Simple Plan rediscovers the spirit of its youth on Harder Than It Looks

Two decades after their debut, the Montreal group decided to combine the classic and the contemporary on their new album, released on Friday, May 6.

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Think of Simple Plan’s new album as the sonic equivalent of the I’m Just a Kid TikTok challenge.

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Harder Than It Looks (released Friday, May 6) is a throwback to the Montreal band’s classic sound. In other words, it’s old-school punk-pop, with big hooks, bigger melodies, and lots of buzzsaw guitars, all wrapped up in a well-produced, approachable style. As it should, it is released on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Simple Plan’s debut album, No Pads, No Helmets… Just Balls, which relied on the same musical formula and made these French-speaking Montrealers rock stars. world.

The I’m Just a Kid TikTok challenge appeared on the absurdly influential social media platform at the start of the pandemic. It just happened – it wasn’t started by the band members or those around them. In fact, they only discovered it when it got huge. The idea was that people would create short videos reminiscent of their childhood with the title track, one of Simple Plan’s early hits, as the soundtrack.

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Before you could say “viral phenomenon”, there were 3.4 million videos online as part of the challenge, including clips featuring Will Smith, Venus and Serena Williams, Usher and Ed Sheeran, leading to more than four billion views in total.

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So let’s just say going back in time felt natural for the band. But drummer Chuck Comeau is quick to point out that Harder Than It Looks isn’t all about nostalgia.

“We wanted to do the quintessential Simple Plan album, but I think we wanted to do it in a way that felt modern and fresh,” Comeau said from his home in the Toluca Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. “Instead of copying exactly what we did with our debut album, we wanted to find the essence of the band, find the ingredients that made Simple Plan Simple Plan – but do it in a contemporary way. And I think that’s “It’s easier said than done. I think it’s easy to say, ‘Let’s write an uptempo song, we’ll add those pop-punk arrangements.’ Then you do that and sometimes there’s just no magic. There’s no excitement. It’s like you’re repeating yourself. It feels stale.

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“So that was the challenge of the album. It was like, ‘Let’s find what we love about our band and what made us want to play this kind of music, form this band when we were 19 or 20 years. And what our fans loved about this band when they first heard them. .’

“What were the songs? Which albums have people really connected with? What was it about those moments, those songs, that really connected, that made them special for us and for them? It is to find this essence. These ingredients. So let’s try to find the energy — let’s try to find the spirit. Let’s try to find the feeling that we had when we wrote these songs or when the fans heard these albums. And do it in a way that felt like we weren’t repeating ourselves or just going around in circles. Try to do something that would move the group forward.

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“I really feel like when I hear the record now and hear the reaction from the fans, it’s kind of like they can tell there’s something classic and vintage about it. these songs. But at the same time, they feel exciting, they feel like they belong in 2022 and they don’t feel dated. They feel like they’re in tune with the times.

Comeau said the album was actually finished in early 2020, “right before the whole world stopped and our lives changed”. Four of the 10 tracks have already been released as singles: The Antidote, Ruin My Life (with Deryck Whibley of Sum 41), Congratulations and the prophetic Wake Me Up (When This Nightmare’s Over), written before the pandemic but which corresponds to our times as one glove.

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Like many other artists, the band delayed releasing the album, thinking it was best to launch when they could go on tour. And that’s exactly what they’re doing now.

Simple Plan embarked on a series of US dates with Sum 41 called (with tongue in cheek) the Blame Canada tour. A Canadian tour with The Offspring that was supposed to take place at the beginning of the year has been postponed until the fall, and there will certainly be a date in Montreal, probably at the Bell Centre. And Comeau said there might even be a surprise show in Montreal this summer.

The band recently played their first gig in two years, at a huge festival in Mexico in front of 75,000 people.

“We missed playing gigs,” said guitarist Jeff Stinco. “It’s something you take for granted. I’ve been doing it for so long, and it was like, ‘Yeah, whatever.’

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“I liked staying at home (during the pandemic). I spent a lot of time with the family. I’ve really made a home for myself, which I’ve kind of neglected over the years. It was good. But now I need balance. I have to hit the road again. From what I’ve seen in Mexico, people are eager to see shows, to go out. I was worried people would get used to being home and watching movies, but once you’ve completely watched Netflix, you have to get out.

“We are social beings. We need to interact. It was a little stressful to see 75,000 people without masks… but we have to learn to live again after all that has happened. Life must continue. It must.

(Other band members are singer Pierre Bouvier and guitarist Sébastien Lefebvre. Bassist David Desrosiers left in 2020 following allegations of sexual misconduct.)

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Stinco says Simple Plan’s explosion on TikTok was great because it was a showcase for their music.

“Every time I see a very young face (during a show), I say it’s probably because of TikTok,” he said. “I think the TikTok challenge probably reminded people of Simple Plan. I don’t know if it generated crazy amounts of new fans. I think people who knew Simple Plan at some point said, ‘Oh yeah, let’s see the band again. I loved this group. It’s a reminder, because there’s so much noise online.

IN ONE LOOK

Harder than it looks releases Friday, May 6.

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  1.     Jeff Stinco, guitarist of the pop-punk band Simple Plan, at Lorbeer, one of his restaurants on Laurier Avenue.  “It's about following my passions, doing things that I've really wanted to do for a long time.

    2014: Beyond a Simple Plan for guitarist Jeff Stinco

  2. 2008 concert review: Simple Plan surprises hometown fans

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