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Despite Changes, Band Still Follows A Simple Plan

Of the Oakland Press

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Monteral’s Simple Plan apparently really meant it when the group titled its 2002 hit “I’d Do Anything.”

The quintet’s self-titled third album, released earlier this month, takes a few dramatic steps away from the punk-flavored pop sound of its predecessors — thanks particularly to a hook-up with Timbaland associate Nate “Danjahandz” Hill. It’s a brave move for a band that sold seven million copies worldwide of its first two albums, both of which were platinum or better in the United States, but it’s a natural evolution, according to the group members.

“I guess there was sort of a realization at some point that we needed to shake things up and really take chances, just go for it and do something that was us but would, in a way, challenge ourselves,” says drummer Chuck Comeau.

Adds frontman Pierre Bouvier, who writes most of Simple Plan’s material with Comeau, “I think we all felt we needed to do something that would be a little more daring and stretch the envelope of who we are. We were just trying to make a record that will leave a little more of a mark.”

What kind of mark that will be remains a question mark. “Simple Plan” debuted at No. 14 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling a disappointing 39,000 copies. That’s 100,000 less than the firstweek tally for 2004’s “Still Not Getting Any,” the successor to 2002’s “No Pads, No Helmets...Just Balls.”

Then again, the group knew that “Simple Plan” would challenge not only itself, but also fans who had bought into a diet of propulsive radio hits such as “Just a Kid,” “Perfect,” “Welcome to My Life” and “Shut Up!” Simple Plan didn’t abandon that on the new album, but the attention is swinging to the loops and dance rhythms that are part of the first single, “When I’m Gone” and “The End,” the hip-hop flavor of “Generation” and the power balladry of “I Can’t Wait Forever.”

“You don’t want to alienate people who have been with you a long time and love the band and are true fans,” Comeau acknowledges, “so I think there was definitely a little bit of fear. When you start touching uncharted territories, there’s always that sort of, ‘Huh? Are we out of our...minds?’ or ‘Is this where we should be going? Are they gonna like it?’ “

But, adds guitarist Jeff Stinco, “We knew that we had to do it and follow our instincts that (changing the sound) would be a good thing. We felt that if the five of us liked what we were doing, we could stand being it as a band and present it to our fans.”

The path to change began in the spring of 2006, when Simple Plan came off the road from promoting “Still Not Getting Any” and Bouvier and Comeau started writing material for the next album.

They were prolific, but Comeau recalls that “nothing was sticking out as being really fresh.” So the duo took a suggestion from its recording company and started looking for producers outside of the rock realm.

Timbaland, who had hit big in the pop market with Justin Timberlake and fellow Canadian Nelly Furtado, was on the list, but it was Danjahandz who jumped at the chance to work with Simple Plan.

“He had been looking for a rock band to work with,” Bouvier says. “He knew our stuff and really liked us. And we really liked his enthusiasm.”

Bouvier and Comeau went to Miami in April of 2007 and immediately felt like “we’ve got something really fresh here. We felt like, ‘This is what we’re looking for,’” according to Bouvier. The rest of the group was skeptical when the pair brought the initial tracks — including Simple Plan’s “The End” — back to Montreal, but it didn’t take long for everyone to buy into the idea.

“I felt like I was 13 years old again when I heard ‘When I’m Gone’ on the radio,” bassist David Desrosiers says. “It just sounded so...fresh. I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited about this band. I don’t think any of us have, really.”

They’re sustaining that excitement despite “Simple Plan’s” slow start. The band members anticipate another long spate of touring to support its latest effort and sounds ready to take as long as necessary to sell what Comeau calls its new “vision” to its fans.

“We’re the kind of band that wants to go everywhere,” the drummer notes. “We’re really proud to say we’ve been in a lot of countries where no bands ever go, or rarely go.

“I think we want to keep doing that. This is what we do. This is what we love. This is why we make records — to go out and play and have people hear our songs. That’ll never change.”

Simple Plan and the Graduate perform at 7 p.m. Friday (Feb. 29) at St. Andrew’s Hall, 431 E. Congress St., Detroit. Tickets are $18. Call (313) 961-6358 or visit www.livenation.com.

Web Site: www.livenation.com

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