Pop-punk is not music that ages well. It's fast and thrives in youth—it's the reason many of the genre's most iconic tunes deal with high school, unrequited crushes (not loves) and parents that just don't understand. In the early to mid-aughts, Canadian punks Simple Plan were the masters of the stuff. No one did it quite as well; over a decade later, we still know all the words to "I'm Just a Kid" and "Perfect."
Simple Plan, however, refuse to dwell on the past. They continue to make impossibly catchy music because they love it. In accepting that necessary growth, they've managed to maintain a popularity that never seems to falter. We sat down with drummer Chuck Comeau and bassist David Desrosiers to talk about the band's relationship with Warped Tour, their upcoming fifth studio album, writing with 5 Seconds of Summer and more.
You guys are no Warped Tour novices.
David: This is our tenth year playing.
How has it changed?
Chuck: The bands, the lineups! It’s interesting to see how every year it changes. We just looked at the schedule and it’s a bit different than when we used to tour. When we used to do it, it was more Southern California punk rock, so I’m personally missing NOFX, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes...but I’m sure we’ll get to check out new bands and discover new music.
David: I think it has changed a lot but it also hasn’t changed at all. It’s the same principle: You put a bunch of bands together with a cheap ticket price in the summer—it’s sort of like a big summer camp for kids. The value of it, when you can come see 55 bands in one day...I think that’s the attraction. The tour has stayed true to that, giving access to a lot of music for not too much money. It’s great for kids. They can discover a bunch of bands, they can walk around, see one stage and go, "Who’s that?" For us, we started out by passing our CDs around.
Chuck: We had a Walkman and would tell people, "Hey we’re playing the Ernie Ball stage at this time." Back then we were the only ones doing that and now everyone is doing that. Everyone is hustling, trying to get people to their stages. Maybe the level of how efficient it is might not be as good as when we were doing it but it’s the same principle. It’s driven by music and discovery. I think it’s cool.
You’ll probably have younger bands stopping you and saying, “Hey, I saw Simple Plan back in the day, you inspired me,” and now you’re on the tour together.
Chuck: That’s super cool and happens a lot at catering. We’ll have a band come up to us like, "Oh my god, we grew up listening to you!"
David: It’s weird and I don’t know how it happened. We used to be the youngest band and now we’re the veterans. It just flew by. We embrace it.
Chuck: We welcome all ages.
You’ve been a band for about 15 years now—in pop-punk world, where bands tend to come and go pretty quickly. How do you keep doing what you're doing?
Chuck: I think the big thing for us is that we were able to keep the band members, the same five guys, the same lineup from the start. That’s not easy. We grew up together. We’re friends. We come from the same world. We’ve always had the same dreams and goals. I think we realized, as the years go by, how precious it is to have that, to build that, to see so many bands break up...it makes us realize how different we are to all that. We’re really proud of that. I think you just have to sit down a lot and make sure everyone’s cool. If someone has an issue, you make sure they don’t keep it inside. That’s been the model of the band.
As far as the crowds and trying to keep the band going, we’re about to release our fifth album now, it’s always been about the songs for us. It doesn’t matter about all the image stuff. We’re really about making songs that people can relate to, that we love, that they will love, that we will enjoy playing live for two years and just the work ethic, too. When we go on tour, we go for two years. When we go on tour, we go everywhere. We’ve played in 65 countries so far and we want to play in more. It just putting in the hours, putting in the work. That’s why—knock on wood—we’re still going to be around for a bit.
When is the new album coming out?
David: We don’t have an official date yet, but hopefully soon. We’re hoping for October. It might change but we’re thinking October. It’s been too long.
Chuck: We want to do another song for it. It’s almost done, 95 percent is done. We just have a few more songs to finish the mix on then we’re good to go.
Does your new single, “Saturday,” speak to what the rest of the album is going to sound like?
Chuck: It was the first song that we finished, that we had mixed and everything. We got excited and thought, "You know what? Let’s just share it with the fans." It’s not the official first single, and I don’t think it’s really reflective of the album. I think it was just a fun song that we had that we wanted kids to hear because they’ve been waiting for so long. The record is really eclectic. There’s a couple throwback, old school songs that have that 2002-2004 classic Simple Plan sound, obviously with a modern twist, but the essence of that energy, the melodies and all that is there. Then there are some different things that we never tried before. There’s super fast Warped Tour-style punk rock songs. There’s a funky vibe. There’s all kinds of stuff. I think we just wanted to make a record where every song stands out and is different. It’s not the same from one to track 12.
In this Warped Tour world, you guys have always written from a pop place. The melodies are accessible.
Chuck: That’s our trademark. By the time the song ends, you can sing it. It doesn’t take 20 listens. It’s hard to write those songs but we try our best.
Simple Plan and that philosophy speaks to why bands like 5 Seconds of Summer are doing so well. They’re very much a pop-punk band but their songwriting leans into a pop mainstream that anyone can get down with. You wrote with them, too. What was that like?
Chuck: It was fun! It was cool experience. We wrote a few songs with them, I don’t know the status of the song. They’ve been writing with so many people.
Every band from Warped Tour 2004.
Chuck: I think it’s awesome they grew up with that music. They told us they want to try and bring it back. Bring back guitars on the radio. Have that sound make a comeback. Hey, I hope it happens! That’d be great! For us, we’ve always had a lot of different influences and we’ve always liked catchy music from the Beatles to Cheap Trick to Elvis Costello…
David: Tom Petty!
Chuck: All that stuff. It’s part of who we are. We grew up with all the Fat Wreck Records and all the Epitaph bands, that era. We mixed it up together. We were never purists of being just pop or just pop-punk. We always wanted to blend everything that we love.
You have to, right? Or else you’re going to get bored of writing the same song…
Chuck: Yeah! It’s funny, even with this song there were moments where we were like, "Let’s write a total throwback" and it just sounds generic and it sounds cliché and you’re bored with it. Even though you have the intention to try and nail it and execute it perfectly, it’s difficult. On the record there’s a bunch of songs where we were able to capture that energy and that era, that sound. Hopefully people will like it.
You’re working with producer Howard Benson, the My Chemical Romance man! What was that like?
Chuck: It was great. Nice guy. We had a great time.
David: Nice team.
Chuck: He had a lot of people with him. He’s been making a lot of records for a very long time. It’s definitely dialed in over there. We had some differences of opinions sometimes. It was a bit of a challenging record to make in some ways. We have a direction and we have a vision for the band. He thought we were kind of crazy. He was like, "You guys are obsessive, I can’t believe you care about all this." He was freaked out by how detail oriented we were. The tension, the fact that we were a little bit different made for a great record. We tend to push back. We’re not Canadian pushovers, you know?