In the words of CONFRONT Magazine’s own editor-in-chief, “There are certain perks that come with doing what we do here at CONFRONT Magazine: going to see tons of great concerts, meeting high profile people […] And once in a while, we are lucky enough to have some of our dreams come true.” Those words perfectly describe what went through my mind on June 20th 2011.
When I joined CONFRONT a couple of years ago, never did I think I’d get to interview Simple Plan. The 12-year-old in me who sang along to I’m Just a Kid and who listened to “No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls” to the point where even my parents knew the lyrics, that kid is still in awe. On top of being a band that creates great music I can relate to, they’ve ultimately proven to me that nothing is impossible.
For those who might still be unfamiliar with the band, which to me is unbelievable, here’s a brief history. Simple Plan formed about 12 years ago and have kept its original members ever since, surprising for our generation. Their debut album was released in 2002 under Atlantic Records and since then, they’ve toured the world countless times, they’ve released one hit after another, they started their own Simple Plan Foundation and they just recently released their 4th studio album “Get Your Heart On”. The day before the official release of that latest album, they performed a small show at L’Astral in Montreal as part of Musique Plus’ Artiste Du Mois series and that’s where I got to interview Sebastien Lefebvre.
As I got to the venue, the lineup was already pretty long; not surprising for a Simple Plan show here in Montreal. I was led inside, then upstairs to a waiting area where I patiently yet anxiously stood, waiting for my turn. When it finally came, I was introduced to Sebastien who had the biggest smile on his face. I knew then that I had nothing to be nervous about; this was going to be a great interview. After he jumped into Jeff and David’s interview to add what he wanted to say, we headed over to the other end of the room and that’s when we started our chat.
Since it was the day after the MuchMusic Video Awards, I started off by asking him how it was for them this year. It was after all, their first MMVAs since 2008! “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.” I had missed the MMVAs but I had seen pictures of their kind of homage to Wham! outfits. And if, like me, you had been on their site before the album release, you were probably also wondering what all those crazy photoshoots were about. As it turns out, “we thought it was a great idea to dress up as a bunch of different band eras, music eras.” If you go through the images in the album booklet, you will notice those different eras with the guys’ fun getups. As we continued talking about the MMVAs and how it’s always a big party for them, I also found out they were big fans of Fefe Dobson, with whom they sang Jet Lag the night before.
Of course with the MMVAs comes the pink limo that apparently made quite a topic for itself the night before. “Well it needed to go with the outfits so I guess we were wearing tacky outfits and we needed a tacky car. You know what happened though? #pinmklimo 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.” Funny how they don’t even need to show their faces and yet they start a trending topic on Twitter!
As we moved onto the inevitable subject of their album, I asked about how their sound has evolved throughout the years. After all, it had been almost 10 years since the release of their debut album. From what I understood of recent interviews, it was described as a mash-up of the best Simple Plan elements. Here’s how Sebastien put it: “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.”
Simple Plan 2011 also experimented with different sounds this time around, even more than they did last time and you can definitely hear new elements they added, especially with Summer Paradise, a song they did with Canadian artist K’naan. I asked Sebastien how it was for them to play around with new sounds in the studio, to which he said it was a good experience.
Not only were their fresh sounds in this album though, but their whole recording process was something they hadn’t done before.“We decided to go song by song so we did the basic stuff that was obvious on every song. […] We’d come up with guitar parts until it was finished [for that song] 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.”
They enjoyed working that way, compared to what they usually did, which was a little more chaotic and “a little bit all over the place”, as he put it. There’s also something else that you might notice is unlike the past albums, if we exclude their debut, and that is the guest artists they had the chance to work with this time around.
“We definitely enjoyed collaborating with a bunch of people on this one so that’s definitely something we look forward to do again for sure. […] We always like to try stuff out and see if it works.”
When I mentioned they had already tried that with “No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls” when they had Mark Hoppus and Joel Madden on their album, he explained to me that due to conflicting schedules as well as time constraints, they hadn’t had the chance to collaborate with anyone since, even though they really wanted to. This time around though, they pushed for it to happen. “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.”
Of course, that made me wonder who he would dream to collaborate with and that’s when he told me about Joey Cape, singer of Lagwagon and Bad Astronaut, and how he’d always loved what he did. “He’s my childhood hero and it would be great to work with him.” The great thing about this is Joey is still creating music nowadays so it’s definitely a possibility for them.
We then went on to talk about one of my favorite tracks on the album; Astronaut, which will most likely be their next single for which they already have a music video. “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 because it’s not out yet but it feels like a mini movie.”
And how do the Simple Plan guys choose their singles? Sebastien described it as a “gut feeling kind of thing”. And that gut feeling of theirs is clearly the way to go for them, as it has not failed them for all these years, releasing one hit after another. They also trust the people around them to help choose a song that works. When they went about going through their songs on this album, this was the reasoning behind Jet Lag and Astronaut: “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.”
Of course, talking about songs, we just couldn’t avoid This Song Saved My Life, that special song of theirs that was written in such a particular way with lines that their fans sent them through Twitter. For this song, they used the lines that came up often in what fans sent in and they pieced it together so it would fit with the melody. He mentioned one specific line that they felt they needed to use: “Because of you my dad and me are so much closer than we used to be”.
If you are a Simple Plan fan, you probably realized that line connected with Perfect. The guys felt that was a song that had impacted the fans a lot so they knew they needed to use that line. All in all, “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.” They also gave a few lucky fans the chance to come in the studio with them and add their voices to This Song Saved My Life. It’s definitely a unique song that really proves how much they care about their fans.
As Sebastien told me about the goosebumps he gets when he hears the song, he added: “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.” Better learn those lyrics fast to sing them at a next Simple Plan show!
As our time together was almost up, I asked him what had changed within himself in these past 12 years of being part of Simple Plan.
“Funny enough, not much! 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?”
One thing is for sure, all this success hasn’t gone to their heads and though their English might’ve improved since their beginnings, from what I see, they are still the same guys who started the band so many years ago.
On the subject of changes, I mentioned the music business and how he sees it now that he’s in the heart of it rather than being a simple music listener. The one thing he’s learned is that in this industry, you need to work hard, always. Otherwise, fans lose interest. As we talked about their fans again, it really showed me that their fans mean a lot to them.
“We’ve always been the kind of band that talks to 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.”
As he told me that, I mentioned how the guys use the social tools to constantly update and communicate with fans. They know it has a big part in their fans’ lives and it’s also important to them. He brought up how they used to hang out at the merch area and how it just isn’t possible anymore and so Twitter and the internet is their new way to keep in touch with fans.
There’s also their Vlogs of course, that he describes as “a glimpse of what we do and what happens when you’re on tour. It’s a lot of fun! I like to watch them!” I compared it to “A Big Package to You” but in smaller doses and he agreed. He also added that there will be a DVD eventually because of all the filming they do but that for now, fans can have a taste of it in their video updates.
As our time ran out way too quickly, I asked him to draw something that represented him. His eyes lit up and he had a big smile on his face as he took out his sharpie and drew himself. “I’m really good at that! See, I’m a superhero, I’m flying!” There you have it, you’ve found out about Sebastien Lefebvre’s secret: guitarist for Simple Plan by day, superhero by night.
To read the full interview transcript and see what he drew click here and make sure to check out our picture gallery in the Recent Pics section of the Home Page.