With the recent release of their new studio album Somethingness, multi-platinum Canadian rock band Our Lady Peace is getting ready to embark on a massive national tour with Matthew Good, a complete list of tour dates for which can be found on the band’s website.
On the eve of the tour’s kickoff in Newfoundland on March 1, OLP bassist Duncan Coutts chatted with us about why the group isn’t particularly nostalgic, the band’s new record, and having Axl Rose watch their television.
Back in 1998, my band opened the first two shows of the Clumsy tour – Saint John, NB and St. John’s, NFLD. I remember my bass player and I were sitting in the floor seats and talking with you and [former Our Lady Peace drummer] Jeremy [Taggart] before the gates opened and I thought how calm and cool you were despite the fact you were kicking off the tour that was, at that point, the biggest headlining shows of your career. It was a pretty pivotal point in your career, and ultimately solidified you as an arena act from coast to coast. Does it seem a bit surreal when you look back on it now, never mind the fact it was 20 years ago?
I tend to think we were so cool and collected because we were just in a state of disbelief at the time. [laughs] The fact is though, I’ve never necessarily seen us as a “big” band. I mean, we’ve been very lucky to have had great success these last 20 years, but we’ve never been the kind of group that ruminates on the past. We’ve always looked forward, and maybe that’s been to our detriment at various points of our career, but we’ve always been consumed with what’s next. Sometimes it’s tough to take stock of where you’re at.
Not taking the time to reflect isn’t always a bad thing though.
It’s always worked for better for us. It’s allowed us to push the band forward and do different things. From a commercial standpoint, we’ve never been a band whose albums all sound exactly alike, but with a guy like [Our Lady Peace vocalist] Raine [Maida] on vocals, it certainly allows for a certain creative freedom. That Clumsy tour was a great time though. While I played some shows while the band was still supporting Naveed, Clumsy marked what I consider my beginning with the band.
I was just reading a joint interview with Raine and Matthew [Good] where they insisted that this upcoming tour isn’t at all about nostalgia, at least not from the bands’ point of views. And to that effect, you’re both out promoting new material – the new Our Lady Peace full-length just dropped while Matt’s latest record Something Like A Storm was released last fall. How tough is it to put a setlist together for a tour like this?
We are nothing like the Tragically Hip in the respect that they were the kind of band you could see two nights in a row and the shows would be entities of their own with totally different set lists, and just a handful of common songs between them. With this tour, we’ve got staples that will be in each show, but have probably six or seven songs that we’ll be switching out each night. We are going to try to touch on as many of our records as we can.
At almost six years, the time between Curve and your new album Somethingness is arguably the longest stretch you’ve gone between full-length albums. I assume that span of time wasn’t completely intentional?
Part of the reason behind why there was such a stretch between records is that half the band lives in Los Angeles and the other half lives in Toronto. Life is busy and everyone has multiple projects on the go, but you can also lose track of time pretty easily, and you think six weeks has passed by when in fact it’s been six months.
But also, there was a long time between albums was because we needed some time to gel with [drummer] Jason [Pierce] following Jeremy’s departure from the band. And then we really started to hit our creative stride with Jason. It’s been a lot of fun. He brought a lot of good stuff to this new album. We feel like a new band in some ways.
That’s no small feat after almost 25 years.
Not at all! As a band, we’ve never wanted to be complacent. We’re the type of band that is always keeping an ear out for interesting covers to do or reinterpret some of our songs in a different way. Constantly trying new things is ultimately what helps keep this band interesting for all of us.
Tell me a bit about how the band approached the release of your new album Somethingness because you released four songs from the record last year. Was it always intended to be a full-length album?
The release of the four-song EP last year was probably one of the most strategic things we’ve done, which says something because we aren’t exactly known for being the most strategic band. [laughs] We had four songs done and were staring down the barrel of opening a number of shows for Guns N Roses last summer. We felt it would be a shame to be in front of all these people without something new, and rather than rushing the remainder of the songs that weren’t quite “there,” we made the decision to release the EP, knowing the full-length album wouldn’t be all that far behind.
Were those Guns N Roses shows significant to you as a music fan and as a band member?
They were very cool. I do wish we had the opportunity to spend some more time with the guys, but the whole experience was great. We never met Axl at all; he was basically living on his bus. The closest we got to him was the night of the Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather fight. The feed of the fight on his bus went down, and since we were parked right next to him watching it on our bus, they asked us to open our blinds and he basically watched the fight through the windows of his bus and ours. [laughs]
Our Lady Peace is unique in the sense that in addition to headlining your own shows, you also get called up to open for larger acts quite often. While there is a certain satisfaction that goes hand-in-hand with being a headliner, there’s an element of “Can we win this crowd over?” when you’re supporting others that is exciting.
Absolutely. We’ve been lucky to have enjoyed years of radio airplay here in Canada, and that showed on almost every night on the Guns N Roses tour. You’d see pockets of the crowd being won over, fans going from being ambivalent about us being on stage to actually digging it. Knowing that you’ve got to work your ass off to win people over is still exciting to us. We never take anything for granted.