LondonNet Music Interview
Speaking with Barenaked Ladies...
on Barenaked for the Holidays
TYLER STEWART plays drums and sings backing vocals for the Barenaked Ladies. He is an original member of the Toronto quintet who have sold over 10 million albums worldwide in their 16 years of existence. Their biggest hits were their multi-platinum 1995 live album, Rock Spectacle, and 1998’s Stunt, which featured such hits as “Brian Wilson”, “If I had a million dollars”, and “One Week”. Their 8th and most recent album, Barenaked for the Holidays, finds them in a festive mood as they play original and traditional Christmas, Hanukkah, and seasonal songs. LondonNet caught up with him at the Barenaked Ladies’ December 2nd gig at the Shepherds Bush Empire.
LondonNet: First, the obvious question- why a Holiday album at this stage in your career?
Tyler Stewart: I think because we had a lot of original holiday songs and some demand from our fans. We’d been playing these songs live and they said we should have a Christmas album. So we did and it could be brought out every year and have some longevity to it.
LN: The album is quite an eclectic mix of songs with traditional and original Hanukkah, Christmas, and winter songs. Did you set out with the goal of not making a stereotypical holiday album or did it just happen?
TS: Because of the amount of original songs it makes it different. We just wanted to make something that wasn’t a throwaway album. We wanted something challenging, but also accessible and fun.
LN: What was it like to work for an independent label? Did it give you freedom you hadn’t had in the past?
TS: Well, the independent label is us, so yes it did (laughs). We just felt like it was the real old days when we’d go record songs without any pressure. We recorded at Steven’s country house, so it was an informal atmosphere, and a lot of fun.
LN: You guys have been quite politically outspoken in your opposition to George W. Bush and the war in Iraq. Is there any possibility of future BNL songs being more politically oriented?
TS: It’s not something you can predict. [Guitarists, Lead Vocalists, and principal songwriters] Steven [Page] and Ed [Robertson] write what they’re feeling at the time. I wouldn’t say yes or no, either way. We’re certainly not afraid of it.
LN: I saw it mentioned on the internet, and you can’t believe everything you read on the internet, but have you [Barenaked Ladies] indeed been pegged to have a pilot episode of your own variety show?
TS: Yes, we’re a shooting a pilot in January for a musical variety show for the Fox network. Hopefully, they’ll like it. The Muppet Show was a big inspiration, as well as shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm and the Larry Sanders Show, just good, funny TV shows. This is an opportunity to show off other aspects of our talent, rather than just playing music. Hopefully, this will be a combination of aspects of what we’re doing live with humour and good television.
LN: Continuing on the subject of the cross-media pollination, how does it feel to have “One Week” in [the Playstation 2 video game] Karaoke Revolution? How did that happen?
TS: It’s great. It’s a challenging song, so it’s fun for a lot of people to figure out how to do. Since it’s a video game, a challenge is good. It’s another way to get our songs out there away from the traditional avenues of radio, videos, and CDs. CDs shouldn’t be the bricks and mortar. Non-traditional avenues will be the key to our survival.
LN: On [2000’s] Maroon and [2003’s] Everything to Everyone, your lyrics seemed to have a greater deal of seriousness to them than in the past. Have you matured with age? Or did people really just only pay attention to jokes in the past?
TS: I think the people who only paid attention to the jokey songs are gone now, and the people who paid attention to the band as a whole are still here. So we’re writing for them, we’re writing for our new fans, and we’re obviously writing for ourselves. We’re matured as a band; but haven’t forgotten the magic of the group: being able to move from heavy to light as well as serious to more fun.
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