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Our Lady Peace's Somersaults

Circus Magazine, Nov '97

With the success of their 1994 platinum-selling debut album "Naveed" and break through single "Starseed," the Toronto quartet Our Lady Peace were invited to support KISS shows in Canada, and later even landing prized opening slots for Rage Against The Machine, Van Halen, Alanis Morissette and Page & Plant. They even generated a strong buzz in America with the single from their latest double-platinum album "Clumsy" called "Supermans Dead".

Because of their young ageand their decision to devote themselves to indie rock, the quartet suffered attacks after their debut like "being a Canadian copy of Silverchair" - even if Raine's vocal tracks occasionally remind one of Billy Corgan.

But it shows that the versatile band transcends any of those labels after a listen to Clumsy - from the deadening bass line of the album closer, "Car Crash" to the unsettling wash of effects and bells in "Carnival." Like the sinister, circus-themed artwork, their experimental dabbling in primal rock, unconventional vocal phrasing and contagious melody transports the listener to deeper meanings that are not as superficial as it appears.

Obviously all the Seattle comparisons didn't phase Our Lady Peace all that much and Raine Maida (Vocals), Mike Turner (Guitar), Duncan Coutts (Bass, Keyboards, Cello) and Jeremy Taggart (Drums) started working on their second album Clumsy (Columbia), which also contains standout tracks "Hello Oskar" and their hooked-filled single in Canada, "Automatic Flowers."

It was in 1993 when Maida a former criminology student, hooked up with Turner when the former placed a classified ad looking for musicians to start a band with. The pair approached their future producer/songwriter Arnold Lanni at a musical seminar in Canada, and ended up taping a demo with him. Record companies were interested in signing the still-incomplete band based on the demo's strength, and many reps were present at auditions held by Maida and Turner for the remaining spots. Taggart came to the fold later, as did Coutts (Who quit the band temporarily to spend more time with his studies).

In August they made a high-profile appearance on MTV's wacky Oddville show, and traveled on a radio station tour across Canada to promote their appearance on Summersault '97 and the major Edgefest festival (Where they perform alongside Silverchair, Collective Soul and I Mother Earth). Before that, they toured every nook and cranny on the European shores. "I think it's very important for us to tour Europe, the radio system is very different from what we're used to in the states," Maida explains. "From what we've heard you don't seem to have good stations there, like our college stations in the States or at home in Canada. Stations who also play alternative stuff."

Circus: Your Latest album Clumsy was scheduled for 1996 but finished and released in the summer of '97. What took so long?

Maida: we love to experiment and we experimented a lot when we were working on Clumsy. That's why it took quite a while this time until we had finished the album. We tried out a lot of different approaches... We were playing around and experimenting.

Did you feel under pressure after the huge success of Naveed or was it a liberating experience?

After we had such a success with Naveed, the pressure was pretty high and first we really didn't know what to do and how to start. For a while we were almost clueless, yeah and almost scared you could say.

What did you do about it?

We had a lot of meetings, put our heads together and thought about what we should do, talked about how the new album should be... We didn't want to copy ourselves, we wanted to show a development. The result of our brainstorming sessions was fuck all the expectations, we're going to do exactly what we want to do anyway!

What was the angle of Clumsy?

We wanted to make an album that wouldn't sound like we'd try to prove anything. We tried to get away from the reproaches, accusations and the prssure to make success.

I think we're right at the start of our career and we still have got a lot to learn. But we want to learn by doing, not by copying anybody else. It has to be an inner motivation and not an influence from outside.

Who has the ideas for songs?

That depends, really. We're trying to realize every idea, we try to work with every idea ans see with what we come up and the best idea wins in the end. It doesn't matter who has the idea.

So the 11 songs on Clumsy are the winning ideas?

Exactly, the 11 songs are the results of the ideas we liked best.

What do you think is the most important thing when you're recording an album?

The most important thing is always to find a good song. A good song is definetly absolutely important. If you don't have a good or even great song - nobody's gonna buy your records - simple.

That sounds very easy. Was it easy to record Clumsy?

Not at all. We had some idea when we went into the studio, but once there we discovered how much we can improve them, so we checked song after song... We're pretty playful, so we started to play around with the ideas and songs and we started to experiment... We were really lucky that our record company didn't interfere. They gave us the time we needed.

You got your record contract before you even played a gig, but after Naveed was released you did 400 shows even if you didn't need to tour so extensively because you had so much airplay.

The radio loved us and we were on the MTV rotation and yeah true, we got a lot of airplay but the gigs helped us to get to know each other better. I think the gigs did a lot to glue us together as a band. Gigs and touring can be a real strain, if you embark from a tour and you're still friends, then you've passed the test.

Aren't you fed up with touring?

I think touring is very, very important for a band. I have to see a band live to remember it. Playing live is the make-or-break for every band.

I think a lot of people know a song but don't know who performs the song and even if they know, they might forget the name again. I don't think you forget a band so easily if you've seen them live. Especially for our kind of music playing live is very important.

Another thing is, that if you play live you really get a feedback from the audience. Of course record sales are also an indicator if the public likes you but if you're playing live you see how the audience reacts when you're playing a certain song. You can also experiment on stage and see if the people like what you're doing or not.

Which other musicians do you admire?

The Beatles! We all love the Beatles, they were absolutely fantastic and they are such a great source of inspiration. We're all crazy about the Beatles!!!

And why the Beatles? What do you admire about them?

They never repeated themselves, they were always changing but each record was a huge success. If you look at thier stuff, you can't even compare their first and their last record, both have almost in common. The Beatles did so much, you can't even ask "what did they do?" - its much easier to ask "what didn't they do?" I think the Beatles were the best band ever!

What do you think about the fact that a lot of people compare you with Silverchair?

Should we think anything about it? That's plainly ignorant and superficial. Like they're young and the guys from Silverchair are young, so let's call them both kiddie-bands. People who do that show a lot of ignorance and we refuse to let that bother us. Yes, we're young but so what? Age is not something you've got to earn, you grow older all by yourself and I don't inderstand why a lot of people think they have to look down on youngsters, Maybe they've already forgotten that they were young once.

By Gabriella