The Blerd13 is off to a great 2012 (With lots more lined up really soon…)! That said, we are humbled to present our second Q & A of 2012 with Our Lady Peace’s Raine Maida. Mr. Maida recently took the time out of recording Our Lady Peace’s eight studio album, Curve (due on April 17th), to speak with us by phone from L.A. Here’s what he had to say:
1. Can you tell us a little about the new Our Lady Peace record and when it will be released?
April is the release date. It’s the record we’ve been trying to make for 10 years.
2. Burn, Burn was the first Our Lady Peace record after your short hiatus (and the first in 4 years – the longest gap between OLP records), and it garnered many comparisons to your debut – while writing/recording Curve did you feel the pressure similar to that of a “sophomore slump” all over again?
No. We brought a friend of mine in, Jason Lader (Hipster L.A. Producer who worked with Julian Casablancas, Noah & The Whale). He’s a great producer but he’s a great friend of mine as well and it’s the first time we’ve worked with someone like him. I think for whatever reason, Jason was really able just to get on the same page of what we wanted to do with this record. Like I said, when I said it’s the record we’ve been trying to make for ten years, it’s really about tapping into the musicality of us as artists and I think the only way we were truly able to do this was to have the freedom of not being on a major label and having people telling us “Well, we need a single” or this or that. That stuff didn’t exist at all and it was really just the four of us and Jason and Jason doesn’t give a shit about that stuff anyway. That kind of attitude was just paramount in the studio and it was a lot of fun. It was challenging, we’re really trying to challenge ourselves harmonically and chordally and get into versions and different things that we haven’t used in the past and even rhythmically really pushing the boundaries for us. I mean it’s not a Frank Zappa record but for us, it is, it’s much more mature, much more developed. It was a lot of fun even though it was tough.
3. You’ve said Curve is more ambitious and experimental than Spiritual Machines – was any part of this direction inspired by the Spiritual Machine album shows of 2010 and your fan base’s adoration for that record?
Totally. Yeah, it was. It’s one thing playing a song or two from a record but when you have to play a record in full, what it does is it takes you back to that place of recording it. You start to tap into the feelings and emotions. I think having that book around (Raymond Kurzweil’s The Age of Spiritual Machines) and when you surround yourself with people that are really creative and are pushing the boundaries and are more left of center than you are, you’re inspired by that. Having Ray and that book was just so heavy and having him as an inventor, you’re like “Wow, we’ve got to really try to do something really special” to live up to Ray speaking and the friendship we’ve developed with him. On this record it’s the same thing with what we’re attempting to do with Jason with, like I said a hipster mentality, but he’s also an incredible musician. He’s probably better at instruments than any of us. So having someone like that in the room makes you kind of really wanna challenge yourself.
There’s a Canadian boxer named George Chuvalo who’s very prominent in this record where he’ll be on the cover and just the battle of a boxer and the metaphor of life as a boxer and life as a human….there’s great synergy there and the parallels are pretty amazing. Just to be true to his battles and what he’s going through in his life….It kind of parallels this band where the courage is not getting knocked down but how you get back up and I think on this record we were really able to get back up and, like you said with the Spiritual Machines thing, performing that record and looking back on it and trying to get in the spirit of that and the creativity was a big deal.
4. I’ve been seeing the posts about the new record (And one about “Allowance” earlier this morning), do you have a favorite new song yet and/or one you’re looking forward to playing the most live?
Yeah, right now it’s “Allowance” probably because I’m literally working on it. I think they’re all going to be very interesting because the mentality of the band is to make stuff that’s really going to translate well live. It’s not about the radio hit because we don’t have that label hanging over our heads…trying to write a hit song for the radio or trying to give them something that they can go work. Whether or not we really tried to do that or it was what we were focusing on, I don’t think so. Regardless, it got into our psyche. Just having that looming was always a big deal so not having that and when we think about writing music and recording it was always about how it was going to translate live like when we’re rehearsing it and then getting ready to record: is it exciting to us? If it’s just four chords and some average melody? Absolutely not. We don’t wanna play those types of songs live anyway. It was really about all that stuff goes to the side and in the garbage and we were just picking the most interesting ideas, the most creative, the most left of center for us. Stuff that really felt like it had an authenticity to it.
5. Our Lady Peace will be celebrating 20 years together this year. In addition to Curve being released, does the band have anything special planned?
The focus has been on the record (Curve) right now but there could be. There are some B-sides, there’s a bunch of stuff that probably never was released…probably for the right reasons! We’ll try and pick some stuff that we’re comfortable with and put something together that’s interesting for our fans.
6. With that and with the music industry as it is today, what do you think the secret has been for Our Lady Peace to survive through it all?
In a weird way and with a little perspective now I think with that statement that this is the record we’ve been trying to make for ten years. I think that played a big part in it. And the fact that we always felt when we got out of the studio there were moments we really liked but then because of deadlines or budgets or whatever we usually had to appease the record label in some form. It felt like we never really got there. This record we’re trying to make something where we sound like we got there and this one really feels like that. I think Spiritual Machines was another good reminder of that because that record took awhile to make. It was tough but getting back to that headspace was important for us. The challenge of trying to make that record and not giving up until we got there was a big deal probably of us sticking it out. And then it’s live…every time we played live there’s an energy there and something that’s infectious to us and the fans that we have. There’s just a real passion that goes back and forth between us and the fans that I think is hard to turn your back on.
7. With a catalog as prolific as OLP’s, how do you choose a set list every night. Personal favorites, crowd pleasers? Do you enjoy playing an album from start to finish live?
We do. I think so. Spiritual Machines is a lot more fun and interesting for us to play then Clumsy even though Clumsy outsold it by tenfold. I think what we’re trying to do on this little tour that we’re doing, I even put it out to Twitter, is I wanna get fans…..social media is like a double edged sword for me….it’s great to be in touch with your fans and I love that we have that and the independence and everything that goes along with it but at the same time it’s like, I’m glad twitter took over for myspace because myspace seemed like it took too much time to do anything. I put it out to fans, I wanna compile a list of songs that people really wanna hear live and I wanna honor that as close as we can and I think more than anything is for us to really change it up every night because we do have a lot of fans who travel. I think it’s important now to kind of challenge ourselves when we’re at that level now where shows are gonna have different dynamics. You’re not gonna get the same thing every night and it allows us to explore and get back into the catalog. Should be interesting. We felt like we had a great show and we’ll change a couple things but we felt why change it, if it’s not broke but it’s not really about that anymore. It’s really about something that’s serendipitous and can change from night to night.
8. Speaking of the upcoming US tour, how did you pick the cities you’ll be visiting? Are there plans for a bigger tour later in the year?
Oh yeah, totally. This tour is so condensed. We only have 3 and a half weeks so it’s like “How many cities can we hit?”. At the end of the day you can’t do it all with what we’re trying to do here (playing small shows). I’m sure in the fall or maybe even sooner there’ll be a full scale (tour)….15 shows in Canada, 30 shows in the US or 40 shows, y’know just do it all which will be great because at that time I think people would have had a chance to live with the record and it’ll make it more exciting for everybody.
9. I know it’s been a few years but in 2008, OLP got a shout out on American Idol thanks to David Cook which led to you collaborating with Cook on his debut. How was that experience and your experience working with younger artists? Are there any out there today that you’re particularly head over heels about?
David is a sweetheart and I think he’s a talented guy. He’s in that part of the music industry that is very business so I think where his head’s at and where his heart’s at are probably, I’m sure, a conflict for him. He really is a talented guy. He’s a great singer. He’s a great guitar player and he loves writing music and he loves collaborating which is an amazing thing. It was fun to be with him and to give him my perspective on what I think the music business is about and how I view it after having some experience and been on a major label and felt the constraints about all those things. I’m gonna be really curious to see where he ends up. I think he’s writing now for a new record and I think he has a much different headspace. Like I said, he’s a talented guy so I think people might be a little shocked by what he comes out with next. It might not be what people expect.
There’s so many artists that we work with. There’s this incredible artist in Los Angeles called Jenny O that is just a pleasure to work with. She’s a sweet soul and her music is very creative: reminds me of rootsy Bjork if I was to put it in a box. She’s just a really great artist and I think she just finished her new record.
Then there’s this band from Toronto that we just started working with, these young kids called Done With Dolls that are a bunch of 15 year olds that can actually all play their instruments and sing and rock. They’re changing every six weeks as young girls do. They’re currently fascinated with The Kills and The White Stripes so I’m really into where they’ve developed over the last couple of years and we’ll probably start making a record in the late spring before we go to Europe. I’m excited about that because it’s the energy of kids, the 15 year olds they don’t give a shit, they just wanna rock. They don’t even know what they’re doing, they’re just having fun. That’s infectious. I love being around that.
10. Do you have a favorite song that you’ve written or co-written that you haven’t sang on?
David Cook has a song called “Permanent” that was on his first record about his brother and i think that was…I definitely wouldn’t take credit for writing it, I was semi-involved…..I think if there’s any credit I take for it, it’s as an artist getting him to find a way to express it. I think he tried a couple times before…the fact that it was so heavy for him that maybe he wasn’t being as honest with himself within the lyrics was always hidden or kind of ambiguous with what he was talking about and I think that song….the triumph of that song and it’s a beautiful song…kind of giving into it as I think I did on a song called “4 A.M.” back on Clumsy and I think that was a profound moment for David and the song is just something that he’ll always have with him and when you get to sit down and play it on a piano it’s just one of those things that he’ll always look back on. Probably the same way I do with “4 A.M.”. It’s one of those really special moments. You can’t fabricate that. That’s a life moment and something that was really profound in his life watching his brother go through cancer and then pass away. It’s heavy. That was a big thing for me to see him fulfill that.
11. Who is your favorite writing partner?
I love writing with the band. This new record we tried to keep it as much a band, in the real sense of the word (all of us in a room trying to collaborate) and it’s been really exciting. Steve, the guitar player, has just really found himself within this band with some of the rhythms that he brought in and the guitar riffs…the riff to “Heavyweight”….and that drumbeat, that was a demo that Steve brought in. That shit’s so inspiring to me. I love when I don’t have to be the songwriter. With the way this band is working right now, it really feels like that. It’s a really great place. I love just being a singer sometimes.
12. What can you tell us about the status of your next solo record? Is it possible that fans could get a new OLP and a solo record from you this year?
Oh, for sure! My plan right now is to release two EP’s or mixtapes on my site as free downloads over the next 6 months and then probably closer to Christmas I’ll put out an extended version with a bunch of other new songs on and sell that as a complete works. There’s so much stuff built up and so many songs. It’s a little more programming….Leonard Cohen meets TV on the Radio or something like that.
13. Being very active with social media, twitter especially, how do you feel fan interaction has changed over the past few years? As a band, do you feel it’s important that music can be released instantly for public consumption (Like “Fight The Good Fight” in support of the Occupy Movement) now versus the old model of releasing singles, albums, etc.?
I do. I love it. I was always a huge poetry fan (More and more the beat poets and stuff like that) and over the last 6 or 7 years the slam poetry has really built and gotten more credibility and significance in our culture. It’s frustrating for me that some of my friends are amazing at it….as a musician it’s frustrating because you gotta go in the studio, write a song, try to record it, then mix it and master it and all the bullshit that goes along with music. I would do guest judging at some poetry slams. I’d give a poet a 10 or a 9 and then end up talking to them afterward and I’m like “Man, when’d you write that?” and they’re like “This morning”, “On the bus going to school”. I’m like, fuck, that’s what art is supposed to be. It’s supposed to be that relevant. It just felt like I’m in the wrong business because music takes too long to get out there from where it’s conceived in your brain. So music’s getting closer (to that) now. The way that you can record it quickly and the way you can just have access to put it up on the internet is a really positive thing. It’s making music more relevant again.