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Illness Tempers Barenaked Ladies' Lunacy

By TONYA JAMESON, The Charlotte Observer, July 26th, 2001.

Barenaked Ladies emerged in the late '80s with peppy guitar-pop masking bleak but witty lyrics.

The Canadian group exploded in the U.S. with 1998's multiplatinum-selling "Stunt," but success was dampened when keyboardist Kevin Hearn was diagnosed with leukemia. He underwent two years of treatment and couldn't tour.

He's back on the road in support of the group's new CD, "Maroon," which touches serious topics such as parenthood and life.

Barenaked Ladies will play Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on Wednesday. Sarah Harmer and Action Figure Party will open.

In the edited Q&A below, Hearn talked about his illness, Barenaked Ladies' new album and his strange marriage of Britney Spears and Darth Vader.

Some celebrities prefer to focus on their craft rather than personal issues. Why have you been so public about your illness?

It's not something that needs to be hidden or hushed up. I've just seen how many people, how many families are affected by cancer and also so many of our audience members have approached me and relayed their experiences to me.

Is it painful hearing so many stories?

I deal with that by trying to do what I do, trying to help people. I can spread awareness that it's important to support research, to be kind to our fellow human beings.

How does it feel to be touring again?

A day doesn't go by that I don't think about it and I'm not thankful.

"Maroon" shows the band moving in a more serious direction. Why?

We've just grown; we've been through a lot as a group, as individuals. My illness put us in a somber mood.

Did you consciously decide to make "Maroon" more reflective than funny?

We wouldn't be able to go up there and ham it up so much if we didn't have something substantial to back it up. We're serious musicians.

In concert you guys seem to have a lot of fun. Are your antics staged?

Every show is different. If we do something and it works really well, we probably won't do it again. To try and restage it just wouldn't work.

Was "Star Wars" mixed with Britney Spears' "Oops! I Did It Again" planned?

I made a loop of the "Star Wars" theme. I love that theme. I was singing Britney Spears over top of it and the crew were just laughing their heads off and it became part of our show.

How can you love the "Star Wars" theme and then ruin it?

I figured the head of the evil empire could meet the — I won't say the evil queen of pop music — I'll say the queen of pop music.

What else is going on?

There's a best-of CD coming out in the fall. It'll probably be our most popular songs from over the years as a way to end that era of our career.

Are there plans to change the band's sound?

There will always be humor and seriousness, but me, Tyler (Stewart) and Jim (Creeggan) have talked about jamming more and being more creative as a unit. We plan to take some time off to write. We need a little life experience.

You've had some with Steve Page, Ed Robertson and Stewart becoming fathers in the last three years. Has that been tough because of touring?

It's been hard to be away so often. I can only imagine. I hope I'll lose my virginity one day; that's what I've been working on.