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Harder Than It looks: Simple Plan fetes debut’s 20 years on new tour

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Simple Plan

Even though Simple Plan’s debut album, “No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls,” is 20 years old, vocalist Pierre Bouvier is amazed to see how it holds up.

“It’s cool to see how much of an impact that record had back in the day,” Bouvier says.

“It’s nice to see fans coming out to this show in their late 20s to mid-30s and telling us stories about how this was the first record they bought or how it meant the world to them. It’s cool to see the lasting effect of that album and the impact of songs like ‘Perfect,’ ‘I’d Do Anything’ and ‘Addicted.’”

This is especially surprising to Bouvier, as the Montreal-born band felt it was taking a risk by unveiling an album that took the rhythmic sounds of rising punk bands and coupled it with vulnerable lyrics about mental health.

“Lyrically, our songs were at the begging of this era of bands that would dive into their emotions a lot more,” Bouvier says. “Back in the ’90s, it wasn’t all that common to hear bands get so vulnerable and talk about anxiety, depression and things that made them feel like they were out of place. I think that is why some of these songs resonated with that generation that was looking for that safe place to express their own emotions, which they could find in these songs.” 

Although the album was a gamble, the album’s signature track “Perfect” — which lyrically addresses feelings of inadequacy kids feel toward parents — was a risk. 

“When we first started, we questioned whether the song ‘Perfect’ was too personal and too straightforward,” Bouvier says.

“We even debated whether or not this song should see the light of day. But that was the right call, and because of that, we realized that’s what sets Simple Plan apart from the rest.” 

Since releasing its debut album in March 2002, Simple Plan sustained success with its follow-up record, 2004’s “Still Not Getting Any….” It recently brought back its signature sound for its latest work, “Harder Than It Looks” — which was released May 2, just in time for the band’s tour. 

“It was definitely intentional to make a record that sounded like Simple Plan,” he says.

“In picking the songs that came out before the record, we wanted to make sure that those were songs that lyrically and musically would be appealing to our fans who had been waiting for this stuff.”

Because of this, Bouvier admits his job of curating a set list that encapsulates Simple Plan’s two decades of music to fill its 75-minute set is harder than it looks. 

However, Bouvier says the secret to the perfect set list is two doses of new material to complement the 12 classics.

“Every night we play two new songs in addition to some of the other older hits, in addition to the ‘No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls’ songs,” he says. “We’ve played a combination of ‘The Antidote,’ ‘Congratulations,’ ‘Wake Me Up (When This Nightmare’s Over)’ and ‘Ruin My Life,’ and we’re about to start putting ‘Million Pictures of You’ and ‘Best Day of My Life’ in the set. We want to play some new songs for the real true fans that are out there.” 

Although he is proud of his band’s first release and most current work, there is a little ditty off of “Still Not Getting Any…” that gets each venue bouncing appropriately titled “Jump.” 

“(‘Jump’) was never a single, but it’s been a staple at a Simple Plan show because it was written to get the crowd jumping,” the frontman says. “When we were writing the song, we were jumping up and down to find the tempo to get the whole crowd jumping.” 

“Jump” is often the climactic track to Simple Plan’s shows. However, the ideal way is wrapping them up with “Perfect.”

“We’ve always finished the set with ‘Perfect,’ and it would feel weird to not finish with that song,” he says. 

The Blame Canada Tour w/Simple Plan, Sum 41 and Magnolia Park

WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday, August 3

WHERE: The Van Buren, 401 W. Van Buren Street, Phoenix

COST: Tickets start at $37.25