Barenaked Ladies' drummer Tyler Stewart talks to eGigs

ahead of their UK tour next month on Monday 16 August 2010

eGigs got the chance to have a chat with Tyler Stewart the drummer for the Canadian music group Barenaked Ladies who head to these shores next month for a tour of the UK, giving fans here the first chance to see the new line-up now that singer Steven Page has left has left the band.
The Barenaked Ladies released their eleventh album earlier this year entitled 'All in Good Time' which is their first as a four-piece featuring Ed Robertson (guitar/vocals), Jim Creeggan (bass/vocals), Kevin Hearn (keyboard/guitar/vocals) and Tyler on drums and vocals.

How are you?
Pretty good thanks, we're just doing this American tour, and it's going well. We're just wrapping this tour up this weekend, we've been on the road in North America since April. We've had a bunch of shows, we've been pretty since the beginning of the year. We now take a few weeks off before we come and see you guys.

How are audiences responding to Stephen Page not being there any more?
Well, the new band has gone over really, really well. As a band, I think, we're in such a great place. We're very happy, and we're firing on all cylinders because for the first time in a number of years there's no real issues between any of us, and we're committed to each other . We feel like we're expanding as a band because each of us is doing more. I think that's really coming across in the shows. So, the response from the audience has been tremendous, and we've got a lot of really good feedback from our fans. They think the band are sounding better than ever.

Obviously, you're coming to the UK in September, what do you remember about previous visits to the UK?
Always great. I remember that the sandwiches available at roadside stops, rest stops, are much better than they are in Canada and United States.

Really, you must have real bad catering over there then!
Yeah, I tell you. Chicken tikka or a prawn salad sandwich, or a bit chicken and sweetcorn always a good one. But, in general, the audiences over there are amazing. I think the band gets a real sense that the audience listens in the UK. Unlike say in Canada, where they are a listening audience as well, if you're doing something they (UK audiences) like, their approval is immediate. And, if you are doing something they don't like their disapproval is also just as immediate. So it's a challenge to play in the UK, but it's also one that we embrace, because we really feel we have to be on our toes and putting on our best shows. We look forward to coming back.

You've got songs from the new album, 'All In Good time' obviously in the set, but can fans also expect a few old favourites?
Absolutely, we're sprinkling the set with them. We're trying to play as much material as possible. Obviously, the thing that's making us the most excited these days are the new songs from 'All In Good Time' so we are playing quite a few of them. But, we are also going back through the catalogue, for the hits but also songs that maybe have been overlooked over the years, and present a new challenge for us as a four piece to pull off.

What's been your most memorable gig to date on this tour?
We had a couple of really great shows, actually, one two nights ago in Boston which has always been a great for us, but it's been a number of years since we've been back and the audience came out in their droves. It was one of the biggest crowds of the whole tour. We probably had around 8,000 people there, it was really great. It was a beautiful warm summer's night down by the water, and definitely a memorable evening. Playing in the summertime is great because quite often you'll hit the stage when there is still a little bit of light out, and you can see the audience, and that makes for a more intimate experience, and it's the best of all worlds. A beautiful summer's night, and you're outside playing rock music.

You're never tempted to play UK summer festivals outdoors like that?
We sure are! In the past we've played Glastonbury a number of times, and we've played T in The Park a number of times as well. I love festivals in the UK, they're great, there's never a larger group of dirtier, happier, mind-altered people to play for. But like I say, it's been a fair few years since we even toured in the summer because we all have children, and you know the children are all home from school in the summer. So we've tried to, the last few years, spend some time at home after being away for so many years that the band has been around. We decided to always take some time in the summer, but now we're back to it touring again in the summer, I wouldn't rule that out, perhaps next summer, we'll try and come over and catch some of those awesome festivals you guys have.

You songs are quite often sprinkled with humour what comedians make you laugh?
(Laughs) Interesting! Well, if we were comedians our careers would be over by now. We're quite fortunate in that there's humour in most of songs, and also in the live show, but it's more for us. To keep us interested night after night, we try and engage each other, there are lots of comedians over the years we've taken inspiration from over the years. Quite a few of them British guys, like Sasha Baron Cohen, Ricky Gervais, and right now we're pretty into Lewis C.K. he's awesome. We love his take on domestic life. The Mighty Boosh guys are incredible and they're making us laugh right now, it's a pot-pourri. The comedy for us isn't the number one goal in the music, but it certainly has been a feature of it. I'd say wit and humour are essential to a lot of musical acts. People over the years like Squeeze, or Elvis Costello,or Beck for instance, bands like that who have managed to be witty but also write some great songs. That's always been our goal to come up with the best possible song, and if it happens to be funny great, if it doesn't, which a lot of it doesn't, that's fine too.

What's been the funniest thing to happen on stage?
We've had some craziness over the years. One year we had a giant inflatable head on the stage as a prop, and we all emerged out of the mouth at the beginning of the show, and one time during the show this rather inebriated woman managed to sneak backstage and came strutting out on stage out of the mouth, and down the steps of this giant inflatable head, in the middle of a song and proceeded to throw her arms around our bass player. I saw it all happening out of the corner of my eye, and thought, "What's this? Is this some sort of gag that the crew had perpetrated on us?" But, lo and behold it was a very stealthy inebriated woman who managed to get up and profess her love for our bass player.

You've also got an LED powered light rig you use on stage, will you bringing that with you?
I hope so, I think we are, I don't actually know the answer to that question, but I hope we are, because the great thing about the LED lights is that they use about a tenth of the power of an incandescent bulb lighting rig, and you can do all kinds of cool stuff with them, you can programme video into them, and the fact that they're so lightweight and use less power is a big plus for planet Earth. I hope we get to bring it, but it's all about space on our truck.

Do you get paid more if you use less power?
I don't think so, but obviously there's a certain amount of the house expenses, they call it the 'house nut'. But I imagine our 'house nut' would come down, so yes maybe we do get paid a bit more. We're not going to line our pockets that way, but at the same time, anytime we're saving energy in this whole life we lead is a good thing.

What do you like most about playing live?
I've been doing this for twenty years. Sometimes you forget the daily grind of this job, all the ups and downs personally and business wise within the band. You know, the fact that you're away from your family, living on a tour bus or living in a hotel room, eating at the Granary. It's not always glamorous and that can affect how you view the experience. Sometimes you can be on stage, not feeling the greatest, worn down, or burnt out, and then all you have to do is look up, and look into the eyes of the people on the front row, or see a group of people celebrating or getting down to your music, or see someone standing in the crowd with tears streaming down their face. All of a sudden, you forget all that other stuff, and realise you're making such an immediate impact on people's life. Whether the impact is a few drinks and dancing, or whether the impact is they're hearing a song that means a lot to them. It really makes you step outside yourself, you're so much better off after that. I think that's the best thing about playing live, that immediate contact.

What essentials do you take on tour with you?
Our thing on the bus is usually a few good movies. There's been some good music documentaries, so we watched the Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers documentary the Peter Bogdanovich which is four hours long, and it seemed like four minutes because we were so into it. Kevin (Hearn) has been bringing along the classic albums collection. So, we've been watching Bob Marley in the studio, you know, or the story behind Paul Simon's Graceland, those have been really indispensable for me, I've really enjoyed watching those. That, and of course good snacks, and refreshing beverages.

Talking of classic albums, what would you say are your personal top three classic albums?
Me personally, my top three records? Wow! That's an intense one. I'm going to have to go with Neil Young's 'After The Gold Rush'. I'm going to have to say a weird one Ryan Adams' a couple of albums ago, it's called 'Easy Tiger'. We're going to have to mix it up a little bit maybe, with Marvin Gaye's 'Greatest Hits' (chuckles) just in case there's a girl on the desert island with me.

Have you written any of the tracks on the new album yourself?
In the past the writing was dominated by Stephen, and Ed and with the departure of Stephen, it's kind of opened things up a little more for us, and Kevin is a very prolific writer, and has a bunch of songs on this record, and Jim (Creegan) also has managed to get a couple on there. But, I'm not really what you might call a songwriter first. I definitely facilitate in bringing many of the songs to life though, and I feel very happy with that role, because you need some cooks amongst the chefs. You need some people to support and cheer lead. I think we're in a less competitive atmosphere as a band, in terms of who gets on where, and it's certainly more of a group effort now, and well contribute to all the songs. So on this record I certainly get to sing a lot more, and I've been voxing the chorus, and doing substantial beck up vocals all over, and I find that very satisfying. I have written a few songs in the past for the band, but it's something that I go in and out of. Sometimes, I want to be a writer and then I want to be a good band mate and supporter. I think it's the kind of thing where if it's going to happen it'll be inspired, and it'll come out and if not, I'm always there for everyone else.

My last question is, if you had a million dollars what would you spend it on?
Ha, he, ha, the song is kind of right, a nice house with furniture, although these days it's tough to get a nice house for anywhere close to a million dollars, at least that's true in Toronto where I live. Right now if I had a million dollars, the first thing I would do would be to buy a comfortable chair. Back in the early part of the decade, I furnished a house and got very fancy Italian designer furniture, and now I'm turning into an old decrepit man, and realising I would like a lazy boy chair that reclines like your dad used to fit in. I think that's the first thing I would buy a lay boy chair, and then maybe a boat for the cottage. The rest, throw it in the bank and let it accumulate some paltry interest.

Thank you for your time and I hope you have a good tour in the UK. Hopefully see you on the tour at some point.
Thanks man, well we're famed for our live shows so come along.

Barenaked Ladies play the following UK dates:

Thu 9 September Colston Hall, Bristol
Fri 10 September O2 Academy (1, 2, and 3), Birmingham
Sat 11 September Southampton Guildhall, Southampton
Mon 13 September Corn Exchange & Brighton Dome, Brighton
Tue 14 September Rock City, Nottingham
Wed 15 September HMV Apollo Hammersmith, London
Fri 17 September O2 Academy (and Underground), Leeds
Sat 18 September Manchester Apollo, Manchester
Sun 19 September Corn Exchange, Cambridge
Tue 21 September O2 Academy (1 & 2) Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne
Wed 22 September HMV Picture House, Edinburgh
Fri 24 September O2 Academy Glasgow

Tickets are priced at £25, except London (£28.50).
To buy tickets, click here.

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article by: Scott Williams

published: 16/08/2010 14:25

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