Hailing from Toronto, Our Lady Peace have been one of the best selling rock bands in Canada throughout their career. From the minute that their debut album, Naveed, dropped on March 22nd, 1994 (and a year later in the United States), it was clear that despite being in the middle of the lucrative grunge-era, Our Lady Peace was going to be different.
Naveed would go on to be certified 4x platinum in Canada, with 1997’s Clumsy getting certified diamond, as well as their next four records getting certified at least platinum. Not only that, but they were able to crossover into the United States with multiple top ten hits on alternative radio and RIAA-certified records. But the most compelling thing about their success is that Our Lady Peace always have done things on their terms, never content with making the same record twice.
While 2002’s Gravity was largely seen as the largest leap in sound for Our Lady Peace, alongside the release of their new single “Stop Making Stupid People Famous” and ahead of their upcoming Spiritual Machines II record, vocalist Raine Maida chatted me with a few days ago about the song and upcoming record.
“This one will lose all of your fans probably,” he says with a laugh when talking about Spiritual Machines II. It’s a record that Maida describes to me as an “anti-rock” record and being some of the best work that the band has ever done. Throughout our interview he routinely credits producers Dave Sitek and Jason Lader for helping them get to the point of making such a bold record. “We’ve never tried to make Clumsy part two, or Gravity part two, so we’ve always been dumb that way it’s probably not good economically. But this is the biggest leap — I think Dave calls it future rock,” Maida explains to me.
2020 was the 20th anniversary of Spiritual Machines, and of course due to the COVID-19 pandemic there were no celebratory shows played — instead, Our Lady Peace remastered and re-released the record, as well as recording some acoustic versions of songs from the record. Maida explains that “I think making Spiritual Machines II just lead to us honoring that record,” but that they didn’t want to spend too much leaning into the nostalgia. After all, Spiritual Machines II may be a sequel record, but musically it’s not retracing steps. “There’s nothing nostalgic about this record,” he says to me.
But one thing that does connect the records is inventor/futurist Ray Kurzweil, who’s 1999 book The Age of Spiritual Machines inspired Spiritual Machines, and who provided a few excerpts to connect the record in between tracks. Kurzweill is back for Spiritual Machines II, with more modern predictions and following up on Spiritual Machines in itself. “He talks about The Age of Spiritual Machines, how there was a lot of predictions made and how many lived up to it,” Maida begins to explain. He highlights that Kurzweill touches on his views of the future and what that looks like, which is much more positive than some of his contemporaries. Things like a universal basic income, AI and technology as a whole, there is belief that things will get turned around quickly between saving the environment and providing a better life for those who occupy the planet.
“We’re coming out of something — and it kind of times with COVID-19, like COVID was a drag. But that kind of like, basic humanist of ‘Oh my god, this is such a relief’ of getting that weight lifted off your shoulders, I feel like this is just a bigger happening in terms of our music, what Ray’s talking about, coming out of COVID,” Maida says. “It’s time to dance. ‘Stop Making Stupid People Famous’ is kind of dance-y, this record has hips, you know, more than anything we’ve ever done. And I love that. It’s not a fluke, but it all plays into what we were trying to do creatively.”
Spiritual Machines II was originally announced back in August of last year, and a few things made it the right time now, and Maida explains how important Kurzweill is to the whole process. Maida talks about how Kurzweill is following up on the predictions he made 20+ years ago and that inspired Our Lady Peace to do their own type of follow-up on Spiritual Machines. “It’s like us following-up as well, realizing ‘Okay, that’s where we were then, what does OLP look like now?’ You know naturally, and thankfully, very different. It might not have been — we could have easily said let’s go back to those same pedals and drum sounds, and try to recreate something that fans will intrinsically feel connected to because it sounds like, it smells like it. But that doesn’t live up to what Ray is, he’s not saying we stop here, we have whatever we have. He’s going, always what’s next. So for us too, musically, that wasn’t going to honor what spiritual machines really is about, it’s progression and evolution,” Maida emphasizes.
“I don’t think so, Logan,” Maida answers when I suggest that fans may be ready and expect Our Lady Peace to always change it up with each record. “And I’ll be okay, I’ll actually smile. I want people to feel like ‘Okay, I actually didn’t think these guys were capable of this.’ And that’s fine with me, if that’s where it lands, I’m cool with that. I want to surprise people enough and earn their respect in the sense of ‘Wow, I know this band is always on the edge of what alt-rock was and didn’t fit into everything, but I didn’t expect that they had the ability to do this.’”
The process for writing “Stop Making Stupid People Famous” — and the rest of the record in general — was very different for Our Lady Peace. The working relationship with Sitek and Lader was so strong that both producers would confidently shoot down ideas the band suggested if they felt too familiar, and would bring in ideas on their own that the band would end up using. This hands-on approach from the producers allowed Maida to relax a little bit in the studio, as he explains, “Usually, I’m so entrenched in production and engineering, writing and every little detail. Of course I wrote songs, but there was some songs I would just send a demo to Dave, he’d do up a track and I’d get it back like ‘Holy shit, I can’t wait to sing this.’ And that’s a differently feeling than being part of the process from engineering a snare sound to singing. I love that I didn’t have to do much, I really just got to sing and write lyrics.”
That focus allowed the outcome that is “Stop Making Stupid People Famous” to exist, and for Maida to layer the songs intricately and perfectly. The tongue-in-cheek nature of the song is the first piece of evidence of this, but it’s not a song that is without substance or simply a song calling out “stupid people” — it’s deeper than it’s title. “Hopefully it’s saying more,” Maida begins to explain. He tells me that when they were talking with Sitek, he finally agreed to work with them after hearing the chorus of “Stop Making Stupid People Famous.” Maida continues, “I thought that was fascinating, because ‘working on a dream’ is the chorus. Like, you know working hard on a dream in terms of like, let’s get past this shit and build something more sustainable with substance. It really is about looking for substance. But I think dressing it up with that lyric being so prominent and the title of the song, it’s what we’re accustomed to and hopefully leading you into that tunnel.”
The song also features Pussy Riot, which is a unique and fascinating collaboration for Our Lady Peace. Maida tells me about how they first met Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokno, which was at SXSW a few years ago when he was launching an app called Record Mob, and they had Tolokno come out for the launch, feeling her principles and what she stands for lined up with his and what they were wanting the app to be used for — live streaming events going on in the world and capturing them in real time. “With this song, I knew that Dave knew her and worked with, I was like we need equity, we need a woman’s voice here. Who’s a strong female? You go down the list and it’s like, [Nadya] has been to prison. She fights for human rights, she has a conscious that she actually puts her money where her mouth is. I sent her the song and said ‘Hey, we’d love to have you on this. I don’t know what capacity, if you want to sing a chorus, verse, or whatever.’’
“And she was in. She went up to Dave’s one day, sang the verse. I’m psyched to have her on, she’s in the video, she’s the perfect person for this. She’s the antithesis — if there’s anyone that needs fame and deserves some sort of platform, it’s someone that is actually fighting and puts her money where her mouth is,” he finalizes.
It’s an exciting time for Our Lady Peace and Maida, who’s latest tech venture is in the NFT space, with the Seattle-based company S!NG. Maida explains to me that it’s a company baed around IP protection, and they are essentially creating NFT’s. What this means for the band side of things is that they’re going to leverage this connection with Maida and reimagine the way that Our Lady Peace releases music and the rollout of Spiritual Machines II.
“We’re gonna build scarcity around them, like whatever 250 of these packs, and if you get all 10 packs, it enables you to qualify for some other cool shit that we’re going to do,” he begins to explain. “It’s really exciting to me, that’s why I like this intersection of tech and music now. It’s actually happening with NFT’s where artists are gonna get paid, they’re gonna be able to monetize distribute, build communities direct to their fans, which is fucking sick. Just kind of leveraging my relationship and being a part of this company, we can do some really exciting stuff.”
While “Stop Making Stupid People Famous” is the only song out right now from the record, and no official release date or other news has been revealed yet, there are plenty of reasons for fans to be hyper-excited right now. Our Lady Peace took the down year of 2020 and spun it into something special, something that they’ve never quite done before. And if there’s one thing to be left with, Maida says that with Spiritual Machines II, “We can all go to our graves knowing we’ve made some good records, but we may have made a great one.”