Simple Plan maintain enthusiasm 15 years on
Chuck Comeau, David Desrosiers, Sebastien Lefebvre, and Jeff Stinco, of Simple Plan pose on November 6 in Montreal. (CP Images)
If there was a Grammy awarded for relentless enthusiasm, Simple Plan would have the category sewn up.
Even now, some 15 years into their career – 10 as hit recording artists – the five members of the Quebec combo are like little kids, careening around a chic downtown Toronto hotel room and happily blabbing ears purple about their music (issued, fittingly, in spiky neon pop-punk bursts), their global tours and, most excitedly, their just-issued commemorative book.
Part fancypants scrapbook, part coffee table pictorial, “Simple Plan” chronicles the band’s Technicolor trajectory from scrappy Montreal bruisers to worldwide pop phenoms in warts-and-all detail which is both admirable and crucial to underscoring how much sweat goes into being a so-called overnight success.
That 10 percent of the proceeds from sales benefits their Simple Plan Foundation (mission: “to help young people in need by easing their often difficult passage to adulthood and by supporting the victims of life threatening illnesses”) offers that much more incentive for fans and friends of fans to pick up the door-stopper this holiday season.
But even casual observers will find “Simple Plan” – with its eye-popping images gathered around the world over a decade – fascinating and a little surreal. As Simple Plan guitarist Jeff Stinco and bassist David Derosiers explain to MSN, they too were taken aback by some of the book’s revelations… including the incredible and heretofore unknown story behind their formation.
Who came up with the idea of a book?
Jeff Stinco: It was pretty organic actually. We had photographer Patrick Langlois follow us over the years and he took thousands of pictures – like 45,000 pictures – and at a point we realized we needed to do something with them, publish them in some way. The original idea was to put out a picture book to tell the story that way. In the meantime, the journalist Kathleen Lavoie approached us about writing a biography – and we were approaching the tenth anniversary of our first album (2002's "No Pads, No Helmets...Just Balls") which was a nice round number, so the time seemed right. The fact that the band is still going strong made it make sense too; we didn’t want to be writing about a band that was but rather, a band that is. So this came together over the course of the last year.
Did you look to any other band books for inspiration?
Jeff Stinco: Our drummer Chuck Comeau looked at the Pearl Jam biography (author Brad Morrell's "Illustrated Biography") plus books about the Foo Fighters. So yes, it is a hybrid book – part picture book, part coffee table book and part biography.
Was there any hesitation about including some of the more negative aspects of the band’s career, like the lukewarm reviews for the debut record for example?
David Derosiers: We never wanted to hide anything. We just wanted to be honest. This is the real, official story and whether it’s negative or not, it’s part of our past. We dealt with that and we came out stronger.
Jeff Stinco: Plus some of the pictures are horrible (laughs) but that’s part of telling the story. Same as the rejection letters from record labels (which are reprinted but without the names of the A&R person who signed them). I am still super-angry reading them, and I look at them now and think ‘Wow Mr. So and So, I hope you regret it.’ But the people who signed those letters probably aren’t working at record labels anymore. This whole industry has shifted so much over the last 10 years that we’ve been together. But we found our path through all of it. By the third record, we had some darker moments, it was tougher to get our songs across in the U.S., and we’re openly talking about that. But again, it’s easier said now in the perspective of a band that’s doing well. And the book ends in a positive way on our last South American tour which was such an incredible time.
The book spotlights the odd paradox about punk rock music – for a genre that’s supposed to be about rebellion, it comes with a lot of rules, such as whether or not it was ‘cool’ to tour with Avril Lavigne.
Jeff Stinco: True. It’s so hard when you are starting out to know exactly what you are and what you should be doing. For example, we played the Warped Tour before our first record came out and we were the hottest things. Everyone was like, ‘You gotta check out Simple Plan!’ The next year, in 2002, our first record came out and we played Warped again. Same songs as before, same band as before, only this time the response was, ‘Oh these guys are sell-outs.’ Nothing had changed except we were being played on MTV and the radio. What happened? Perception is everything.
If there is one misconception about Simple Plan that this books manages to clear up, what do you hope it is?
Jeff Stinco: That our success happened overnight. It’s not true. It was a grassroots thing. Obviously we got radio and television play which helped, but there was so much work…
David Derosiers: … we did, like, 250 shows in one year and that was consistent the first few years. There are so many bands out there touring and whether you like it or not, it is a kind of competition. We had the mentality that we would work harder than anybody else. And I think it paid off.
Jeff Stinco: You know, my Mom called me recently after reading the book and said, ‘Holy hell did you really tour that much?’ And all the back and forth – playing Paris one night and Toronto the next. It was insane. So I think what comes out in this book is the passion and love for what we’re doing but also the amount of work that went in to being where we are all these years later. We know what it’s like to travel to 52 countries. We’ve been to Tokyo I don’t know how many times – 15? – and we know the work involved in traveling. It’s crazy how many airports we know by heart. It’s a bit sad that so much of our lives have been taken away by that. But that’s what you need to do in order to play music, which is what we love.
What’s something you had completely forgotten about until you were putting this book together?
Jeff Stinco: Before Simple Plan, our drummer Chuck and (singer) Pierre Bouvier had a band together called Reset and they fought, split and that’s when Chuck and I got together to form a new band with more pop roots that would eventually become Simple Plan. (Guitarist) Sébastien Lefebvre joined us and then we went looking for a singer. The story that came out that I didn’t know what that Chuck convinced Pierre that our three-piece – me, Chuck and Sébastien – actually had contracts to do soundtracks in Los Angeles and that Pierre should join us. And Pierre bought that! It was impossible! I didn’t know that story. The chronology is fascinating because it’s easy to mix this stuff up in your head – what came first, what triggered something. So putting everything in order was very interesting for us.
Who was the main keeper of the paraphernalia - backstage passes, travel visas, itineraries etc – showcased in the book?
Jeff Stinco: Chuck and his parents. They kept everything. But the most interesting thing was the calendars. Sébastien is the band’s big nerd and he’d kept all of those. It’s like his computer never crashes. And thank God for that because it meant we actually did know where we had been every day over the last 10 years.
Ten percent of proceeds from sale of the book benefit the Simple Plan Foundation?
David Derosiers: Yes, we really feel the Foundation will outlast the band.
So what’s on the agenda for the next 10 years?
Jeff Stinco: Social media has opened the whole world up and there are people in places we haven’t yet visited that want us to play. Knowing there are places yet to visit is inspiring; being accessible means you need to travel to your fans. We wanted to be the most successful band in rock. It was one of our ambitions, and it still is.