Perspective: In 1998, I checked Clumsy out from the Holmen branch of the La Crosse public library system. I recorded it onto a cassette using my parents’ state of the art home entertainment system and proceeded to wear holes in the magnetic tape.
From that moment on, every single Canadian I have ever met has been questioned about Our Lady Peace (Holla, Randall and Dre), and I have referred to them on multiple occasions as the “Canadian Beatles.”
So Last Monday: I interviewed Raine Maida, who I’ve been listening to for about 15 years. The hardest part of interviewing an artist you really love is balancing the need to ask good questions and the desire to make sure they understand just how big a fan you are. Overall, I think I did a pretty good job letting Raine talk about the important stuff, i.e. the upcoming album Curve, while still proving that I know my Our Lady Peace.
I did use the term “awesome” a bit too much, but if my only sin was enthusiasm, I guess I’ll survive.
Of Note: I had to make myself sound a lot smarter and on point in transcribing this interview, for the sake of space. If you want to hear how it really went, feel free to skip to the end and listen to me embarrass myself in front of a musical legend.
Raine Maida, ladies and gentlemen.
A lot of people have been talking about a “return to form,” and I never really know how to read into that, but it sounds like something that kind of came from your side during the Clumsy and Spiritual Machines tour. (In 2010 Our Lady Peace performed a series of shows featuring the albums Clumsy and Spiritual Machines in their entirity.)
Yeah, the Spiritual Machines part of that was pretty profound. You know, once you make a record and you start touring it, you never usually play all the songs. You usually play a couple or a few, and playing that record in full really took us back to what was interesting about that album and exciting about it as artists.
We really took some chances, even having a guy like Elvin Jones, who has since passed away, on the record. It just felt like we were really brave as musicians back then, and we haven’t felt like we did making that record since.
I remember when Spiritual Machines came out, and I remember being really confused – which wasn’t a bad thing. It just meant I had to listen to the album 10 times before I decided I really liked it.
I think we do that as well. We still love music and discovering new music, and it’s those records that usually last longer.
Even with the albums after that – Burn Burn took me a while, but Gravity really took me a long time to get into. I know that’s the album people kind of have sad faces for, but once I got used to it and realized it was still Our Lady Peace, it was a really satisfying record.
I think, song-wise, it is, but in terms of where we were as artists, at that time, we just kind of went with it. It’s nothing that we look back on negatively and, actually, doing that record helped us get back to this place again. This is where we realize we really want to exist. It (Curve) is kind of the best of both worlds. The songwriting is mature, and I think the songs are all really strong. It was just finding that middle ground for us.
In a lot of ways it felt like the record that needed to come after something as thick as Spiritual Machines. I think it really opened Our Lady Peace’s sound up, without sacrificing the heaviness. For example, I really love “Not Enough.”
That was one of the songs that was written early on in those sessions and just felt like, “You know what, we can do this too.” It was simpler, more sparse and a little more straightforward, and we were like, “Okay, this works. Let’s go with it.”
And the new record has that too. Though, even at some of the points where there’s simplicity, music-wise, it doesn’t last for long, which I like. It definitely takes you on a journey, and it’s definitely a product of Steve (Mazur) coming into his own as a guitar player. The stuff on this record, guitar-wise, is just ridiculous.
I have a follow-up to that. It’s about the chorus in “Escape Artist,” (from Burn Burn) which I had to listen to several times before I was sure it was even an Our Lady Peace song. The guitar was great, but totally threw me off.
It’s funny – that song and “Paper Moon” are probably the two songs on that record that really hint at where we’re going on Curve. Those are probably the two songs we probably play live most often from Burn Burn. It’s an interesting thing; those were kind of the telltale signs of where we were going to go, even though we didn’t know it at the time. It’s a good tale of where we are as musicians.
On Curve, is the boxing theme a kind of metaphor for getting back in the studio and challenging yourself ?
Yeah, once you’ve been a band for a certain amount of time, sometimes the hardest thing for a band to do is stay together and inspire each other. And we’ve been through those moments where it feels like a battle. Sometimes the most courageous thing isn’t getting in the ring; it’s being knocked down and getting back up again, and that’s what it feels like we’ve really done on this record.
I’m not sure if you read the story, but we started making another record, and it was along the lines of Burn Burn. A friend of mine, Jason (Lader), who ended up co-producing the new record with us, was over here one day and I was playing him some stuff. I think I played him three songs and he just sat on the couch in my studio looking at me and said, “Really? We don’t listen to this kind of music. This isn’t what excites you about music. Why don’t you make a record that you want to listen to?”
That was kind of it. I talked to the guys and said, “I think we should start again and really be brave. We should get in the studio and make hard choices and make sure we’re never repeating ourselves and find something where we can all say, ‘Wow, I didn’t think we were capable of that.'”
Basically, the next week, Jason came in and we started from scratch.
And I think Our Lady Peace is at a point, where, you know, you’ve built yourself up and people will go with you.
Yeah, exactly, and I think most people want to take that journey. We’re (Our Lady Peace) music fans first, and the bands we like have always been the bands that throw you a left curve every once in a while, and there’s an excitement you feel in the music. The fact that we’re on a high about it right now feels pretty amazing, especially after making eight records.
Even referencing Spiritual Machines as a kind of soulmate to this record – I mean – my expectations are huge now. That’s such a high standard.
I think I’d probably take it a little hard if people don’t enjoy this record, with all the challenges we put in front of ourselves in making it. In the same way Spiritual Machines was, I think this is a statement. As a band, over the course of a career, you might get two or three chances to make that type of statement, one where you’re going off on a completely different path, and my expectations are really high for this record.
So, last question, tell me a bit more about the boxer on the cover. Spiritual Machines was very intentional, and I’m wondering whether the artwork we’re seeing is more than simply boxing as a metaphor.
Yeah, the whole boxing metaphor has really become a mantra for this record. We tapped into this old Canadian boxer, George Chuvalo, who’s the only heavyweight, I believe, to never be knocked down.
He’s this crazy guy who’s just a sweetheart of a man, and at the same time has had a bit of a tragic life. Two of his children have passed away from drug addiction and his first wife, after the first child died, committed suicide. So he’s had this really tragic life, but still, as we know him now, is just this really positive man who runs a foundation focused on addiction and has done really great things.
When you involve someone else like that, it almost puts a greater importance on the music, and on the record while you’re making it. It’s just more of statement, and becomes that much more weighty when you have another person who has an interest in the music like that.
Want to hear my entire interview with Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace? Well, here you go. Curve comes out April 3, and I will race you to the record store.
Photo courtesy of Noir Haik.