It's been a full 15 years since Toronto band Our Lady Peace were on top of the world with 1997 album Clumsy.
A number one hit in Canada and platinum selling record in the United States, Clumsy and its hits "Superman's Dead," "4 am" and "Automatic Flowers" propelled the band to headliner status in North America.
They were so big that they were even able to create their own Lollapalooza-style touring festival called Summersault through the late-'90s and 2000 which crossed Canada and attracted the likes of Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters, Garbage, Deftones and Finger Eleven.
The intervening years have been uneven, though. The band's quest for international radio hits proved mostly elusive, and the "alternative" rock they traded in has given way to the barely-definable, but definitely not OLP-ish "indie" rock. Still, through it all, Our Lady Peace continue to put out music and tour -- their eighth album Curve came out in April -- and more importantly, survive. That's something few of the band's peers from that era can say.
"It's all relative right?" OLP lead singer Raine Maida told Spinner when the fighting-spirited Curve came out. "The way we see ourselves, with our band we want to continue to challenge ourselves and hopefully that feels not like we're trying to rip our fans off, but we're not trying to just find some formula that works, and hopefully our fans, as they mature, it's still worth it for them. When you look at someone like David Bowie or Peter Gabriel, the arc of their career, they're great artists. Those truly great artists are still going. That's inspiring."
Does that make Our Lady Peace, who play Toronto's Echo Beach on Aug. 19 and Vancouver's PNE Fair on Aug. 23, like Bowie and Gabriel? That's impossible to say, but certainly amongst the band's Canadian rock peer group they're one of the few still standing.
During the late-'90s Canadian rock was booming domestically. Acts like Moist, I Mother Earth, Econoline Crush, Tea Party, The Watchmen, Matthew Good Band, Sloan, Big Sugar, Treble Charger and literally dozens of others were all putting out gold and platinum records and selling out arenas. Today, though, save for Sloan and a solo Matt Good, few of those acts are doing more than the occasional reunion gig.
People like to credit Arcade Fire, Feist and Broken Social Scene with breaking Canadian music internationally, and they sure helped, but it was the bands a half-generation before them -- OLP, Barenaked Ladies and Sum 41 -- who did much of the early heavy-lifting. The 'Our Lady Peaces' of the world created the conditions for the younger, hipper bands to thrive. The band aren't taking credit for that, though.
"To me you have to look at that and say it's a little bit of a tip of the cap to the support the band's had through the years," says guitarist Steve Mazur.
What's really exciting to Our Lady Peace these days is the freedom they have to still create music. The band enthusiastically talk about how they were able to experiment and challenge themselves making Curve. It's the same spirit that Metallica showed when the heavy metal band got to work with Lou Reed on the recent Lulu album. Though Lulu has been reviewed rather harshly, the idea of going into bold new directions is what also appeals to Our Lady Peace.
"I'm guessing Metallica were really excited," says Mazur. "Someone said a long time ago good music happens when you're excited about it. When you're not excited about it good music is probably not going to happen. And it's the same with us."
Maida continues Mazur's thoughts, "You know what it comes down to? It's about trusting your instincts as an artist. As soon as you start not doing that -- bad, bad waters. [In the past] we compromised. We compromised. Why did we do that?"
After having made Curve, though, Our Lady Peace don't see themselves compromising anymore. After all, they're survivors. They've earned the right to do what they want.
"For us it's a good statement in terms of like, OK, the next 10 years are really exciting in terms of where we can take what we've done -- this freedom and philosophy. I can't wait to get back into studio and get more interesting rhythms and really push what we've done. It's almost, it's not baby steps, but I think now we can understand the potential of what we're really after."
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