Barenaked Ladies

Barenaked Ladies (often abbreviated BNL or occasionally BnL) is a Juno-winning and Grammy-nominated Canadian alternative rock band. The band is currently composed of Jim Creeggan, Kevin Hearn, Ed Robertson, Tyler Stewart. Barenaked Ladies formed in 1988 in Scarborough, Ontario, at the time a suburb of Toronto. They are best known for their hit singles, "One Week", "The Old Apartment", "Pinch Me", "If I Had $1000000" and "Brian Wilson" and for their light-hearted, comedic performance style. The band's trademarks at live shows are humorous banter between songs and improvised raps/songs, both of which are staples at virtually every concert. Original keyboardist Andy Creeggan left the band in 1995, and founding member Steven Page departed in 2009.


History


Indie origins

Barenaked Ladies began as the duo of Ed Robertson and Steven Page. The two went to school together since Robertson was in grade four (Page was a grade ahead) at Churchill Heights Public School, but were not friends until they ran into each other at a Harvey's restaurant following a Peter Gabriel concert. Each interested to find that the other liked Gabriel, they began talking and found they had many of the same tastes. The two became friends, and bonded further when they were both counsellors at Scarborough Schools Music Camp. They would play songs together, and Steve was impressed by Ed's ability to harmonize. When Page had an extra ticket to a Bob Dylan concert that no one wanted, he ran into Robertson at a party. The two attended the concert at Exhibition Stadium (most likely on August 29, 1988). Bored by the show, the two turned to amusing each other, pretending they were rock critics, inventing histories and comments about the Dylan band. They also made up various band names; one of which was "Barenaked Ladies".


Co-founder Ed Robertson in 2005

On another front, Robertson had agreed to perform with his cover band in a battle of the bands at Nathan Phillips Square for the Second Harvest food bank. The band broke up and he forgot about the gig. When he received a phone call a week before the show, asking him to confirm the gig, he improvised that the name of the band had changed to "Barenaked Ladies", recalling the name from the Dylan concert. He then called Page and asked if he wanted to do the gig; Page reportedly could not believe Robertson had given that name. They arranged three rehearsals and missed them all. The two played the show on October 1, 1988, but instead of competing, they played while the other bands set up, playing every song they could think of that they both knew. The show went well and they were invited to open a show for another well-known local band, The Razorbacks, at the Horseshoe Tavern the coming weekend. They set up three more rehearsals, and again missed them all; they proceeded to improvise their set once again. This would set a precedent for an element of Barenaked Ladies concerts which still almost always contain some improvised raps or songs, as well as general improvised banter.


Co-founder Steven Page in 2005

The two continued playing other shows like that and also began writing songs together. The band's first tape, Buck Naked, released in 1989, was recorded on a four-track recorder in basements and bedrooms. The pair became followers of comedy group Corky and the Juice Pigs, whom they credit with exposing them to the idea of comedic stage presence. Page and Robertson presented the group with their tape, and were invited to open for the Juice Pigs on their cross-Canada tour. One night, in Toronto, Page and Robertson invited their friends, percussionist Andy Creeggan and bassist Jim Creeggan, who they knew from music camp, to play with them at a Christmastime club show. The brothers were invited to join the band. Barenaked Lunch (also known as the Pink Tape) was released in 1990, and featured the two new band members. The tape had problems however as it was mastered incorrectly and played too fast.


Jim Creeggan in 2008

After six months, Andy Creeggan went on a student exchange trip to Ecuador, and the band was lacking a percussionist. While playing at a buskers' festival in the summer of 1990, they met drummer Tyler Stewart, who took over the position. While Creeggan was gone, the band gained some attention when they were winners at the 1990 YTV Achievement Awards. They gained further attention when they squeezed into a small "Speaker's Corner" video booth in Toronto, and performed "Be My Yoko Ono". The clip quickly became popular with viewers, and noticeably increased the band's fanbase. Andy Creeggan returned in early 1991 to find that Stewart had taken over the percussion role. This caused some concern for him, and he then moved more toward keyboards; though he still played percussion (usually congas) on some songs. Soon after, the band embarked upon their first full tour of Canada.


Early Canadian success

The full band's first release of note was the 1991 Yellow Tape. It was a demo tape originally created for the band's performance at South by Southwest and was the first recording to feature all five members. They spent between $2000 and $3000 on it, and sent a copy to all the labels in Canada; they were refused by all of them. The band turned to selling them off the stage, and wound up selling a lot of them. Word of mouth spread, and people began asking for the tape in local stores. The stores began asking the band for copies of the tape, and the demo tape became a commercial release. Sales began to snowball based simply on word of mouth and their live shows, and the tape became the first indie release by any band to achieve platinum status (100,000 copies) in Canada.


Tyler Stewart in 2005

Sales of the cassette tape were jump-started when the band was taken off the bill for the 1991 New Years Eve concert in Nathan Phillips Square outside Toronto City Hall because a staffer for then-mayor June Rowlands saw the band's name and felt it objectified women. The band shrugged it off and booked another show at McMaster University. However, the media got wind of the story and decided to write about it as an example of political correctness gone too far. The first article earned the paper a large quantity of mail against City Hall's decision. The story became more and more prominent until about a week after New Years, when the band was asked to take a photo in front of City Hall for the front page of the Toronto Star. The stories targeted Rowlands, as a direct representative of City Hall, even though she had not been directly involved in the decision to remove the band from the concert. The following week, sales of the Yellow Tape exploded. The City Hall story has followed the band ever since; Robertson credits the scale of the story to it being a slow news week. Another major break for the band in 1991 came in November of that year when BNL contributed a cover of Bruce Cockburn's "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" to the Cockburn tribute album Kick at the Darkness. That song became the band's first Top 40 hit in Canada.


The first albums

The band's first full album, Gordon, was released in 1992 and was a big success in Canada. It included some of the band's most well-known songs, including "Enid", the first single; "Be My Yoko Ono", the single which helped fund the album; "If I Had $1000000", which spawned a Kraft Dinner throwing tradition at live shows that the band has discouraged; and "Brian Wilson", named after Beach Boy Brian Wilson (who later covered the song on a live album). It benefited from the fact that a number of songs on the album (including the latter three) had been live favorites for a while and had been recorded on past releases like the Yellow Tape. While the band was doing remarkably well in Canada, they found that it translated into little success in the United States.


BNL's second album, Maybe You Should Drive, released in 1994, fared considerably less well with the Canadian public. They tried touring the United States, but the tour was a failure and ended up losing money despite an appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Before the next release Andy Creeggan decided to leave the band. He had become disillusioned with the direction of the band, and was not comfortable with the fame the group had attained. In addition, Creeggan wanted to attend McGill University to study music further. Tyler Stewart has also suggested that Creeggan had never fully accepted his replacement by Stewart as percussionist. Andy Creeggan's departure came during a time in which members of the band were starting to become sick of each other, with Page and Robertson rarely speaking to one another. Stewart cites the departure as worsening the situation. Page also began struggling with both alcohol abuse and depression. In an attempt to correct the band's downward slide, they signed with Terry McBride and Nettwerk as their management.


The band released Born on a Pirate Ship as a quartet in 1996. The album received two large boosts from the inclusion of the song "Shoe Box" on the Friends soundtrack and from the Jason Priestley-directed video for "The Old Apartment," which got notable American airplay and while the album had stronger sales than Maybe You Should Drive, the album still did not match the success of "Gordon". The Ladies appeared as the guest band on an episode of Beverly Hills 90210 ("Spring Breakdown" original air date: April 2, 1997), immediately preceding their 1997 tour; they performed "The Old Apartment," "Life, In A Nutshell," and "Brian Wilson" at the Peach Pit After Dark night club. Tyler Stewart invited his friend Kevin Hearn to replace Andy Creeggan as keyboardist for the tour; Hearn ultimately joined the band full time.


From two dates on the Born on a Pirate Ship tour during 1996, BNL recorded and released a live album called Rock Spectacle, which had a modest radio hit in the United States with "Brian Wilson." The album became the band's first gold record in the United States, and the success of "Brian Wilson", coupled with the success of "The Old Apartment", led to a new situation for the band. They knew their next album would be their chance to make it big in the United States.


Breakthrough success in the United States

They turned out to be right, as the 1998 release Stunt became (and remains) their greatest success and their American breakout album, buoyed by "One Week", which spent one week at the number one spot on the storied Billboard Hot 100. Immediately after Stunt was released, however, Kevin Hearn was diagnosed with leukemia, eventually undergoing a bone marrow transplant and spending several months at a Toronto hospital recovering.


Kevin Hearn in 2005

The band toured, with friends Chris Brown and Greg Kurstin both filling in on keyboards until Kevin recovered enough to rejoin them on the road. The singles "It's All Been Done" (used as the opening theme song on the short lived animated TV series Baby Blues) and "Call and Answer" (which later appeared in the film "EdTV") also came from this highly successful album. The band was also asked to contribute a song ("Get in Line", ending up as a single) to the soundtrack of the FOX cartoon, King of the Hill.


Maroon, released in 2000, did fairly well led by the single "Pinch Me", though not as well as Stunt had. In 2001, they released a compilation album, entitled Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits, in reference to a line from their song "Box Set". It contains 15 singles from previous BNL albums, two singles from other compilations, and two new tracks (including the single "Thanks, That Was Fun"). After finishing a tour on December 31, 2001 to promote the compilation album, the band decided to mostly take a year off, only playing occasional shows before returning to the studio in April 2003.


Everything to Everyone was released October 21, 2003, coincided by the first show of the unique Peepshow tour. The first single off the album was "Another Postcard (Chimps)", which received modest radio play. "Testing 1,2,3" was the second single off of the album and received a video, but no CD single, while "Celebrity" was released later in the UK with a CD single, but no video. "Maybe Katie" and an edited version of "For You" from a concert in Glasgow, Scotland were also released as singles to radio. The album was their weakest seller in years, with a short chart life. With the release, the band fulfilled their contract with Reprise Records, with whom they did not re-sign. This made the band independent for the first time since 1992 (though they retained a distribution relationship with Warner Bros. Records). On the subsequent Everywhere For Everyone tour, in early 2004, the band began offering their full live shows for purchase as a download or CD-R on www.barenakedladies.com, as well as subsequent studio releases.


Return to independence and current
Steven Page, Kevin Hearn and Ed Robertson live in 2005

The band's next album was Barenaked for the Holidays, which was released on October 5, 2004. It was their first independent record since the Yellow Tape, as well the first album recorded at Steven Page's then-recently completed studio at his farmhouse called "Fresh Baked Woods". The label the band created for this album is called "Desperation Records" and has been used for all releases since. Currently, the label is just a title used to release the band's own material, and the band is not looking to sign outside artists.


In January 2005, the band taped a television pilot for a variety show, tentatively titled Barenaked Ladies Variety Show, which was ultimately rejected by the FOX network. Later that year, the band was asked to write music for the Stratford Festival of Canada's musical production of Shakespeare's As You Like It. Steven Page wrote most of the music (Shakespeare had provided lyrics in the play), and the band recorded it for the actors to sing over. The recording (with Page's vocals) was available on CD from the festival and on the band's website. On July 2, 2005 BNL took part in the Live 8 concert in Barrie, Ontario. Following several writing sessions throughout 2005, the band went into the studio at Fresh Baked Woods that fall to begin recording 29 songs. They broke from the studio in November and December of that year to play a 22-show holiday tour, each night of which they played one of their new songs. An iTunes Originals ??? a collection of interviews and live songs (coupled with some old album tracks) was recorded while the band was in the studio and was released in February 2006.


Also in February, the band went back into the studio to finish up the recordings they started the previous fall. Initially unsure of how to release so many songs, the band announced in May 2006 that they would release a one-disc album in early September entitled Barenaked Ladies Are Me. Several alternate versions are available, including downloadable versions and a USB flash drive version. The B.L.A.M. tour in support of the album, and its follow-up Barenaked Ladies Are Men (both of which hail from the same sessions), ran in Fall 2006 for the U.S., February 2007 for Canada, and later in 2007 for the UK. That same year, the band wrote and sang the theme song to the Warner Bros. Television series The Big Bang Theory for CBS.


The band performing on board its Ship and Dip III cruise in 2008

On May 6, 2008, the band released an album of original material aimed at children entitled Snacktime!. The album features the artwork by Kevin Hearn in its liner notes, which is also available in the form of a hardcover book with the CD included. The album was promoted with a series of television appearances and in-store appearances at bookstores in the north-eastern and west coasts of the United States, as well as Toronto.


In July 2008, the band chose to cancel scheduled appearances at several Disney Music Block Party concerts following Page's arrest on allegations of cocaine possession. In August, Robertson crashed his single-engine plane (with no casualties), and in December, his mother passed away. Band members made several comments about how the events of the year marred their celebration of the band's 20th anniversary (October 1, 2008).


On February 24, 2009, it was announced by both the band and Steven Page that Page had left the band "y mutual agreement". The remaining four members of the band will continue to record and tour while Page intends to pursue solo projects including theatrical opportunities. in July, it was announced the band had left Nettwerk management and had hired the newly merged management firm CAM 8. The band went into the studio from May to August 2009 as a four-piece working on their next album with producer Michael Phillip Wojewoda, which has been mastered and is awaiting release. The latest announced release date for the yet-to-be-titled album is March, 2010.


Innovation and technology


Barenaked Ladies has often attempted to utilize new technologies to promote themselves and their music. They were among the early adopters of computers for promotion when they released an "Interactive Press Kit" on floppy disk for Maybe You Should Drive in 1994, which earned them a MuchMusic Video Award. They used their website to allow fans to choose between two songs (Be My Yoko Ono and Alternative Girlfriend) for inclusion on their greatest hits CD, Disc One (though polling was nearly tied and both songs were included).


Beginning in April 2003, The band began a blog on its website to keep fans updated personally, coinciding with the band's return to the studio for Everything to Everyone. During a subsequent studio session, for Barenaked Ladies Are Me, Ed Robertson began a podcast in addition to the blog which ran from February to August 2006 (with a series of four videos added in early 2007 with highlights from the band's first cruise.


The band has adopted many of the current online social networking sites, including accounts on MySpace, Facebook, and most recently, Twitter. The Twitter feed has been integrated into the band's site, and it also typically announces new blog posts with a link. These accounts have been used for contests and to debut new tracks. Different band members have also had individual accounts on these sites at times.


Barenaked Ladies has sold recordings of almost all of its live concerts since early 2004. Initially, concerts were sold on CD-R or as MP3 downloads. By the end of 2004, lossless FLAC files were also offered. Professionally printed copies of some concerts were later offered through some isolated record stores, and some concerts have been added to the iTunes Music Stores and other digital retailers.


The band was praised for a unique use of USB flash drive technology. The band offered its 2004 Barenaked For the Holidays album on a customized flash drive in MP3 format, with extras including bonus tracks, and photos and videos from the studio sessions for the album. The band used a 128 MB USB stick, limiting the bitrate of the music included. The band described the product as a test of the technology and the market for that technology. It subsequently released Are Me in the USB format as well (on a 256 MB stick). The band also incorporated the technology into its live music sales, offering fans a copy of concerts in MP3 format on a USB stick at the merchandise booth directly after the show.


Ships and Dip cruises


Following a lead from other artists, the band held a fan cruise called "Ships and Dip", January 15???January 19, 2007. Other artists who joined the Ladies included side projects The Brothers Creeggan (Andy, Jim and guests), Kevin Hearn and Thin Buckle and The Vanity Project (Steve and a full band assembled for the cruise), as well as friends of the band, Guster, Jason Plumb, The New Odds, and others. The ship also featured stand-up comedy from band friends Se??n Cullen, and Harland Williams.


The success of the cruise led to sequel, "Ships and Dip III", which held January 27???February 1, 2008, with many of the same artists returning, as well as adding Great Big Sea as a headlining performer. The third annual cruise, "Ships and Dip V" sailed February 1???6, 2009, adding Sarah McLachlan as an opening act for each of the band's three main theatre shows. The 2009 cruise also included Luke Doucet, The Mountain Goats and The Weakerthans.


The artists on the Ships and Dip cruises have sailed onboard with the rest of the passengers for the duration of the cruises; this contrasts some music cruises on which the artist or artists travel separately to one of the cruise destinations and perform there, or join the cruise for only a portion of the trip. Band members have enjoyed other artists' shows and the ship's amenities freely with the other guests. Barenaked Ladies have performed several full shows on each cruise, and the band members also commonly have sat in with other artists at their shows. Following Page's departure in 2009, Sixthman announced that there would be no followup cruise for the next year with no word on if or when a subsequent cruise would take place.


Awards and nominations




From left to right: Hearn, Stewart, Creeggan, and Robertson watch Page mime golfing during an ad lib in 2004.
Award
Wins
Nominations
Billboard Music Awards
2
2
Grammy Awards
0
2
Juno Awards
6
9
MTV Video Music Awards
0
1
World Music Awards
1
1
Totals
Awards won
9
Nominations
15

In 1993, Barenaked Ladies were nominated for their first four Juno Awards: Canadian Entertainer of the Year, Album of the year for Gordon, Single of the Year for Enid, and Group of the year, which was their only win. The group was again nominated for Canadian Entertainer of the Year in 1994 and Group of the Year in 1995. Barenaked Ladies' first Grammy nomination came in 1999 for "One Week" in the Pop Performance by a Duo or Group category, but lost to Brian Setzer's "Jump, Jive an' Wail". The song, and its album Stunt, brought the band three more Juno Awards that year, for Best Single, Best Pop Album, and Best Group. Robertson lost to Bryan Adams in the newly revived Best Songwriter Category. The video for "One Week" was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award for Best Art Direction, but lost to "Doo Wop (That Thing)" by Lauryn Hill.


The band was nominated for their second Grammy in 2001 for "Pinch Me", again in the Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group category, but lost to "Cousin Dupree" by Steely Dan. They also won three more Juno Awards for Maroon under Best Pop Album, Best Album and Best Group, bringing their total to seven. "Pinch Me" was nominated for Best Single, but lost to "I'm like a Bird" by Nelly Furtado. Additionally, Page and Robertson were nominated in the Best Songwriter category in its penultimate year for "Pinch Me", "Too Little Too Late" and "Falling for the First Time".


Five more Juno nominations have followed, totaling 18 nominations for the band. In 2004 they were up for Pop Album of the Year for Everything to Everyone, as well as Group of the Year. In 2005, they were up for Music DVD of the Year for the documentary The Barenaked Truth, though they did not put out the DVD themselves. In 2006, they were again nominated for group of the year. They were nominated for and subsequently won a 2008 Juno for their children's album, "Snacktime."


Billboard Music Awards

The Billboard Music Awards is sponsored by Billboard magazine and held annually in December. Barenaked Ladies has received two awards from two nominations.


Year
Nominated work
Award
Result
1998
"One Week"
Best Clip (Alternative/Modern Rock)
Won
Maximum Vision Award
Won
Grammy Awards

The Grammy Awards are awarded annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States. Barenaked Ladies has received two nominations.


Year
Nominated work
Award
Result
1999
"One Week"
Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group
Nominated
2001
"Pinch Me"
Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal
Nominated
Juno Awards

The Juno Awards is a Canadian awards ceremony presented annually by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Barenaked Ladies has received six awards from nine nominations.


Year
Nominated work
Award
Result
1992
Barenaked Ladies
Group of the Year
Won
1999
Barenaked Ladies
Best Group
Won
Stunt
Best Pop Album
Won
"One Week"
Best Single
Won
2001
Barenaked Ladies
Best Group
Won
Maroon
Best Pop Album
Won
Best Album
Nominated
"Pinch Me"
Best Single
Nominated
Best Songwriter
Nominated
MTV Video Music Awards

The MTV Video Music Awards is an annual awards ceremony established in 1984 by MTV. Barenaked Ladies has received one nomination.


Year
Nominated work
Award
Result
1999
"One Week"
Best Art Direction
Nominated
MuchMusic Video Awards

The MuchMusic Video Awards (MMVAs) is an annual awards ceremony presented by Canadian television station MuchMusic that honours the best music videos. In the past, the awards including some vote-in People's Choice categories that were not specifically tied to videos. Barenaked Ladies has received three awards and several other nominations.


Year
Nominated work
Award
Result
1992
"Lovers In A Dangerous Time"
VideoFACT Award
Won
People's Choice: Best Group
Won
1993
"Brian Wilson"
People's Choice: Best Group
Won
1995
Maybe You Should Drive
Best Canadian Band Interactive Press Kit
Won
2001
"Pinch Me"
MuchMoreMusic Award
Nominated
"Too Little Too Late"
People's Choice: Favourite Canadian Group
Nominated
People's Choice: Favourite Video By A Canadian
Nominated



World Music Awards

The World Music Awards honours recording artists based on worldwide sales figures provided by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. Barenaked Ladies has received one award.


Year
Nominated work
Award
Result
2000
Barenaked Ladies
World's Best-Selling Canadian Group
Won

Beyond music


Barenaked Ladies have an authorized biography which was released in 2001, titled Public Stunts Private Stories, written by friend of the band and fellow Scarborough native Paul Myers with input from the band. It is published in Canada by Madrigal Press. An updated version of the biography was released in 2003 in the United States with a different cover, several corrections, and additional information about Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits and Everything to Everyone, which were released after the initial printing.


In May 2006, Barenaked Ladies, along with other prominent Canadian musicians, formed the Canadian Music Creators Coalition in response to plans by the Canadian government to revisit and update copyright laws. Steven Page has acted as a conduit between the CMCC and the press, urging the government to focus on the Canadian cultural scene. Page has said the formation of the CMCC was in response to what he believes is the wrong direction taken by the RIAA and the major labels, by suing fans for filesharing.


The band has also become a proponent of environmentalism, following from Page's passion for greening (he is himself a board member of WWF Canada). The band began bringing an "eco-village" organized by the Reverb organization on their 2004 Au Naturale tour. The band has since partnered with Reverb to form the "Barenaked Planet" project, which is the band's label for their project to progressively "green" their touring. Efforts the band have made include ensuring backstage materials are recycled, using biodiesel in their tour vehicles (B20 as of December 2006), and offsetting carbon emissions with wind power. This includes both band-sponsored offsets for their own emissions, as well as having volunteers sell "Barenaked Planet" stickers to concertgoers with the money going to offset their drives to the venues.


Side projects


Former member Andy Creeggan performing with The Brothers Creeggan in London, Ontario, Canada in 2002

Tyler Stewart, Jim Creeggan, and Kevin Hearn all have past or present side projects during their time off from BNL. Stewart was part of a trio called Don't Talk Dance which released a self-titled album in 1995. The album was made for charity and all profits went to Casey House, an AIDS charity in Canada. The trio is no longer together. Jim Creeggan is part of the alternative/jazz trio The Brothers Creeggan, with brother and former BNL member Andy Creeggan and friend Ian McLauchlan. Andy Creeggan also has several solo albums with the most recent one released in 2004. Hearn is the frontman of Kevin Hearn and Thin Buckle, who play a mix of alternative rock and jazz with many other eclectic influences.


Ed Robertson has a television show titled "Ed's Up!" that premiered on November 1, 2006 on the Canadian Outdoor Life Network., and he has occasionally guest-hosted on the science news show "Daily Planet" on Discovery Channel Canada. He has sporadically taken acting roles as well.


Reception


In December 2008, former Beatle Paul McCartney was asked by a session musician which bands he enjoys in the current music scene. The response was the Barenaked Ladies: "Their harmonies are right on. They could outsing us any day of the week. I don???t think John and myself ever had the sort of range they do." McCartney added that he wouldn't mind recording with the band in the future.


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