Members of Our Lady Peace, Canada’s top-selling alternative-rock group, have their noses so firmly to the grindstone, it took weeks for them to learn they’re up for seven Juno Awards.
Our Lady Peace, now entrenched in the third leg of a massive U.S. headlining tour, tops the 1998 list of nominees for the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys, including album, single and group of the year for their gold-plated Columbia debut LP “Clumsy.” The awards will be handed out March 22 at a ceremony in Vancouver.
“We’re not one of those bands that slaps each other on the back,” bassist-keyboardist Duncan Coutts said recently. “I don’t think we’re ones to take stock in the moment, because we really, really want to have a career out of this. We feel like maybe we’ve just started to scratch at the surface and we just want to make a bunch more albums, make it different and make it better. As cheesy as that sounds, it’s where our hearts are.
“We don’t want to be judged on a single album or two albums or singles; we want to be judged on a body of work. Yeah, it’s really great the album’s selling pretty well and people are coming out to our shows and we’re able to pack clubs now and pack arenas in Canada. It’s flattering, but at the same time you try to stay five steps ahead of it. My concern now, and for the other guys too, is putting on the best show that we can on this club tour we’re doing.”
“Clumsy,” a cohesive collection of tuneful rock, has gone as high as No. 76 on Billboard’s album chart since its release on April 15, 1997, while the searing title cut is at No. 5 this week on the modern rock tracks chart. Our Lady Peace’s accomplishments are all the more impressive considering its background.
Coutts and singer-songwriter Raine Maida went to the same high school in Toronto for one year and later were in a garage band together before teaming with drummer Jeremy Taggart and guitarist Mike Turner, both recruited via an ad in a weekly Toronto arts magazine, to form Our Lady Peace in 1993.
Rather than toil on the club circuit, they concentrated on fine-tuning their songs and making quality demos.
“The theory was,” Coutts said, “before we go out and play, let’s have lots of really good songs, so there was a lot of time spent basically above garages and in basements working on songs. Then we hooked up with Arnold Lanni, who produced our first album (“Naveed” in 1995). We got signed and then did the 400 to 500 shows after the first record and then made a second record.
“We spent 15 hours in the studio (for ‘Clumsy’). We’re more determination than gifted, talented people. We work really hard at what we do, and I think it shows in the music.”
The early path they choose – demos over excessive touring – made them less jaded about the music business, Coutts said, and that explains why they have been able to stay grounded.
“We’re really insular, from our management down,” Coutts said. “Everybody’s been together right from the very beginnings of it. It’s more like a family, and it’s the same thing when we’re on the road or in the studio, you know, check your ego at the door. If you’re being a jerk and your head starts to swell, people are going to tell you. They’re going to deflate it as soon as it happens. But it hasn’t really happened.
“I guess we’re just lucky that we’re four people that get along like that and have good people in our everyday dealings, from management to road crew to our producer.”
The greatest compliment so far has come from Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, who heard “Starseed” (from “Naveed”) on a New York radio station. Moved by the band’s conviction, he contacted Our Lady Peace’s booking agent and signed them to open some Page/Plant shows.
“I have respect for (Plant),” Coutts said, “in the sense that he keeps his ear to the ground with what’s happening still in the music scene. He seems very real.”
After its latest U.S. tour, Our Lady Peace will swing through Europe in mid-May. From there, no doubt there will be more shows.
“At some point, we’d really like to get into the studio. We’re all starting to get that itch,” Coutts said. “We’re all writing collectively and individually. Everyone’s hovered over their four-track machines, if we’re not trying to work things out in sound checks.”
BWF (before we forget): Our Lady Peace ended up coming home with two Junos, for group of the year and best rock album. … Bow before Our Lady Peace on the Web @ www.ourladypeace.com.
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