Search

Still Grinning After All These Years – Barenaked Ladies

Still Grinning After All These Years – Barenaked Ladies

“What us go corporate”?, gasps Barenaked Ladies’ frontman Ed Robertson in mock horror, reacting to the band’s cover shot on their new `Grinning Streak release in which all four members poise in Bay Street suits. “Those aren’t Bay Street suits, they’re hipster suits, and you can even see my beard growing in”.

“Actually,” continues Robertson, “If you look at the picture of Tyler (Stewart), there’s a slight smirk on his face. It’s obvious we’re not taking this seriously. But after posing for something like 15 album/CD covers, we wanted to do something different. We wanted to make a statement that we’re back, we’ve been re-energized and we’re ready to go.”

Robertson and drummer Stewart have gathered at Toronto’s downtown Thompson Hotel Diner to meet with associated media to launch their new opus on the eve of re-launching their Last Summer On Earth tour with band mates Ben Folds and Guster which kicks off again June 4th in Norfolk Conn before concluding with three dates in Ottawa December 14-16.

Why yours truly isn’t there is another story but Robertson and I do hook up by phone under strict orders from Warner Music Canada rep Ken Green to limit our conversation to just 15 minutes. So straight to the point then, Ed, tell us about your new release.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”338″ video_id=”U6_SbPyxIYE”]

“We hit the ground running, there was so much energy,” enthused Robertson. “We got two producers (Gavin Brown, Mark Ender) who we’ve always wanted to work with, we had a great batch of songs and things just came together. Obviously, we are a little more organized this time around. Admittedly, we struggled a bit with our 2010 release “All In Good Time” after Steven (Page) left but although that CD didn’t sell well, we got some of the best reviews ever.”

So is Ed Robertson a benevolent dictator with the new band? (He wrote 11 of the 12 tracks and sings lead vocals on all of them). “Nah, more like a malevolent dictator, `you do this, and you do that’. Not really, three of us have been together from the beginning – we’re definitely a democracy, right now this band is as tight and together as it has ever been.”

Going into their 25th anniversary, Robertson says he; Stewart, keyboardist Kevin Hearn and bassist Jim Creeggan have never been more enthused about a particular record as they are about “Grinning Streak”. “I am so confident about this record; it’s irrelevant what other people think about it. The sessions went so smoothly, there’s a flow between the tracks, it’s just like it all gelled in the studio.”

Debut single `Boomerang’ has been launched with a video so simplistic it is actually stunningly effective – just a montage of footage of downtown Toronto with song lyrics running up the buildings and in the roads. The band themselves don’t appear in the clip.

“We got the idea from looking at YouTube clips,” remarked Robertson. “It seemed the videos with the hot director and the sexy model were pulling 9,000 hits yet the ones with the street scenes and the badly laid-in lyrics were pulling over 270,000 hits – guess which option we picked?. At the end of the day, people just want to hear the song and read the lyrics”.

Another clip which racked up hundreds of thousands of hits was the band’s duet with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield on I.S.S (Is Anyone Singing), a song which saw Hatfield (In the International Space Station) hook up with the Barenaked Ladies and the Wexford Gleeks high school choir who were in CBC Studio 2015 in Toronto February 5th.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”338″ video_id=”AvAnfi8WpVE”]

“We’ve known Chris for about 10 years now,” informed Robertson. “Chris was a fan of the band who contacted us when we toured Houston which is where he was based at the time. He invited us down to mission control, we had a great tour and we’ve stayed in touch from that point on. So it just seemed a natural thing to do to co-write a song together and record it while he was in space.”

Robertson marvels at the prospect that the Barenaked Ladies are entering their 25th year in the business. “I have to believe it because I have been in the band for 25 years, through all the good times and all the bad. Hard to believe it was only supposed to last one gig. Back in 1988, my old band had folded but I had forgotten about one date we were still booked for a Food Bank charity. So I said to Steve (Page), `Want to do this one gig as the Barenaked ladies’. He said `sure, let’s do it’ and we kept on going from there.”

[quote]“We’ve always taken pride in knowing that when people experienced our show they’ve always wanted to come back and see us again.”[/quote]Their novelty debut single “Be My Yoko Ono” triggered an instant reception on CFNY Radio and at college radio but it was their cover of Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” which created mainstream interest.

Fueled by the release of their debut CD Gordon in 1992 with trademark single `If I had a Million Dollars’ , the Ladies kick started a career that has now spanned 15 CDs/DVDs with the only initial interruption being the replacement of Jim Creeggan’s brother, Andy by Kevin Hearn in 1995.

Their career peaked In 1997 with the release of their 4th studio album “Stunt” which went to No 3 on the Billboard Charts, fueled by the success of hit single `One Week’ which topped the Billboard singles charts. Stunt sold over 4 million units in the States and also revived their fortunes in Canada.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”450″ video_id=”fC_q9KPczAg”]

Unfortunately, keyboardist Kevin Hearn went down with a bout of leukemia just as Stunt was released and spent 1997 battling chemotherapy treatments while being replaced on tour by Chris Brown and Greg Kirsten. Fortunately, Hearn has made a complete recovery from his illness.

However the Ladies’ career hit a further wobble after co-singer Page left the band in 2009 following a cocaine drug bust which left the surviving members scrambling on `All in Good Time”. Yet the Ladies showed they could flourish as a four-piece and last year’ s tour with Ben Folds and Gusher proved the band’s on stage performance hasn’t lost a step.

It hasn’t hurt that Barenaked Ladies’ wrote the theme song for one of America’s top TV shows `Big Bang Theory” but it’s been their consistently entertaining live shows which has solidified their status.

“Yes the success of Bang Theory has been huge for us but our trademark has always been our live performance,” allowed Robertson. “We’ve always taken pride in knowing that when people experienced our show they’ve always wanted to come back and see us again.”

A question that has to be asked?, is there any chance of Steven Page rejoining the band. Robertson’s tone of voice changes dramatically (sort of reminiscent of Rob Ford talking about that missing video). “Can’t see it happening,” is Robertson’s subdued response. “Right now we have a wonderful group of four guys – we all get along together, the creativity is happening. I can’t honestly see this changing.”

So finally, `The Last Summer On Earth Tour’ sounds a bit ominous. “Well, yeah,“ replies Robertson. `We actually started the tour last year with Ben Folds and Guster and with all that Mayan speculation about the end of the world. Of course, that didn`t happen but who knows. Maybe their calculations were off by a year and this year is the last summer on Earth”.

Related posts

3 thoughts on “Still Grinning After All These Years – Barenaked Ladies

  1. Liam

    *Guster
    *Steven
    *gelled

  2. Mark

    As a point of correction (17th paragraph), Steve left the band in 2009, not 1998.

Comments are closed.