I don’t know about you, but some of my most vivid childhood memories involve blaring Simple Plan’s ‘I’m Just A Kid’ through my discman headphones and thinking I’d never connect to a song more in my life. Between that and their cameo appearance in Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen’s cinematic classic New York Minute, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has nostalgic ties to the Canadian punk pop rockers.
And if you want to feel old, last year marked 15 years since the release of their debut album No Pads, No Helmets… Just Balls. So what better way to celebrate than with an extensive anniversary tour?
After spending the last 12 months playing the album in full around the world, Simple Plan are bringing the throwback tour down under for a bunch of shows across the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Melbourne, Newcastle and Sydney this April. In addition to playing their first album in its entirety, the punk pop prodigies will also throw in a couple of other fan favourites for good measure.
Ahead of the tour, Music Feeds caught up with drummer Chuck Comeau about the negative stigma around nostalgia tours, channelling teen pop punk angst in your late 30s and getting back to their roots on their forthcoming sixth album.
Music Feeds: So you guys are coming back down under to celebrate the 15th anniversary of your debut record ‘No Pads, No Helmets… Just Balls’. Is it surreal to think this record has had (and still has) such a massive impact on your fans’ lives?
Chuck Comeau: It’s amazing. These songs and this album changed our lives and that’s how it all started for this band. So to be able to look back and get a chance to play all of these songs live and seeing, like you’re saying, the impact that it had on so many people’s lives and how much these songs have meant to a lot of people just doing this tour over the last year has been crazy.
We’ve basically been doing this for almost a year now that it’s actually become the 16th anniversary tour (laughs). It’s crazy because at first we just started this because we thought, “Ok, let’s see how it goes,” and then every country just raised their hands and were like, “Hey, come see us!” So it became this really cool thing that took on a life of its own and all of the fans wanted to see it and wanted to be a part of it. So it’s been really fun for the band to look back and think of everything we’ve done since then and to have a chance to reminisce about how special these first few years were. Everything was new and exciting and we had all of these hopes and dreams and most of them came true.
MF: It’s going to be pretty massive tour and the first Melbourne show apparently sold out within a minute of release. What’s it like knowing that you guys still have such a passionate fan base after all of these years?
CC: Yeah, I think the most amazing thing for us is to be able to be a band that wasn’t just a flash in the pan and to have this longevity. That’s one of the things we’re the most proud of. It’s just really cool to see how you can create this great connection with your fans and you can have all of this passion for a band and for music.
Australia has always been a really special place for us. It took a long time for us to do well there. I think the first few songs came out and literally it was like crickets and nothing happened. Then ‘Perfect’ came out and it went like number one and it was the biggest song. So we re-released every single song and they all became hits after they did nothing.
It was such a… I wouldn’t say vindication, but it was such a great feeling to know that because we worked hard and kept coming back and touring there and we didn’t give up on it, and now all these years later it’s one of the best countries in the world for us. The shows always sell out and it’s just a place that we love so much. We truly enjoy being able to visit year after year, it’s just really cool. We got really lucky and we’re very privileged and really appreciate it and can’t wait to come back. I know every band says that but we truly mean it, it’s one of our favourite places in the world to play and the welcome is always really special and amazing, so we’re stoked.
MF: The debut record was written and released when you guys were in your early 20s and were angsty young men. What’s it like revisiting some of those songs all of these years later? Do you find yourself channelling those same emotions?
CC: Yeah, I think in some ways you do and it’s become part of who we are and of our lives. We’ve played them so many times and I think the coolest thing is how many times we’ve heard that it has helped other people. There are so many people who will come up to us and be like, “Man, that song, right before my dad died I played him that and we got to have one good conversation and it helped me so much.” And you’re just going, “Woah, this was a song that was so personal to us.”
We wrote it [‘Perfect’] about dropping out of school and having to explain to our parents that we wanted to play in a rock band and not be like a lawyer. I was in law school and dropped out to play in this band and my parents have always been so supportive of the music but they didn’t think it was going to be like a real job, so they were just like, “What are you doing?! You can’t do that!”
It’s crazy how all of these years later, those feelings are still real for so many people. It’s so hard to be able to explain to somebody, “This is my passion and this is what I want to do. I want to follow my heart and I believe in this.” So many people feel like people don’t understand them and don’t get it.
So I think it’s still there, even if you’re older and now that we all have kids it’s crazy because it’s such a weird thing where you’re like, “Will my kids feel that way with me?” The tables are totally flipped now. It’s a weird feeling but what I’m grateful for is how deep the connection has been to the songs and that’s what I always come back to. It’s all about the music, all about the songs and for some reason we were able to write things that truly connected with people and I think that’s why we’re still here.
MF: Doing an anniversary tour is an interesting move as well, because you guys are still regularly releasing music and touring. Whereas these nostalgia tours are often for bands who are clinging on to the golden eras of their careers.
CC: We definitely went back and forth and I’ll be honest with you, we had some reservations at first about it because it felt like a lot of the time it was bands that were not really current and weren’t really doing anything and maybe it sent the wrong message that the best years are kind of behind you and you can only rely on your old stuff. But then we thought like, “You know what? That’s not the case.”
We’re still putting out new stuff and people are still loving it and the tour last year in Australia sold out everywhere and it did amazing. We did three nights in Melbourne. It was crazy and that was off of the fifth record. So this is a special moment and it’s 15 years in a band and that doesn’t happen every day, that your first album the turns 15, it’s quite a milestone. So we just felt like it was worth taking a little breather and trying to celebrate that and enjoy it with our fans and they were asking for it.
We just felt like it was a cool thing to do and we’re really happy we did and now when this tour wraps up in a few months, we’re gonna start making our sixth album and we’re gonna go on the road and play new songs again. With these shows, we play the album but then we come back and we play all the hits on all of the other albums so it’s not like we’re only playing old stuff. So I think people get the best of both worlds in a way, so it’s the perfect night for a Simple Plan fan.
MF: So we shouldn’t expect that you’ll be doing anniversaries for each of the records then?
CC: Well, we’ll see what happens. One thing I’ve learned is never say never. We definitely have a few more records that I feel that our fans would be stoked if we did that, but at the same time we don’t feel like we have to do that as a band. It’s not like a gimmick that’s like, that’s the only way people will come see us.
So I think when you have that confidence and you have that reassurance that your fans are going to be there no matter what, you can just do things that you enjoy and you can be creative and have fun and you don’t feel like you have to rely on that gimmicky thing. So I think on that level we’re very lucky that we don’t have to be that band that keeps touring the first album, you know what I mean? (laughs).
MF: Yeah, for sure. So now that you guys have been touring the No Pads, No Helmets… Just Balls anniversary tour for a year, what can Aussie fans expect for our turn?
CC: They’ve been some of the best shows we’ve had in years. In the US, it’s crazy. We went from playing for 1,000 people or 2,000 people to doing two, three nights in multiple cities and playing to 4,000 or 5,000 kids. It was really phenomenal and we honestly didn’t expect that kind of reaction. We ended up doing three legs of the tour in the States and we played places we haven’t played in years and people showed up and were so stoked. It was honestly the best thing ever and in some ways, it made us want to tour the US so much more than we’ve ever wanted to.
Over the last 10 years, we did most touring overseas and this just kind of made us want to tour the US because we had so much fun and it was so cool. So now we’re just going to keep doing it. And we’re actually doing the last Warped Tour of all time all over the US, so that’s just a really nice way to keep that going. So it’s been really cool, the reactions have been awesome and you see it in the crowd, you have songs where people go crazy and jump around and then you have songs where people just listen and enjoy the music.
You can see the fans truly just taking in a song we haven’t played in years live and being stoked to be there in the moment. So it’s been really cool, we’re very lucky to have the fans still there and still enjoying the music.
MF: That’s awesome! And you mentioned that there are plans for the sixth album in the works. Can you tell us any more about that?
CC: We’ve been discussing it and talking about when we want it out and what kind of sound that we want. We’re not the greatest at writing while we’re on tour, it’s really hard for us. So I think we’re planning to do that right after Warped Tour around August or September and start writing.
We might actually try to do a little bit of writing on the Warped Tour this time around and try to get the songs out and try to get inspired by all of the great bands that are going to be there and reconnect with some of our roots on that tour. We want to try to have it out quicker because we always take a long time to make albums and I feel like in 2018, that’s not the way you do it. You just have to shake things up and do things differently and have more music coming out more often.
So I think that’s the game plan, to make sure we have a really great and special album but at the same time, make sure it comes out quicker because our fans are asking for it and we want to be back on the road. We don’t want to go away for three years, that’s what Metallica used to do in the ’90s (laughs). We need to be more like hip hop and put more stuff out.
MF: On the last record you experimented a little bit with the sound and collaborated with some interesting artists like Nelly and New Found Glory’s Jordan Pundik. Do you think you’ll do something similar this time around?
CC: I feel like we’ve always done that in the last five or 10 years. We always try to do something that’s a little bit outside what people think that we can do. But all of these shows and tours have been inspiring and have revitalised the band and made us really eager to write again and come up with more songs that have an impact on our fans. So it’s kind of motivating when you have an audience that’s excited and is showing up, you want to give them what they want.
So I think on the next record we want to throw in some of that legacy pop punk influence and have some fun that’s really in your face and catchy and fast Simple Plan-style music but also take a few chances here and there. But yeah, I think you’ll get a lot of back to our roots kinda vibes and old school, so that’s going to be fun.
Simple Plan will tour Australia this April, supported by Eat Your Heart Out and Stateside. Catch all the tour dates right here.