Harder Than It Looks

Harder Than It Looks

Since their 2002 debut, Simple Plan has gradually crowd-surfed further and further away from the mosh pit, as the Montreal band tilted toward the pop side of their pop-punk axis—and became the only Warped Tour alumni to count Nelly and Natasha Bedingfield as collaborators. But on their sixth album, Simple Plan reassumes the stage-diving position. Harder Than It Looks was completed just before the pandemic shut everything down in early 2020, but its two-year delay now frames the record as the perfect 20th-anniversary sequel to the group’s multiplatinum breakthrough, No Pads, No Helmets...Just Balls. Over its 10 tracks, the band reasserts their innate flair for adrenalized, guitar-charged gallops and festival-sized sing-alongs, even as the cheeky teen angst of old gives way to more sobering reflections on mental health, cyberbullying, and divorce. “For us, this is a full-circle, back-to-basics record,” frontman Pierre Bouvier tells Apple Music. “We came out in the early 2000s and had massive success, and then you start questioning, ‘How can we prove to the world that we're not just this?’ But I think with some maturity and hindsight, we've all come to the conclusion: ‘Let's just do what Simple Plan does best, and not worry about showcasing that we can do other things. Let's give the people what they want.’” Here, Bouvier gives us the track-by-track lowdown on how Simple Plan made Harder Than It Looks sound so easy. “Wake Me Up (When This Nightmare's Over)” “Through meeting fans and reading people's messages, we've come to realize that there's a lot of people in our fanbase who literally rely on this music when they're struggling. It's more than just entertainment to them. Because of that, we always try to write songs that are going to help people through their struggles. And we wanted to make a song that was sort of vague enough to fit with whatever you're going through. So the 'nightmare' is whatever that struggle is for you.” “Ruin My Life” (feat. Deryck Whibley) “We've had parallel careers with Sum 41 for 20-plus years. I've been a fan of theirs for a long time, and I think Deryck sang a great part on our song. We all see it: People in the comments section can get really nasty, and that's hard—even for me. But then at some point, I'm like, 'You know what—I don't care about that person. They mean nothing to me. And you may have thought that what you said hurt me, but guess what: You didn't ruin my life.' That's what the song is about to me.” “The Antidote” “A lot of these concepts were brought in by our drummer, Chuck [Comeau]—he had this word, 'antidote,' on this little whiteboard that he brings in when we do writing sessions. It reminded me of when I was having trouble with anxiety like 10, 12 years ago, and I started having these pretty intense panic attacks. I didn't know what they were, and I thought, ‘Am I gonna die?’ So I would call my wife and she would calm me down—we'd talk for an hour at four in the morning. That's what this song represents to me: that lifeline that you reach for when you're having those moments of terrible anxiety or depression.” “A Million Pictures of You” “This is about the infatuation moment in a relationship, where you just can't get enough of each other. You look at this person, and you're like, 'I want to take so many pictures of you and spend every moment with you,' and you're just obsessed with each other and want to document it all. I love the riff that we came up with—it just feels like a classic, feel-good song.” “Anxiety” “This song was written with Chuck and I, and we also invited Travis Clark from We the Kings. We were inspired by twenty one pilots' stuff and ended up going with more of a modern take on reggae. The song is talking about anxiety—mental health is no longer taboo, and I think that's awesome, because when you're going through that stuff, it feels embarrassing. We want to help make that conversation more accepted. It should be treated like an injury—when you break your arm, you go to the hospital, you put a cast on, you listen to the doctor. But when your head's broken, people don't always do that, and I think it's important to treat it that way.” “Congratulations” “This song is a little reminiscent of 'Ruin My Life.' It could be seen as being about a relationship where someone wronged you, whatever way that may have been. It's about feeling betrayed. I don't know if karma is a real thing, but in my experience, it sure seems like it is. So 'Congratulations' is really a song about karma. It's like: Okay, you have this small victory because you wronged me. Well, congratulations on that one, but just remember: What goes up must come down.” “Iconic” “Almost every album of ours has a song where it's like, ‘What the hell's that doing there?’ And for this one, we tried to get ourselves in a frame of mind of writing a song for when a team comes out on the field. Imagine sports highlights, where you see all the tackles and all the rough parts. It's almost like we wrote a song for a documentary about a team of underdogs that made it to the top. And that team could be Simple Plan: I feel like our band has always had a chip on our shoulder. We’ve had great success; however, we've always had a healthy bit of headroom to aim for that Green Day level of being the biggest band in the world.” “Best Day of My Life” “A lot of people think that we came out and instantly had success. But Chuck and I were in a skate-punk band [Reset] since we were 13 years old—we opened up for Face to Face and NOFX. That was the world that we came from: We were playing fast punk beats and didn't give a crap about success. I'm a huge fan of NOFX and Lagwagon and Pennywise—that's what I used to play when I was a kid. So Chuck and I love putting stuff like that on our records. For some people that only know us for 'I'm Just a Kid,' they might be like, 'Whoa, what the hell is this?' But this is the sort of song we end up playing live a lot, because they're fun. If you're playing a festival and you want to get the mosh pit going, just crank out this song.” “Slow Motion” “Once again, this was one of those whiteboard ideas Chuck had. He was describing this idea of love at first sight. You see it in movies all the time, where you see the girl walking into the room in slow motion. We were trying to get music to match that sort of emotion and be very cinematic. Production-wise, we just wanted to make it as grandiose as possible. This is gonna sound silly, but when I hear this chorus, it just makes me want to cry. I was driving to LA for a session and I was sitting in my car with tears coming down my face, and I'm like, 'What is wrong with me? I'm listening to my own music and I'm crying in my car!'” “Two” “Now that all of us have kids, the idea of splitting up with your spouse and having to make decisions in your life that will affect your kids has sort of taken a whole new meaning. Luckily for me, and Chuck as well, we came from families that are still together, but we wanted to write about divorce and get as real and raw as possible. When a couple is going through divorce, and they're worried about the impact on their children, what do they do? They start saying, ‘Well, from now on, you'll have two Christmases and you get to have two birthday parties!’ And the kid is probably thinking, ‘I don't want that! I don't want two bedrooms or two holidays, I just want one!’ So for anyone who's the product of divorce, or is going through that themselves, I think this song is really going to hit home. It was a hard one to sing.”

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