“I’D DO ANYTHIIIIIING,” is probably what a lot of people would be shouting when asked what they would do to have this year not be the final cross-country Vans Warped Tour. Conveniently enough, it’s also what those same people were shouting at Simple Plan during their set at the Journeys Right Foot stage at Warped Tour’s stop in Wantagh, New York. The multi-platinum Canadian pop-punk outfit have been Warped Tour staples, playing multiple times since forming in 1999. Veterans of the scene, it seemed only fitting that the band closed the day’s festivities.
Before that set, guitarist Jeff Stinco sat down to talk about how Warped Tour first rolled into their home turf of Canada and the importance of the Warped Tour brand.
TYF: So how many times have you guys played Warped Tour?
Jeff: This is the 12th time actually. This is the third time we’ve played a full Warped Tour, we have played two weeks here and there before. It’s part of our culture. The first few shows we played in our career were Warped Tours that played around in Toronto, Buffalo and Montreal. We grew up in that scene, we were actually spectators at Warped Tour and it gave us flight to do this on our own. It’s an important tour because it bridges the gap between punk, pop, metal and all the subgenres surrounding everything around there. So it’s an important cultural event and when we heard that it was going to be the last one we were like, “Yeah we’re not missing that.”
TYF: So when was the first time you guys heard about Warped Tour, not just played but heard about it?
Jeff: Actually, we were demoing a song called “I’d Do Anything” on our first record and Blink-182 were playing Toronto. I had heard about the Warped Tour before but it was the first time I had actually paid attention to it. My drummer went to Toronto, met with the Blink-182 guys, played them the song and they were stoked about it. They loved the song, Mark [Hoppus, Blink-182’s bassist] actually was all for it and gave us his stamp of approval. It ended up being the song that he sang on and that’s all because of that meeting at Warped Tour. So this was the first time I was really paying attention to it, although I was aware of it prior.
TYF: How was Warped Tour always in the back of your mind and being passed around while talked about?
Jeff: Well I’m from Montreal and the festival came a few times, it was an important festival. To be fair, I was part of another scene back then. I was studying classical music and was not really paying attention to what was going on in the rock world. My first real connection with Warped Tour was when Blink-182 played Toronto.
TYF: So the classical music thing, is that why there’s a string arrangement in “Untitled” or is that something unrelated?
Jeff: You do your homework. No we were working with Bob Rock at the time, who did a few Metallica records, and on The Black Album there were some amazing string arrangements that enhanced the songs. We were like kids in a candy store, we could get whatever we wanted back then when we were doing really well. We told Bob, “Can we get a symphony orchestra on that song,” and he said, “No, not a symphony orchestra but you can get a string arrangement on there.” We always wanted to push the boundaries of what this band was all about and try new things within the confine of the aesthetic that Simple Plan is known for.
TYF: Tell me about the first time you guys played Warped Tour. What was that like?
Jeff: I’m not sure if Warped Tour in Montreal was the first time or if it was Warped Tour Toronto. I do remember we were playing the Ernie Ball stage in Toronto and it was a tiny stage, it was mid-afternoon and it became pure chaos. We had recorded the album in Toronto, a very famous radio DJ had decided to start playing the songs on the radio on his own without the aid of a programmer, he just kinda took it upon himself to promote the band and it blew up. Within Ontario, it really created quite a big buzz. So when we played that show, and I believe the Warped Tour people did not even know who the hell was Simple Plan, it was huge. It was really chaotic, it was crazy, and it was way too small of a stage for us to play back then. What a great experience, it was pretty good for our ego as well.
TYF: Why was it good for your ego?
Jeff: In the early days of the band, you have a lot of failures: you’re being told you’re not enough of that, you’re being turned down by labels, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. So it’s good to have a seal of approval in a specific market like Toronto, a music city, and it was cool to have fans show up and see that you can start a fire somehow with your music.
TYF: What was it like back then with the show in Toronto compared to what you’ve seen over the years?
Jeff: It was very similar, actually. If anything, that’s the beauty of Warped Tour. It’s the fact that it’s stayed pretty much the same throughout the years. You’ve always had up and coming bands that were on the verge of breaking, you had newer bands that would create quite a bit of commotion, and you would have super big artists on the verge of breaking. You had Kid Rock, you had Katy Perry, I believe the Black Eyed Peas played it as well. You had all of these bands that were about to break, crazy artists and you had up-and-coming bands that nobody had heard about, and that’s exactly what’s going on this time around. So I guess we’re the more established band on this tour right now, but you got Falling In Reverse that’s about to blow up, they’re a really great band. And you got the classics, like Reel Big Fish and all those old school bands and there’s newer bands that I don’t even know about. Don Broco, for instance: a band that’s huge in the U.K., pretty much relatively unknown right now. They’re gonna break and it’s all because this tour is important to them, and they take it seriously and it’s exactly what they should be doing.
TYF: What would you say is the most outstanding quality of Warped Tour?
Jeff: I think the lasting quality about it has something to do with certain quirky aspects of it. The fact that, for instance, people don’t know who’s going to play at what time before 11 a.m. The revolving schedule, that’s important to Warped Tour. Basically you have to show up early because you might miss your favorite band, so that’s one of the reasons. The fact that there’s so many bands, a lot of bands from a lot genres that can appeal to a lot of different people and the culture. I think it’s a great brand, over the years there’s something to be had about a brand that has lasted so long. It becomes a classic and people from all types of society know Warped Tour. They’ve heard of it, they know someone who’s participated in it, it’s a big brand and a classic brand.
TYF: Is it weird to call Warped Tour a brand?
Jeff: Not to me, that’s precisely what it is. I mean what is a brand? It’s a recognizable name, a product. That’s precisely what this tour is, whether it’s anti-punk to say that, it’s still what it is. The Sex Pistols are probably the biggest brand in punk. They were pushing a clothing brand and it became a cultural thing and people associated to an anti-establishment band but they were probably the opposite of that. And I’m not saying anything about the quality of their music, I love their music but it is still what it was. When it started out, it was basically a band modeled and put together to push a product. Warped Tour was a tour and it became bigger than that, it became a brand and eventually became a cultural event where the misfits could find a place to be, people that they can actually exchange with. I don’t see a problem calling it a brand.
TYF: What would you say is going to be the highlight of your set tonight?
Jeff: For us, we try to approach every show the same way: as if it was our last. So whether there’s 200 people in front of us or 20,000 people in front of us, we put on the same show. Granted, if we have a great crowd the energy bounces back. It could be going through the motions but when you have a great crowd, you feed off the energy and you bring back more. The New York area has always been amazing for us, we played two New York downtown shows recently and it was sick, and I have a feeling that this will not be any different.
TYF: We’re at the last Warped Tour, is there a feeling that you guys have while being on this tour?
Jeff: As I mentioned earlier, for us it was important to be part of it. You have to understand how this all came about: We were asked to participate in this Warped Tour months ahead of time and a lot of people were like, “Is this going to do well or not?” In recent years, Warped Tour hasn’t done necessarily as well as it has this year. So we were like, “You know what? We’re gonna take the gamble, we think it’s important and not only that, we feel that people will want to be part of the last edition of this.” And we were right in a sense because a lot of bands turned down this tour because of past stories that they’ve heard about the last few years. So we took the gamble and I think it paid off. If anything also, there’s a resurgence of this band. This band is doing better than ever in the U.S., I think even better than in 2004 at our peak. We’re touring and we’re playing these really big venues, we’re doing really well and we’re so grateful for that because it wasn’t always the case. There was a time in our career where we had to stop playing the U.S. and go overseas. We developed a very strong following overseas, which is amazing, but we were always pretty bitter about the fact that we had a hard time selling tickets in America. Now we’re coming back and it’s actually going better than ever. If anything, and I’m probably taking a selfish approach here, but Warped Tour is also a tool. It’s a powerful tool to promote your band and bands know that, and we’re not exception to that. We want as many people as possible to hear about our band, we want people to hear the songs and have a great time seeing Simple Plan. We try to kick a** on stage and hopefully as many people as possible are in front of us to see it.