Barenaked Ladies are green

Barenaked Ladies' Steven Page. (Sun file photo)

Barenaked Ladies' Steven Page. (Sun file photo)

-- For JAM! Music

, Last Updated: 1:08 PM ET

On a freezing February afternoon, just hours away from hitting the stage at Regina's Brandt Centre, Barenaked Ladies singer and guitarist Steven Page wants fans to start thinking green.

In the midst of a cross-country tour, Page says this latest trek, in support of their latest discs "Barenaked Ladies are Me" and "Barenaked Ladies are Men," is the multi-platinum-selling band's most environmentally friendly jaunt yet.

"I've been affiliated with environmental causes for a long time," he says. "In the early days, we used to do benefits and when we went out on tour we set up little eco-villages where people could learn about environmental initiatives in their communities.

"Then we'd go back into our bus with the generator idling and drink out of plastic beer cups, 'cause that's the way it was. But that wasn't really the way we were living at home, so we've been trying to green our world backstage."

The band has been using biofuel (a combination of waste oil products and diesel) to gas up tour trucks and buses, and is again setting up eco-villages where fans can learn about environmentally friendly fuel alternatives, ecologically conscious products and other socially progressive initiatives.

"We started bringing these things to the fans as a way to counter the trash culture that was outside the venues," explains Page. "Especially in the United States in those post-Lollapalooza, post-Lilith Fair times all these booths would be out there selling Camel cigarettes and other stuff that just didn't reflect the culture of what our music was."

Always politically outspoken, Page, 36, hasn't been shying away from comments that the band's latest discs are delving into more mature narratives, trading the pop culture rhymes of "One Week" (from 1998's breakout smash "Stunt") for the introspective folk-pop of "Something You'll Never Find," "Maybe Not" and "Wind it Up."

"I don't think we ever consciously said to one another, 'Let's start making grown-up music,'" Page says of the new albums' 29 tracks. "The pop-culture things, the younger issues, I think I felt like I'd explored them all. Either I had explored them all, or they just didn't interest me anymore."

The Ladies' earnest lyricism starkly contrasting the playful singles "Pinch Me" and "Another Postcard" from the earlier part of this decade, the Toronto-based quintet opted to take a do-it-yourself route for "Barenaked Ladies are Me" and "Barenaked Ladies are Men."

"We were at the end of our Warner Brothers contract and we started negotiating with them and then we realized this was crazy," Page remarks.

"At the end of a record deal, what do you get? They pay you a small fee for working for them. And you know what, we're doing this work for us we're not doing it for them. We'd rather pay someone else for doing some services for us than the other way around."

So, without a contract, the Ladies opted to start their own label, Desperation Records, and sessions began at Page's own Fresh Baked Woods Studio on the outskirts of Toronto in 2005.

"There came a point where we'd go to Los Angeles or Nashville or wherever to make a record and we said, 'You know what, we have families, homes, a life, why do we want to go live in some shitty apartment in L.A. for three months? It's ridiculous.'

"I built my own studio and we made our own schedule."

But with dozens of song ideas running through their heads, the band had to decide which tracks to chop. The only problem? With the Ladies serving as producers on the discs, the boys were reluctant to let any of the tunes go.

"At one point, we thought we'd be able to whittle it down to one record and then we realized that wasn't going to happen," laughs Page. "But doing that in the past has caused us to leave all sorts of songs, landmark songs, off our records.

"And since we have our own label, it didn't matter what we put out there."

Not ones to be limited by the traditional means of distributing their music, the Ladies have also been experimenting with alternative ways of getting songs to the fans, selling "Barenaked are USB" through their website and at live shows.

"Over the last few years we've been releasing our records on these little USB flash drives," says Page. "And every live show we do, we record, so you can actually buy them that night on your way out of the venue."

Almost at the tail end of an 18-city tour that concludes at the end of the month, Page says the journey has been inspiring.

"Traveling Canada, it's pretty interesting to see how people identify us almost iconically," he says thoughtfully. "We're lucky to be woven into the fabric of the country."

Looking back on a career that's nearing the 20-year mark, he adds: "This was certainly not what we planned on doing. We were just a band; we liked to play music; we played clubs; got bigger; and after that..."

"Barenaked Ladies are Me" and "Barenaked Ladies are Men" are in stores now.

Here are the remaining dates for the Barenaked Ladies' Canadian tour:

Thursday, Feb 15 John Labatt Centre London, ON

Friday, Feb 16 Air Canada Centre Toronto, ON

Saturday, Feb 17 Steelback Centre Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Monday, Feb 19 Bell Centre Montreal, PQ

Wednesday, Feb 21 Scotia Bank Place Ottawa, ON

Friday, Feb 23 Harbour Station St. John, NB

Saturday, Feb 24 Metro Centre Halifax, NS

Monday, Feb 26 Mile One Stadium St. John's, NFLD


Videos

Photos