SameDiff BNL

BNL Connection Helps Long-Overdue Proclaimers Album

By PAUL CANTIN, JAM! Showbiz, May 7th, 2001.

Back around 1988, when Scotland's The Proclaimers made their first visit to Toronto and performed at the El Mocambo, an unidentified audience member threw a demo tape on stage.

The tape belonged to an unknown local band with the curious name Barenaked Ladies, with a sound that borrowed liberally from the Proclaimers' high-spirited playing and rich harmonies.

"We kept (the demo). It was such a distinctive name, we never forgot them," says Craig Reid, who fronts The Proclaimers with brother Charlie.

Jump ahead more than a dozen years, and The Barenaked Ladies have become international recording stars. The Proclaimers — still best known on these shores for the novelty hit "500 Miles" — are about to release "Persevere" (out May 22), their first album since 1994's "Hit The Highway."

The album is being released in North America by Nettwerk Records, whose boss, Terry McBride, manages the Barenaked Ladies. And to herald the release of "Persevere," the Reid brothers will join BNL as their opening act on a string of summer concert dates.

Ironically, given that early connection, Reid says they only recently ever crossed paths with the Ladies, who have mentioned The Proclaimers as an early influence on their sound.

"We sort of followed the Barenaked Ladies' career, knowing how well they had done," Reid says.

"We had never met them, but my brother went to a gig they played in Edinburgh three weeks ago, and that was the first time we had met them".

Partly through the BNL connection with McBride and Nettwerk, The Proclaimers put the label high on their list to handle "Persevere" in North America.

"Nettwerk was the first port of call," Reid says. "It has just been fantastic so far ... Their record in getting acts who maybe are not considered absolutely top commercial acts, getting them into the marketplace, and knowing the right places and the right way to market them — that put them at the top of our list."

The new album bristles with the band's trademark energy, and the songs — particularly "A Land Fit For Zeros" and "Everybody's A Victim" — show enough new lyrical directness and vigour to qualify as old-fashioned protest songs.

"Persevere" was recorded in Minneapolis by producer Chris Kimsey (Rolling Stones, INXS) in a mere 14 days last summer — a stark contrast to the nearly seven-year lull since "Hit The Highway."

"Our dad was ill for over a year and he died at the end of that. That sort of added a year to it," Reid explains of the delay.

"We don't have an excuse for the other five years. When we write an album, it is a case of the first four or five songs are done, the rest come easily. But it is getting those first four or five. You need to be producing stuff on a regular basis. We are back into that now. I don't see a gap like that between this one and the next one."

Unexpected delays even figured into the group's recent visit to Canada to shoot a video for the first single, "There's A Touch." The video shows the Reid brothers being thrown off a building, hit by a truck, and crushed by a disabled helicopter, but persevering despite the injuries.

Although the hazards were all staged for the video, one simple trick proved to be unexpectedly hazardous for Reid. The brothers were supposed to mimic being thrown off the side of the Kitchener, Ont., City Hall, but the singer landed hard on the crash-mattress and twisted his ankle.

"It wasn't even much of a stunt. It should have been pretty easy. It was like dropping onto a bed, no pain or distress. I was just unlucky. It went up like a balloon," he says of his swollen ankle.

As a result, the video shoot was halted for another four days until he recovered — yet another postponement on the road to "Persevere's" release.

"It took so long and so much has happened since the last album, we thought 'Persevere' would be a good title."

Perhaps, although Reid laughs when told that the album's title has already been misprinted in promotional literature as "Perverse."

"Well, you can use that as well!," he says. "As long as they get the name Proclaimers right."