Our Lady Peace looks to the future by bundling NFTs with new album

Our Lady Peace lead vocalist Raine Maida said the band is looking to both the future and the past, as they tie their new album's release to both NFT tech and the building that helped them make it into the industry.

Spiritual Machines 2, released online as a 'non-fungible token'

The members of Canadian band Our Lady Peace appear in this promotional photo. Lead vocalist Raine Maida, second from right, said the band's new album — Spiritual Machines 2 — has connections with both the future and the past. (Chapman Baehler)

For Our Lady Peace lead vocalist and songwriter Raine Maida, "back to normal" was never the plan for coming out the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Instead, the Toronto-born singer and songwriter says he had his eyes on the future and was looking for a "paradigm shift" in the way the industry deals with musicians — and music. 

"I've been to record labels and publishing deals my whole life, always dealing with these middlemen or gatekeepers," Maida told CBC News in an interview. "The idea of being independent, the idea of being able to, you know, just super-serve our community and our fans with our content ... I think that would be appealing to every creator." 

For Our Lady Peace, change comes with the new album Spiritual Machines 2 — announced alongside a mural on the Toronto building where they wrote many of their most popular songs — and the NFT ("non-fungible token") bundle accompanying it.

Out today, the bundle offers a limited number of fans access to "stems" — isolated recordings of the different instruments used in each song — and of course the music itself. Maida said he hopes the bundles will help cut out the "middlemen" endemic in the industry. 

WATCH | Raine Maida on the the 'paradigm shift' NFTs bring to music:

Raine Maida on the the ‘paradigm shift’ NFTs bring to music

1 year ago
Duration 1:00
Our Lady Peace lead singer and primary songwriter Raine Maida explains why the band is releasing their upcoming album as an NFT.

But Maida's full intentions for the album, a spiritual successor to 2000's Spiritual Machines, go beyond that.  Maida's thoughts, and by extension, his lyrics, focus on everything from cryptocurrency, to the coming "singularity," — or unification of humans and A.I.

"I love the human condition. I love that as we move through time and technology, more things can be repaired," he said. "But we are going to get to that place where we're trying to discern what's human. And that's really interesting to me." 

That focus on the future of the music industry is certainly taking a greater hold. While larger artists like Bob Dylan and Neil Young have tried leveraging their past successes by simply purchasing their own catalogues, others have turned to NFTs. 

First popularized in the music world by American band Kings of Leon, the technology has offered musicians a new way to connect with their fans, sometimes bypassing record labels entirely. Though entirely digital, the tokens — each unique and tradable on the blockchain — offer a more direct way for creators to engage with audiences, as well as a built-in form of digital rights protection. 

The technology hasn't been without criticism. Since the end result is digital — and, therefore, endlessly reproducible —venture capitalist Ben Horowitz noted in a New York Times article that those who buy NFTs are essentially just "buying a feeling."

Shortly after that article, Grammy-winning artist Jacob Collier scrapped his plans to auction off an NFT for every song off his album Djesse Vol. 3 due to the massive carbon footprint generating them produces. 

In a tweet, Collier noted he would postpone the auction until "the methods [of creating NFTs] are more sustainable and ecologically sound."

That criticism doesn't worry Maida though. He said it's expected. 

"There's confusion. There's aversion. There's hype. There's all these things," he said of the technology. "So I get if there's hesitancy. And I'm patient.… Because I know it's going to take a while, but it's absolutely happening."

But even as Maida looks ahead in his music and release strategy, the band is also looking back. To coincide with Spiritual Machines 2's release, the band collaborated with artist Matthew Del Degan, creator of the famous "LoveBot" character, to create a giant mural on a downtown Toronto building. 

That building at 571 Wellington St. W, in downtown Toronto, is where the band wrote some of their most popular songs, including Thief, Somewhere Out There and Is Anybody Home, Maida said

The band found the building shortly after releasing their seminal album Clumsy in 1999, which is when everything changed for them, Maida said. 

A mural advertising Spiritual Machines 2, a new album by rock band Our Lady Peace (which will first be released as a non-fungible token) is pictured in Toronto on Oct. 28, 2021. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

"We kind of like literally toured the world, sold a bunch of records and wanted to get back to that feeling of when we wrote our first record where no one knew who we were," he said.

"This brought us back to that: 'Hey, we're just a band trying to write some songs.'"

They used the building as a rehearsal and writing space for decades, until it became "gentrified" and too densely populated, and the neighbourhood lost the feeling that drew them to it in the first place. 

They retained ownership though, and Maida said he only recently realized how the art could help bring a sense of the past back. 

"It's funny, that side of the building where we did this mural — it needed this," he said. "I'm surprised we didn't think of it earlier."


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