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Bare Naked Ladies

Barenaked Ladies

As sardonic songwriters par excellence Barenaked Ladies recently returned with a new album Everything to Everyone and TotalMusic-Online’s David Davies talked Hoffner basses, the joy of throwing out the rule book and the trauma of life on the road with the band’s Jim Creeggan

As a band with a formidable reputation for live shows – where their well-honed inter-band schtick and fondness for all manner of onstage hi-jinks provide a perfect counterpoint to songs that range from witty, post-slacker singalongs to surprisingly heartfelt ballads – you might expect that the Barenaked Ladies’ bassist/arranger Jim Creeggan would be chomping at the bit to get back out there after a three-year lay-off. This would, however, be rather wide of the mark. “I have been terrible at touring in the past – I always fight it like the plague,” he admits shortly before crossing the Atlantic for a series of British shows. “When it’s coming up, I approach it like a looming cloud of doom. But once I’m out there, I usually have my tricks to enjoy it – some kind of little project, be it knitting or tap-dancing.”

In facing the testing demands of the road once again, it can’t hurt that the band is touting one of its most diverse albums yet, Everything to Everyone. Conceived in a more informal fashion to 2000’s Maroon, singer/guitarists and principal songwriters Steve Page and Ed Robertson opted to bring the whole band – including Creeggan, multi-instrumentalist Kevin Hearn and drummer Tyler Stewart – into the creative process from day one. The result, while recognisably the work of the band that produced sharp, finely-crafted singles like ‘One Week’ and ‘Brian Wilson’ – the former their true breakthrough hit in 1998, the latter a song so beloved of the band’s devotees that the Beach Boys’ founder himself has taken to covering it in his live shows – finds the group stretching itself, employing more ambitious arrangements and evidently much less concerned with the eternal and often self-defeating quest for the ‘radio hit’.

Barenaked Ladies

Given that, no matter how much they have developed their music on this latest album, Barenaked Ladies’ default sound veers towards what was once termed ‘FM radio rock’, Creeggan’s own list of influences is a little unexpected. There are unlikely to be any objections to the presence of legendary (and legendarily troubled) jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius (“he was totally influential and made everyone reconsider the instrument”). But what about ‘challenging’ – in every possible sense for this particular writer – fusty old prog-rock trio Rush? It can’t simply be because they share Canadian heritage with Barenaked Ladies: “I don’t go back to it that often, but whenever I do, I get a little teary-eyed. Of course, the prog-rock is an acquired taste.”

So, as Creeggan steels himself for life couped up on a tourbus once again and contemplates what hobby he should pursue this time – TotalMusic reckons that the eminently respectable card game of patience might be suited to a band that doesn’t seem inclined to indulge in more clichéd pursuits like ejecting TVs out of hotel bedroom windows – who would he like to work with should Barenaked Ladies ever decide to hang up their rock’n’roll shoes? “Jane Siberry – I love her stuff, she is always testing the boundaries. I actually got to work with Sarah McLachlan, and she’s a great artist.” Creeggan pauses, laughing: “You’ll notice I’m saying all women – I have enough of working with men!”

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