Our Lady Peace - Biography
By Brad Austin
Post-grunge bands sold a lot of albums in the heyday of their genre, but today, it seems like it must have been an unfavorable career. For one thing, these bands had to overcome the ever-present criticism that they were basically irrelevant bandwagoners, since they weren't even as hard-hitting as grunge and offered few new ideas to compensate for their lack of raw power. They were often one-hit wonders, like Seven Mary Three or Dishwalla. Listening to the 1995 single, “Starseed,” it sounds like it was made by one of these one hit wonders. It's very easy to forget that it's actually the first single released by Toronto's Our Lady Peace, a post-grunge band that had more hits than most actual grunge bands. For a decade now, Our Lady Peace have cranked out one emotional, super-serious single after another, and have drawn very different reactions, such as harsh criticism, wild adoration, and total indifference. Today, they are one of the most successful bands to come out of Canada, and despite a recent hiatus to pursue solo endeavors, they don't see that status changing any time soon.
Singer Raine Maida (born Michael Raine Maida) met Mike Turner when the both of them were college students. Maida studied criminology at the University of Toronto while Turner was studying English literature at the University of Western Ontario. The punk-influenced Turner wanted to be in a band, and he placed a “Musicians Wanted” ad in NOW magazine. Maida answered first and the duo formed As If with drummer Jim Newell and bassist Paul Martin in 1992. They started gigging and soon changed their name to Our Lady Peace. When Martin left the group, Turner placed another ad and found bassist Chris Eacrett to replace him. Soon enough, Newell was out as well. After a couple of temporary drummers helped OLP to record their original material, Turner placed one more “Musicians Wanted” ad, and he was answered by Jeremy Taggart, a jazz-trained percussionist who was only seventeen at the time. Taggart's formidable skills on the drum-set earned him a place in the band, and the group continued to record their debut album.
Released on Sony in Canada and Relativity Records in the States, Naveed didn't find much success outside of its breakthrough single, the aforementioned “Starseed.” The song became a number 7 mainstream rock track, and found heavy airplay on alternative rock radio. After its release, Eacrett left the fold and was replaced with bassist Duncan Coutts in time for the recording of new material. This new batch of songs that the band would record showed a little more swagger than their previous output. Those who enjoyed “Starseed” but did not buy the album probably didn't know that Maida was a unique vocalist, employing a nasally whine similar to Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan. Where Maida subdued this style in “Starseed” to some degree, it is prominently placed in every single off of the band's second album, Clumsy (1997, Sony). Lead-off single “Superman's Dead” is given a new level of creepiness thanks to Maida's screeching voice, and the song found a place on the charts, becoming a number 5 modern rock single. Subsequent singles “Clumsy” and the tender ballad “4 AM” reached 11 and 31 on the modern rock charts, respectively. Also, the album itself broke the Billboard 100, peaking at 76.
Our Lady Peace followed this considerable success with Happiness is Not a Fish That You Can Catch (1999, Sony), a number one Top Canadian album. Despite its title, there's nothing very epic about the album, and its quite similar to its predecessor. However, first single “One Man Army” has a certain grandiosity to it that the band had not yet attempted, and the single charted well. In 2001, the band released Spiritual Machines (Sony), the closest thing to a concept album Our Lady Peace ever put out. In between the songs are spoken word recordings by Ray Kurzweil, author of The Age of Spiritual Machines, a book the band (or at least Maida) was heavily influenced by at the time. The book explores a future in which machines have outrun the intelligence of humans and have rendered their creators obsolete. Maida tackles similar themes in songs like “In Repair.” During the sessions, Taggart was mugged and injured severely, giving his bandmates no choice but to bring in another drummer to finish the sessions while he healed. The drummer they called upon was their friend Matt Cameron, who once played for Soundgarden and was currently a member of Pearl Jam. Cameron appears on “Are You Sad?” and “Right Behind You (Mafia).”
Despite sales that didn't stack up to previous releases, the band's promotional tour for Spiritual Machines sold out. Shortly thereafter, Turner amicably left the band citing creative differences. The remaining members searched for his replacement and eventually decided on the young, longtime OLP fan Steve Mazur as their new guitarist. The new lineup joined forces with producer Bob Rock (Metallica) and recorded a straightforward, stripped down album, 2002's Gravity (Columbia). They embarked on a tour of the US and Canada in the album's support, and some of these performances were documented in the live album/DVD, Live (Sony), which came out in June of 2003.
That same month, the band joined Avril Lavigne, Sum 41 and the Tragically Hip in the Concert For Toronto, an event that was held to promote tourism in Toronto and faith in its citizens after the city's reputation and commerce were hurt by a SARS warning. The band went back into the studio to record their sixth studio album, Healthy in Paranoid Times (Columbia, 2005). Reportedly, making the album proved so strenuous that a couple of the band's members and even producer Bob Rock walked off the project on different occasions. Late in 2006, the band released their greatest hits album, A Decade, and then went on hiatus. During the break, Maida put out a solo EP and then a full-length album called The Hunter's Lullaby. Our Lady Peace then quickly reconvened to record another LP, Burn Burn, which came out in 2009, followed by Curve in 2012.