With Green Day releasing the concept album "American Idiot" and Blink-182 splitting up many are looking at that last 12 months as the time that pop-punk died. For many it's Montreal's Simple Plan who still keep the dream alive, but even the band are the first to deny any allegiance to the pop-punk scene choosing simply to call themselves a pop / rock band. Alex McCann met up with Simple Plan's frontman Pierre Bouvier to talk about their 2nd album "Still Not Getting Any" and how in 10 years time their songs could see them being hailed at the new Green Day.
Q: The last time we saw you in the UK it was supporting Avril Lavigne. You did the whole arena tour of Europe. That must have heightened your profile somewhat.
A: We don't really have a high profile in Europe, we're more of an underground band cos we don't get much radio or media. We rely on our own fanbase and it's going well because each time we come back the shows get bigger and bigger. After Avril we've come back on our own and the 4 shows we're doing have sold out pretty quickly.
Before we'd even had the 1st album out we'd been building up a fanbase slowly and I think that's the best way to go. When it's built up over time rather than getting that instant success it's the sort of fanbase that will stay with you. I've noticed recently that bands are becoming huge off the back of one song and then they just disappear 12 months later. We've never had that huge song that's taken us over. I guess in the long run that's proven good for us because I think the main goal of this band is to last for a long time. Now we already have gold and platinum records all around the world so I think we are really fortunate to be where we are today.
Q: I've been looking on the website recently and everyday a new set of dates seems to be announced whether it be Sweden, Japan or the UK. You do seem to be focusing your efforts internationally now it's on autopilot in the States
A: Recently we've just been travelling like crazy. Over the past few months we've had Spain, Italy, Sweden, France, the UK and Australia. It's just cool to be able to have that feeling where everybody now is starting to know about it. With this record people seem to be opening up and letting us in. We're looking up to bands like Green Day and No Doubt who established something really big over time. I think the hardest part is to consistently put out a volume of material than can still be relevant. I remember being a fan of Green Day when I was still in high school and now they're bigger than ever.
Two and a half years ago no-one knew who we were and we went on tour with Green Day, Blink 182, Saves The Day and Jimmy Eat World. We weren't even playing the Arena, we were playing on a side stage in the parking lot and it was great. We were playing to 1000 people a night. Now were really huge in places like Australia so we're going out there on an equal footing with them.
Q: You've had a few months to reflect on it. How do you feel about the Blink 182 split?
A: I can understand where it's come from. I know them personally, they all have kids and they're all in different head spaces right now. Mark wants to be with his kids and his wife, Tom has always had that extra drive to keep on going and that's why he started Boxcar Racer and Travis has always been everywhere. I think they maybe just need to take the time out to relax. I'm convinced they're going to come back. It's just that they've been working hard for a long while and it becomes draining after a while. Being where they are in there early 30s with kids who could deny them some time out.
Q: Blink 182 are what people consider the quintessential punk pop band and when they changed the formula on their last album, even though it received tremendous critical acclaim, they lost a lot of the fans along the way.
A: Yeah, I guess they did lose a few. My personal favourite is "Enema Of The State", I still really love that record. I like what they've done with the departure but I felt more connected to those old songs. But I think they did what they wanted to do and they've achieved what they wanted to achieve. They wanted to be the band that could prove they weren't just a pop-punk band and I think that was definitely appreciated by a lot of fans.
Q: You guys have changed, Good Charlotte have changed, The Blink 182 split and the fact that Green Day with American Idiot upped the standards - do you feel this is the nail in the coffin of traditional pop-punk?
A: I don't think there will ever be a final nail. The name pop-punk is obviously a word that had a lot of controversy and people slagging it. But what that word really represents is rock music with pop sensibility, rock music that can rock but is also very melodic. That is something that will never go away because it's something that people love. I don't think we're pop-punk or anything you want to fit us into. I just think we're a pop / rock band and that isn't enough of a fad to really go away, cos it's not like rap metal. For me personally I've always loved bands like the Beatles and The Beach Boys who write really melodic stuff...but then I really enjoy the energy of a band like Bad Religion or Lagwagon who will crank up the guitars.
Q: The 2nd album "Still Not Getting Any" is not so much a departure as an....
A: ...evolution of what we've done before. It's not so simple. There's a little depth to it. I think we're getting naturally better at writing songs and when you get better at something you want to make it more intricate. It's like when you're a painter, when you first start painting you paint really simple things and then when you know that you're able you make something a little more detailed. It's not that we didn't want to do anything different on the first record, it was that we didn't really know how. Writing songs is like a craft that you can only get better at.
Writing songs is like climbing a big mountain, until your half way up it's really scary. When we were writing this record we spent like a month or two when absolutely nothing came out that we were happy with. It was scary for a moment and none of us knew what we were going to do. And because we're really ambitious we won't stop writing until we're 100% happy with every single song on the record. We have the idea that it's never too late for a great record, but there's never a good time for a bad record.
Q: At times on the new record you sense you've felt the Hoobastank effect of "The Reason" on some of the more mid-tempo ballads
A: There's one song "Crazy" which you could say is our "The Reason". For me pop songs are pop songs and rock songs are rock songs. Unless you want to go like Radiohead or Muse you can't really change...for me when I listen to a record the songs that really catch my attention and become my favourites are the ones with the same kinda structure. It sounds boring but there are only a few chord progressions that make it sound like a pop rock song.
Q: Did you feel the need to change the lyrical content on the record to give it a similar maturity with the music
A: I think our lyrics have always just been about our emotions and our thoughts. There's no real general message. I think each song has it's own little message. I think the main thing is hope because our songs are always about being sad or angry, which must make us seem really depressed, but for me writing songs is like some kind of therapy. When you're writing a diary if you had a great day it's just like a one line entry, when something really bad happens it's when you start writing pages of how you feel emotionally. I think the main message is: We feel this way, if anyone else feel's this way then don't worry because you're not the only one.
Q: And I think the music adds that counterbalance to the lyrics. If you put a typical Simple Plan lyric over a real hardcore punk band the lyrics would take on a totally different meaning
A: That's where the hope comes from. It's our signature really. The first album was about deception, sadness and anger. The music brings the hope. On this album we've used a string section on "Welcome To My Life", "One" and the last song. It was mainly an idea that was mainly influenced by Bob Rock because we thought the idea was cheesy. He persuaded us that if it feels right it's all right. Sometimes typical can be good and typical is something this band has never been afraid of. And it was just an awesome experience to be part of - sitting be in the middle of the studio when a 16 piece string section was recording was amazing. Two years ago we couldn't have imagined that and it was an act of selfishness on our part so we could say we've tried it.
Q: To think that you came from playing to just a couple of hundred people when you first started to attempting something ambitious like this must have took a lot of guts because whether it's straight up pop-punk or otherwise, the scene's always had that backbiting edge to it.
A: We're usually the butt of every joke. We're always the band that people like to slag, but that's ok cos we're probably the band that in this genre are one of the biggest ones. It's ok to be the band that the critics usually hate as long as you have the fans to support you. I'd rather be the band that has thousands of fans screaming for them every night than be the band that doesn't have, but have every cool paper saying this is the coolest record ever.
Q: When you look at a band like Green Day, when they released Dookie nobody could have realized that one day they would release American Idiot
A: Exactly. In that sense Green Day have proved that if you keep going, ignore that, keep putting out quality material and stay true to yourselves people will eventually give up. I don't think anybody now says that Green Day are sell outs. They've been going a long time and they've got the respect that they've got because they've surpassed that. I think after Dookie if they would have put out shit material then they would have been lost forever. But they got through that moment and now people respect them. That's what we're gonna try and do.
Q: Would you like to be in their position in 10 years time?
A: I can only hope. They've achieved something that is very hard and they will probably be inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame for what they're doing now. To assume that we could do that is probably very ambitious, but that would be my goal. Kids come up to me and keep asking us how do you make it...it's all about the songs man!!!
"Still Not Getting Any" is out now on Atlantic
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