“Songs like Naveed or 4am still mean the world to me,” says Our Lady Peace frontman Raine Maida. “I’ll sit down at the piano if I’m bored in the morning with my coffee and play 4am. I’ll just sort of reinterpret it or make it a little jazzier. It’s one of those songs that just happens to you. Naveed has that same effect on me.”
The Canadian alt-rock band’s mega hits “just happen” to many people, transporting them to a simpler time of junior high jam sessions in parents’ basements, first concerts, and listening to CDs in cars filled with friends. But there’s nothing particularly simple about Our Lady Peace’s latest album, Spiritual Machines 2 – or the band’s upcoming tech-filled Canadian tour.
I caught up with Maida, 52, at ARHT Media’s Toronto studio, where he was filming a hologram of himself for the anticipated The Wonderful Future Tour (more on that later), offering an intimate performance of the band’s single, Are You Sad – from the original Spiritual Machines album – in the process.
Described as “future-rock,” Spiritual Machines 2 is a follow-up to this first album, which Our Lady Peace released back in 2000, on the heels of the mass success of 1997’s Clumsy album. Spiritual Machines was inspired by the work of American inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, whose voice and predictions appear on the album. The sequel album also features Kurzweil and his new predictions (FYI 86% of predictions put forth in Spiritual Machines came true). Kurzweil, 74, will even join the band on tour – in hologram form, at least.
“I’ve personally been trying to make this record for 10 years,” says Maida of Spiritual Machines 2. While ideas and concepts behind the album had been planted for a decade – and the band did made other records in that time period – Maida credits producer, TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, for getting it off the ground. “What I heard in my head and what we were trying to do with Spiritual Machines 2 was too difficult on our own – we needed someone like Dave Sitek to come in,” he says.
Maida highlights how the creative journey with a band isn’t just about the band. “It’s also about people on the periphery; producers, other artists, and other inspiring individuals,” says Maida. “We’ve had great luck with people along the way, but getting Dave – who is one of my musical heroes – to produce this record was beyond luck; it was a gift from the creative heavens. That did it; because Dave is someone I intrinsically trust – and I’m not really trusting as a person. So, to be able to literally hand over art to him and say, ‘hey, go do what you do and we’re just going to take your lead’ – that was amazing.”
That’s not to say that the band didn’t passionately put in endless legwork in the creation of the album’s songs. “This time, because of the pandemic, it was very sporadic,” says Maida of the writing process for Spiritual Machines 2. “I had songs, some just acoustic and some demoed up. We couldn’t all see each other, because Steve [Mazur] and I were in LA. So, Jason [Pierce] and Duncan [Coutts] would jam and make up tracks and send them. I would pick things that I felt connected to and write melodies and lyrics and rearrange. It was collaborative in a different way, but everyone did a lot of writing.”
While the majority of the tracks were written during the pandemic, a couple of them originated before – but changed with Sitek’s golden touch. “A song called Holes was something I wrote on my own, and I demoed it up pretty much to where I felt like it was finished – I think everyone felt like it was finished and really loved it,” says Maida. “But what Dave did to it, it was just like ‘oh my god; it was not done.’ The songs were all at different stages, but it just took Dave to wrangle everything in and really put his stamp on it.”
The album’s upbeat, drum and bass-driven single Stop Making Stupid People Famous, featuring Pussy Riot, was released last summer. Then, Spiritual Machines 2 was first released as a non-fungible token (NFT) on October 29, 2022, months before its traditional release. This didn’t necessarily shock fans; Maida has been a vocal supporter of blockchain technology since its early days.
“I think we’re at this very interesting time. I’ve been chasing technology really since Napster,” says Maida. “The idea of a fan reaching into my pocket and literally taking money away from me was like – OK…I get things change and I love technology and what it’s done for musicians and artists on a creative level in terms of democratizing the space. Anybody can make an album. You can buy Pro Tools, or Ableton, or Logic and get mics for cheap and get an album up on Spotify in a week. But when it affected the artist side in terms of income, it was like ‘damn; what are we going to do here’?”
So, Maida has worked to empower artists by building different products for over a decade. His company Drrops offers a digital platform that helps to both put money back into the pockets of artists and to build fan engagement through things like limited-edition NFTs and exclusive experiences.
“The whole Web3 and NFT thing came about at a great intersection when artists can actually take back ownership,” says Maida. “The NFT space is interesting, because there’s a dark side to it, but there’s something that’s going to rise from the ashes of the PFPs and really help artists. I started Drrops before NFTs; it’s all about having artists own their communities.” Maida calls these communities the most important tool for today’s artists.
“I’ve been building communities on different platforms over the years, but those communities aren’t portable,” explains Maida. “So, if Instagram goes and changes an algorithm, like it did in February, growth stops, reach starts to suck, and I can’t say ‘you know what this isn’t cool anymore; I want to take these thousands of fans I’ve been building – showing them my fucking breakfast for five years and connecting through Instagram Live – and say we need to go somewhere else.’ I can’t do that. Drrops is based on Web3, so the artist owns the community for the first time ever.”
A tech-forward approach is also a huge part of the band’s upcoming Canada-wide tour. Kicking off on June 6 in Victoria, The Wonderful Future Tour will redefine the Our Lady Peace concert as fans know it. With its incorporation of life-like holograms, the futuristic concert doubles as an immersive theatrical experience thanks to the work of hologram technology leader ARHT Media. The company has created holograms for famous faces like Tony Robbins, the late Larry King, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Mamoma, and Prime Minister Trudeau.
“If you’re just there to see a rock concert, you’re going to get that. But if you’re a little more openminded, technology is going to be literally all around you from the moment you walk in,” said Maida of the tour. “Your phone will light up if you have the Drrops app and you’re going to get a digital playbill, a free song, the ability to enter a raffle to win a VIP experience, and you can donate to Ukraine efforts — all through the app. You’ll be welcomed by a hologram in the lobby and hologram technology will surround you for the entire show. You’ll even see some people from the past as well, which is kind of cool. It just felt like we needed to elevate the experience of a show; I think that through the Drrops app and the use of holograms, people are going to be engaged in a way they haven’t been before. I don’t want to sound like an idiot, but this really has never been done before.”
While holograms have appeared at musical performances in recent years (Maida points to the hologram of later rapper Tupac at Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s Coachella performance in 2012), Maida says the technology that we can expect from the upcoming shows takes things to a new level. “Because of ARHT Media, the technology we’re using is so much more advanced; it’s a whole new thing,” he says. “Obviously, this is just the beginning; people are going to come take this and expand on it, but it’s kind of cool to be at the inception point of that.”
Maida, however, admits the tech element adds a different layer of pre-tour of stress. “This is the first time I’ve ever been anxious about a tour,” he says. “We could go play tonight, and we haven’t rehearsed in two months, and it would be great. All this other tech that’s on the road with us adds a different level of volatility. That’s why we are doing a lot of pre-production to ensure the technology runs smoothly. That stuff is way out of my hands; we’re trusting a lot of other people with it. It is kind of nerve-racking. At the end of the day, I’m the one standing at the front of the stage; if things go down, I look like an asshole.”
Despite its fresh and futuristic feel, fans can rest assured that their old favourites will get some air time as well, offering an appreciated dose of nostalgia to the tech-centric experience. Unlike some perpetually evolving musicians, Maida doesn’t get disenchanted with performing most hit songs from times past (“Although, Somewhere Out There was a weird song because it just got so overplayed here and in the US that it sometimes got a little stale,” he admits).
“Nobody’s going to leave disappointed in the musical choices,” promises Maida. “It’s really interesting; so many of the songs we play – like Superman’s Dead – play right into the Spiritual Machines theme of technology moving exponentially, where you get to the point where ‘the world is a subway’ [a lyric in Superman’s Dead], which is all about things starting to move too fast to really understand and comprehend. So many of the songs we play anyway have a thread and tie to this stuff.”
Our chat switches gears when I ask how his three sons – who he shares with his wife of 22 years, fellow famed Canadian musician Chantal Kreviazuk – inspire his music. As it turns out, Maida’s 18-year-old son Rowan, a musician in his own right, inspires him just as much as the young artist is undoubtedly influenced by his superstar parents.
“Working on his album has been the most inspiring thing I’ve done musically in a long time,” says Maida. “And I don’t say that lightly. The songs that he brings in to me, I’m like ‘oh my god how did you write that?’ I finally sat in on him writing and I believe him that he does it. I didn’t believe him for the first three months; he’d bring me these songs and I’d be like, ‘there’s no fucking way you wrote that bro; you can’t go steal songs.’ But he really is that talented and it’s a pleasure to work with him on his stuff.”
It’s clear that Maida is as passionately invested in his son’s career as he is his own. “I was literally up until 1am before leaving my house at 5:30am for a flight here today just working on little details of his piano playing, just digging into the purity of it,” says Maida. “When I think back to Naveed – and Rowan probably knows more than I knew back then about the business because my wife and I are both in it – that first album you make is so special because there’s a purity to it. I am just trying to keep it pure, because he hangs out with kids who are already in the business and doing things, and you never get that purity back when you know too much about the business. He’s writing literally just for him; that’s really special. He actually hates TikTok; he’s just trying to express himself creatively and that’s so amazing.”
Rowan undoubtedly comes by it naturally; creative expression is front-and-centre in the Maida-Kreviazuk household. “I think it’s all about communication,” says Maida of what makes a marriage between two musicians so unique. “We’re able to communicate in really different ways; on a personal level, a creative level, and a parenting level. The ability to infuse creativity into every decision we make in all parts of our lives is key because that’s the way we adapt; you have to be creative to do that. It doesn’t always work and we fight like crazy, because we’re both crazy musicians. But at the end of the day, knowing that you didn’t default to old ways is really important.”
Similarly, an unwavering sentiment of remaining true to himself and his beliefs also resonates with Maida when it comes to music – now, more so than ever. “Once you have any success, the biggest challenge is trying to stay pure to the art,” says Maida. “There are so many people who start bending your ear who have an influence and have different agendas. That’s how we got to this Spiritual Machines 2 record; it comes full circle in terms of really doing it for the sake of making music that we really like. We’re not concerned with the business of it, or what management says – or labels. If this is the last record we make, this is how I want to go out. I’m really, really proud of this album.”
The Wonderful Future Tour makes its Toronto stop on June 24th at Massey Hall. AND we want to offer one lucky VIBE reader/fan the chance to WIN tickets to one of Our Lady Peace’s concerts across Canada.