Our Lady Peace will be playing Upstate Concert Hall on Friday October 20. They’ll be commemorating the 20th anniversary of the release of their sophomore album Clumsy with a set drawing heavily from the album. The band broke in 1994 with the release of Naveed–an album that fit neatly into the grunge world thanks to heavy influence from Jane’s Addiction and Maida’s nasal vocal delivery. Their second album Clumsy, launched the band to stardom thanks to the single “Superman’s Dead.” Since then the band has seen a host of lineup changes but remained a constant presence on rock radio. The Alt had a chance to interview lead singer Raine Maida about the band’s evolution and their place in the world today.
David King: I hope you’ll forgive me but as someone who started listening to your music in middle school I have some naive questions left over from the days that I’d blast your albums on my mom’s stereo. First of all, what the hell is “Starseed” about? What was the driving lyrical inspiration for Naveed (the band’s 1994 debut)? There’s a lot of psychedelia going on.
Raine Maida: Ha no problem. So, I was still in college when we did that album. I was studying criminology, philosophy, literature, and “Starseed” was really based on transcendental meditation. There might have been drugs, maybe not, but at the time there were these forces that were at work in my mind and to be able to combine that with the band and to go into the studio and record at the time the two forces met was really special.
DK: As a child of grunge/post grunge era I’ve found that I’ve carried this sense of humbleness and self-deprecation with me. Your sophomore album Clumsy feels inspired by that sense of piety, duty to the world and that oneself is not the most important thing.
Raine Maida: I’ve never heard it put that way but yeah, I really dig that. There was a humbleness that informed what we did, if not hopefulness. The things we did were not done in a reactionary way. We were the next step. We didn’t have that grunge aggression.
DK: So your education was a major influence on your debut; what was it that drove Humble?
RM: We toured Naveed so much–the four of us in the US and Canada. There was a real simplicity to it–no keyboard, no piano. We had to figure out that album on guitar, bass, drums and vocals exclusively. I love putting restrictions on us. But on Clumsy we took a lot of inspiration from the tours we were on, the festivals we had been playing, and embraced the idea of embracing all sorts of elements–keyboards and guitar effects.
DK: A lot of folks who might not follow the band probably have heard “Superman’s Dead” at some point. What did that song mean to you? And what inspired it given that the tone is so starkly different than the rest of the album–and perhaps the rest of your catalog?
RM: I stopped my last semester of college and went on tour and all of a sudden I realized ‘I guess this what I’m doing for a career. I became more comfortable and the lyrics took a more personal tone. In some ways that song was like a warm blanket. “Superman’s Dead was a link between Naveed and Clumsy. There aren’t any other songs on the album that sound like that. The rest of the album uses keyboards, piano and isn’t nearly as aggressive. But at the same time it’s really weird to think of Clumsy without “Superman’s Dead.” It was really weird to see that song break. There wasn’t really social media as we know it now at the time but we were starting to see the human process speed up and the way that song was digested was just so interesting to watch.
DK: Our Lady Peace broke toward the end of the era of the traditional music industry. By your third release you were living in the world of Napster and file sharing. What has it been like to be part of that and how have you adapted?
RM: We’re now way more involved in the business end. When that shift happened I thought, ‘Good, I’d rather own our music.’ For “Superman’s Dead” we shot two videos that totaled $800 grand. I thought, ‘How did this happen?’ I’m not sad that era is gone. It’s a healthy thing. We’ve gotten back to the music, back to the basics of connecting to the listeners ourselves.
DK: My wife, she’s a fan, mentioned to me when I told her I was going to conduct this interview that you met your wife at a Pearl Jam concert. (Maida has been married to singer/songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk since 1999.) Can you confirm this and make my wife very happy?
RM: Ha, yeah absolutely. We were in the studio recording clumsy and someone from the arts department at SONY said hey ‘We’ve got a box for Pearl Jam. You guys wanna get out of here for a bit?’ It was getting sort of smelly. We’d been there for quite a while. So I went and Chantel was sitting in front of me. I didn’t know she was an artist. She was about to go into the studio to record. We just started talking. I didn’t see any of the show. We both had tours and other commitments but we just kept talking and maybe that’s why its lasted–we had to become friends first.
DK: This tour is clearly about nostalgia in that you’re commemorating Clumsy but what does the future hold for the band?
RM: We just dropped an EP in December and the songs are wicked. This new track “Drop Me in the Water,” we’ve never had a song like it. It normally takes the audience a listen or two to get it. They aren’t familiar and they may like a new song but they don’t immediately embrace it. This tune gets better reactions live than some of our older songs. So the first half of the set with by Clumsy and we’re so confident in our new songs that we’ll be playing them in the second half of the set. We’ve never been more confident in our songs.”