Naveed, Our Lady Peace’s debut (and arguably seminal record), celebrates its 20th anniversary on March 22.
It’s OK if you’re shaking your head. Frontman Raine Maida can’t quite believe it either.
“This record was basically made out of naiveté,” Maida says, over the phone from a studio in Los Angeles a few days before the milestone anniversary of the record that would change his life. “We didn’t know anything about the music business. It was probably the most pure piece of music we’ve ever made because of that.”
That the album continues to resonate for its fans two decades later supports Maida’s theory. It was the sonic manifestation of a young person’s internal struggle: grandiose, melodramatic, emotional, raw, hopeful but bitter. Every moment enriched by Maida’s unique vocals, a mishmash of nasally soaring and pseudo-screaming. It was the sound of desperation, like fingernails digging at the inside of a coffin. It was perfect.
In the gallery above you’ll hear all 11 songs and read the stories as Maida takes us deep inside the making of Naveed, including the real Birdman, his parents’ divorce, a friend’s suicide attempt, his early foray into feminism and the one track with which he’s never been happy.
"'Birdman' came from this trip my family and I took to Kansas City, like a therapeutic retreat and there was this crazy man outside this place where we were meeting in downtown Kansas City. He had a bird costume on and I can’t even remember at this point if he was some sort of activist, I don’t remember what the cause was, but he was standing on a soapbox, literally, and screeching like a bird. He had some pamphlets and stuff, but I was with my family for a pretty serious reason and it just kinda stuck with me. [Lets out a little laugh.]
"It was this four-day therapy session and all through it, every time we left and went back into this place, we had to go by this guy. It was just really profound. The image of him and everything he was kind of spewing was somewhat powerful even though I didn’t really understand it. It stuck with me forever, so I wrote a little thing about it and it ended up that it couldn’t get out of my head, so a song was born.
"It really still is [incredibly surreal]. I haven’t talked about it in a long while, but it’s one of those childhood moments, like you can’t remember a lot of things but something sticks out. I don’t remember what the therapist looked like that we were meeting with, but I remember this Birdman guy."
"Wow, this is tough to do.
"That was a guitar lick and the song was born out of that groove. The Naveed record in general was born out of a lot of guitar licks and grooves. I hadn’t brought in a lot of songs on acoustic or just melodic ideas. It was just a band in a rehearsal space and I remember we wrote the groove up in a really dodgy place in Mississauga, in an industrial warehouse we’d found for cheap when we were doing pre-production.
"The groove was so amazing, it wasn’t really a struggle to build but the song took a little while, just trying to find the right chorus for it. Lyrically it was really about as personal as I got on Naveed, just in terms of where I was trying to come from and where I was getting my inspiration as a writer. Reading Dylan over People magazine, or finding that juxtaposition really interesting. You could be reading Ginsberg in the studio one day and all of a sudden you’re sitting around and there’s a People magazine and you find that just as interesting which is slightly pathetic, but human nature."
"It’s this weird song where, for whatever reason, I was reading a lot about transcendental meditation and I was reading the Starseed book by Kesey, but it became this song that I wanted to kind of levitate out of the room.
"We really liked it but we didn’t love it. I liked the message of it and I liked where it was lyrically, and as a song it felt good, but for whatever reason at that point we just felt it was too poppy. Not a sellout, but it didn’t have the kind of depth the other songs had for us. It was one of those things where it was fine and it was there for us, and then all of a sudden when we handed in our record — cause the label hadn’t really heard anything — they were like, ‘This is great. We want this to be the single.’ We just fought tooth and nail. I think at one point I was like, ‘F--k it, we’re not putting this on the record if that’s going to be the first thing that represents us.’ We ended up convincing the label to go with 'The Birdman' first, but obviously 'Starseed' did OK for us. Luckily my ego didn’t get in the way and people — the label did something good for sure.
"When you’re young and kind of new that way, you can kind of get in front of yourself for the wrong reasons. I didn’t see the big picture. That’s kind of the beauty, and maybe it can be detrimental as well, but that Naveed record, we were so isolated. It was just the four of us and a producer. No one heard what we were doing. The label, we’d signed the deal at that point, but I don’t think they really cared. It was a really small record deal. We were doing demos and kind of making an indie record anyways, and they just said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’ It wasn’t a big priority or anything."
"I was trying to write a story about an ex-girlfriend I thought was really creative and artistic. Things just didn’t work out between us. It was a simple story. I don’t know why, but it felt really Doors-y to us. I’m not a huge fan of the Doors, I can appreciate Morrison, I guess, but it’s just not my thing, but everyone liked that song.
"The chorus I always loved because it had an aggression and an energy to it, but it was another one of those things where it took me a while to find my place. Even the guitar licks and getting that song to sit right. It was kind of tough in the studio and I remember it took a while compared to other songs. It was a bit of a struggle. I don’t really hear it now, it’s one of those things where you get far enough away from it, it feels pretty natural, but it was never at the top of the list for us and again it became a single. [Laughs]"
"It really was one of those songs we wrote in pre-production and no one really got it. That was one of the times where we felt like this was our calling card, like that song meant the most to us out of any we’d written and we had to fight tooth and nail to even record it. Our producer was like, ‘Yeah, I kind of get it.’
"There was a cool groove. I remember we were in that space in Mississauga and we were listening to a lot of Robbie Robertson and he had that song, 'Somewhere Down the Crazy River,' and the drum beat to that song and the groove on that record were really amazing, kind of these Delta, soulful New Orleans-type grooves. Jeremy [Taggart] started playing, then the bass and guitar locked into it. It just had this power and this energy.
"The story to me is very personal. It’s not so much an insight into me as it is talking to somebody else in my family, but it was definitely one of those songs where even after it was recorded, no one wanted to put it out as a single. It was the last song on Naveed that came out and that’s what really clicked for us. I think it was one of those times where we were like, we always have to trust our instincts, because we were kind of right. It was a bit of a feather in our cap because we knew all along that the song would connect because it did with us."
"I don’t have a lot of memory of that song. It was really about the guitar lick and the groove and we just forged the song around it. I’m trying to even remember the lyrics and I don’t.... Yeah, it’s just one of those grungy rock songs that we love to play and I hate to say it but there really wasn’t a whole lot of meaning in that song for me compared to some other songs."
"That was heavy. It was the first song we wrote in 6/8, a swing kind of form, just everything about that song was, I think, me at my angriest. It was the angry brother to 'Naveed' and looking at it not from a bitter perspective but getting on top of that and letting it flow. Where 'Naveed' was hopeful, 'Denied' definitely wasn’t. That word kind of summed it up for me, that we’d been denied, and it has that intensity. The track as well, it’s one of those songs where the lyrics, there isn’t really a juxtaposition, it’s very brooding and a lot of dissonance right from the beginning and it carries that through all the way to the end and lyrically it does the same. Very much one colour.
"That song was one of the ones where I had to talk to myself before we played it onstage and not get caught up in the emotion of it because I would just scream and lose my voice. It’s one of those really intense moments onstage every night."
'Is It Safe?'
"I think that was my first venture into feminism. It was kind of looking at a man in terms of what our role is with women and in terms of how that interplay should be and if that was right, everything I’d been taught.
"It felt like kind of a brave topic, but I know I didn’t do a great job at it, but at that point in my life, I don’t know why, but it just struck me that traditional roles didn’t mean much to me and trying to figure out what a man should be....
"All my relationships growing up, when I was a teenager and into my early 20s, when I was thinking about that stuff — maybe ‘cause my parents got divorced and I went through that, that maybe was a bit of a lightning rod for me when I was writing this record. It wasn’t fresh, but it was the first time I was maybe able to express that stuff through lyrics. Obviously not literally but in themes.... Maybe there was a little bit of guilt, too, in being a man and in terms of not pulling your weight and what a real relationship needs. You know, the typical roles. I’m a first generation Italian and my dad, he’s old school that way, and just watching that. This was a bit of me trying to come out that way and make a statement, even just to myself, that I wanted to evolve."
"That was one of those amazing songs. We had a demo of a couple songs that I guess got us signed. The demo was pretty close to what ended up being on the record. We re-recorded it, but it was another thing on that theme of 'Naveed' and 'Denied' and people in my life, just watching them — like you said, at that point in time in your life, you’re surrounded by people who are going through that phase where it’s confusing, it's tough being that certain age. So there was this girl I knew and her name wasn’t Julia. She’d tried to take her life and she was just always this girl in high school where, when you look at her, she had so much going for her on the outside but she had that dark soul.
"It was really unfortunate and I kind of lost touch with her, but that song was always — because it was written so early, even as a demo, even as a songwriter, I still kind of feel some sort of guilt because you’re taking their story. I guess it was a bit of a watershed moment for me because I was like, yeah, these are the kinds of songs I want to write and my life experience isn’t always going to be exciting or interesting enough to write about, so I was really reaching for someone — I wasn’t even really great friends with this person in school, but just as an observation, watching her go through this few years and seeing her get to this point where she tried to kill herself was so heavy. I borrowed her story for the song in a way."
"That was one of those songs where as a band, even without lyrics, we all really felt one of those moments where, OK, this is what we want to be. As a band. It had an incredible vibe, even without the melody finished, just working it up in pre-production in our space in Mississauga, it was just so cool. It just felt like, OK, this is different from anything that we’re listening to or hearing. Lyrically I remember — it’s weird. There’s an abstract story in there, but even the words ‘under zenith,’ it was OK, this song is getting us to a place where we wanna go. We’re working our way up to that top, that zenith."
"That was one of the first demos we ever did and you know, [laughs] I’m not going to lie, it was probably 11th hour that we decided to put it on the record. I just was never happy with that song. It was, literally, one of the first songs we wrote as Our Lady Peace and it’s not immature, but we just never play it. Lyrically it’s not finished in a way. I wasn’t learning and it ended up making the record, but it’s not something I’m most proud of."
Hang out with me on Twitter: @_AndreaWarner
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