2002 was a memorable year for Canadian pop-punk band Simple Plan. The group entered the music scene with their best-selling album to date, No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls, after two years of writing and recording.
“When you make your first record, nobody is waiting for it, so we had, in a way, all the time in the world. Although it didn’t feel like that because we felt like we were late [to the scene] and we had to get this record out because the music was really starting to ignite, and the scene was really starting to grow,” Simple Plan drummer and songwriter Chuck Comeau says. “We had a lot of time to really perfect the songs, no pun intended, and really make them as great as they could be.”
The band’s upcoming sixth album, Harder Than It Looks, also faced a two-year delay due to the pandemic. While the band finished recording the new album in February 2020, they decided to hold off on releasing the album until they would be able to promote it with a tour.
“There was also so much going on, and it was kind of a crazy time so we really didn’t feel that it was appropriate to release a whole album. We didn’t want it to just be thrown out there and be gone,” Comeau says. “We ended up waiting a lot longer than we expected to. It was weird to have all of this exciting new music where you’re so proud of it and you want to share it, but you can’t. We held the music back a little longer, and it’s finally so good to be able to put it out now.”
To promote the long-awaited new album, which is set to be released on May 6, and celebrate the 20th anniversary of No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls, Simple Plan will join fellow pop-punk band Sum 41 on The Blame Canada Tour. Prior to their Detroit show on May 10, Comeau chats naming conventions, songwriting processes, and local memories.
Hour Detroit: As a fan of Simple Plan, I’ve always been curious — is there a story behind the name of your debut album?
Chuck Comeau: We just wanted to come up with something that would make an impression — that would get people talking and would be funny. It would kind of show that the band doesn’t take themselves too seriously. We’ve always taken our music and career seriously, but we’ve always had a sense of humor so we really wanted to come up with something that would sort of symbolize that.
It’s a title worthy of the iconic songs it’s home to. It had amazing collaborations from Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 and Joel Madden of Good Charlotte, and featured pop-punk tracks “I’d Do Anything,” “Perfect,” “I’m Just a Kid,” and “Addicted.” Why do you think the songs have as much staying power as they do 20 years later?
The true power of a band comes from their songs — how it hits people and how it resonates. There’s a lot of truth in [our songs]. They were very authentic. It was really us writing about what we were going through. They were very personal, especially “Perfect.” It was one of the most personal songs we ever wrote. We felt, at the time, “Maybe this is too specific. This is too much about our own lives and people won’t get it. It’s not going to connect.” But it was quite the opposite. The fact that it was personal made it so much more universal because it was such a real story. That’s probably why people are still interested in them today and why they’ve become important to a whole bunch of people at the time.
Your new album, Harder than it Looks, comes out May 6. How would you describe the sound of the new album? Is it reminiscent of No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls or does it incorporate other genres?
I wouldn’t say it specifically sounds like No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls. The objective was to make a quintessential Simple Plan record, reconnect with our classic sound. The idea was to take the best of what we’ve done over 20 years and try to combine all these ingredients, all these elements, and put them into one album. That was really the goal — make something that people would listen to, and if they were fans they’d be like, “Oh my god, this is exactly what I was hoping for. This is exactly what I wanted.” It’s really trying to extract what made our songs special to people and trying to find how it can be relevant and exciting in 2022.
It’s kind of like an evolution? An evolution of the debut album, an evolution of Simple Plan?
It’s us going back to our roots but doing it in a way that is, like you said, modern and an evolution of that. It’s returning to what we loved about music when we first started, which is lots of energy, lots of catchy melodies, lots of honesty, and lots of emotions in the music. Those are the key elements of why we’re here today. We’ve always had that in our songs and our albums.
Has the songwriting process changed for you throughout the years?
Not really. It’s always been [lead vocalist and bassist] Pierre [Bouvier] and I that start the songs and the music. I usually will work a lot on the lyrical concepts and titles and subject matters. He’s more of the music and the melodies. Then we come together, and we work on all of it and create a song. Then we bring in the whole band. We’re in the studio, and everyone brings in their own ideas.
How did the name for the Blame Canada Tour come along? I know that you and Sum 41 are Canadian groups.
It was actually [Sum 41 main vocalist and songwriter] Deryck [Whibley] that made the suggestion. The idea that we’re two bands from Canada. Basically, you can “blame Canada” for having this tour even existing. We came from Montreal. They came from a suburb of Toronto. We were pretty much from the same place in the world. We thought it was kind of funny, and it’s a South Park reference, obviously. Kind of just playing on that and just having fun with that.
Are there any songs you’re excited to perform live from Harder Than it Looks?
We actually just came back from [touring in] Mexico. It was our first tour back. We got to play “The Antidote,” “Ruin My Life,” and “Wake Me Up (When this Nightmare’s Over)” for the first time. I’m super stoked to be playing them. Just judging by the reactions from when we were in Mexico — every fan knew every word to all of these new songs, so it was pretty cool to see that. People are not only loving the classic songs, but are also really excited for the new material, which is where you want to be as a band. You want to have these classic songs that people love, and you want people to be excited about your new stuff as well.
Simple Plan’s song “Ruin My Life” features Deryck Whibley from Sum 41. You’ve done a lot of collaborations throughout your career. Is there anyone you have yet to collaborate with that you want to work with in the future?
We always said that Pink would be rad. We love awesome artists like that — a strong and amazing voice. Great songs, just badass, and cool. That would be amazing. We would love for that to happen. I don’t know if it ever will, but that’s always my go-to answer.
You’ve been to Detroit quite a few times as well as the metro area. Do you have any memorable moments from your many local stops?
I feel like we’ve played the best, most awesome venues [in Detroit]. It’s always been a strong place for us. It’s probably because it’s close to Canada. It’s a border town in some ways. We’ve always had a really strong fanbase there. The shows have been really memorable, really awesome. I brought my son out with my wife, and we went to see a Tigers game at Comerica Park. That was special, very memorable. [Detroit] can sometimes get a bit of a bad rep, but I always feel like quite the opposite. It feels like it’s vibrant again and things are happening. It’s coming back and that’s exciting.
Simple Plan’s new album “Harder Than It Looks” will be available on May 6. Catch them, Sum 41, and opening band Set It Off at The Fillmore on May 10. Tickets for The Blame Canada Tour start at $33.75 and can be purchased at livenation.com. A dollar from each ticket sale benefits the Simple Plan Foundation and Sweet Relief’s Covid-19 Fund.