Interview with Sebastien Lefebvre – Simple Plan
June 20th 2011 – Montreal, L’Astral
CONFRONT: You were at the MMVAs [MuchMusic Video Awards] yesterday. How was it?
SEBASTIEN: It was good, it was good! We got on the red carpet in a really ridiculous outfit; it was a lot of fun. I don’t know if you got the record but if you do, it will all make sense.
CONFRONT: Actually, can you explain that a little bit?
SEBASTIEN: Yeah, of course! For some reason, we thought it was a great idea to dress up as a bunch of different band eras, music eras. There’s the kind of rock n’ roll era, there’s like more of a 60’s era…
CONFRONT: …Beach Boys!
SEBASTIEN: Yeah! There’s also definitely an 80’s, tacky era so we got to dress up as that. And there’s a rap, really ganster thing as well.
CONFRONT: Yeah with that video blog?
SEBASTIEN: Yes, yes! We did that! *laugh* No, it was a lot fun but the MuchMusic awards were great. It’s always a fun party, a lot of friends; we got to sing with Fefe and she’s a great artist so we’re big fans.
CONFRONT: And you guys came in a pink limo, where did that idea come from?
SEBASTIEN: Well it needed to go with the outfits so I guess we were wearing tacky outfits and we needed a tacky car.
CONFRONT: *laughs* That’s awesome!
SEBASTIEN: You know what happened though? “#pinklimo” was trending on Twitter because we got there early and so we sat there and had to let a bunch of people go first and everyone was wondering who was in the pink limo so BAM! Trending. That’s how it goes.
CONFRONT: That’s how Simple Plan does it! Now, with the release of your album, we can’t really avoid talking about it.
SEBASTIEN: Of course!
CONFRONT: So how would you describe the evolution. I’ve read and I’ve heard in interviews that you took the energy of the first two and took the kind of deeper more serious side from the third one. So I guess it’s like a best-of all Simple Plan elements?
SEBASTIEN: Yeah I like to describe it that way. It’s everything that Simple Plan is good at so we wanted to definitely bring back all the fun and kind of young-ness of the first record and the energy and the live feel of the second record and then clearly some of the deeper stuff like the song Astronaut which is maybe reminiscent of the third one. But I don’t think this record could’ve been anything but our 4th record, you know? It’s definitely an evolution, a step forward: Simple Plan 2011, as we like to call it.
CONFRONT: Nice! You also experimented with a lot of sounds, more than with the previous albums. So how was it, in the studio?
SEBASTIEN: It was good! We had a different approach with this record which honestly, I think we’re going to start using for every single record we make.
CONFRONT: Which is?
SEBASTIEN: Usually, you’re in the studio and you sort of screw around with sounds and go “oh this one’s good for this song” and then you’re sort of a little bit all over the place. But we decided to go song by song so we did the basic stuff that was obvious on every song and then we were like “this week, we’re finishing this one”. And we’d come up with guitar parts until it was finished and then we moved onto the next song. So really, it’s a lot more focused and you’re a lot more efficient on figuring out what the song really needs and deserves and to make it really the way you want it to be.
CONFRONT: And did you do that with all the 70 songs that were written?
SEBASTIEN: *laugh* No, no, no, no! We definitely went through the cutting process before so we picked about 15 songs that we were going to focus on for the record and then that got cut to 11.
CONFRONT: I see! And are there any more sounds you guys want to experiment with?
SEBASTIEN: Honestly, I don’t think we’re thinking about the future yet. This one just came out and we definitely enjoyed collaborating with a bunch of people on this one so that’s definitely something we want to do again for sure! That’s definitely something to look forward to. But yeah! All the doors are always open for Simple Plan I think. We always like to try stuff out and see if it works.
CONFRONT: You guys had already collaborated with people at the beginning though, with No Pads, No Helmets, Just Balls.
SEBASTIEN: Yeah! But we hadn’t since so we really wanted to bring it back. You know, we had Mark and Joel on the first record and then nothing on the 2nd and 3rd; there wasn’t time, there were scheduling conflicts and all that. It’s kind of hard to collaborate with people but we had the time, we worked it out and asked the right people this time around. It worked great and we’re very happy with the way it came out.
CONFRONT: Cool! That’s what matters! And who would you dream to collaborate with?
SEBASTIEN: This guy, his name is Joey Cape; he’s a singer for a band called Lagwagon and Bad Astronaut. He’s a bunch of bands. I grew up listening to him, loved everything he did and he’s still doing music nowadays.
CONFRONT: So there’s still a possibility!
SEBASTIEN: Yeah! He’s my childhood hero and it would be great to work with him.
CONFRONT: You never know, maybe for the next one!
CONFRONT: Now, I heard that you have already filmed a videoclip for Astronaut so is that the next single?
SEBASTIEN: Yeah, most likely it will be because we knew we wanted to have a video for that song. It’s kind of an epic song and it kind of has clever lyrics with the metaphor, the parallel between being an astronaut and being lonely in life and looking for someone that’s meaningful. So we shot a pretty epic video, I can’t tell you too much about it because it’s not out yet but it feels like a mini movie.
CONFRONT: Fair enough, can’t wait to see it though. You’ve got me intrigued! And how do you go about choosing your singles?
SEBASTIEN: I think it’s a gut-feeling kind of thing, you know?
CONFRONT: Well your gut feeling’s been pretty good all these years!
SEBASTIEN: Yeah clearly! I guess at some point, you play the record for people and see what they think and we have to trust ourselves as well. You talk with everybody around with everybody around you and everybody who works with you and you try to agree on a song that makes sense! So Jet Lag is great because it sounds like Simple Plan but at the same time, it’s something new. We’ve never done a duet before and that kind of thing is different for us but at the same time, you still recognize the band in it so I think it was a good choice. And Astronaut is just one of those songs that just resonates with people so we definitely wanted people to hear it.
CONFRONT: Yeah for sure! And with This Song Saved My Life, I know you guys talk about this one a lot but it is really special.
SEBASTIEN: It is special.
CONFRONT: How did the piecing together of it all come along? [For those who might not know, this song was written entirely with lines fans sent them through Twitter.]
SEBASTIEN: I mean, obviously when fans just feed you lines, you have to put it together and kind of make it fit with the melody but I feel like we used the lines that got sent to us the most. There’s a line that says “Because of you my dad and me are closer than we used to be” and that clearly probably comes from Perfect.
CONFRONT: Yeah, for sure.
SEBASTIEN: So that’s definitely a song that was strong with a lot of the fans so obviously, we needed to use that line and we just tried to fit it in there. It was a funky process but it came out great and it’s such a cool story to have written with the fans for the fans and have the fans be on it as well. It’s kind of crazy.
CONFRONT: I was reading that when people started hearing the little 30-second clip of it, some were already crying or getting goosebumps!
SEBASTIEN: I have goosebumps when I hear it too!
CONFRONT: Me too! It has a really big impact on people.
SEBASTIEN: Definitely. I feel like it’s one of those songs that’s going to become the Perfect of this record. 25 people sang in the studio but we’re looking forward to having the whole crowd at a show sing the song; that’s going to be epic.
CONFRONT: It’s going to be amazing.
CONFRONT: So you’ve been a band for 12 years now.
SEBASTIEN: Pretty much, yes.
CONFRONT: Throughout all these years, what has changed the most in yourself?
SEBASTIEN: Funny enough, not much! Somebody asked us that the other day and we still have a lot of fun, everybody is really motivated and really excited about the record. Being on tour is still just as much fun. I think we’ve learned how to tour better and just to be happier on tour because it can be hard. But everybody has a good time; I think that at some point, you reach a certain age and you feel like something should be different but maybe it doesn’t have to, you know?
CONFRONT: Yeah that’s true. And what about your perspective of the music business from the time you were just a simple listener? Now you’re part of it, you know how it works.
SEBASTIEN: I think that something we’ve realized over the years is just that you have to work hard and as soon as you stop working hard, fans are going to stop liking your band. We’ve always been the kind of band that talks to the fans and we love doing it and it turns out that they like to talk to us as well. And using Twitter and doing interviews and going to sign after shows; it’s part of everything. It’s not just going onstage and playing songs.
CONFRONT: Yeah and you guys use the social tools a lot to interact; Twitter, vlogs every few days…
SEBASTIEN: Of course!
CONFRONT: How important is that to you guys?
SEBASTIEN: It’s really important to us and it’s super important to the fans too. They like seeing it. I mean, when we first started touring, we would always go and hang out at the merch booth to hang out with the people and take pictures. Now when the shows get bigger, you can’t always do that so the new way to talk and be in contact with the people is the internet obviously. Twitter helps a lot because you can reply to people and actually have conversations. And then with the Vlogs, it really is a glimpse of what we do and what happens when you’re on tour. Pierre’s been editing a lot of them and then Sim is doing a lot of them too. It’s a lot of fun! I like to watch them! *laugh*”We did that a few weeks ago, that was fun!!”
CONFRONT: *laughs* It’s like A Big Package For You but in smaller doses.
SEBASTIEN: Yeah in little pieces! A lot of people have been asking us when the next DVD is coming out. There will be one because we’re filming all the time but all the good stuff is online too so if you put them all together, that’s A Big Package For You too, pretty much!
CONFRONT: You can basically do it yourself if you really wanted to!
SEBASTIEN: Exactly, yeah!
CONFRONT: Now I’m going to ask you a question that I always ask which is to draw something that represents you.
SEBASTIEN: Yes!! I’m really good at that! Something that represents me?
SEBASTIEN: See, I’m a superhero, I’m flying!
CONFRONT: And that represents you?
CONFRONT: So that’s Sebastien’s secret? You go into a telephone booth…
SEBASTIEN: And I change!
CONFRONT: That’s great! Thank you!
SEBASTIEN: Of course! Thank you!