.

Barenaked Ladies Are the Kings of the World

October 15, 1998 12:00 AM ET

What would Barenaked Ladies do if they had a million dollars? The Canadian popsters might just have to refer back to the list they compiled for the fan favorite "If I Had $1,000,000" from their 1992 debut album, Gordon.

After a decade of grappling for a place in the hearts and minds of the rock & roll masses, BNL have finally reached the top -- literally. "One Week," the first single from the group's fifth album, Stunt, recently topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The album has sold more than two million copies, and after headlining all the shows that sold out on this summer's middlingly attended H.O.R.D.E. festival, BNL is now one of the fall's hottest concert tickets.

The kicker is that it couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of guys, five congenial Torontoans who are as smart as their songcraft, as funny as any of their songs and who haven't wandered too far from the street-performer sensibility from which frontmen Steven Page and Ed Robertson evolved. With keyboardist Kevin Hearn still on hiatus, recovering from leukemia treatments, the two singer-songwriters, drummer Tyler Stewart and bassist Jim Creeggan (along with fill-in Chris Brown) are basking in their newfound glory.

And the way things are going, these Ladies might even be able to put some clothes on -- though not a real green dress, that's cruel.

Does it feel different to be playing to all these sold-out crowds?

Tyler Stewart: Yes and no. We've played to these kind of large audiences before -- just never in the U.S. Well, we have in some cases, in some towns. It's exciting to know the record's doing so well and we have a nice tour that's sold-out and things are going so well. We're all pretty excited, I guess.

The most interesting aspect of BNL's success is that it's been a gradual build, which is the way it used to be, rather than the kind of one-hit wonder or one-album wonder phenomenon you see in pop these days.

Yeah, exactly. I think what you're seeing now is a lot of bands come out with a hit single and they get huge and maybe you don't ever see them again. With us, it's taken eight, ten years to build the story. It's nice that in the last three or four years, we've really toured hard down here and come back to cities three and four times a year. The word-of-mouth following really built up, and then the radio stations started to cue into that. They'd come and see a show and go "Wow, there's a lot of people here." Then they'd start getting requests for the songs and they'd play them, and the next thing you know, we're a national sensation.

And the result is an audience that's stuck with you, whereas a Matchbox 20 or someone like that has to wonder if all those fans will be around for its next record.

Well, Matchbox 20 have sold like seven million records, so I'm sure they don't give a shit what happens. It's like they're set up for life, but hopefully they'll want to keep playing music. But, yeah, I think we're a bit better situated. We have an actual audience we can play for, one we've built over the years. It's not all dependent on MTV and radio. We actually have our own thing.

Did you have any sense going into Stunt that it would explode at this level?

We knew we were going to do pretty well, 'cause the live record (Rock Spectacle) did quite well -- it sold gold or whatever -- so we thought we'd do pretty well. I think it's definitely confounded a lot of people's expectations staying in the Top Ten since it's come out and debuting at No. 3 and stuff like that. Yeah, I think it's a little bit beyond what we thought. But we'll take it.

What was the rest of the group's reaction when Ed and Steven first showed "One Week" to you?

We thought it was great, just hilarious. I'd heard stuff like that before from Ed, 'cause every night onstage he busts out improvised raps that are quite similar to that. That's the idea of the song; Ed was trying to write a serious song and Steve just said "Look, go and write. Improvise. Do what you do onstage." And the result was "One Week." We loved it right off the bat.

In hindsight, was the H.O.R.D.E. tour a good or bad experience for BNL?

The H.O.R.D.E. tour was good for us to get out and play in front of an audience this summer. I don't know how well-matched from a creative standpoint we were with any of the other bands on the bill, but it was also a nice chance to play with other people. So ultimately, it was a good thing, despite the low attendance. That was the only bummer, being involved in something I pretty much perceive as dying out in popularity amongst the general public.

It's interesting that the shows where you headlined did sell out, or come close to it.

Yeah, I don't know if that says anything or not. In a lot of markets, our fans stayed away 'cause they knew we were going to be coming back in the fall, and I don't think a lot of our people wanted to see Blues Traveler or Ben Harper or whoever else is on the bill.

How is Kevin doing?

Kevin's great. He recently received sort of a clean bill of health as far as the cancer goes; they got all the cancer from his body, so it's gone. There's no trace of it left. He's just trying to recuperate now, get his strength back. Hopefully he'll be back on the road with us in March or so.

Who's going to win the Stanley Cup this year?

Watch out for those Dallas Stars now that they have Brett Hull. Detroit's always a threat ... I'll take a long shot and say the Toronto Maple Leafs. (laughs) Hey, they started the pre-season undefeated, man. They were 5-0, so just watch out.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

prev
Music Main Next
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.

X

We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Whoomp! (There It Is)”

Tag Team | 1993

Cecil Glenn — a.k.a., "D.C." — was a cook at Magic City, a nude dance club in Atlanta, when he first heard women shout "Whoomp — there it is!" Inspired by the party chant, he and partner Steve "Roll'n" Gibson wrote a song around it. Undaunted by label rejections, they borrowed $2,500 from Glenn's parents and pressed 800 singles, which quickly sold out in the Atlanta area. A record deal came soon after. Glenn said the song was meant for positive partying. "If you're going to say 'Whoomp there it is,' and you're doing something negative, we'd rather it not have come out of your mouth."

More Song Stories entries »
 
www.expandtheroom.com