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By: Michael D. Vogel 

© November 20, 1997. Michael D. Vogel.  All Rights Reserved.  

Published in:

The Album Network magazineDecember 5, 1997 

 

The scenario: a dark, crowded, hot and sweaty theater in Hollywood. The venue is stuffed to the gills; the audience is waiting for the first band to begin. A young lady standing next to me whispers in my ear, “I drove all the way from San Diego to see this show. I think Art Alexakis and Everclear are just awesome.” With a simple smile, I lean back and casually tell her that she’s in for quite a pleasant surprise. Complementing this bill is Toronto’s Our Lady Peace, out in support of their second album, Clumsy. As the quartet begins “Automatic Flowers,” the unassuming concertgoers start to move as one collective unit to the mesmerizing beat. Longhairs and buzz-cuts, leather jackets and suits all move to the sound of this one band. As the set ends, the young lady thanks me for the good advice, and asks that I refresh her memory as to the name of the band. I happily respond: Our Lady Peace!

We were first introduced to Our Lady Peace back in 1994 with Naveed, an album the band refers to as its beginning phase. It sold in excess of 1,000,000 copies in Canada as well as 500,000 units in the United States. In addition, the album also provided the Top 10 Rock and Alternative Radio track “Starseed.” With Canadian sales nearly seven times Platinum for Clumsy and one multi-format hit already under their belt, Our Lady Peace seems destined for the superstar status they’ve achieved in their homeland.

Recently, I spoke with chief philosopher/poet and vocalist, Raine Maida, not only about the release of Clumsy, but more importantly about the inner workings, processes and state of events that have helped to make Our Lady Peace.

There seems to be somewhat of a balancing act between control and discipline within your personal style. What’s the secret behind maintaining this delicate balance?

Raine Maida: “I really don’t know if there’s any trick to it. The music that I listen to and admire the most has always been able to draw some sort of emotion out of the listener. But on a more personal level, I try to leave the lyrics for our music a bit more ambiguous. One of my favorite examples of amazing lyrical imagery is captured by Sting and the Police on ‘Every Breath You Take.’ The lyrical content of the song juxtaposed by the mood you feel from it are completely different. Most people seem to be blinded by the beauty of the song itself and are unaware that it is mostly about a stalker! But, it is those amazingly beautiful qualities that I have used as an example of how lyrical imagery can help to reshape that, which might be immediately conceived as the obvious.

“In general, it is a delicate thing to do, but then again, it’s not as contrived as that either. It was our intention–for whatever reason–that music and lyrics, specifically, [be] the only parts for [any] song [that we do]. You can like a song based on pure musicality alone, but for me, if you keep on digging past the surface of the song itself, there will always be something that each person can interpret, personalize and take home for themselves. That is one of the most important aspects of music for me.”

On Clumsy, lyrically there are more first person experiences than on Naveed. Why the shift into a more personal realm?

RM: “It was a weird metamorphosis for me; part of it was a natural maturing process. I feel a little more comfortable talking about that subject matter on a more direct first-person level of communication.

“For example, the song ’4am’ was somewhat of an epiphany for me. It was 3:45am and I had just finished a telephone conversation with my girlfriend–a serious discussion about parents and relationships. I wrote the song shortly after that phone call. The lyrics and the chords I took to the band the next day, where they each added their own personal signature to it. We have always felt that songwriting is a craft, one where you have to get down into the trenches and bust your ass trying to change arrangements as well as make each chord sound better. But in the case of ’4am,’ it feels as if someone gave us that song. Overall, it is one of the most pure and inspirational things, musically, I have ever been associated with.”

You enjoy leaving a song’s meaning open-ended, and thus, your fan base seems to be moved into some very serious debates regarding the intention behind your rich lyrical content. What are some of the more interesting interpretations you’ve heard?

“It is always very interesting to see people interpret things in their own way. It would be very easy for me to sit back and say some of these explanations [aren’t even close to what I intended]. But that’s not what music is all about. It’s all about grabbing something from a song for yourself. I would never even attempt to dissuade someone from what a song personally means to them.

“We have gotten a bunch of letters from fans who have somewhat reinterpreted our songs and have applied them to their own lives. For instance, a woman wrote a huge piece on our Web site [http://www.ourladypeace.com/] about ‘Superman’s Dead’ and how it was all related to [19th century German philosopher Friedrich] Nietzsche. [Another] letter really struck me: a strained relationship existed between a young lady and her father, who was dying of cancer. After listening to ’4am,’ she felt compelled to hug her father and ultimately resolve some of these problems before he died. It is ultimately the most rewarding to know that our music has in some way affected other people’s lives.”

Musical trends have always been circular in nature. At the moment, the trend seems to lean toward a more back-to-basics approach. Are you affected, in the creative process, by these trends?

“I can’t say concretely that it doesn’t end up being an influence just by osmosis alone. But in terms of something that is contrived for us, it doesn’t happen at all. The bands that we grew up admiring and somewhat forge our career in their shadows, bands like R.E.M. and U2, pretty much did their own thing and eventually people’s tastes came around to the kind of music they were making. It is in this light that we try to picture ourselves. We’d hate to be caught up in the next fad, because as we’ve seen throughout the 90s, they tend to run their course and with that so does the career of the bands that are associated with it. We want to build a career–and if it’s building slowly, that’s just fine with us.

“Comparing the two albums, Naveed really seemed like an independent record for us. That was the way we approached it and therefore we do not think of it as a very mature-sounding album, whereas we feel we have now gelled together as a band and Clumsy represents the culmination of those efforts. But we also feel like we have surpassed this album in terms of our own songwriting and mindset due in most part to our extensive touring and recording schedules.

“Overall, colors stand out as the biggest difference between the two albums. If you look at each of the albums as a painting, Naveed was a bit more one-dimensional–the record attacks you from beginning to end. [On] Clumsy, the dynamics presented are more three-dimensional. We attribute this kind of artistic growth to being a live band and playing more than 400 shows between the two records. In hindsight, we felt there was a missing element of cohesiveness when we went into the studio to record Naveed. This time around, we really focused on being a band–all the while taking the listener on a musical journey.”

Does the Canadian content rule affect your approach to writing music?

“Shortly before we released Clumsy, we petitioned the Canadian version of the FCC to relinquish us from the Cancon rule. We wanted Clumsy to be judged on its own merits and not solely because we are Canadian artists. [Cancon] really has nothing to do with the music itself, but whether or not it’s a Canadian project. We understand [Cancon] on the basis of the US’s influence on Canadian culture, [that] the disproportionate share of music coming out of America alone would tend to monopolize Canadian radio.

“The rule is a split between the Canadian content rule on one hand and the smaller musical community that gives us incentives to develop. But on the other hand, it also tends to breed mediocrity for those bands who can’t compete on the international scale, but develop quite a career due to extensive local radio airplay.”

With the music scenes being so diverse, what do you see as the major differences between competing for airplay between the United States and Canada?

“Canadian radio is much more simple. Most importantly, there isn’t as many different formats as in the US. On the whole, Canadian radio seems to be more in the vein of [American] Active Rock.

“Such fragmentation makes it hard for record companies to decide on which formats to pursue first. For us, we just hope that our music is universal enough to fit into several formats. As we see it, the four members of Our Lady Peace are very passionate about the music. Our tastes and views aren’t that much different from the people we knew in high school and college. They are the ones buying our records. So, for whatever format of music they listen to, they are the ones we write the music for.” ^m^

 

Origin:

Toronto, Canada

Line-Up:                                                                                    

Raine Maida – Vocal                                                    Jeremy Taggart – Drums           

Mike Turner – Guitar                                                    Duncan Coutts – Bass & Keys                                      

About The Current CD:

Clumsy is the second album from Our Lady Peace. It has produced a Top 15 track at Rock and Alternative Radio, and it’s nearing seven times Platinum in Canada (700,000 copies). In the US, Clumsy has topped the 250,000 mark. This follows the success of their debut, Naveed, which produced the Top 10 Rock and Alternative staple “Starseed.”

Discography:

Clumsy (Columbia, 1997)                                              

Naveed (Columbia, 1995)               

Produced By:

Arnold Lanni

Label:                                                                                   Website:

Columbia                                                                              www.ourladypeace.com

 

*****Canadian Content Rule:*****

In a nutshell, The Canadian content rule (Cancon) says that 30% of all music played on Canadian radio between 6am and midnight must be satisfy two of the four points that make up the so-called MAPL system (Music, Artist, Production and Lyrics). This rule is currently a hot topic in Canada, where some proponents would like to see the percentage increased to as much as 50% Canadian, while opponents would like to see that number dropped to more closely reflect the 12% of music by Canadian artists sold in Canada.

 

© November 20, 1997. Michael D. Vogel.  All Rights Reserved. This originally appeared on the Vogelism blog at http://www.vogelism.com, authored by Michael D. Vogel. This article may be shared or reprinted as long as the entire copyright message, including the source location of this article, accompanies it.

 

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