Nickelback want you to take them seriously

Even with nine studio albums, 11 number-one singles and 85(!) platinum sales certifications, Nickelback have spent the majority of their career striving to be taken seriously as a true commodity within 21st century rock. 

The lion’s share of times they’ve been spoken to for media outlets has been to essentially defend themselves – to acknowledge the plethora of jokes and memes about them but still try and steer the focus towards their accomplishments and efforts as a band. With the release of 2017’s Feed the Machine, however, things seem to have changed. After all these years, for whatever reason, the tide seems to have finally turned in favour of Nickelback.

“We spent years trying to get anyone to notice us or interview us,” says Mike Kroeger – one of the band’s three founding members and the brother of lead vocalist Chad. “Every time we go on a press cycle these days, I refuse to forget those days. It’s so easy to complain about media, especially when you’re always getting asked about the same stuff. At the same time, we worked so hard for so long to get anybody to even entertain the idea of wanting to speak to us. To complain about it now would just be preposterous.”

Feed the Machine is certainly one of the band’s most surprising releases – not least of all for its title track, with its snarling drop-C guitar and big-swinging chorus that pricked up ears all over the internet. Twitter was in shock that the Southern Alberta natives were still capable of letting rip in such a way, and the song has served as their opening number for every show since its release. “We weren’t worried about radio or the charts or anything like that when we went into the studio,” says Kroeger.

“The end goal was to just make a loud rock record – the kind that we wanted to hear, and the kind we thought our fans wanted to hear. As far as rock goes in North America, guys with guitars just aren’t getting played. We thought that if radio wasn’t going to be a factor, then there was no reason not to go back to our roots. Why agonise over something that was never going to get a chance? We basically moved ahead knowing the on-ground conditions,” Kroeger explains. 

Radio support did come, however, from an unexpected source: The week of its release, triple j’s metal show The Racket played ‘Feed the Machine’ to a wildly-mixed reaction from listeners. “I had absolutely no idea about that,” laughs Kroeger. “I wouldn’t have guessed we’d be played by a metal show in a million years.I guess there is a little bit of heavy metal in what we do, so it’s good somebody noticed and appreciated that.”

Originally forming in 1995, Nickelback released two albums before cracking the mainstream on 2001’s Silver Side Up – one of which, The State, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. Originally self-released by the band, their hard yards of touring and pushing the record saw it finally gain wider attention in their native Canada after about 18 months – thanks in no small part to its breakthrough single, ‘Leader of Men.’

“That became the first proper calling card, as far as the band was concerned,” says Kroeger. “I feel like those first two albums, in particular, are the sound of us really wrapping our head around how to write a song. Here in Canada, ‘Leader of Men’ was the first one to really gain traction – and we might not have been able to write something like ‘How You Remind Me’ if it wasn’t for writing a song like ‘Leader of Men.’

Nickelback have an exhaustive catalogue of big singles to draw from – and this coming February, Australian fans will have a chance to sing along with a fair chunk of them as Nickelback head out for three big arena shows. “It’s always been so cool to come visit,” says Kroeger. “People always told us about the similarities between Canada and Australia, and we’ve come to find those to be very real. I hope everyone coming has a great time – and please, bring earplugs.”

Nickelback play Rod Laver Arena on Saturday February 16. Tickets are available via Ticketek.