Barenaked Ladies to open Marshall Artists Series
Drummer Tyler Stewart was at the Waterloo Busker Carnival in Ontario, Canada, in the summer of 1990 when he happened upon three refreshingly odd gents playing on the street armed with an upright bass, acoustic guitars, and killer harmonies on a crazy cache of songs that blended up their equal loves of wordsmiths like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, rockers like Rush and rap groups like Public Enemy.
Stewart knew that trio (Steven Page, Ed Robertson and Jim Creeggan) was onto something, and that he had to join them.
A year later, the humorously titled band Barenaked Ladies put out a self-titled cassette that became the first indie release to ever be certified platinum in Canada, and a year later in 1992, release the Sire Records’ debut, “Gordon,” that contained such still-favorite hits as “If I Had $1,00,0000,” “Enid,” “Be My Yoko Ono,” and “Brian Wilson,” named after Beach Boy Brian Wilson (who later covered the song on a live album).
Fresh off of being inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Barenaked Ladies, kick off the 82nd season of the Marshall Artists Series at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11.
Tickets are $76, $98 and $120 at the Marshall Artists Series Box Office at 304-696-6656, online at Ticketmaster.com or at the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse box office.
Local veteran musicians Joe Lambiotte and Bud Carroll open the concert for the Toronto-based group and have sold more than 14 million copies worldwide. The Huntington date is one of only four U.S. dates this fall.
Stewart said, “They looked kind of interesting, their instrumentation was a big upright bass and acoustic guitars and the songs were immediately catchy. At that point in my life I had played in a couple of bands and I was taking a break from this straight ahead rockabilly punk band and was just playing acoustically, playing brushes on a suitcase kind of thing. When I met them I was like ‘Wow. This sort of is like everything rolled into once’ — its acoustic, there’s lots of harmonies, but there’s tons of energy too. Suddenly Ed would pick up a mic and beat box and rap over stuff and start dancing with it and there was just a little bit of everything in this band. The humor appealed to me too. It was almost like I was waiting for these guys to come along in my life and boom, they were there, and I couldn’t miss the opportunity.”
Interestingly, while Barenaked Ladies wouldn’t really hit in the U.S. until the 1996 live album, “Rock Spectacle,” the band’s first gold record in the U.S., and their greatest mainstream success, 1998′s “Stunt,” which had their iconic, No. 1 hit, “One Week.” They’ve also been upfront for fans and Mountain Stage’s host and artistic director, Larry Groce.
Groce, whose musical picks on Mountain Stage also helped introduce U.S. audiences to many other Canadian acts for the first time such as Sarah McLachlan, Holly Cole, Crash Test Dummies had Barenaked Ladies on their first Mountain Stage show in 1992. Noting their clever lyrics, infectious hooks, sweet vocal harmonies and witty sense of humor, which often pokes fun at the pop world it inhabits, Groce had asked them back on Jan. 19, 1995 to play tunes from their album, “Maybe You Should Drive.”
Stewart said the early affirmation in the U.S. from such a taste-maker as Mountain Stage really gave them a boost, along with a memorable experience since they were on the bill with such legends as Richie Havens, Taj Mahal, and then up-and-comers Rusted Root.
“Mountain Stage is obviously an iconic NPR show and we loved being on the same stage as so many diverse artists and I remember we were all like we just did a Mountain Stage with Taj Mahal,” Stewart said. “We were such big fans of his and even more were all about how real that culture of music is in your beautiful mountainous region there. I think there is something real and homespun with the vibe that goes along with the tradition of Appalachian music.”
Like any band that has been toured and been together any time, Barenaked Ladies, which created the theme song for the hit TV show, “Big Bang Theory,” have had their share of tough times, but have somehow made it through to almost 30 years as a band.
Keyboardist and guitarist Kevin Hearn, who also plays mandolin with the band, was diagnosed with leukemia shortly after recording “Stunt,” and actually began treatment at the same time the band was shooting the video for “One Week.” He rejoined the band in 1999.
Bassist Jim Creegan’s brother Andy was a member from 1989 to 1995, while Steven Page, who had started Barenaked Ladies as a duo first with Ed Robertson, left in 2009. Page, who has battled drug addiction, moved to the Syracuse, New York, area, and is pursuing a solo career.
On March 25, 2018, Page performed with Barenaked Ladies for the first time in nine years at the Juno Awards in Vancouver, in celebration of the band’s induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Andy Creegan also played the Hall of Fame show.
Stewart said that while it was great to get the band back together so to speak, there’s no plans for the now quartet of Barenaked Ladies to reunite with Page.
“I think everyone is in a really happy place with what they are doing and how they are doing it,” Stewart said. “It was nice to get back with him but we all, Steven included, realized that what we have done is also really great and we have managed to salvage two entities out of something that was not doing so well for a while. We are all in a happy place and there’s not any real need to — in spite of the hopes and dream of million of Canadians — to get back on the road together or anything like that.”
That night in March still shines bright for the band who were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame by Rush frontman Geddy Lee.
“As weird as it was it was wonderful too,” Stewart said. “It was such an honor to be inducted by your peers and to join such esteemed company as Leonard Cohen and Rush and Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. We all grew up idolizing Geddy Lee from Rush, I don’t think it could be any better than that. We’ve been together almost 30 years and we’ve struck a chord with Canadians and our songs our important to people and for me it was just an amazing night for my whole family.”
Reuniting with award-winning producer Gavin Brown (who also helmed 2017′s Ladies And Gentlemen: Barenaked Ladies And The Persuasions, 2015′s Silverball, and 2013′s Grinning Streak), Barenaked Ladies recorded “Fake Nudes” at their long-beloved Noble Street Studios in Toronto.
Stewart said the name is, of course, a tongue in cheek poke both at the band’s name and the over-used term “Fake News.”
“Our name is funny and after all of these years we haven’t made fun of the name enough — everyone did that for us but with all of the terrible emerging ‘fake news’ and the way that term has been used and abused by 45 and the way he has exhausted it as his way to cover up his own shortcomings.
“Since 2009, since we became four pieces we have made five records and each one is different stylistically. On this one, you see the emergence of Kevin as a writer, six songs on the record are his and there’s more collaboration in the studio to express so many musical ideas that we are exploring. On stage there’s a real familiarity and soon as that first beat goes down, we’re in a comfortable zone rolling. In the studio you challenge yourself more to make a new statement and to go to places you haven’t been before.”
Those places for a band that blends up folk, rock, pop and hip hop to name a few, are anywhere.
Robertson has been quoted as saying one of the most inventive momentsonFakeNudes,“Nobody Better”wasbeingplayedlikeaLyle Lovett song when Stewart suggested,“WhatifitwasmorelikeaSean Paul song?”
“So we built a drum loop that had this very dancehall feel to it, and then added this arpeggiated guitar line on top. It ended up 180 degrees from where we started. We just went way outside of what we’re used to doing, and it felt really great,” Robertson said in a release.
Stewart said it’s the ability to go fly anywhere with the words and music that keeps Barenaked Ladies fresh then, now and forever.
“I think when we emerged on the scene in the early 1990s it wasn’t as much of the music scene being dominated by hip hop and R&B like it is now and there was not much electronics like sampling and Autotune, the only electronic music was British New Wave,” Stewart said. “We really loved hip hop and all kinds of different styles and each band member brought influences to the table. We all grew up on singer songwriters and guys like Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan whereas Ed grew up on country. The chords he chose had a country tinge to it and we all were influenced by Rush and rock bands. It felt like there were no boundaries into what we could throw in.”