(From left) Chuck Comeau, David Desrosiers, Sebastien Lefebvre and Jeff Stinco of the band Simple Plan pose for a photograph during an interview with The Canadian Press in November in Montreal. — Photo by The Canadian Press
The guys in Simple Plan acknowledge they’re not the coolest band in the world. Or Canada. Or even their hometown of Montreal.
And they’re cool with that. Mostly.
“It’s funny because whenever we go see a band that’s maybe like a heavy rock band or a band that everyone thinks is cool — that all the hipsters think is cool — we always have that conversation where we’re like, ‘You know, man, it’d be cool to be Linkin Park,”’ says frontman Pierre Bouvier during a recent interview in Toronto, where the band was playing the Air Canada Centre and promoting the new coffee table book “Simple Plan: The Official Story” by Kathleen Lavoie, available in English and French.
“But there’s so much that we can be thankful for and there’s so many things that have happened to this band and that we’ve gone through that are so amazing that you can’t have everything.
“Does it bother us? Not to the point we don’t sleep at night. But is there a little part of us sometimes (that thinks) it would be cool to be, you know, the cool band that everybody that’s cool thinks we’re the coolest thing ever? Sure it would be cool.”
Bouvier and his bandmates don’t have much hipster cred but they have plenty of other things to brag about.
Among them are about 11 million records sold, a slew of hit singles that got major air time around the world, enough award trophies to fill a bookcase, and an invitation to perform at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
The book marks the 10th anniversary of the release of Simple Plan’s first album, “No Pads, No Helmets ... Just Balls,” which had the hits “I’d Do Anything,” “I’m Just a Kid,” “Addicted” and “Perfect.”
It doesn’t gloss over the band’s ups and downs, including some weak critical reviews and troubles breaking into the U.S. market. Their early battles revolved around getting respect from rock radio stations that refused to play their music.
Although the musicians have roots in punk and indie rock, they had to come to grips with the fact that they’d get farther by embracing the Top 40 pop world. They lost some major cool points in deciding who to align themselves with on the road, including fellow Canadian Avril Lavigne.
“That brought us a certain level of visibility that would’ve been pretty hard to get if we would’ve been just a rock band or an alternative band,” recalled guitarist Jeff Stinco.
“We are a rock band, clearly by our shows, but we have a pop sensibility that brings us a certain level of attention that definitely defines the band, that definitely helps the band get heard and be seen.”
The band has “made peace with who we are,” adds drummer Chuck Comeau.
“We don’t really have anything to prove anymore. And we don’t necessarily feel insecure about it. I think it took a little bit of time — we were always extremely proud of what we’ve done — but I think now it’s full acceptance,” Comeau said.
“From the first moments of the band we were like: We don’t want to play in our basement. We don’t want to play for like 10 people at a show. We want to play in a stadium. ... We want our music to be heard and that’s the road that we follow and got us to where we are today.”
Growing self-confidence encouraged the band to experiment and go beyond its trademark pop-punk sound on its third and fourth records, “Simple Plan” (2008) and “Get Your Heart On!” (2011).
On “Simple Plan,” the band fought a songwriting rut by reaching out to producers in the hip-hop community for inspiration, including Grammy winner Nate (Danja) Hills.
With “Get Your Heart On!” they recruited guest vocalists — including Canadian K’naan, Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo and Natasha Bedingfield — to expand their sound.
“I think it just adds a cool flavour for us and what I like about what we’ve done in the past, and I think what we’ll continue to do, is allow ourselves to step outside of the boundaries of what people think we are,” said Bouvier.
“We always try to throw a curveball on there and put a song or two or three on the record that really will surprise people, and we’ve done that on (‘Get Your Heart On!’) and I think we’ll keep doing that. You’ll always see us try something different.”
Adds Stinco: “I think our identity is not stuck in a certain type of song and a certain esthetic. ... Are we going to put out a country song? I would doubt it but it’s a possibility.”