Quit Your Life and Be a Rock Star
An Interview with Simple Plan and MXPXBy Xian Ke
Ever wonder what your life would have been like had you decided to join that rock band instead of coming to MIT? Or daydream about what a rock star’s life is like, while you are sitting in that Athena cluster trying to finish that 11th hour assignment?
We took advantage of the jaunt into Boston as part of their sold-out tour by pop-punk bands Simple Plan and MxPx to speak to group members about their chosen career path and life on the road. Sure, there are the perks of being a rock star. Fans that memorize your songs and faithfully chant every lyric. Travels around the world with fellow bandmates who also happen to be your best friends. Reporters who want to put your pictures and quotes in newspapers and magazines.
But the motto of “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” differs dramatically from the realities of rock stardom. Yuri Ruley, 27, became the drummer for MxPx when the group started in high school and has been on and off the road since he was 15. Since their tours generally involve a show in a different city every night, there is little free time for exploring new places after waking up in the early afternoon on the tour bus, performing sound checks at the venue, and taking an occasional shower at a nearby hotel.
“The schedule is consistently inconsistent,” says Ruley, who explained that the band’s practice of checking into a shower-accessible hotel every four days was a means of conserving funds. Sebastien Lefebvre, 22, guitarist and backup vocalist for Simple Plan, confirms the hectic schedule on the road. “Oh, I shower though,” defended Lefebvre. “It’s just the other guys who only use the nice showers in the hotels.”
We caught up with Lefebvre as he and his bandmates were preparing to travel to Singapore for the MTV Asia Awards. Although Simple Plan did not end up winning the award for Best Pop Act, they decided that the chance to perform at the awards would be worth the inconveniences to their tour schedule. Lefebvre expressed his bewilderment at Simple Plan’s growing international popularity. “Japan is crazy ... they all sing along even though they don’t know the language,” said Lefebvre, a Montreal native who himself had to learn English after joining the band. It was at a Japanese concert that the audience first started brandishing their cell phones during the ballad “Perfect.” The band thought it looked so cool that they now tell their U.S. audiences to follow suit.
But just because you have sold millions of albums worldwide does not necessarily mean you get an army of assistants to cater to your every need. There is only one tour manager who handles day-to-day scheduling and accounting for each band. When asked about perks that they can now enjoy from Simple Plan’s success, Lefebvre revealed that the rider, a document that specifies a band’s requirements on the road, has remained the same since they first began touring. “Actually, we’ll wonder every now and then why we didn’t change our rider to give us fruit backstage. We still have to find and buy our own. But then we forget to change it,” lamented Lefebvre as he waited for his laundry cycle to complete.
Compared to Simple Plan, MxPx has less of an international following. “I enjoy sometimes looking at the SoundScan numbers,” Ruley said, referring to the industry source for album sales figures. “It’s funny to see that you sold two albums in India last month, or one in China. It’s like, how are these people hearing about us?” However, MxPx’s longevity has gained them respect among both fans and fellow musicians. Ruley recounted how weird it was to have members of tour opener Sugarcult recently ask for his autograph, citing MxPx as a major influence in their musical development.
Asked about being idolized by some fans, Lefebvre answered that if they were, they would in fact be “anti-role models,” since the band’s philosophy is to be who you are and not look up to anything or anybody. Ruley expressed a similar individualistic attitude to MxPx’s music direction. “We don’t want to categorize ourselves because we don’t want to limit the kind of music we make,” he said.
In the end, fame and fortune pale in comparison to the high the bands get from performing live. “I don’t want to make it sound bad, but being a rock musician is just our job,” explained Ruley. “But we can see ourselves touring for ten more years.” Lefebvre expressed amazement that he has already been at his job for five years. “After five days home, I’m just like, ‘Hey, when are we going on tour again?’” he said. It is a motto that rings true for rock stars and average Joes alike: time goes by fast when you are having fun.