SameDiff BNL

Barenaked Ladies Travelling Circus

By STEPHEN COOKE, FYI Winnipeg, May 31st, 2001.

Appearing at the Arena tonight at 7:30 p.m., with Sarah Harmer. Families now a part of life on the road for Canadian band.

Barenaked Ladies bassist Jim Creeggan must love the kitchen. In his side project with brother Andy — titled, appropriately, The Brothers Creeggan — their repertoire includes the songs Kitchen Dancing and John's in the Fridge.

Calling from Los Angeles, Creeggan isn't dancing in the kitchen, he's in the midst of doing the dishes. And no, he hasn't been cooking Kraft Dinner, but rather something with a bit more of a curry tang to it.

"I still live in Toronto, but I met a gal down here last year while we were doing our record in L.A. So I've been spending time out here," says Creeggan, as if to assuage any worries that the lanky redhead in that most Canadian of bands was going Hollywood.

"I'm in between places. Being on the road a lot allows for that... in-between feeling."

The band is notorious for its work ethic, nearly eight years of relentless touring resulting in a devoted fanbase across North America, platinum sales for Stunt and its follow-up Maroon, and number one hit singles. If I Had a Million Dollars may have proved more prescient than they initially realized, but what's the point if you can't enjoy it?

"It's just cooled down a little bit for the first time since the record came out," says Creeggan contentedly. "We had babies coming, so we took a baby break. It was a month-and-a-half, which is more than we've had in a long, long time.

"There's three dads in the band, but my lifestyle's a little different. I actually like when the kids come on tour though. It's different. It feels like we're a travelling circus."

With guitarist and vocalist Ed Robertson already a dad of two, and the wives of singer Steven Page and drummer Tyler Stewart recently giving birth, Creeggan has a bit more time to himself.

Most recently he caught up with Andy for a Brothers Creeggan tour on the West Coast; a far cry from a Barenaked Ladies jaunt, with the pair camping between shows.

Longtime fans might recall that Andy Creeggan was the original keyboardist for Barenaked Ladies, but he packed it in six years ago to study music at McGill. His replacement Kevin Hearn took over admirably, but just as Stunt was hitting its stride he was stricken with crippling leukemia that nearly cost him his life.

It was a long, slow and painful recovery, but Creeggan assures fans that Hearn's back up to full strength.

"He's doing really well. He's off the steroids," Creeggan says. "Now that there's no more cancer he's in remission and he's through the post-stem-cell transplant.

"He's off medication and totally in the clear. He was on the road with us for most of the past year, it's been a great relief."

For a time, Hearn was able to join the band in the studio, but touring was too overwhelming.

While recuperating, he became an honourary member of Toronto's Rheostatics, contributing to that group's acclaimed musical fable The Story of Harmelodia.

And all through this time, Barenaked Ladies were having their biggest success yet (with Chris Brown, formerly of Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, filling in on keyboards).

"It was really odd," recalls Creeggan. "On one hand we had a No. 1 hit single with One Week while Kevin was fighting for his life. It was a confusing time to be away from him at that time, in a bit of a whirlwind.

"We felt a little bit torn, I think."

That whole period is captured on film in the rock documentary Barenaked in America, directed by former Beverly Hills 90120er Jason Priestley, a close friend of the band.

The movie had a theatrical release in Canada and the U.S., and was recently shown in a cut-down hour-long version on CTV.

The band's quick wit and penchant for clowning around makes them a natural for their own version of A Hard Day's Night, but Creeggan found the experience of watching people watch himself on the big screen a bit unnerving.

"In the theatre you're watching people's reactions. Most of the jokes come out of the way we talk, you just take it for granted. But then you hear people laughing at stuff you do every day, you don't expect that.

"It's sort of funny, the film was happening just at that time that Kevin was fighting cancer. It was a hard time dealing with that contradiction. Seeing Kev in that state is pretty hard, it brings back memories of a emotionally contrasting time."