Interview with Simple Plan's Sebastien Lefebvre
The platinum-selling, “new-punk” stylings of Simple Plan first made their appearance on the music scene in 1999. The band played the Warped Tour and never looked back. For those of us that were in college when they first heard Simple Plan, like yours truly, it may seem almost impossible that the band has been going strong for 15 years. Yes, indeed, my friends, it has been that long since 1999! With songs like “Perfect” and “Welcome To My Life” becoming part of the soundtracks of the lives of so many, the band has been able to become mainstays on the punk/pop scene. In today’s musical landscape, selling records and remaining relevant for 15 months is an accomplishment, let alone 15 years. Simple Plan can also say they’ve remained true to their roots and their sound, and that’s not something many can claim after 15 years either.
I had the opportunity to ask Simple Plan’s rhythm guitarist Sebastien Lefebvre what the band has been up to lately and when we can expect some new music. Here’s what he had to say.
What has the band has been up to since “Get Your Heart On” was released, and how soon can fans expect new music from Simple Plan?
Well, first we toured for almost two years with that album. We are extremely lucky and get to go to a lot of places and play in front of a lot of different people, but that takes time. And we love to take the time and travel and meet our fans. But since we got off the road, we only took a few months off before getting back into writing for the next album. I believe we are finally at a point where we think we have some great material, so we’ll keep writing until Christmas and then early next year, start recording. I think it’s safe to say that there will be new Simple Plan music in 2015.
What can fans expect from the types of sounds, textures, and themes you decided to go with for this upcoming studio album? Can we expect a “Simple Plan” sound or have you decided to explore some other styles?
I think that something cool about this band is that, even when we explore different sounds, it will somehow end up sounding like Simple Plan. “Summer Paradise” was the first time we tried writing an acoustic reggae type song, and it doesn’t stand out as very different for us; it still has our flavour. The things we are experimenting with the most on the next album is different grooves. We can have some oldies throwbacks next to some fast punk rock songs, and somehow it all works.
What do your live and studio rigs look like? Have they changed at all since the last record?
In the studio, we use whatever works as far as rigs. I do tour with a Framus Dragon head and cab, and we do use that in the studio for the crunch tones sometimes, but we like to switch it up. Being a rhythm guitar player, my main focus is to get a punchy tone that’s tight and thick at the same time. I’ve come to realize that the playing and the guitar/pickup combination are what you need to pay attention to when looking for that type of sound. I play Framus guitars on stage and in the studio, with the JB Seymour Duncan pickup at the bridge. Enough bite but not too aggressive, lots of chunk but not too much low end.
The paradox that many guitarists face is how to get great clean and dirty sounds out of the same guitar. How have the pickups you’re currently using helped you maintain that very “crunchy” punk sound while being able to get some shimmering clarity for your clean tones?
I never used to care that much about the clean tone live. That was something I was willing to sacrifice as I’ve always wanted to keep my guitar switches to a minimum, and my rig very simple. I’ve always played with the JB pickups, but it’s when I finally put them into a hollowbody-shaped guitar that everything made sense for me. The Tennessee and the Mayfield by Framus are the models I used. It adds some warmth and some sustain that gives your clean the “go to” vibe you need when all you want is a basic effective clean. Jeff Stinco, the other guitar player in the band, takes care of all the textures and has a lot of pedals, but since I sing a lot of backup vocals, I can’t afford to be tap-dancing between dynamics in the songs. So when I switch on the clean on the same amp, with the same guitar and start strumming something, it’s the sound I want to hear.
If you could give aspiring “rock stars” or musicians advice on how to survive in the current music industry, what would it be?
It all starts with a good song. You can look cool and work hard, but that won’t be enough. People will get into your coolness once they like the song. That’s when people want to find out more about an artist.