Simple Plan: The 13th Floor Interview

Canadian pop-punk rockers Simple Plan will pick up where they left off last year by bringing their No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls 15th Anniversary Tour to Auckland’s Powerstation in April.

This will be the first New Zealand performance for quintet.

The 13th Floor’s Marty Duda spoke to Simple Plan lead singer Pierre Bouvier just after Christmas to find out how he spent the holidays and to see what Simple Plan have planned for the new year.

Click here to listen to the interview with Simple Plan’s Pierrre Bouvier:

Or, read a transcription of the interview here:

MD: According to my calculations, I think you stopped gigging at the beginning of December last year – around December 8th, or so, at Niagara Falls. I was just curious as to what kind of shenanigans you’ve been getting up to between then and now; anything exciting?

PB: Just been catching up with family time. I’ve got two daughters at home, and last year – 2017 – was a very big year for touring for us – I was absent quite a bit – so, after December, we did one last show – which was a charity show – on December 10th, and then I headed home and, basically, I went right into Christmas season; so, I did all the shopping, got the Christmas tree, put the Christmas tree lights up, got ready for some family to come visit – my parents came and visited on the 23rd for about ten days – then I had a friend of mine, from Vancouver, come visit, my in-laws were in town. We did Christmas, we did New Years – and New Years, actually, we did a show, once again, Niagara Falls for the New Year’s celebrations on the 31st – and then got back here, spent some more time with my kids – did a couple of camping trips – and, basically, just watched the time fly by so fast. I feel like I was on the road a week ago, and it’s already been a month. It’s real fast when you’ve got two young ones at home, and you try and enjoy the time with them.

MD: Do you find it difficult to make the transition, from suddenly being ‘rock and roll animal on the road’, and then now you’re ‘Mr. Domestic’, and you’re dealing with Christmas trees and all that stuff? Is it a shock to the system, or do you transition naturally?

PB: I think, with time, I find it more difficult to transition into the ‘rock star’ phase. The ‘stay at home dad’ phase: it comes to me really naturally. I like to be home with them and take them to school and take them to the park and take them camping and go play and act like a child, and just have a good time – that’s real easy for me – but when I’ve done it for a while – if I’ve been home for a few weeks, and if I’ve been home, sometimes, for many couple of months – going back to the ‘big ego rock star’ is sometimes a little bit difficult, especially if we’re coming hot to a big show – I remember last year, I think I had three or four weeks off, and then the first show we did was Sao Paulo, Brazil, which is one of our biggest markets, for us, and we had a show for five thousand people sold out, and they were mad for us – right before I hit the stage, I felt like, “Man! I’m not that guy. I make breakfast for my girls in the morning. I don’t know if I can get up on stage and be this cool person,” but, sure enough, within a couple of songs, it just comes back, like it’s riding a bike. It’s definitely an interesting dichotomy, living with the two personalities; it’s interesting.

MD: Yeah… it’s one of those things that you don’t really think of or prepare for when you’re, say, eighteen years old and you’re starting a band. You don’t think about the fact that twenty years later, “How do you still do that and be a regular human being at the same time?” Perhaps they should give some training somewhere along the line.

PB: Yeah, maybe so! I think, back in those days, we didn’t even project ourselves even five years ahead of time. Definitely, twenty years later: I mean, I’ve been playing in this band with Chuck… since 1999 – so almost twenty years – and before that, we had a band in ’94; so, we’re looking at over twenty five years of playing music together. I definitely could not have projected myself in this situation; and now that I live in a different country and a different coast, and I’ve got a wife and kids, and a whole life that I would never have imagined. It’s been a fun ride, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me next.

MD: When you’re coming here, are you continuing the Fifteenth Anniversary Tour, or is this a new tour now?

PB: We’re going to continue on. What happened is that we started up this Christmas anniversary tour. It was meant to be only in America, because our first album, particularly, was very successful in America, and… it developed a cult following, and really was an important record for us in America; so, we wanted to see, “Hey, let’s do, like, a two, three week tour of our most important markets in America, and just, you know, try that; see how it does,” and the response was so good, that we expanded that tour, and we turned it into a six or seven week tour in America, and that all got sold out – did super well – and then the fan mail started coming in from all of our fans around the world – obviously, when I say “fan mail” I mean electronic; no one’s sending real mail anymore – … whether it was South America or Australia or New Zealand or Mexico or all over Europe, all of our fans were like, “Hey, we want the Fifteenth Anniversary Tour! Bring it to Argentina. Bring it to the UK. Bring it to France;” so, we figured, “Hey, you know, it did so well in America, let’s try it in Europe;” so, we did Europe, and that did incredible for us as well; so, from there, we just kept adding on.

We did a second American leg. We did a second European leg. We took it down to Mexico, which did great. We did Canada; so, we just figured, “you know what? Everybody wants this tour; we going to take it everywhere.” Now, unfortunately for Australia and New Zealand, by the time we’re getting to you guys, it’s actually been sixteen years since the album’s been out, but we’re still going to call it the Fifteen Year Anniversary Tour, and we’re going to complete the circle by doing Australia and New Zealand, and, I think, we’re going to go, maybe, to South America after that, and then we’re going to call it quits and go back to the regular Simple Plan.

MD: Going back to the regular Simple Plan: what does that entail? Have you got songs lined up? Well, it’s the beginning of the year; so, do you have – I won’t a “simple plan” – a plan for this year?

PB: Yeah. We’re about to start writing the next record. Our latest album came out in 2016, and, obviously, the Fifteenth Anniversary Tour has delayed the process of creating some new material, but I think that, in the next couple of weeks, we’re going to get together and start writing, and, hopefully, by the end of 2018, we should have enough material to hit the studio, and then put a new record out.

MD: Do you look at that process and… talk about what it is, musically, what you’re going to do, or is it just ‘get together and see what happens’? How mapped out is it for you?

PB: At about our third album, we really got into this whole idea of, “We need to evolve! We need to take Simple Plan to a different place it’s never been,” etc; and we tried it, and we did it, and it kinda felt a little bit weird. I think our third album was an album that a lot of our fans appreciate, but I think it went a little bit too experimental, and it went a little off the rails of what people expect and want from Simple Plan.

I think that was a lesson that we learned insofar as I’m all for exploration and artistic integrity, but at a certain point, I realised that people, that are fans of Simple Plan, want to hear Simple Plan; just like if I hear a new Green Day album, I want it to sound like what I think Green Day sounds like but new material. I don’t want them to do a country record, or a metal record, because that would be weird. I don’t want them to start adding a whole bunch of stuff they never used to do. You could do it for a couple of songs, but I really like the core, such as when the new Tom Petty record… came out, it sounded like his old stuff, and I was like, “Oh, this is cool! It sounds like his old stuff;” so, I’ve come to terms with the fact that, I think, as a band, it’s okay to say, “We’re not going to re-write the same songs, but let’s do pop-punk.”

We like it. I still love that kind of music. Our fans love it. Don’t push it too far, because people don’t want to hear a little country in Simple Plan; they want to hear Simple Plan. For some years, it bugged me to have that mentality, but now I’ve come to embrace it, and I think it gives me a direction of where to go, because I know what people like from us, I know what I like, and I know what we’re good; and it gives us a focus. If we’re to rehash a new sound of Simple Plan, that’s really hard, because where do you take it? My voice sounds a certain way, and it doesn’t really go well in certain styles. Where would we take it? So, I’ve come to terms with it, and I really enjoy it, and I think it’s fun to say, “Hey, you know what? We’re going to keep going in the pop-punk direction.”

It doesn’t matter if radio thinks it’s a dying genre, or if there are people who thinks it sounds like ‘this or this or that’. If you write a good song, and it’s pop-punk, people will like it; because pop-punk doesn’t really mean a whole lot: it just means that it’s got that pop catchiness to it, but it’s got that punk energy and speed, and stuff that makes you want to jump up and down or drive a car real fast; and that’s something that will never get old. So, I love having that direction, and just being able to say, “let’s focus on writing some good songs,” and we produce them the way Simple Plan should and would; and that’s our target.

MD: With the punk-pop thing: do you find the fans are staying with you, or are you getting younger people coming, or is it the same age group following you along as you proceed?

PB: It’s a little bit of both. It’s very interesting. You come to one of our shows, and you’ll find the people that are thirty, thirty five years old – maybe even older – and then you’ll find the people that are not even twenty yet – when our first album came out, they would have been little toddlers…. Some of them, even though they’re fans now, told us that their parents got them into Simple Plan; so, it’s really interesting. I would say the average is, maybe, about twenty, twenty five years old, and then it goes far down to ten years old and as far up as forty, forty five years old. We lose some, we win some. Some of them move on to other styles. Some of them just discovered it a few years ago. What’s cool now, is how… to discover music, you needed to rely on radio before… and now they don’t. Now you’ve got Spotify, you’ve got Apple Music, you’ve got all these streaming services; you can lose yourself and listen to thousands of songs with your monthly subscription. People discover things all the time, and we’re not as dependant on radio stations or of, even, record labels to promote and use a big machine to run it all. People, if they respond to it and you put it out something, it will grow, and people will talk about it. They’ll talk about it with their friends, and they’ll discover it, and they’ll take it somewhere else; so, it’s pretty inspiring.

MD: Do you have an opinion about the streaming services? I know a lot of people are divided, because it does get the music out and expose you to more people, but the amount that you’re paid per stream is pretty negligible. Have you guys talked about that, and thought about it much?

PB: … It is interesting, because, definitely, the money and the budgets that we had when we first started – and the kind of money that record labels were throwing around, for videos and tour support – is a whole different ball game than it is today; but then again, you have the big artists that are able to connect, that get even bigger. Because, what happens, is that everyone’s tastes are getting more and more similar. They’re getting globalised by the fact that we can all reach to the same music . I think there are some positives and there are some negatives, definitely, on the financial side: I think that it’s much more difficult, now, for a band or an artist to have a medium sized career, and be able to exist and be financially stable. Now you’ve got the big juggernauts, like the Taylor Swifts and the Coldplays, that will make a crap load of money from their streams, and everybody else is going to struggle; and if you’re a small size, then forget about it: you’re not going to make any money. I think there is a downside, but it is cool that to create an album – to create music – has become a lot more affordable. I can make an album in my back yard – fifteen years ago, I couldn’t do that; now, I can do it on a laptop. Anyone with… some cool artistic ideas can create something. It’s got its ups and downs, but it’s definitely a different ball game than it was fifteen years ago.

MD: It’s, kind of, the great equaliser, I guess, at this point.

PB: Exactly. It’s a shame in some ways, but the positive is that in time, as the whole planet streams… and it scales to those kind of numbers, the numbers that seem negligible will, hopefully, grow, and they will become something that is worth it; when everyone’s streaming….

MD: Thank you very much for taking time to talk to me. Looking forward to catching up with you guys, and seeing you, when you get down here. Good luck with everything until then.

PB: It’s been a long time. We haven’t been to New Zealand. We’re looking forward to it, and thanks for your time. We’ll see you in a few months.

Click here for tickets and info to see Simple Plan at The Powerstation on Thursday, April 19th.