it was amazing so he wanted to get involved in the end and polish it up even more. I think all together it was a perfect mesh of different styles and different sounds and it worked out great.
What made you decide to go with the self-title on this one?
We were trying to think up some clever line again for the title and we realized after awhile that there’s no real way to describe what’s coming out and it’s kind of different. For us it’s like a rebirth, it’s our coming out party since we’ve been gone for awhile. So it’s a way to say hey this is who we are and check it out. It just felt right. It didn’t feel right to find a sentence or a word to describe it.
You and Chuck have been playing together since you were very young, how are you able to keep the writing process new and fresh and keep the ideas flowing without getting complacent?
Well we tour so much that we spend a lot of time without writing for awhile. On the last record, it came out and we were on the road for like two years so we hadn’t really written anything or even thought about writing for that whole period of time. By the time you are ready to hit the studio or start writing again you just feel fresh because you’ve been away from it for so long. That’s the way we do it, we give ourselves a big break, tour, listen to new music and get inspired again. After all that it’s something that you want to do and we get really eager to write new stuff.
You’ve admittedly left your comfort zone with this record, can you tell us about the chances you feel you’ve taken with it?
I think we’ve pushed ourselves in a different direction trying to make things a little more ambitious, trying to make something a little different for us. Obviously the first two records are mainly guitar influenced and rock influenced but now, just pushing it in different directions which is sometimes a little un-nerving and sometimes a little hard to do but I think it was worth it in the end because it makes you do greater things. You don’t want to be doing the same thing over and over again. That would have kept us in our comfort zone, to make the same kind of record. I think every record needs to be a little bit different and needs to be an evolution.
Going into the making of your third album, do you ever feel pressured by the success of your prior releases? Does it impact the writing process at all or how do you approach the writing process?
I think it’s always in the back of your mind. When you’ve sold almost seven million records you definitely know that you have a lot of fans out there and they’re expecting something great or expecting something at least to keep them into loving your band. For us we knew we had to make something great and we weren’t going to stop until we had it. We took a little more time than expected. The pressure is all coming from us though, the label didn’t really get involved that much, we just wanted to make something special. We’re listening to all these records now that are really different and ambitious and we wanted to say hey, we can do that too, we can make something that will be as equally original and still be really impactful.
There’s a song on the album that was inspired by the tv show Heroes, right? Can you tell us a little about that?
It’s the last song on the record and it’s called “What If.” We had been watching a lot of tv these last couple of years and we’ve been really into the show Heroes. It was kind of inspired by the character Peter Petrelli who feels tortured and is trying to do the right thing even though a lot of people are opposing him and what he feels is the right thing to do. That’s the way that we saw it for that song. I think if anyone is trying to do something important or something that might be seen as a little controversial, when you go through it you have to go through obstacles and its kind of confusing because you don’t know if you want to do it or not. Look at someone like maybe Al Gore, he’s taken some big leaps and done some crazy things and I think that he’s probably had a lot of people opposing him. It’s kind of about that feeling that you get when you go through something like that.
The way the band can communicate with fans has changed a lot over the years, now with MySpace and video blogs and YouTube you’re able to give instant updates. How do you think think this has impacted the band?
I think it’s just cool for the fans. If I was a fan of the band I’d like to know what’s going on. Especially the younger fans, they really identify themselves with bands and the music that they listen to becomes part of who they are. I think as a fan there’s nothing cooler than to know what a bands doing and to feel like you can get to know them better. That’s why from the beginning we’ve always had Patrick our web guy filming us everywhere and making videos and posting them on our website, and now with MySpace it’s become huge. With our YouTube channel it’s even easier, you can tell everyone what’s going on and get immediate feedback and know what they think about what you’re doing. It’s a great thing.
The band has been playing some Radio Holiday shows in North America, what kind of set are you doing for those, are fans getting a first listen to new material?
We’re actually keeping the new material under wraps for now, we’re doing the new single and we might leak one more song before the release of the new album but we’re trying to keep it fresh because I think the best way to hear it first is on the record. Once you hear it there then you can come and see it live but I think the first impression we want people to hear is the real thing on the album and get the full view of it.
Can you tell me a couple of your personal favorite songs on the new album and tell us a little about them?
I really like the song called “Save You.” It’s about my brother, he went through a two year battle with cancer and he went through numerous chemotherapy sessions and went through a bone marrow transplant and it was really tough time for my family and I. Just going through that and seeing someone so close to you go through that kind of stuff is very difficult. The song is about how I felt powerless in that whole situation. Now he’s better, which is great news, but that is probably the song that I feel most connected to.
Fun question – tell us one random lesser known fact about each of your bandmates?
Let’s see, Sebastien and Patrick have a podcast called Man of the Hour. He’s actually a radio dj host.
Chuck is a real asshole, people don’t know that..NO..I’m just kidding. Chuck is very involved in the directing of all of the videos and photoshoots, so he’s really involved on that side of things, many people don’t know that.
Jeff is..what is Jeff…he’s an asshole too…no …Jeff….what do people not know about you? (Pierre asks Jeff) Jeff practices guitar about four hours a day. That’s how he maintains his chops, which aren’t that great.
David is homeless. He doesn’t live anywhere. He has a car but he doesn’t have a place to live.
And me…I believe in karma, people don’t know about that.
You’ve already shot a video for When Im Gone and have teased us with a short clip of it, can you tell us a little bit about it, what the concept is?
The video is going to premiere on MTV TRL on Wednesday (December 12) and we’ll be on the show. It’s going to be awesome. We just got the final cut of the video today and it’s amazing. It was a little rough to make because the first couple of cuts we weren’t happy with. We went back and re-edited them and now it looks amazing and we’re all happy. The hook of the song is “you’ll miss me when I’m gone” so its about a girl who dumps me and realizes that she sees me everywhere she goes, I’m on all the billboards and the band is blowing up and we’re everywhere in the city. She starts seeing me everywhere, she’ll be looking at a valet parking guy and he’ll turn into me, and there’s even a cameo by Perez Hilton in the video. (MTV.com is previewing the video NOW so check it out here)
Oh yeah, you guys are tight right?
Yeah we met him two years ago and I think it’s fun to go on his site to see who they’re talking shit about. So we asked him to be in the video and he was totally cool about it.
So what’s the plan for touring? Are you going to tour before the album comes out? Wait for it to be released? What’s the plan?
We’re going to do mainly promotion before it comes out and then start touring as soon as it comes out.
Last question, what’s your favorite holiday song?
Our Christmas song, it’s called “My Christmas List”. It was recorded a long time ago but I still think it’s funny.