Simple Plan was recently lauded for their poignant portrayal of the devastating effects of drunk driving in their video, Untitled. Their emotional look at the impact of drunk driving and how it devastates the families involved was acknowledged at a press conference hosted by the RCMP. We were there to speak to Jeff Stinco, lead guitarist, to talk about the journey that Simple Plan has been on for more than a decade and their position on other important social issues.
Suicide prevention is a serious issue for Simple Plan. Two days after this interview, they announced the launch of the Simple Plan Foundation, a charitable organization that will devote time and energy to helping teenagers in need. The band states, “These are issues that truly matter to us because a lot of our fans go through difficult times. We get tons of very sad letters and emails, and we also meet a lot of these kids at our shows, so we get a direct perspective on this dramatic social problem. It's heart-wrenching to see how many young kids are struggling, feeling depressed and lost. We are launching the Simple Plan Foundation to hopefully make a difference in their lives. We feel it's the least we can do.”
You guys have been doing this for a while but in the last few years your fan base has exploded. It appears like things have happened over night but really they haven’t, have they?
Jeff: No they haven’t. The perception is that it has. To give you an overview of what happened, the first record came out in 2002. And since then, there has been a second record. However, the band had been alive before that and we had been performing and developing our fan base mostly in Eastern Canada and a little bit in the US. But truthfully it took a while for the US to pay attention to us and took a very long time for Canada to look at us. We had a single and it did well and then it disappeared, eventhough we were still releasing singles and working. And we decided instead of being bitter about it that we would go elsewhere. Let’s work in Asia and Australia. We talked to our label and said I think we can do this and we went to Germany and decided instead of relying on radio and television lets rely on touring to create something. And then eventually we also crossed the US and did a small tour of Canada and then eventually a little network in the US heard about us and our success on tour. And that network was MTV. So they decided to support us. They started late at night and then the videos and the songs really connected with fans and then MTV was being harassed by fans to put us in regular rotation and then eventually we brought that success back to Canada. This last record has been the most successful all around. It brought us to an International band status.
Your songs do resonate with a lot of people. They are not necessarily political but they are social commentary. What is your intention when you write? Is it to hold a mirror up to your fans to say, hey we know your life and here it is in this song - what is the process?
Jeff: In song writing you have to be honest or it comes off as strange. So you write from experience and when we wrote the first record we were twenty and we were talking about teenage years, school and confusion and finding ourselves. The second record is more about being more social- things that are sad and dark. Some bands are really good at singing about girls, and partying and that sort of stuff but we wanted to talk about something that was a bit darker. And teenagers deal with a lot of the issues that we talk about and connect really well with them. I’m surprised to see all across the world there is a wide range of fans. There is guy named Gary in the US and he shows up to every single show that we play in the states.
Well, you talk about universal themes that affect everyone. A lot of your songs talk about personal problems how does writing about them help you?
Jeff: Its actually pretty therapeutic. There are a lot of ways that you can deal with stuff in your life. You can become really frustrated with them or you can deal with them in destructive ways. We decided to be really constructive about it and you know, picked up a guitar and wrote. A lot of people have psychological help for their problems but writing music is really therapeutic and I remember being a teenager in my room and picking up a guitar when I was really angry and just smashing on it and creating noise and you know what, it really helped me a lot. But writing in general whether its writing in a journal or expressing yourself, painting, I think its important. Its unfortunate when people don’t believe that they have an outlet.
Being on the road together, it must be difficult. How do you manage to find personal time?
Jeff: Personal time is really hard to find. I’m really fortunate because I’m traveling with guys that I’ve known for over 12-13 years now. Its been a while and we are really friends. The early years were not really glamorous and it was pretty tough. I left home really young when I was 17 and I was broke when I started this band. And the band was supporting me not just financially but also emotionally too. These are the same guys that I became successful with so it creates a really strong bond. Contrast that from other bands that met through an ad.
At the end of the video, Untitled- the video that you are being acknowledged for today by the RCMP- text appears indicating that motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for youth. The second leading cause of death for Canadian youth is suicide. What are your thoughts on that issue and what are your personal experiences with that, if any?
Jeff: That’s a very strong issue for me and an important one to me because I lost a friend to suicide when I was a teenager. I felt so unequipped and I had no idea what to say and what to do and the messages that the person was sending were hard to understand. And over the years I have crossed a lot of people who have had those thoughts in their heads. I think now, I’m dealing with another issue recently where a close person to me has those kind of thoughts, I realize that there are resources and I realized that it has a lot to do with finding people to talk to and to trust. And understanding that these thoughts in your head, its hard to focus and know which way to go but that talking about it will help. There is absolutely someone to talk to about it and if not there are help lines. There is an issue with schools trying to avoid these subjects for fear of encouraging these behaviours. I think lack of information is probably the biggest problem. Letting kids know that there are resources is important. Its tough growing up and finding your place. Finding your own identity and your place in it brings a lot of pressure. The job that I lead comes with pressure too and my way is to deal with it through music. But everyone needs to find an outlet. People who have these thoughts in their head really think that its useless to talk about it but talking to someone and talking to professionals can really help.