‘Twas the summer of 2002. This writer was getting ready to head off to college and it was time for last one epic summer with the hometown buddies (and high school love). The soundtrack to those memorable days: Our Lady Peace. The band played three shows in Northeast Ohio in as many months, including a show at a record shop at the Mentor Mall, Xfest (remember Xtreme radio?), and, most notably, a taping of an MTV special at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A summer to remember, indeed. OLP had just released their album ‘Gravity.’ Those songs remind of happy times.
OLP gone through some lineup changes, departing were guitarist Mike Turner (replaced by Steve Mazur) and drummer Jeremy Taggart (whose shoes have been filled by Jason Pierce), but the distinct vocals of frontman Raine Maida and the bass of Duncan Coutts have remained consistent.
19 years after the memorable summer and 25+ years of existence, OLP is still going strong! They’ve been through Cleveland a handful of times, but all of those shows should be topped by their upcoming sold-out performance at the intimate Grog Shop on December 17, a month ahead of their highly-anticipated ‘Spiritual Machines 2.’
This shorter current run of smaller club shows is likely a precursor to a longer tour at bigger venues to support the 2022 release. Be it intimate clubs, festival dates, or anything in between, one major challenge remains consistent. How does the band narrow down a setlist from their 10 (soon to be 11) records? (Short of playing a five-hour set?)
“That’s literally the hardest thing,” Coutts confirms in a recent phone interview with CleveRock. “Quite frankly, I don’t think we’ve done a good enough job of that. We have a series of songs that we will pretty much always play in terms of the ones that you’d expect to hear if you had paid money to come and see us. There’s really or ever a show that we don’t play ‘Innocent’ or ‘Somewhere Out There.’ On the last tour, we threw ‘Story About a Girl’ in a couple of times. We’re trying to play a little bit off of ‘Spiritual Machines’ because of ‘Spiritual Machines 2’ coming out. You’ll hear a limited number of songs from ‘Spiritual Machines 2,’ probably not more than three at the Grog Shop. We try to do something from every record that people would expect to hear. What we’re trying to do is do two or three from every record beyond the staples and rotate them in and out on a night-to-night basis”
The 2000 release of ‘Spiritual Machines’ was inspired in large part by author Ray Kurzweil’s book, ‘The Age of Spiritual Machines.’ The book explores topics of artificial intelligence and acceleration of technology that made predictions of where that will lead for the 21st Century. Kurzweil can be heard narrating snippets of his predictions on the album as they related to some of the songs’ themes.
“I forget how many predictions he made in that book, but it was an awful lot. I don’t know the exact percentage, but I do know that more than 80% of his predictions in that book have come true. He’s a fascinating guy. It’s a really interesting book,” Duncan said.
‘Spiritual Machines 2‘ will once again feature Kurzweil narrations as he makes more predictions for what the future holds. Kurzweil reportedly will release a book in 2022 with said predictions, this time offering a more optimistic view on the benefits of new technological developments.
“Raine actually spoke with him the other day in regards to asking if he would be interested in being part of this Spiritual Machines 2 project, which he graciously said ‘yes’ to,” Coutts revealed. “He’s been gracious enough to share some of these new predictions with us and recorded more snippets for us to include on this record. We are so excited to have him do this again.”
The timing of a sequel to ‘Spiritual Machines‘ could not have been more perfect. The COVID lockdown, Kurzweil’s predictions becoming reality, NFT’s coming to light…It was simply the right time.
“It just kind of felt that with everything going on, we thought about doing a follow up to ‘Spiritual Machines’ for a long time, and, it just kind of felt like the right time with where we are in society and all of the developments that have come to fruition, including the ones that Ray had predicted. This is why we kind of pulled the trigger on this now,” Coutts confirms. “We were waiting for the right time. We weren’t planning on absolutely doing it, because we wanted to do it right. The last thing we wanted to do was not honor ‘Spiritual Machines.’ We didn’t want to sully that with a follow up that is not carefully considered.”
Overall, the upcoming album’s theme is equal to its predecessor.
“Obviously, things change over twenty-some odd years, both sonically and lyrically, but I would say the intention is really similar,” he said.
The albums’ lead single, “Stop Making Stupid People Famous,” has already surfaced in advance of the full record release. It has been well received by the OLP faithful and new fans alike, despite being a distinct departure from the band’s typical sound.
“That song started as a demo here in Toronto. With two of us that live here and two of us living in LA, we do a lot of sharing files around, which kind of inadvertently set us up for the big COVID lockdown. Raine had been sitting on that lyric for a while,” Coutts explained. “He told me a couple of years that he was waiting for a track to come along that he felt inspired to sing it over. Luckily enough, Jason and I came up with something that inspired him to sing over it. It became the song that you know once the four of us got our hands on it.”
The tune features a very special guest appearance, Nadya Tolokno of Pussy Riot, who has a connection to both Maida and the song’s producer, Dave Sitek (who is credited as a producer for both TV On the Radio and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs).
Coutts had high praise for Sitek, who produced most tracks on the forthcoming record.
“He is a mad genius, mad scientist, whatever you want to call him,” he said. “He really took our idea to another level. His people told our people that he wasn’t available to work with us. Somehow, we got the demo of ‘Stop Making Stupid People Famous’ into his hand and he heard the lyrics and heard the track and was convinced to make time for us.”
In a 2005 interview this writer conducted with Coutts, it was clarified that former guitarist Mike Turner, “did not leave the band. It was a VERY mutual decision.”
Turner made a distinct Mark on OLP’s music, and, although current guitarist Mazur has proven to be more than a worthy replacement and has been embraced by the fanbase, Turner’s distinct guitar playing on the first ‘Spiritual Machines’ album heavily contributed to making it the fine piece of art that it is. According to Wikipeida, Turner will make an appearance of some sort on ‘Spiritual Machines 2.’ Let’s go right to the source, shall we? Duncan?
“Let’s just say that there might or might not be an appearance. I’m not exactly at liberty to exactly say,” he said with a laugh.
Nothing else needs to be said!
Non-Fungible Tokens. NFT’s. Everyone has heard about them! Does anyone truly understand them? Well, yes, many people do, just not the Ph.D’s in economics, CPA’s, or cryptocurrency traders that this writer has talked to (at least not enough to explain it well). From Tweets to basketball plays, virtual restate to memes, and now, music and album artwork, NFT’s are all the rage.
Our Lady Peace is one of the pioneers on the music front in regards to the NFT world, offering up singles, song stems, generative artwork, personalized greetings from the band, test pressings of ‘Spiritual Machines 2′ and a golden ticket that will allow access to any and all future Our Lady Peace concerts.
As for what the NFT realm means to OLP: “It is just a more robust way for us to interact with the people that would like to interact with us,” Coutts said.
The NFT fun started on November 19! One NFT is available at no cost, while others will undoubtedly fetch a pretty penny via auction.
“This first auction we have coming up on Friday [11/19] is just a single. This part is free,” Duncan reveals. “The auction on Friday is going to include Billy Howerdel from A Perfect Circle, he made the coolest remix of ‘Stop Making Stupid People Famous,’ it sounds like a Depeche Mode song. It’s so cool to me.”
Time will tell if NFT’s are truly here to stay. Regardless, the concept seems like something that would be a prediction right out of a book by Kurzweril. Duncan agrees!
“Of course it does! It’s so logical that this is why we are doing this for ‘Spiritual Machines 2,”‘ Coutts exclaimed. “And, let me tell you, we did talk about that. It’s all part of waiting until the right time for this to happen. It all sort of came together and makes sense to me.”
“Don’t be afraid of the NFT,” Coutts requests. “I think it’s cool and pretty robust. If we fail along the way, apologies in advance.”
“If you don’t want to have any part of the NFT world, you can wait until the record is on the streaming services in January,” he continued. “If you want to up-level your experience and own something, and maybe sell it on, this is for you. This isn’t really about the economics for us. Obviously, everybody needs to make money, but it’s more like asking how are we interacting in a more robust way for those who wish for that to happen.”
Having made music since the early ’90s, OG fans of OLP that had children at a young age now have teenagers to young adult age offspring old enough to attend concerts. And, it’s not necessarily just the younger generation finding out about the band through their parents, some are simply getting their ears on the new music and digging it.
“We did a show here in Canada a month ago, and there were two girls in the front row that didn’t know anything besides ‘Stop Making People Famous,’ and then they went nuts,” Coutts said. “It was great seeing other people that were not previously familiar getting into us through our new stuff. We’re just honored to still be doing this. We’re honored that people still want to come and see us. We challenge each other to not change and push the boundaries and be different and grow creatively and talk about new things. We’re not ready to go to the casino circuit just yet.“
“We feel like we still have a lot to say and to see people come back that have grown with us and then see younger people come, we don’t take that lightly. It’s really the greatest gift to us,” he continued. “That awesome feeling that we all missed during the COVID lockdown of being able to be in a room together when the fans are on and the audience is on as well, that it no longer becomes a band performing for an audience, it becomes a room full of people making music together. To be able to do that is the greatest gift in the world.”
Having made music with Our Lady Peace for over 25 years, Coutts was asked if he could pick a highlight (or two) from the span of his career.
“It’s hard… It’s hard… It’s hard because we don’t’ often afford ourselves the luxury of looking back,” he answered. “There are two things that happened to me early on in my life span that were pretty cool.”
My guess was Coutts was going to bring up one of four times opening for The Rolling Stones. Hell, what do I know?
The first favorite memory of Duncan’s:
“We were playing our hometown arena, where at the age of 10, I told my mother that I would play there one day. That was absurd that I even said that. But somehow, it came true. That kind of always sticks out as a highlight,” he said.
Equally than or great as proving himself to his mother?
“Getting to meet Ed Van Halen. I joined the band on the touring of ‘Naveed,’ after the Van Halen tour. Getting to meet him was wild,” Coutts recalls. “I used to stay up way past my bedtime and tape Van Halen off of the radio. That was extra fine in my memory.”