OUR LADY PEACE
IN COMPLICATED TIMES
BY JAY S. JACOBS
It’s not a religious reference. Honest. They know, they know, the name Our Lady Peace sounds like it could be a designation for a Christian rock band. It could, however, that’s not what it’s all about at all.
“I think people sometimes get fooled by the name,” admits the band’s lead guitarist Steve Mazur. “The name really isn’t meant to be anything religious. It’s an old poem written by Mark Van Doren.”
Van Doren was a famed poet and professor at Columbia University who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1939. He also received less-positive recognition when his son Charles gained fame, but then was nabbed in Twenty One game-show-fixing scandal in the late 50s. The band members were taken by a series of anti-war poems which Van Doren published in his 1944 book The Seven Sleepers and Other Poems.
“When the guys were putting the band together, it was a poem that I think [lead singer] Raine [Maida] brought in one day,” Mazur continues. “They all kind of related to it. It was kind of where everybody was at, at that point. And the poem was called ‘Our Lady Peace.’
“About the band being a Christian band…,” he says. “You know, we’re not devil worshipers or anything, but we’re not a religious band in that sense – in an organized religion sense.”
The band started in the University of Toronto in the early 90s, where singer Maida met a British student named Mike Turner who played a mean guitar. The two put together a post-grunge band, with Maina on vocals and Turner on lead guitar, recruiting bassist Chris Eacrett and a jazz-based drummer named Jeremy Taggart. The band released their first album, Naveed, in 1995 and even scored a modern rock hit with “Starseed.” The band’s profile got bigger as they opened for Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill tour. By the time of their followup album Clumsy came out in 1997, Eacrett had been replaced by new bassist Duncan Coutts. With this lineup, the band released two more albums, Happiness is Not A Fish that You Can Catch (1999) and Spiritual Machines (2001).
The band hit its current lineup when Maina and Turner had a falling out over the direction of the band and Turner was out as lead guitarist. OLP started setting out nets for a new lead guitarist and they landed Detroit-native guitarist Mazur.
“Before that I had actually been a fan of the band,” Mazur says. “I was definitely aware of the band, their music, and I had their records. I really liked the band a lot. I moved out to Los Angeles from Detroit, just to be in a better place where there was more music going on. I was playing in a band and the drummer in that band knew the guys in OLP very well. He had toured with them before in another band. They called him, because they knew that he knew a lot of musicians, when they were parting ways with their old guitar player, Mike. They said, ‘Do you know anybody that you’ve been playing with or around town?’ He said, ‘I’m playing in a band with this guy and he loves your band. I think he’d be great.’ And he hooked us up.”
With Mazur in the fold, Our Lady Peace released their 2002 album Gravity, which became their commercial breakthrough, spawning the smash hit single “Somewhere Out There.” Suddenly a band that was used to having a cult following and okay record sales was riding a hit single up the pop charts and all over the airwaves on radio, MTV and VH1.
“It was pretty amazing,” Mazur recalls. “It was funny, that all happened like right after I joined, pretty much. It was very exciting. It was all new for me… touring and playing places of that size. Having fans of the band around. That was new for me, but all of the attention they were getting from that song was all very new for them, too. They hadn’t quite received attention like that before. It was a really exciting time, for sure.”
After that there was a lot of touring and a live album. And then, nothing. So why did it take 1,165 days (as is pointed out in the liner notes) to record their next studio album, Healthy in Paranoid Times? Lots of things contributed to the amount of time between releases. In order to come to the final twelve songs on the disk, the band recorded forty-five songs and weeded through them, debating and arguing on which song fit the feel of the album.
“We really set a high standard for ourselves in making this record,” Mazur said. “We were very serious about it. We wanted it to be a record that kind of captures who we were. We really wanted it to be a great record. We wouldn’t stop with anything less than that, until we had what we thought was a great record. So we were questioning ourselves a lot. We did a lot of experimenting. I was new and so we all wanted to experience each other and we allowed ourselves that freedom. From doing that experimentation, we went down a lot of roads that were fascinating. But at the end of a lot of those roads, we kind of realized, well, it’s cool, but it’s not us. We only went down one of those roads that was timely, you know?”
And will any of the songs that didn’t make the final cut show up on OLP recordings? “I hope some of them show up down the road,” Mazur acknowledges. “It was difficult choosing which ones would end up on the record, especially because we wanted the record to be a cohesive whole. You know, where there weren’t any songs that stuck out like a sore thumb. There were some great songs that we decided weren’t part of the vibe of the twelve songs that we had put together. There are some of those that I’m very sorry aren’t on there and I really hope turn up in the future. I think they will.”
Another thing that held up the recording was that Maina and his wife, singer Chantal Kreviazuk, went to Iraq to do work for the War Child charity to help children in battle zones. Due to this experience, Healthy In Paranoid Times is the band’s most political disk yet, a Canadian band’s look at war and the world around them. The anger over modern affairs of state boil over in songs like “Will the Future Blame Us” and even laps over into a breakup song like “Wipe That Smile Off of Your Face.” As the US citizen in the band, Mazur also finds himself looking at the news of the world in disbelief.
“’Will the Future Blame Us’ is kind of looking at not just wars and political unrest and things that are going on,” Mazur explains, “but just all kinds of things that we’re doing right now. Sort of wondering forward to will our kids look at us and say, ‘Look at this world. There are so many things that are fucked up. We don’t even have water we can drink. There’s all these things that are gone and destroyed that you once had.’ We could be headed for some real bad times if things keep going the way they are. Things could start to get real, real shallow. It’s a song looking forward at someone looking back at us. Will they blame us for the way things are fifty years from now, a hundred years from now?”
The album also looks pointedly at the mixture of government and spirituality in the angry protest song “Where Are You,” about the politicization of religion by the far right. Maina said that after doing the charity work in Africa, he felt a bit of culture shock when he returned home. The idea of the song resounds with Mazur, as well.
“It’s looking for a purpose for everything that’s going on in our world nowadays,” he says. “In the Western World, it definitely resonates with me. I can hardly watch TV or listen to the radio anymore. Because you hear and see all these things that seem so purposeless. I think all of us feel that there is a greater, beautiful thing out there that’s whirling around. But it gets harder and harder to find, it seems like, these days. Because there’s so much crap out there and everything is so driven towards people making money, so they can be secure. Where is the beauty that we all know is out there? That question asking ‘Where Are You?,’ where is that? That’s how I interpret the song. It definitely resonates with me.”
So does the band feel pressure to have a big hit to follow up “Somewhere Out There” and Gravity? It would be nice, sure, but they aren’t losing sleep over it. That is not what the band is all about.
“You know what? The music business right now is such a bizarre and crazy place that we’re really kind of over that,” Mazur admits. “We really just don’t care about it. We don’t write hits. We’re not that kind of band. We just write stuff that we feel. It just so happens one of those songs took off on the last record. But, we’re not a band that can sit there and write hits. We don’t try to do that. That’s not the way we work. So, pressure-wise, honest to God, the only pressure we feel is the one we put on ourselves. To keep growing and to make our live show as good as we possibly can.”
Besides, the fact that “Somewhere Out There” became so ubiquitous it led to some weird little tremors through the music world that paint the group in a different way that is expected by the band’s long-time fan base. “I’ve heard recently because of the success of ‘Somewhere Out There’ on our last record, that a lot of people think we’re like this lite-FM sort of soft rock kind of band. That’s definitely not what we’re all about. That’s kind of a bothersome thing I’ve heard lately. Don’t think that we’re secretary rock!” Mazur laughs. “Check it out, we put everything we have into making our music, and we’re definitely not secretary rock.”
So what is Our Lady Peace? How would Mazur like for people to see their music?
“I really would hope that it comes across as… just us. I don’t know how to explain it. But not that we were pushing this kind of music or pushing that kind of music, but that it was just us four people really putting out our personalities out there. That it was distinctively, unquestionably, us.”
|#1 © 2005. Courtesy of Columbia Records. All rights reserved.|
|#2 © 2005. Courtesy of Columbia Records. All rights reserved.|
Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 15, 2005.