Grunge was all the rage, everywhere you
looked it was Nirvana this, Pearl Jam that. Under this backdrop an exceptional
new band was formed that would give Canada it’s own modern rock superstars.
Instead of relying on pure power chords and lyrics of discontent, Our Lady
Peace created a post-grunge pop infused alt-rock sound that would appeal
to fans of the Seattle sound, but also differentiate itself from that scene.
This is the story of an unlikely band of melody makers that took their
college dreams to multi-platinum glory.
Taking their name from a poem by American
Poet and Columbia University professor Mark Van Doren, Our Lady Peace was
formed by two University of Toronto students in 1992. Vocalist Raine
Maida met guitarist Mike Turner on campus. Eventually, bassist Duncan
Coutts and drummer Jeremy Taggart would complete the group's lineup. From
the beginning Our Lady Peace stood out from their contemporaries, not only
with their unusual name but with the artful and intellectual undercurrent
to their lyrics and style.
It all started modestly for the band, they
put together a 3-song demo within a year of forming and set out to market
themselves to record labels. With the demo in hand they headed to the states
and passed out copies to label reps at the New York CMJ Music Conference.
A buzz developed around the band and they sorted through various offers
before settling on Sony Music Canada. From there, they went into the studio
to record their debut album, Naveed, which landed in Canadian record stores
With Naveed garnishing attention for the
band in their homeland with its eclectic modern rock mix, the band still
had yet to grab a foot hold in the coveted music market to their south.
As luck would have it Our Lady Peace found an American home for Naveed
with Relatively Records.
Naveed found it’s way into the ears, hearts
and minds of North American music fans. The music seemed to find the perfect
balance between power and melody and many became enchanted with Raine Maida’s
nasal vocal style. Critics were duly impressed with the post grunge style
of the group. To promote Naveed the band took to the road for an exhausting
two years supporting artists like Bush, Alanis Morissette and the Ramones.
The single “Starseed” made inroads for the band, landing them on Billboard’s
Modern Rock chart and when it was all said and done Our Lady Peace had
found multi-platinum success in their native Canada with their first effort
out of the gate.
To prove that they were more than a one
trick pony, the band wrote new material and returned to the studio to produce
their sophomore album, Clumsy. When the album was released in 1997, Clumsy
proved to be a critical and commercial success, selling well in Canada
and earning the band a gold disc in the US.
In 1999 the band was able to prove that
they had staying power and could consistently churn out new and compelling
music with the release of their third album, Happiness...Is Not A Fish
That You Can Catch.
It was while on the road supporting this
album that a fateful event happened, Mike discovered a book that would
not only inspire the title of their next album but would provide the underlying
concept as well. When Mike Turner stumbled across Ray Kurzweil's book,
‘The Age of Spiritual Machines – When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence.’
His imagination was fueled by the concept of computers developing to the
point beyond independent intelligence; into a world where they have a soul
and would become true companions for mankind.
Mike’s enthusiasm for the book caught Raine’s
attention and he soon found himself turning the pages as the band traveled
from town to town. Because of Mike and Raine’s interest, Jeremy and Duncan
also became entranced by the concepts of Kurzweil writing. When it came
time to start work on a follow up to Happiness...Is Not A Fish That You
Can Catch the band decided that Ray Kurzweil's book, provided more than
ample inspiration for a concept album and gave the project a name, “Spiritual
In the official record label bio for the
album Raine explains, "Lyrically, this album is about finding the spirituality
within ourselves. …the lyrics for the track ‘In Repair’ focus upon how
people tend to treat each other as machines in our day-to-day life. We
really need to take stock and focus our energy towards those in our lives
that matter. Sometimes it seems as if we need an oil change."
Concept albums are more often than not,
a hard sell to a public that thrives on hit singles to compel them to purchase
albums. Yet, through the years some of the greatest albums in rock have
followed the concept album formula. It’s a daunting task to develop
a series of songs that weave together to tell a cohesive story and at the
same time can stand on their own. Our Lady Peace approached that hurdle
with vigor and their natural talent for going beyond the surface. Spiritual
Machines not only cements Our Lady Peace’s place in rock history, it proves
that if the passions of musicians are fired, than anything is possible.
If you are looking for music that has substance
and lights the imagination, you don’t have to look far… just stop at your
local record store and look for the section labeled “Our Lady Peace”.
Raine Maida – Vocals, guitar
More Our Lady Peace
Mike Turner – Guitars
Jeremy Taggart – Drums
Duncan Coutts – Bass
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