December 15, 2017 Interview – Duncan Coutts of Our Lady Peace
Some bands just get better with age. For arguments sake, let’s look at Our Lady Peace: a beloved Canadian act who has been a staple on the Alternative Rock scene for well over 20 years. Celebrating success with their 1997 album Clumsy that lead into one highly-charted record after another, Our Lady Peace stood strong with exceptional musicianship and human lyrics.
While never repeating themselves, as evident with 2002’s Gravity and 2012’s Curve, Our Lady Peace continue to navigate the road in front of them in 2017. Returning with new music for the first time in 5 long years, they are also heavily touring again, with more music coming in 2018. Reinvigorated and inspired, what is next for Our Lady Peace? Breaking down the process, longtime Bassist Duncan Coutts sat down to talk their new music, the celebration of the past while looking forward, plans for 2018, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – Our Lady Peace has attained a great deal of success over the past two-plus decades with platinum-selling records, touring the world, but above all, really connecting with listeners. What has the ride been like for yourself and the band?
Duncan Coutts – I don’t know, I think it’s a process. We don’t often allow ourselves time to look back on the journey we’ve taken or the things we’ve accomplished. I think we’re still in the place where we’re just trying to find the next inspiration for us to create something new and something different and try not to repeat ourselves. In answering that, I don’t take for granted how lucky we’ve been, how successful we’ve been, and how we’ve been allowed to still be a band after 20-some odd years. It’s a very special place to be and I don’t take that lightly in any sense of the imagination, but we are still a band looking forward. We’re trying to find what’s really getting excited for the next round of music.
CrypticRock.com – That is great to hear. The 1997 album Clumsy really broke Our Lady Peace into the mainstream. Now 20 years old, in celebration of the album’s anniversary you recently did a run of shows in the USA. What was it like A really special album, what was it like when Clumsy broke? Also, why do you think the album resonates so strongly with so many people?
Duncan Coutts – It’s tough to say what affects other people, I can only say what affects me. And, looking back on it, and we have allowed ourselves to look back a bit with the tour; we did not play the album in its entirety at this point, we’re sort of honoring it. It was such a blur when it happened: it was really just nose down, keep touring, keep meeting new people, keep getting in front of different audiences, keep coming back and watching the audience grow. Having good support from the record company certainly didn’t hurt back then.
I think Raine’s lyrics touch people, and we see that: we hear the stories as we meet people down the road, how the songs have helped them through tough times; these songs have meant certain things to them that they can still connect with even today, 20 years later. That is the whole reason we got into music. We are huge music fans and we all have bands that write songs that allow us to be transported back to when we first heard those songs and reconnect with those emotions. For some unknown reason, the stars came together and we made a record that affected a lot of people. We’re very proud of that and we’re very lucky to have experienced that, really.
CrypticRock.com – It is very special. You had mentioned how the band is looking forward and you do not want to repeat yourself. Following 2012’s Curve, there was a bit of a hiatus of new music from Our Lady Peace. Now in 2017 you return with a great new EP called Somethingness Vol. 1. What was it like getting back into the studio to write and record these new songs?
Duncan Coutts – Again, the process has changed for us and with Somethingness Volume 1 and then Somethingness Volume 2, which will arrive probably sometime in January, we’ve recorded the songs in many different ways. We record in some of the nicest, old studios you’ve ever been in your life. We also recorded some stuff at Jason’s, our new drummer’s rehearsal space. He and I recorded the rhythm tracks and wrote the rhythm tracks for one of the songs on Volume 1, and we’d never actually played it as a band; because two of the guys live in L.A. and two of the guys live in Toronto.
We recorded a song called “Nice to Meet You,” that on this last tour we actually played in its entirety for the first time ever; we didn’t even do it on the record. That is the beauty of the digital age: it allows us to be able to record in completely different ways that we’ve never experienced before, so that’s been a little bit of a trip. I think all four of us really feel inspired by each other: we kind of just tapped into that and continued on from where we were at Curve and push the envelope a little further. I think it’s an exciting time for the band!
CrypticRock.com – Yes, Volume 1 is great collection of new songs, and now you have Volume 2 coming out in January. Was it a distinct decision to break this up into two EPs opposed to a full-length album?
Duncan Coutts – It was a bit Machiavellian, if you really want to know. We wanted to get new music out because we’d been asked to open up for Guns N’ Roses in Canada, and we really wanted to get our new song “Drop Me in the Water,” we just didn’t want to have a single. When we were made aware of, through the streaming service, you could release one volume then a second EP volume, and then amalgamate them into one album when the second one arrives. That’s why we did it that way. We had new songs that we really capitalize on to be able play live and to have people aware before they got to the shows, that was the impetus behind it.
At first we were worried about Volume 2 being as good as Volume 1, but it’s given us a little more extra time to work on more songs, and now I think we’re pretty confident that Volume 2 is as good or even better than Volume 1. We’re really excited to get that finished and get it out there.
CrypticRock.com – That is excellent and, quite honestly, a lot has changed in the music world. An EP is a good direction where to go because it gets people a little bit of music, a little bit of music there.
Duncan Coutts – It keeps your name out there, right? You don’t see people follow the traditional mold of putting out a record and then trying to work it, doing for two years, then three years go by before new music comes out. The way people can do music, it just doesn’t work that way anymore: you need to have songs coming out to people more constantly, so they remember you and get excited and all that kind of stuff.
CrypticRock.com – Agreed. It is certainly a different world. That said, it’s been a five-year hiatus since coming outwith the new EPs. Obviously, you guys had other things going on with schedules, life, family. Was that kind of nerve-wracking to get back into the studio after a layoff?
Duncan Coutts – No, it wasn’t nerve-wracking, it was more exciting. The problem is, as you get older, like the old cliché, time just flies, right? We think it’s been a couple of years, and you open your eyes and it’s been five. We need to get better at not letting that happen anymore. I don’t think we will because the way band feels right now, we feel, “Alright, let’s write some more music.” We wrote more on the touring leg and I know at some point we’re going to want to start recording that stuff rather quickly. I’m hoping we can continue to release a string of EPs and keep moving forward.
CrypticRock.com – That is exciting news. Through the years there have been some line-up changes with the band, but yourself and Raine have really been the foundation for a long time. Steve has been with the band 15 years now. How would you describe the chemistry between everyone in Our Lady Peace?
Duncan Coutts – Right now, I’d say it’s at an all-time high. We’re communicating musically. Jason’s been in the band long enough that he and I have an unwritten language in terms of the rhythm section. I think everybody’s headspace is really in an open, creative, can-do kind of mindset. I think we all, for the first time in a little while, really feel great where we’re going creatively and musically.
CrypticRock.com – That is very positive to hear. Now, as far the North American tour, you definitely had some great crowd responses from the show. At the New York City show, the first half of the show, you did Clumsy with a low-lighting sort of thing. Then the second half, the new music came along with other music from the band’s discography, all with full-on lights. Was that done by design for the tour?
Duncan Coutts – It was done by design but halfway through the tour we kind of started to morph it. It’s not like we totally focused our attention on social media, I don’t mean to imply that, but we keep an eye on them; some people were sort of freaking about the set list we did. We’ve actually since morphed the show, and we no longer did the Clumsy-centric first half. We did three or four songs from Clumsy, and then did more songs from Clumsy sprinkled in there near the end. That is because it’s sort of a celebration, less about the record, more about the career.
It happened in a really organic way, but you’re right, that was our intention to sort of have two sets within one. We were kind of trying to figure out the best way to give people a great show to make it feel like two entire shows in one setting. That was the intention originally, but it morphed.
We originally took six or seven songs off of Clumsy, then took a break, and back out and did a whole other set. Since then, we did four songs and then moved into the new set or the mixed-up set. People are really digging it. We kind of just listened to the feedback on the socials about it, and I think some people didn’t love the break in between sets, and maybe, they didn’t understand it. We took that and said, “Let’s see what happens.”
CrypticRock.com – Right, you can’t please everyone. It is also nice to see you do take fan’s opinions into account.
Duncan Coutts – That’s it, you got to be flexible, right? I think the idea is not to take ourselves too seriously at the end of the day. Just keep having fun, keep making music, push the boundaries, and be the best band that you can be – as awful Tony Roberts as that sounds. (Laughs) We’re just trying to stay light and agile, creative, and have fun!
CrypticRock.com – That is a good outlook. Let’s talk 2012’s Curve a little more in depth. It was a great album but a bit different than previous Our Lady Peace material. It had a little of a mixed reaction from people; it was darker in moments. What is it like looking back on it?
Duncan Coutts – Curve is a tough one to figure out. At times, it was as commercial as I thought it could be. Then there were times it was as dark, creative, and abstract as we’ve ever been. It was a time when I think, if I look back with clarity, which I didn’t have back then, I think Jeremy was maybe thinking of leaving the band around that time; he left shortly after the touring of Curve.
We were all in different spots. We were all just trying to push the boundaries, but I love what we came up with on that record. Because, in a way, it sort of was the first time that Raine’s solo stuff took on a little bit of a life of what was Our Lady Peace, then Our Lady Peace took on a little bit of what Raine’s solo stuff was. It was kind of a nice tip of the hat to the two different things.
It’s hard to describe music for me in terms of how I feel about it personally, because it’s such a personal thing and what I feel might be different from the next person. I thought it was just heavy, dark, and creative and interesting as we’ve been, perhaps, ever, and if not ever, than certainly in a long time. I’m super proud of that record.
CrypticRock.com – As you should be. It did have mixed reviews but it is truly an exceptional record.
Duncan Coutts – Like you said, you’re not going to please everybody all the time. Some people still haven’t forgiven us for Gravity (2002) and haven’t come back to us since Gravity. You gotta make the records that you’re making, that you’re interested in making, and excited about making. You can’t kowtow to somebody else. Otherwise, you’re just chasing it so severely that if you don’t have commercial success, then you’re left with no success. Then you’re left with an empty, hollow feeling after the whole process.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly, you have to stay true to yourself. It’s funny you mentioned Gravity, because that actually is celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2017. The band’s touring in the United States has concluded for 2017. You are going back to Canada and touring there through March with Matthew Good. That said, are you going to be returning to the U.S. in 2018?
Duncan Coutts – That would be the intention and the hope, yes. We don’t have dates by any means, but I know that’s our mindset; that’s what we want to do. If we can get traction with Somethingness, we’ll definitely be back.
CrypticRock.com – Great! The run in the U.S. was wonderful but it was sort of abbreviated in a sense. Is that wrong to say?
Duncan Coutts – No, you’re not wrong. The way availabilities worked, there are certain markets we just couldn’t hit that we were very upset about. We didn’t get to Florida, we didn’t get to D.C., we didn’t get to Philly, we didn’t get to Georgia, Louisiana, and all of those places; as extensive as this tour has been, it has been incomplete. I think our intention is to get back there next year.
CrypticRock.com – That would be fantastic because the band has very strong fan-base here in the U.S. Seeing Our Lady Peace in concert, people are really enthralled in the music; it is really a special experience.
Duncan Coutts – I gotta tell you, personally, I’ve been excited to the reaction to the new music so far that we’ve been playing. I can’t see that we won’t be back.
CrypticRock.com – Now, I have one last question for you pertaining to movies. CrypticRock also covers movies, concentrating in the Horror and Sci-Fi genres. If you are a fan of those genres, do you have any favorites?
Duncan Coutts – I’m less of a Horror guy, but, Jason, our new drummer, he’s a Horror film addict. I’ve seen my Jason films, my Freddy films, and that kind of stuff back in the day. Science Fiction, as Disney as this sounds, literally Disney, I was a Star Wars fan as a kid. I have been sucked right back into it with the iteration of it with J.J. Abrams film The Force Awakens (2015). I thought Rogue One (2016) was maybe the best Star Wars film. Now you throw in some gaming with Battlefront and now Battlefront II, I’m fully back in Star Wars mode. I’m not ashamed to admit that.
CrypticRock.com – Very cool, and the new film is coming out December 15th. It is amazing how Star Wars has taken on a life of its own and is bringing in younger kids again.
Duncan Coutts – Yeah and I still liked 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). I’m a Kubrick fan, but on the emotional side of it, it’s Star Wars for me.