Chuck Comeau – Simple Plan ‘Still ‘Meet You There’, 15 Years On’
One of the seminal rock bands to come out of what drummer Chuck Comeau calls the pop-punk explosion of the early 2000s, who ended up supporting the likes of Good Charlotte and Sum-41 off the back of debut album No Pads, No Helmets… Just Balls.
The explosion of the band itself over the past eighteen years has been a marked one. The band has appeared on every Vans Warped Tour from 1999 to 2005, released five hard-hitting records, and were embedded in sporting history with their performance at the 2010 Winter Olympics – all while sticking together.
Comeau sat down to have chat about playing their first album in full down in Australia and around the world, struggling with the idea of getting older, and the sense of entitlement that got many pop-punk bands nowhere.
So you guys have a great relationship with Australia, but is it a place you’ve grown to love outside touring?
“Yeah! It’s obviously the real cliche to say that it’s one of our favourite places in the world, but it’s true. This country has a really special place for us. We started coming here in 2002 or 2003, and at first nobody paid attention at all. Our first record came out, and we had two or three songs that we tried to get on the radio, and it was like crickets. Then ‘Perfect’ came out, and it was the first song that really connected to the Australian audience. It changed everything for us, and from that moment on, Australia was one of our biggest countries.
“It’s really cool to go back after all these years and see that that album still means a lot to people Down Under, and it’s just a cool place. We love all the cities and beautiful nature. We make good friends there and just want to keep coming back.”
“For me, it really feels like it was yesterday. In some ways it was crazy and we’ve travelled around the world like 10, 15 times, and at the same time it went by so quickly. Your whole life becomes defined by album cycles. You look back and go, ‘This happened on the first record, and I got married on the fourth one’.”
So how did it feel playing No Pads, No Helmets… Just Balls in full for the first time?
“We didn’t think the tour was going to go on that long. At first we did like a month or two, and then every country wanted the tour. It took almost a year-and-a-half to do the whole tour (laughs). But we’re stoked.
“It’s kind of wild that it’s been this long since it came out, you know? (chuckles). For me, it really feels like it was yesterday. In some ways it was crazy and we’ve traveled around the world like 10, 15 times, and at the same time it went by so quickly. Your whole life becomes defined by album cycles. You look back and go, ‘This happened on the first record, and I got married on the fourth one’.
“But it’s really cool to celebrate and take a chance to look back. We don’t really do that a lot as a band and as people, but when the whole 15-year thing came up, it just felt like, ‘You know what? This is a cool enough moment for us to be able to reminisce’, and play songs we haven’t played in years.
“It brought back so many good memories and feelings, and I think that’s the same with fans. They grew up with these songs, and it brings them back to when life was a little simpler and music helped them out a lot. So it’s this really cool connection with the crowd when we play these songs.”
“We wanted to leave our parents’ houses and travel the world, while dealing with issues that felt really serious to us. For example, ‘Perfect’ is really about me dropping out of law school to become a drummer in a band and trying to explain that to my parents. It just didn’t make any sense to them.”
Tying back to what you said about bringing fans back, even though the album’s associated with teen angst, the concept of not fitting in is applicable across all ages. I think that’s why it stands the test of time.
“Yeah! We wrote the album when we were in our late teen years, early 20s. At the time, we wanted to leave our parents’ houses and travel the world, while dealing with issues that felt really serious to us. For example, ‘Perfect’ is really about me dropping out of law school to become a drummer in a band and trying to explain that to my parents. It just didn’t make any sense to them.
“It’s probably the most honest, heartfelt song we ever wrote, and literally came the minute after it happened. Me and my parents had a huge fight, and then, Pierre [Bouvier, vocals] and I just sat down and wrote the song. I never thought it would connect like it did because it was so personal, but that’s when people can relate because it feels raw.
“Now as we get older, we find something else in the songs. What’s interesting to me is that a lot of the stuff stays true as we get older, the emotions are slightly different but you have very similar experiences throughout your life. I’m 38 years old and I’ve got to be honest with you, I still feel sometimes – when I’m onstage and get to look around – that I’m so lucky I get to do this rather than having to wear a suit or go to an office.
“Everybody’s struggled with the idea of getting older and it’s kind of a bummer. So the themes of the record stay with you.”
“People thought, ‘We shouldn’t play with Simple Plan because we’re heavier’, and because we were the band that was a little bit more on the pop side, we got a lot of that. We found though that the more successful the band were, the less they cared about that.”
How has your relationship with Blink-182 and Good Charlotte involved since your debut record, having collaborated and toured with them in that era?
“I think when we came out, we got to make friends with some bands in our scene and do some cool collaborations like Mark from Blink-182. He was so generous to do that for a young band, and it really changed the perception of us. There was a whole era of bands that were coming from the same world and influences, and it was really cool to be a part of that. The pop-punk scene was truly exploding in the early 2000s, and we were part of a movement.
“But at the same time not every band was your best friend. People thought, ‘We shouldn’t play with Simple Plan because we’re heavier’, and because we were the band that was a little bit more on the pop side, we got a lot of that. We found though that the more successful the bands were, the less they cared about that. After all these years, there’s a newfound respect for your peers as bands that have survived.”
“It’s not easy and something you have to work at everyday, and I think the key is to communicate. We’ve also realised how previous what we’ve built is, and we all want to protect it. This band is bigger than each person in it, and it sounds really corny, but we’re better together.”
You guys are celebrating 15 years of the record, but you should also celebrate that you’re still the same five guys since the beginning!
“That’s something we’re really proud of, and one of our greatest accomplishments. In so many other bands, there have been band members leaving or getting angry with each other, going on hiatus… Be we just kept going and never stopped. It’s not easy and something you have to work at everyday, and I think the key is to communicate. We’ve also realised how precious what we’ve built is, and we all want to protect it. This band is bigger than each person in it, and it sounds really corny, but we’re better together.
“As we get older, we enjoy it more than ever. We realise how important it is to achieve that, and we don’t want to mess it up.”
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This tour is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see one of the most significant pop-punk records of the 2000s played in full. Don’t miss out, tickets and dates below.
Interview by Genevieve Gao
Simple Plan – No Pads, No Helmets… Just Balls
15th Anniversary Australian Tour 2018
Saturday 21st April – Gold Coast – Nightquarter
Sunday 22nd April – Brisbane – Eatons Hill Hotel
Tuesday 24th April – Melbourne – The Forum
Thursday 26th April – Newcastle – Nex
Friday 16th Feb – Sydney – Big Top