As we did with Bluesfest this summer, Apt613 will have you covered with daily preview articles, including highlights and interviews with some of the artists about to hit the stage. Beyond the main stage, make sure you check out our feature on the dozens of acts being featured as part of CityFolk’s free Marvest series.
Since 2016, Canadian alt rock legends Our Lady Peace have been making an annual stop at TD Place, whether on a tour with contemporaries (I Mother Earth in 2016, Matthew Good in 2018) or opening up for Guns & Roses in 2017. So when the lineup was revealed for CityFolk, and Our Lady Peace was on the bill, it shouldn’t have come as a shock. However, the fact they had resurrected the Summersault festival, and were bringing Live, Bush, as well as Dear Rouge and Human Kebab, definitely was.
We connected with guitarist Steve Mazur on how things have been going with the band of late, and what it’s been like to bring back the touring festival.
APT613: So let’s go back to when you joined the band in 2002. As a Michigan kid, did you have any idea what you were getting into? You were probably aware of Our Lady Peace from their hits that crossed over in America, but did you have any idea what they were like up here in Canada?
Steve Mazur: A little but not much. I grew up in Michigan pretty close to the Canadian border, we had a radio station there from Windsor, so I had a little knowledge that OLP was a little more popular in Canada, but definitely didn’t have full knowledge of how different it was up here, and Canadian touring and all that. I’m so glad though, it’s been awesome. It’s so nice to have Canada, this great place to come home to.
In the 17 years since, the band has had its ups and downs, including the stretch recording Healthy In Paranoid Times and pressure from the record label, so now that you’ve distanced yourselves from that label, I’m wondering how was the recording process for the new album Somethingness?
It couldn’t be more polar opposite. That being said, the days of the big record companies aren’t really around anymore. The companies are still around, but not in the same way. There’s advantages and disadvantages of both, but as far as the difference goes, Healthy was coming off Gravity which was pretty successful. So the label was very excited and had expectations about the new record, as did we. We were working again with producer Bob Rock, who’s out in Hawaii. Being in Hawaii day-to-day is not a cheap thing and we ended up working in a bunch of different studios. We took a long time making that record, we wrote like 40 songs and recorded quite a few of those, so we spent a lot of time making that record. I don’t know if we let the expectations or pressure get to us, or we second-guessed ourselves a lot. As we were taking a lot of time, we were taking a lot of time in expensive recording studios, the costs of making that record started going through the roof.
What was interesting with this last record is we took a bit of a different approach, where we’d work up the bones on a lot of the songs in the home studio, but then we would go spend a day or two in a really nice studio to get good drum sounds, and we recorded quite a few things together as a band, and kept those performances.
And then you fast forward to our last record Somethingness, Raine (Maida, lead singer) has a home studio, so a good chunk of our last couple of records have been done there. What was interesting with this last record is we took a bit of a different approach, where we’d work up the bones on a lot of the songs in the home studio, but then we would go spend a day or two in a really nice studio to get good drum sounds, and we recorded quite a few things together as a band, and kept those performances. We did two or three songs at a great studio called East-West, a very historic studio in Los Angeles, which had a great vibe and great sound. Then we did a couple of songs at Jackson Browne’s studio, again, great vibe, really cool. And then we did a bunch of stuff at Raine’s studio. And then we all have our own home studios too, so there’s stuff on that record that come from our own studios too. So, very different than how we made Healthy.
I was wondering how the recording process went because there are a few songs (like “Missing Pieces” and “Last Train”) on the album that have a bit more space for your guitar to wander a little bit, so I’m not surprised that you recorded some of it as a group. A bit more of a jam vibe and band unity comes through.
Exactly. Because when you’re all in a room, you want it to sound as much as a finished song as you can. One example is “Ballad of a Poet”, that was one where we were in East-West studios, and most of that song is live off the floor. We just added one more guitar part after the fact. But there is a lot more space in that song because it was all of us playing together. It’s a great thing, and I think we want to do more of that.
This is the second album you’ve done with Jason Lader. Having him around for a second time, he probably has a better sense of the band, and where you guys want to go.
Totally. Jason has been a friend of ours for a long time. He’s extremely talented musician, engineer, very inspiring guy to be around. He just eats, sleeps and breathes music. We’ve been doing this long enough now that we can get songs to certain levels on our own, and we sort of know how to push ourselves, but Jason is great to come in with an outside perspective, and he really helps push us further than we would push ourselves. It’s great to have someone push you to those places further outside the margins, because you can always bring it back in. For example, on “Hiding Place for Hearts”, that song was originally a full band rock song, Jason came in and said “I feel like it’s distracting from the vocals” so he literally muted the drums and bass, and we started up from there. That was something that, when he came in, the song totally took a left turn, but we’re really happy with the way it turned out.
That’s what you need. No matter who you are, you live with yourself every day, and you can teach yourself how to push yourself, but when you have someone outside of you, who is knowledgeable and sensitive and experienced, he’ll be able to push you in a different way than you would yourself. Music is art, so there’s no right or wrong, so someone who has experience and good taste can come along and push you somewhere else. When you get in the studio, you’re naked, you’re bare. People who make good music allow themselves to be open. If you had a producer who’d be afraid to say anything, that’s probably not where the music will get pushed to the next level.
As for the tour, most touring festivals have fallen off the map. Lollapalooza stopped touring a long time ago, Warped Tour ended its tours last year, so what made you decide to bring back Summersault?
It’d been dormant for a while, but we really loved the idea and wanted to get it going again. It was great back in the day when it happened. Like we mentioned, being from Canada, that’s a great advantage we have – we can say to other bands who might feel a little shy about coming up here, we can offer them the festival. ‘Come on up here with us, we’re pretty lucky that people still want to come out and see us, and a good percentage of them are going to know you as well, so let’s do this together.’ We’re lucky to have those loyal Canadian folks.
This year, unfortunately, we could only do four shows on this Summersault tour, tonight is our first night in Moncton, and it’s already such a great vibe that we’re talking about how we need to figure out next year, and maybe every year after that, and go across the country. It’s a good little reintroduction to Summersault, and just from the vibe, we’re hoping it’ll keep picking up steam and become an annual thing.
The funny thing is a lot of the bands from the first era of Summersault are actively touring again. The Tea Party just came through this past spring, and Moist are coming this fall, etc. And the fanbase that grew up with that era is coming out to see these shows, as well as new generations who are craving rock music, which has been in short supply over the last decade or so.
Rock music has an energy, and when you go to a rock concert, it’s this unique animal, there’s nothing like it. If an alien came down, they’d be asking ‘What is going on? What is this?’ but if you’ve been to a good rock show, you know, and that feeling, you don’t forget it. You’re right, it’s a bit of a strange time for rock music, but for those of us who love rock music and live shows, you have it in you and you want to see it. Some of the earlier age groups have been away for 10 or 15 years have had kids and this and that, they miss that and are hungry to feel that again.
Rock music has an energy, and when you go to a rock concert, it’s this unique animal, there’s nothing like it.
This whole summer, we’ve been out in the U.S. on the ALTimate tour opening up for Bush and Live, who also had their heyday in the 90s, and it’s been great. The reception has been great, a lot of people, which is very positive for us to see, we want to keep making music and keep playing shows, and it feels like things are swinging back around for live shows.
I’m guessing though that a couple of decades in, the tour ‘lifestyle’ has changed a bit?
It depends, certain aspects of touring are always there, but it depends on where a person is in their life. If you’re out on tour in your 20s, and you’re single, you might have a very different experience than now at 41. There’s just certain comforts I’ve gotten used to that I want to have on the road, which makes me want to take it easier. But the whole work ethic of putting on a show is still there, and is even more exciting than it ever was when there was debauchery and chaos going on.
If there was a lot of that, I’m not even sure you could survive a full tour.
Honestly, that’s part of it. The last few years, when I would try to live the tour life and drink and this and that, and getting older? The mornings got harder and harder, it was tough. Being on the road, depending on your personality, it can be awesome – the greatest thing in the world, and also there’s a grind to it. Even when you’re taking care of yourself really well, there’s still a grind to it day in, day out, being around people all day. I can’t imagine being up all night, day after day. It’s an interesting lifestyle.
After the four days of Summersault, you’ll be heading back to the U.S. for more dates with Live and Bush. After that though, are you planning on taking a break, or heading back to writing and recording?
We’re chomping at the bit to get back to the studio. We have a new song that we’re playing on this tour (“Stop Making Stupid People Famous”) that we just did with a new producer, someone we might work more with on a new record. We feel the song came out great. We really wanted to do this tour, but we also really want to go record another record. So the plan for us is to get at it. We feel like it’s been too long since Somethingness came out. We have a renewed energy in the band, so the plan is to keep going.
So no five year interval like we had to wait between Curve and Somethingness?
That is definitely not the plan. Above all, it has to be good. You don’t want to put something out just because we said we would. At least in our minds, there’s an urgency to it. We don’t want to take a five year break. That’s too long.
CityFolk takes place in multiple venues at Lansdowne, from Thursday September 12 to Sunday September 15, 2019. Visit cityfolkfestival.com for the complete lineup, schedule and all information.