Marking 15 years since their debut album, Simple Plan’s anniversary tour comes to Ottawa on September 20th.
When we caught up with Jeff Stinco from Simple Plan last year, the band had just released their 5th studio album. This year, they are on tour for the 15th anniversary of their very first album, No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls. Simple Plan lands in our city once again on September 20th at Algonquin Commons Theatre.
Now, the band is taking time to celebrate a milestone in their career. Fans can expect their debut album to be played front to back, mixed with all their greatest hits along the way—AKA the old songs you blared in high school, to the new favourites that have kept Simple Plan on the charts.
Faces Magazine: So, you are currently on the US leg of your No Pads, No Helmet…Just Balls 15th Anniversary Tour. Why was it so important for you as a band (and for your fans) to do this tour?
Jeff Stinco: You know, with this band, we probably didn’t celebrate milestones often enough. We are such an ambitious and driven band, and I think we have always wanted to look forward and not fall into nostalgia mode. We are lucky because we have people around reminding us that those milestones are important, and that we need to celebrate them, so that is precisely what happened. We had fans telling us how that record has changed their lives and how important that music was for them. Our label and management told us that we should do a few shows around the anniversary and leave it at that. Then one show became two, two became three and next thing we knew we were doing a full year of celebration!
15 years went by so fast, but I think the cool thing about this album is that it aged well. There are a lot of new faces at our shows, and I think it has a lot to do with streaming services where people are exposed to so many playlists, that people who may not know about us suddenly hear about Simple Plan. Then we have people who are 20, 30, 40 – that were not necessarily of age, or who didn’t have the money to come see a show, that now want to be a part of it. It’s cool to see it renewing itself and growing. I often have people stop me in the streets and say “I used to listen to Simple Plan, and I still do! I love the band!” and I think, “Well you are wearing an Italian suit and you don’t look like the kind of person that would listen to Simple Plan, yet, thank you!” So, it’s super interesting.
What can fans look forward to on your 15th Anniversary Tour? You’re playing the whole debut album front to back, as well as some other hits?
Yea, all the songs from the first record which I think people are stoked about. We are playing songs now that we never approached live before, and we play all the hits! I think that if you are going to a Simple Plan show, you want to hear the songs that you grew up with, and made you stick with the band. It’s important to play songs like, “Welcome to My Life”, “Crazy”, “Summer Paradise”, all of the songs that people grew to love over the years.
What song on the set list is your favourite to perform, or is special to you?
It’s kind of fun to sing “I’m Just A Kid” to all these people who grew up with the music. It’s cool because if you take it literally, it’s kind of lame, but if you accept it for what it is, about not wanting to grow up, and just being in that state of mind, I think it is a pretty sweet song and people really have a blast when we play it.
How have you as an individual and as a band changed since the first time you toured in support of this album back in 2002?
We were kids when we started this thing; we were so young, so naïve and anxious to tour the world. I myself hadn’t travelled much—I went backpacking across Europe when I was younger but that was it. Then this band sent me to Australia, South America, Asia, the US. I hadn’t been anywhere outside of New York. I had only been to the places that French Canadians travel too (laughs)! It was cool to see all these places and it was a blast – such a great adventure.
Now we’re dads, we’re a “little” more serious (laughs) and we choose our fights in the sense that we don’t party as much as we used too (laughs). We pick our battles but we still know how to do it right! So, things have changed a little bit! In the beginning, we didn’t know how things were going to happen and didn’t know what to expect, and now there is a sense of protection for everything we have done. This band is bigger than its members and the legacy we have is important and we want to protect it.
Do you feel like you have accomplished everything you wanted to as a band?
Absolutely not! I like to think of Simple Plan as the biggest small-band in the world. We have played on some huge stages and opened for some great bands, we have headlined some amazing tours…but at the same time I think we didn’t push it to the level that we had intended to, so we are still hungry. There are still a lot of places we haven’t been and festivals we haven’t headlined or ever played at—there are many places we would love to go.
You are known for making music that relates to 90’s born kids—your largest fan group that has really grown up with your music when it came out in the early 2000s. What do you think it is about your music that 90’s kids, or teens in general, can relate to so well?
We are from the era of Blink 182, Green Day, The Osprey, Good Charlotte. When you grow up with music it becomes engrained in you, and when you listen to music from a certain era that was important to you, it brings back a lot of memories and it is very evocative, which is the power of music. I think we manage to write songs that bring people somewhere, and over the years that is what we hear most; we hear people telling us that they got married to our songs, that they went through hard times in high school to our songs, that they met their best friend at one of our shows. It’s then you realize that it isn’t just about music, but about creating community, about people getting together in communion to watch a show. It sounds kind of cheesy but at the same time, it’s so true.
The Simple Plan Foundation does a lot of work for teens and teen-related problems, like suicide, drug addiction and poverty. What is it about this cause that makes it so important to you and the band?
Over the years we had a lot of fans who would tell us about their problems at meet and greets, or outside the tour bus, and we really only have 30 seconds to a minute to engage and talk with them. These people were really dealing with serious issues and we couldn’t give them the time that they deserved, so we figured since we cannot make a difference on a case by case basis, let’s try to raise money through our music to help. For every ticket we sell, we give $1.00 to the Foundation, and we pick causes that we care about, all things relating to those very difficult teenage years—we try to help. We are not preachy and we are not trying to impose our views on anybody, we just decided to try and make a difference and be political about it. 100% of the money we raise goes right to the causes— there is no huge salary or crazy expenses—we try to be as lean and as effective as possible and we are pretty proud of it.
What is some recent work the organization has done?
It’s an ongoing thing, we aren’t trying to do precise things. We take long term agreements with organizations that help kids in need. For example, in Montreal there is an area that is very poor, and there is a garage where kids go after school to play music together, eat something (because there is often not enough to eat at home), and do their homework with specialized educators, so we help them out by donating money and talking about the cause, and we help them raise more money. Those are the kind of things we do.
As the gurus of teenage angst, what is some advice you’d give to teens today?
I think it is important to talk, to discuss, to learn how to communicate, and not be ashamed of feeling awkward during those years growing up. It’s important to find like-minded people to talk to. Remember that being a teenager was a difficult time for most people, and there is no shame in admitting that and looking for help if need be. I think it is important to have a passion, to find something that drives you and keeps you interested in life. For us that was music, for others it is sports…whatever it is, I think people need to find their own passion and try many things. You are not necessarily supposed to know what you want to do in life, or who you are going to be, but what is important is trying new things, challenging yourself and staying interested – those things can lead you to a good place.
Besides touring, what does life look like now? Tell us about your endeavors into the restaurant business in Montreal.
I opened a restaurant 5 years ago; I was trying to diversify and try new things, and I was following a passion of mine. It’s been a lot of fun and it’s going really well—the restaurant is booming which is great 5 years in! I play a lot of music and I write, I practice and I am very heavily involved in the local music community. Life is about being a dad, being a businessman, and being on the road—there’s never a dull moment!
You are coming to Ottawa on September 20th, what are some of your favourite things to do or places to go here? Being from Montreal, you must come here quite often?
I am fortunate because I have a lot of friends in Ottawa who take us out. When we first started out as a band, Ottawa had a reputation for being sort of a relaxed place, and not having a lot of nightlife, and that has changed over the years. Now there are lots of really nice restaurants and cool spots, so we indulge, and it won’t be any different next time we come through.
What’s next for Simple Plan?
We are going to start working on a new record! We are not very good at writing songs on the road, so we will have to stop, regroup, and actually make a record (laughs). So, it might take a while, but that is what’s next!