Barenaked Ladies start new chapter

JANE STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:50 PM ET

The Barenaked Ladies have gone through a major “shift in energy” in the last year, as co-founder and singer-guitarist Ed Robertson puts it.

To be more precise, the veteran Toronto pop-rock band said goodbye to co-founder and singer Steven Page last February, after “a tumultuous” 2008 that included Page’s arrest on cocaine charges and Robertson crashing his airplane but luckily walking away.

Now, Robertson says, the group is preparing for the March 23 release of their first record without Page, All In Good Time, and then a cross-Canada tour that starts April 6 in Victoria and heads east.

“It could have just as easily been called It’s About F---ing Time,” Robertson said last week down the line from Vancouver. “We’re ready to be in the next chapter, but it’ll happen. Just give it some time.”

As for touring Canada without Page, the band — rounded out by drummer Tyler Stewart, bassist Jim Creeggan and keyboardist Kevin Hearn — have been performing for a year now as a foursome, starting with a show in Orlando in front of 14,000 people.

“We’re a year down the road and 50 shows later, and it’s feeling really natural now,” Robertson said. “It could have been a daunting task, I think, to kind of re-adjust. But we really felt like we hit the ground running, and we have the 20 years of material to build on.

“We’ve also got a new record under out belts, to draw from, so it’s all feeling really normal. Parting ways with Steve left us with four multi-instrumentalists and three songwriters and four singers. It’s been an energy shift, but we don’t feel like we’re lacking anything.”

Robertson says the same goes for the recording process — with Creeggan and Hearn playing more important roles in the songwriting and singing departments.

“Change is good, I think. And in a creative space it’s even better, so we really responded to the new energy and made an adventurous and fun record.”

And yet the album’s first single is the sombre, Robertson-penned-and-sung ballad You Run Away, in which he seems to be singing to Page; “You run away (I tried to be your brother), You could turn and stay (You cried and ran for cover) But you run away from me.”

Robertson admits Page’s leaving the group partially inspired the song.

“So many people have been saying it’s about Steve, and I certainly drew from that emotion, but it’s about a lot of things,” Robertson said. “It’s about disappointment. It’s about ultimately admitting that you can’t control everything. And it’s funny — we really debated about having that song as the first single, because we thought, ‘You know, everyone’s just going to want to talk about Steve.’ And I said, ‘Well, everyone’s just going to want to talk about Steve anyway. We may as well have a song that addresses some of that emotion.’ It was a tumultuous time and it was a cathartic song to write.”

In the meantime, Robertson said he was unaware that Page had just released his first post-BNL album, A Singer Must Die, on Feb. 16. The disc, which features Page doing cover songs by the likes of Elvis Costello and Radiohead with the classical Toronto outfit, The Art of Time Ensemble, was originally recorded as a side project when Page was still with the Ladies.

“I didn’t even know it was out,” Robertson said. “I haven’t listened to it yet.

“I’d be happy to comment on it, though, despite not having heard it,” he added with a laugh.

New Fantastic Four

There’s now a prominent ‘4’ plastered on the front of the drum kit of The Barenaked Ladies’ Tyler Stewart.

It was placed there by one of their crew following founding member Steven Page’s departure last year, which dropped the group’s numbers from five to four.

“It was something Tyler’s drum tech Tiny put together, actually,” said singer-guitarist Ed Robertson, who rounds out the foursome along with bassist Jim Creeggan and keyboardist Kevin Hearn. “It’s sort of similar to the Fantastic Four logo. I think it was a little nod of courage as we went to do our very first show as a four-piece (last year in Orlando). It was in front of about 14,000 people — it was trial by fire for sure, and luckily it went incredibly well.”

Last Saturday’s performance by the band in downtown Toronto as part of CTV’s Olympic Celebration wasn’t their first in their hometown without Page.

Under the radar last year, Robertson said “we played a couple secret shows before we went in to record (the new BNL disc, All In Good Time, due March 23) ... We played a couple of nights at the Dakota (Tavern.) All the nerve-wracking stuff is out of the way. All our friends and family have seen us live. And that’s the only thing we get nervous about.”

The Barenaked Ladies will tour the country in April in support of All In Good Time. They’ll play in Victoria, Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton, London, Kingston, Halifax, Hamilton, Montreal and Oshawa.

Robertson still loves to fly

Barenaked Ladies’ Ed Robertson says he immediately went back to flying after his float plane went down in a near fatal crash near Bancroft, Ont., in 2008.

“It was a harrowing couple of moments, and we had a very fortunate result with it,” Robertson says.

“Light aviation is something I love ... I worked really hard to get my pilot’s licence, and it’s something I’m really passionate about. We just became that statistic that’s supposed to be a very small number. And we were very fortunate. I started flying again right away. And I learned a lot from the crash, and I’m really happy to still be here.”

jane.stevenson@sunmedia.ca


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