Barenaked Ladies Are the Kings of the World - Rolling Stone
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Barenaked Ladies Are the Kings of the World

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.

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