Simple Plan’s take on the impact of a crazy world—on their fans and on themselves.
Simple Plan couldn’t have thought of a better name for their band. Their “simple plan”—being friends, playing music they love, writing lyrics that speak directly to their fans’ lives—has been a resounding success. These five awesome guys from Montreal sold over two million albums, headlined the Vans Warped Tour twice, toured the world, were nominated for four MTV Video Music Awards, and played alongside Rancid and Aerosmith, all before releasing their second album, Still Not Getting Any.
When Simple Plan released their debut album, No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls, in the spring of 2002, it was an instant hit. Singles like “I’m Just a Kid,” “I’d Do Anything,” and “Addicted” showcased a talent for writing catchy tunes with sing-along lyrics that won them legions of fans they have created a strong bond with—fans they write songs for. If anything, Simple Plan’s greatest achievement is this connection. Still Not Getting Any speaks to the issues and challenges all young people, themselves included, facing a world they deemed “screwed up.”
“Most people we meet are not happy. You walk around at shows and meet kids, and most people don’t seem to be happy with where they are no matter how great a family they have, or how great they’re doing in school, or how much money their family has,” says drummer Chuck Comeau. “We have a society full of people that want something more, and they just don’t know what it is.” The band believes one of the causes of this overwhelming unhappiness is the pressure young people feel from an image-driven society.
Everywhere you look and every time you turn on the TV or flip through a magazine, you see celebrities looking meticulously perfect. These images unfortunately become the ideal for young people, especially girls. “[Young people] are bombarded. Some people think there’s a way they should look because of what they see on TV,” says bass player David Desrosiers. The band members relate stories of meeting young female fans after shows who want to take pictures with them, but won’t be in the pictures because they’re insecure. “They’re like, ‘Nah, I hate how I look,’” says Chuck. “It was amazing to see how much the perceptions of people’s own images are so messed up. We don’t try to say we’re better or we have a solution, it’s just stating facts and questioning it.”
Self-image is an important issue with Simple Plan, and they have a lot of opinions and advice for their fans. Their main message: Be yourself. “Girls in magazines don’t even look like that anyway,” says lead vocalist Pierre Bouvier. “Yeah, maybe it does look good, but it’s not reality. And if you’re trying to achieve that, it’s impossible—you’re just going to starve yourself, be really unhealthy and really unhappy,” adds Chuck, “They’re not achievable standards, and it makes people feel so insecure.”
While overwhelming insecurity is one side effect of the desire to be unrealistically perfect, overcompensating by dressing too sexy, too soon is another. “There’s no need to grow up that fast, and [13-year-old girls] aren’t ready to grow up that fast anyway, so why go there?” says Pierre. “Stay young as long as you can. You’ve got your whole life to be grown up.”
So, if the world is going “Crazy” (the title of a song on the new album), what’s happening? Is it just that society is obsessed with looking and acting a certain way? Not according to Simple Plan, who wrote the song as a reaction to the world. “We were looking around and going, ‘What the hell is going on, where is this coming from?’” says Chuck. “It made us think on a larger scale how much parents seem to sort of really give up on their kids, and have their own priorities, and don’t really care. It seems a lot of kids suffer tremendously from that.” Simple Plan’s bond with their fans allows the band to really listen to what the fans are saying and respond with songs that try to offer some understanding. “We’re really close to our fans, and we hear a lot of messed-up stuff,” says David.
Pierre believes the shifting of priorities away from family is for all the wrong reasons. “You can’t focus your energy on, ‘I wanna be successful in my career, so I’m gonna be gone six days a week, and my kids will be raised by a nanny and TV, and my marriage is going to break up,’” he says. “If you focus your priorities on money, you’re not going to be happy.”
Don’t get the wrong message. All this talk of unhappiness and a crazy, messed-up world may have you thinking Simple Plan doesn’t know how to have fun anymore. Well, you couldn’t be more wrong. This album marks their next step in becoming the band they want to be. You didn’t think they’d tell you to be yourselves without doing it too, did you? Still Not Getting Any is Simple Plan’s chance to get closer to finding their own voice as a band. “Our main goal is to be Simple Plan, to be a band like Weezer or No Doubt where they put out records, and people don’t question the genre,” says Pierre. And lead guitarist Jeff Stinco adds, “We like catchy music, we like fun stuff, we like deeper songs. We like the whole spectrum. This album is about that. It’s a very diverse record.” Guitarist Sebastien Lefebvre sums it up nicely, “This is us, and this is how we wanna be.”
Simple Plan has had tons of success, both at home, here in Canada and internationally, but they haven’t lost sight of what’s important to them. “Having people that you love around you, your family,” says David. Adds Chuck, “Yes, we get to write songs for a living, but we get to talk to kids and hopefully make them feel something and help. That’s a pretty solid way to spend your life. We’re lucky we get to do what we do.”