SameDiff BNL

'Talking To A Lady'

By GABRIELLE GRUBKA, The Buffalo News, November 27th, 2001.

With more talent than most musicians and more humor than most comedians, the Barenaked Ladies have delighted audiences with their energetic live shows and well-crafted pop/rock songs. Now, with over a decade of music experience, the Canadian quintet — singers and guitars Steven Page and Ed Robertson, bassist Jim Creeggan, keyboardist Kevin Hearn and drummer Tyler Stewart — is releasing "Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits/1991-2001."

The collection includes 17 songs from previous albums and two new songs, "It's Only Me (The Wizard of Magicland)" and "Thanks That Was Fun."

I recently talked with Ed Robertson by phone about the stories behind BNL's hits and the band's plans for the future:

Q: Of all the songs included on the compilation, which song do you have the fondest memory of, and why? Ed Robertson (jokingly): I'd have to say "Stairway To Heaven" (classic Led Zeppelin song) just because of the fond memories of slow dancing to it at the high school dance.

Q: What's the story behind "One Week"?

ER: "One Week" is kind of framed in a song about an argument in a relationship that lasts a week...but then there are these two verses that are complete gibberish that I freestyled off the top of my head. It made Steve laugh, so we kept it. It took me two and a half minutes to write, and it was whatever that was on my mind that came out.

Q: Have you ever met Yoko Ono, or do you know what she thinks of the song "Be My Yoko Ono?"

ER: We've never met her in person, but we've seen her talk about us on various news shows. She was really cool and generous with us when we were making the video for "Be My Yoko Ono." She supplied us with a bunch of rare footage, some of her performance art installations and some really nice footage of her and John (Lennon, former Beatle). It was really sweet of her.

Q: Many of the songs on this compilation are written by yourself and Steven Page. Can you describe what this process is like?

ER: It's like a cross between the best full body massage you've ever had and a root canal.

Q: If I gave you a list of songs, could you tell me any anecdotes, stories or memories you have of them?

ER: Yeah, sure.

Q: "If I Had $1,000,000."

ER: (It was) written on a giant yellow school bus on the way back from kids music camp, where Steve and I were counselors. I started writing that to entertain 9-year-olds.

Q: "The Old Apartment"

ER: It's an oft-misunderstood song because I think a lot of people believe its about a relationship gone wrong. What it's about is a couple that's moved on together. It's about missing physical things and your attachments to places and buildings.

Q: "Brian Wilson"

ER: It's about being 18 years old and feeling scrutinized, depressed and watched and trying to empathize and going, "My God, what must somebody on that level of celebrity feel like?"

Q: "What A Good Boy"

ER: It was like one of the first songs that we wrote where I felt like, "Wow, that's a really good song. I'm really proud of that. There's nothing goofy in there." It's a pretty straight ahead take at gender roles and expectations. I really like that one.

Q: What plans do you have for the follow-up to "Maroon"?

ER: We're going to start writing in the new year, probably February or March. Things are still quite up in the air as far as where we'll work and (with whom) we'll work. The main plan that we've set is to give ourselves a lot of time and not pressure ourselves and enjoy the (recording) process.

Q: When I talked to Kevin Hearn earlier this year, he mentioned that you recorded four songs in the spring. Two of them appear on this compilation. What happened to the other two?

ER: Your first mistake is talking to Kevin about the information (laughs). One of the songs is in "Shallow Hal" (in the movie, not the soundtrack). It's called "I Can, I Will, I Do."

Q: How did you get involved with the movie?

ER: I don't recall, but I was very excited when it came across the table because we are all massive Tenacious D fans and, therefore, Jack Black fans.

Q: Could you see Tenacious D opening up for the Barenaked Ladies in the future?

ER: I hope so. We're trying to get them to play with us right now.

Q: So what happened to the fourth song?

ER: We played it for most of the summer tour and we all really love it. It will probably end up on the next record and if not, it will end up somewhere real soon. It's called "I Dont Get It Anymore."

Q: Finally, what advice do you have for teens who are interested in starting their own band?

ER: Play as much as possible and do not spend a lot of money recording, especially when you're first starting out because, as soon as you've finished recording something, you're going to hate it. You're not going to be a better band and you're going to be embarrassed by what you recorded. Play live and make recordings of your live performances and see how you can improve. Don't spend a lot of money on making a demo, because the best thing you can do is be a good live band. That's what turns the heads of a record company.