When You Were Young: Simple Plan

On February 17th 2016

by Heather Hawke

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When You Were Young aims to reclaim the music of our misremembered youths from the scratched mix-CDs underneath our car seats. Each edition will cover music the writer loved as a teenager before moving on to “cooler” music, whatever that means. This edition covers Simple Plan.

My dad collected records, but never played them. My mom loved music, but never bought music or went to concerts.

I found and listened to new music through the radio because the city I grew up in (Reno, Nevada) was small; the radio stations we had were limited to Top 40, Classic Rock, Country, and a single Alternative Rock station. My parents only played the Top 40 and Classic Rock stations, so that’s what I grew up on. Since I never had an older sibling or a friend’s older sibling to show me music, I grew up on mainstream music and was naive to other music happening in the world.

It was sometime in middle school when I started listening to that aforementioned Alternative Rock station, because that was the station that got played on the school bus. It was during that time when I also got into bands like Green Day and Blink 182 when my classmates lent me some of their albums. I heard one or two of their singles on the radio, but at that age it was very infrequent that I went out and bought an album, if I even had any of my own yet.

When those friends lent me those albums, I finally found music that I could relate to. Music that I didn’t just like because it was on the radio and my parents wanted to listen to it. Music became this whole new thing to me. It became mine.

The year was 2002 and I was in the 8th grade. I remember one afternoon watching TRL and seeing this new band. “They” were Simple Plan and they just premiered their music video for “I’d Do Anything.” I was so curious about who they were and how they got Mark Hoppus to be featured on one of their songs.

This was around the time I started to frequent record stores on a weekly basis. Tower Records and Sam Goody mostly, but there was also a local used record store called Soundwave that I went to on very rare occasions. During one of those occasions, I picked up Simple Plan’s debut album No Pads, No Helmets, Just Balls…

Listening to their album for the first time felt like listening to songs that were written specifically for me. Since I didn’t fit in in school, this album was momentous in letting me know I wasn’t alone. I got made fun of for my speech impediment so I would be quiet and in turn they’d make fun of me for being the “quiet kid.” Songs like “I’m Just A Kid” and “The Worst Day Ever” were songs that helped me cope.

It’s a fascinating thing when you think about the artists you like, and how some of them become like family to you. You have to wonder what about those artists compelled you to go further than only listening to their music, the things that made you want to listen, watch, or read an interview with them and have the capacity to care about what’s going on in their lives. For me with Simple Plan, it began solely because I was able to relate to their music at a time when I really felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere.

After watching their 2003 documentary DVD, A Big Package For You,I felt like it not only drew me closer to them, but also to the music industry. In the few years prior to social media completely eliminating the boundaries between musicians and fans, this DVD was something special. To be quite honest, it still is.

They captured things that were very monumental for the band as they were happening. The DVD had detailed footage of them in the studio recording their debut album, shooting the album artwork, shooting the videos for “I’m Just a Kid,” “I’d Do Anything,” “Addicted,” and “Perfect,” and multiple tours (including their first tour opening up for Sugar Ray before their debut album came out). The movie also includes their not so glamourous moments, like when they went overseas for the first time, to Germany, where the official headcount for one of their shows was around 12 people.

In 2004, Simple Plan released their second album, Still Not Getting Any... At this point I had just changed high schools, which for somebody who went to elementary school through high school with all the same kids, this was a whole new world. Since I’m not an outgoing person, it was hard for me to start all over from scratch and introduce myself to people, especially half way through a new school year. I got even more immersed in music. I began reading Alternative Press on a regular basis and had MTV2 on whenever I could on the little TV in my room. Every morning they played hours upon hours of music videos, and one of the videos that always aired was Simple Plan’s “Welcome To My Life.” As corny as it was, I could relate to the lyrical content.

I was at the age where you become conscious of the fact that high school will end and you need to think about what’s after that. The only thing that ever crossed my mind was working in the music industry, and the only part of the music industry I sort of understood was the business of record labels. My dream job was to be an A&R rep.

As the years passed, I struggled to find a way to break into the music industry from my small city and had various jobs in retail and I studied business management and culinary arts, but couldn’t get excited about either of those fields. I had an eagerness to start working in the industry, and tried as hard as I could to make connections with people who already succeeded in music, asking if they needed remote interns or if they had any advice for somebody in my position. When I did end up getting replies they’d all be “no’s” or “Sorry, I don’t know what you tell you” or “Get real life experience.”

Finally, in 2011, I got a break. The founder of a small online music magazine was going to take me on as a music journalist. As someone with no experience in writing, and with minimal photography experience, it was a perfect way to start getting involved in the scene from the location I was in. Everything came full circle when the first ever phone interview I did as a music journalist just so happened to be with Pierre Bouvier of Simple Plan.

I spent hours prepping for the interview by researching previous interviews they had done. When I was waiting for him to call into the interview, it felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. I wouldn’t describe myself as an articulate person and that’s especially true when I’m anxious. From my perspective, everything I said came out the opposite of how I intended it to. I stuttered, mixed up words, and tried to play it cool by going with the flow and asking spur of the moment questions, which turned out horribly. I’d never be able to tell if it was all in my head and I was exaggerating everything, or if I was really that awful. After the interview I was an emotional wreck.

If I knew then what I know now about doing thorough and in depth interviews, I would have definitely steered away from a few questions. The one thing that’s extremely vivid about that interview, a part that doesn’t make me cringe, is that he talked about how they all know they aren’t the “cool band.” They know they’re not a band that the music industry embraces as much as the fans embrace. He spoke of how they knew they’re not reinventing the wheel, but they make music that they love and that hopefully people can relate to.

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