Simple Plan Singer and Sum 41 Bassist Talk About Their Blame Canada Tour That Comes to House of Blues Next Month

click to enlarge Simple Plan (top) and Sum 41. - Ellenor Argyropoulos & Ashley Osborn
Ellenor Argyropoulos & Ashley Osborn
Simple Plan (top) and Sum 41.
On a tour dubbed Blame Canada, co-headliners Simple Plan and Sum 41, two bands that emerged from the Great White North in the early 2000s, will revisit their respective debut albums.

Simple Plan and Sum 41 will perform on Wednesday, May 11, at House of Blues.

Sum 41 plans to play its debut, 2001's All Killer No Filler, in its entirety at the show, and Simple Plan will play most of 2002's No Pads, No Helmets… Just Balls. Since the groups will co-headline, each act will play a 75-minute set that’ll also feature songs from throughout their careers as well as tunes from their latest albums.

In separate phone interviews, Sum 41 singer-bassist Cone McCaslin and Simple Plan singer Pierre Bouvier talked about the upcoming tour that pairs the two pop-punk groups together for the very first time.

For the record, I don’t blame Canada. I think Canada is great!
There’s obviously a lot of sarcasm in there. I love Canada. But being that I’ve traveled the world and been to so many different places, I cannot fathom living in that arctic cold as I used to. I just can’t do it anymore.
McCaslin: I have to admit, I didn’t come up with that name, but I do like it.

Talk about how the concept for the tour came together?
I think it’s been in the works of a long time. Our drummer Chuck [Comeau], who always manages the stuff with the band, has been trying to put it together. In my mind, there are three bands that came together on the coattails of Green Day and Blink-182 and had an impact. Those bands to me were Good Charlotte and Simple Plan and Sum 41. I’ve always imagined a tour of the three us together. That hasn’t happened yet, but we’ve been knocking on Sum 41’s door for a few years. Finally, Deryk [Whibley] was like, “Yeah, I think it’s a good time to do it.”  We have parallel careers and we have both had lots of success around the world and have been able to maintain that over the years. I look at our numbers on Spotify, and we both remain relevant. It’s awesome to go out with them. I’ve been a fan of Sum 41 for a long time. There are some cool guys in the band. Finally, after 20 years of being out there, we get to go out on tour together.
McCaslin: We haven’t been friends all long. There was some kind of grudge that started in the early days way back in 2000, and it kind of just spun out of control in the media. In interviews, we would do, we would shit talk each other back and forth. We were just never friends in the early days. Now that we’re all over 40, we just threw up our arms and said, “What are we fighting about? Why aren’t we doing shows together?” We were both looking to do anniversary tours of our first albums. It just kind of made sense.

You formed in Canada in the late ‘90s. I What was the music scene like back then?
Our band Simple Plan formed in 1999, but it was really in the aftermath of a band that Chuck and I had together called Reset. We got signed to a super indie label. We played shows with Face to Face and NOFX and No Use for a Name. That band broke up after a few years. We wanted to keep going. We spent so many years trying to open for small bands. When we got together in Simple Plan, we said that we wanted to follow in the footsteps of Green Day and Blink-182 and make it bigger. We wanted to get signed to a major label. It was fun [being on an indie], but it wasn’t really a career. We pursued and chased management companies and labels in the states. We finally got a response from Lava Records. We just wanted to be what Blink-182 was. They were playing shows in front of massive audiences, and that’s what we wanted to do. We had done the indie route. We put all of our eggs in one basket and paid for our own demos and FedExed all the labels we could find. We knew that if you got a FedEx package, they would feel like it was important. We included Chuck [Comeau’s] phone number, and he pretended to be the manager. We just wanted to make it big.
McCaslin: The band formed in 1996, and that was right after going to see a Warped Tour show and watching bands like NOFX and Pennywise and Bad Religion. Those were the kinds of band we wanted to be. We were all living in Ajax [Ontario]. There wasn’t a ton to do in Ajax back then. There wasn’t even a movie theater. Out of boredom, we began playing in separate bands at first, and then, we came to form Sum 41. There was a little club called the Chameleon Café. It was really small and in this industrial part of town. There was a lot of underage drinking in the parking lot. We played clubs like that in the middle of nowhere. We had to come down to Toronto to play.

When you first formed, what bands inspired you?
I had a big AC/DC period in my life. I love Tom Petty. My dad was a big Beatles fan. When we made our first album, our producer told us to go back to listen to Elvis Costello and the Beach Boys and T. Rex. We dove into these older albums and analyzed the intricacies of what they were doing. They were quirky. There’s some schtick in there that you could take from it, and we combined that with our love for the pop-punk scene. Blink-182 blew the doors open for a new market. They were goofing around a lot, and we took that and blended it in with the Beatles and Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson. We put all that together with the attitude of the Southern California pop-punk scene.
McCaslin: NOFX was a big influence. That was one of the bands that we wanted to be. We did cover NOFX, but we weren’t a NOFX cover band. It was that SoCal punk thing for sure but a lot of metal. We were huge Metallica fans, and Iron Maiden came into the fold. [Metallica’s] And Justice for All was the first heavy metal album I listened to when I was about 11. We all do love the classic rock stuff. I grew up on the Stones and I know Deryck [Whibley] did too. We all like the Beatles too. Through our teenage years, we were more into the punk and metal stuff. That’s what we listened to in our van — it was Iron Maiden and Rancid.

Talk about the making of your debut album. Was that a difficult album to make?
It was a long one. We were putting a lot into it. We’re young boys from Montreal who are getting signed to a major international label. We didn’t want to miss our shot. I’m a sucker for big songs. I love songs that you listen to once or twice and then hum them afterwards so you remember that. There was pressure to achieve that. Arnold Lanni our producer was into getting the vibe right. From the time we met Arnold to getting our demos mixed, it was a couple of years. It was definitely challenging, but there was a sense of confidence. We knew what was hot at the moment. You look at American Pie and all these movies that were lined with pop-punk bands. It was challenging and scary, and there were a lot of obstacles to overcome, but in the end, we felt pretty good about it.
McCaslin: It was probably the most fun to make. We had an EP before that. That was our first full-length, and it was the first time we had a big budget for a record. Jerry Finn produced it, and we had a ton of fun. He wasn’t sitting by your side the whole time trying to tell you what to do. He sat in the lounge and you would go in and record. When you were done, he would come in and check on it. He taught us a whole bunch of stuff. He is a reason we use some of the gear we use. He introduced us to stuff like Tenacious D that we didn’t get in Canada. He was that kind of personality. Everyday going into the studio was like a party. He lived in Toronto during the making of the record and really loved this strip club. We would go there with him a couple of times a week. We were only something like 20 years old.

Talk about your latest album.
[Harder Than It Looks] was completed right before the pandemic. We had a tour lined up with Newfound Glory that got cancelled in summer of 2020. We figured it was a bad time to put a record out.  We are all dads and our kids were being pulled from school. At the time, there was so much going in the news that we felt like the record would get buried. There was a good chance [former U.S. President] Donald Trump would do something stupid that would overshadow everything else. We figured with all this going on, we put the brakes on to reassess. At some point, we realized it just had to come out.
McCaslin: it’s one of the most aggressive albums we’ve done. We did it a little differently. We did preproduction in L.A. and got the songs ready. We all have great home studios. We sent tracks to each other. We spread out and recorded the songs in our own home studios. It was really comfortable. As far as the heavier sound goes, we were just headed that way after [2016's] 13 Voices. It was kind of heavy. [The 2011 album] Screaming Bloody Murder was heavy too. With us, we just take things as far as we can. Even on the new one, some of the songs on that are some of the heaviest we have ever done. We like that stuff, so we go there.

Pierre, what was it like to work with Deryck Whibley on “Ruin My Life”? That song is really catchy.
That was awesome. A few years ago, we had a tour lined up with State Champs. We had the idea to do a song with them and on stage, we would play the song. It worked out great. We had a lightbulb moment and we thought it was a cool idea. In late 2021, when we finally secured the Sum 41 tour, we asked Deryck if he wanted to sing on the song. From a personal point of view, I thought it would be a good thing. I sent him two songs. He responded and said he loved the song but had a concern that it was a little low for his range. I told him to take it and do whatever he wanted to make it his. Sure enough, he went back and sang the verse, and we were thrilled to have him on it. Hopefully, Deryck will sing it with us on the tour.

What will the setlist be like?
The tour is packaged as a 20th anniversary of our first album. Sum 41’s album came out 21 years ago. They have committed to play their first album in its entirety. We want to participate in that, but I want to be sensitive to fans who maybe don’t want to hear the whole first album We’ll play almost the first album in its entirety and both bands will play 75 minutes. The first album should take up 30 or so minutes of our set. Then, we’ll go into all the other songs and put some new songs in there too. We will play a few shows and see what the response is like and change things up if we need to. I look at myself as a fan, and it’s usually the first record you fall in love with it. I love hearing the whole thing. We will start from there.
McCaslin: It doesn’t look like we will play it in sequence. We like to juggle the songs around, but we will play every song. There will be other songs in the set too. Some of the album tracks on All Killer No Filler we haven’t played in 20 years. I had to sit down and relearn some of the tunes. We will all practice on our own and we will get together a couple of days before the tour and just jump right into it. We did some of those songs when we were 20 years old. We were good but not great. There are just four chords to lots of the songs. Now, as I’m relearning [the new] Order in Decline songs, I have to really focus because there are a lot more notes. It’s actually kind of cool to have an easier record to play after we’ve been off the road for more than two years.