TALES FROM THE HEART: Simple Plan pleases girls completely

It’s just a coincidence that Simple Plan – the most romantic pop punk band on the planet – is playing the most romantic city in the world, Edmonton, on the most romantic day of the year, Valentine’s Day. Every day is Valentine’s Day for these guys.

Of the thousands of fans expected to turn up at Rexall Place, most of them will be girls, and there’s a good bet that by the end of the show one of more feminine undergarments will have been tossed onto the stage. This sort of thing happens to people like Tom Jones, not your average rock band. Something’s going on here.

In a recent phone interview, guitarist Sébastien Lefebvre jokes, “It there’s 5,000 people at a concert and you get two bras, trying to find those two girls is quite a challenge. Is this yours? Everybody quiet now …”

He says a curious thing: while having 19-to-20-year-old girls desperate to meet you backstage when you’re only 22 years old yourself is “awesome,” it’s “not quite as awesome” when you’re 30 years old and in a relationship and there are still 19-to-20-year-old girls desperate to meet you backstage. Most aging rock bands would kill for this sort of demographical rejuvenation. As Simple Plan grows up, its target market remains. Either that, Lefebvre says, “or maybe our older fans are not trying so hard to make that effort to get backstage. Where are they, I ask you, where are they?!”

Pop punk, also known as punk rock for girls, was in its infancy when Simple Plan emerged about 10 years ago with the debut album No Pads, No Helmets … Just Balls and the catchy single therein, Addicted, as in “I’m a dick, I’m a dick, I’m addicted to you,” a classic “I’m sorry, baby” sort of song framed in pure pop power balladry. Here we begin to see the framework of the mindset that targeted the aforementioned target market. Once again, as the history of popular music has taught us, follow the young girls and you will find the money.

The success of this Montreal fivesome’s giddy brand of joke-filled romantic bubblegum rock caused a pretty angry backlash among “real” punk rockers, who even begrudged Simple Plan the use of the word “punk.” Easy going and unapologetic, the members of Simple Plan didn’t fight it, distancing themselves – even now – from the punk label, save for admitting certain sonic and tempo influences. And so, with midwifery from bands like Simple Plan, a new genre was born, forming more of a kinship with bands like the Backstreet Boys than anything in Mohawks and safety pins.

The band deepened its romantic roots with subsequent albums, Still Not Getting Any … in 2004, the self-titled release in 2008 and all the way up to the present day with Simple Plan’s biggest song to date, Jet Lag (duet with Natasha Bedingfield), which delves into the lonely heart of a rock star on the road far away from his significant other, who may or may not also be a rock star (it’s amazing how many 19-to-20-year-old female fans are relating to this song). While still making unapologetic commercial teeny-pop to the core, it’s easy to see how Simple Plan’s songwriting has matured – from songs about wanting a girlfriend to songs about having a girlfriend, at least – even the album titles haven’t. The latest CD is called Get Your Heart On!

Despite the bawdy sense of humour, the healthy awareness of target audience and stubborn ability to stick to their guns, however soft and fluffy the rounds they fire, Simple Plan has largely outgrown the outrageous groupie encounters of the past, Lefebvre says. He recalls the time a girl duct-taped herself naked to a lightpost to win concert tickets from a radio station, the time their van was mobbed in Mexico, or at the private gig at the Playboy Mansion where the dress code for female guests was “non-existent. This resulted in “a lot of boobs around and it was fun to see everyone jumping around to the songs,” says Lefebvre. “It was quite an enjoyable moment in Simple Plan’s career.”

And did Simple Plan get naked, too?

He says, “There was possibly one … now, see, this I’m not sure I’m allowed to talk about.”

Of life on the road with Simple Plan these days, and now that he has a girlfriend, Lefebvre adds, “Have you seen that movie Rock Star with Mark Wahlberg? It’s not like that at all.”

It’s hard to see over the phone if this guy has a straight face or not. “Not” would be a good guess.