SameDiff BNL

Canadian Band Has Got It Covered

By MIA SHAFFER, Providence Journal (Rhode Island), November 27th, 2000.

Pinch me.

No seriously. Go ahead, pinch me. Because I think I'm still asleep.

I recently interviewed Kevin Hearn, keyboardist for the Canadian rock band Barenaked Ladies, which is coming to Providence Thursday. This was a dream for me.

Barenaked Ladies was founded in 1988 in Toronto by Steve page and Ed Robertson. They joined up with Jim and Andy Creeggan, bassist and keyboard player, and drummer Tyler Stewart. They rose quickly to the top in Canada. However, their rise to fame in the United States wasn't as easy.

They spent years touring endlessly, visiting cities six or seven times a year. After long, torturous days and nights, they were slowly gaining acknowledgement and recognition.

"Every step of the way there were doubts and fears, but that's life," says Hearn. "But we felt we were good. We'd play small clubs, and eventually fill them. We'd have great shows and the next time, they would get bigger."

Barenaked Ladies grew more popular in the U.S. with singles like Brian Wilson and Old Apartment.

After two and a half years of touring, Kevin joined the band (to replace Andy Creeggan, who had left the group in 1994). BNL started touring to promote their 1995 disc, Born on a Pirate Ship, playing for the first time in several years with a keyboardist.

In February of '98, Barenaked Ladies hit the recording studio to make Stunt. Kevin's presence could not have been more significant on the new disc. But his following absence proved to be even more important.

Just as One Week, the first single off Stunt, started turning heads, Kevin becamse seriously ill and was diagnosed with leukemia. While the band was touring, playing sold out arenas and stadiums for the first time, Kevin was in a hospital bed. He was treated with a bone marrow transplant from his brother and things started to look up.

"I had a feeling I that I wasn't meant to die," Kevin says. "If there was a chance that I was to live, I would do what I could to make it happen.

"When I was young, I had a feeling I would face a challenge in life. Well, here it is. "I'm going to get through this. It was hell, but here I am."

Two years later, after rigorous chemotherapy treatments and visits to and from the hospital, Kevin says he is cancer free. he beat the challenge. He was called on stage for the first time in years to perform the song Call and Answer. It was a very moving moment for the entire band.

"In a sense, it was like reclaiming my identity and a confirmation that I was still a live and still Kevin Hearn. It was definitely a goal of mine: 'I'm going to get throught his, have my first show. I'll be an emotional wreck, but I'm looking foward to it.' It was a joyous occasion."

The band's latest disc, Maroon, was released in September. On this disc, you can hear the more mature Barenaked Ladies at their best. In such songs as Helicopters, Tonight it the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel, and their first single, Pinch Me, solemn tunes and deep lyrics prove the band is serious about their work. BNL is in touch with their feelings. "Steve and Ed always write dark lyrics," Kevin says. "But in Maroon, there is not as much humor. We're able to articulate our feelings more easily and we had to deal with some of them. I was sick and it influenced much of the mood."

BNL's live shows, which have always been strong, are still just as wild and fun. Making up songs on the spot and mocking other top artists keeps the audience on their feet.

"Our shows are all about fun, relaxing, and enjoying the songs. Our shows are not about anger," Kevin says. "Parents bring their kids and say 'Hey, I really like them, too.' It's our chance to cut loose and be silly. It's a big release for us. We like to dance around, even though we don't know how to dance."

The admirable offstage personalities is what keeps BNL collected and down to earth in their personal lives. But as soon as they hit the stage, it's all about the music. "We take our craft seriously," Kevin says, "and take pride in being serious musicians."