It's less than One Week until Big Bang Theory theme song writers Barenaked Ladies head to Portsmouth for Covid-19 delayed show | Big Interview

A little over two years ago, The Guide interviewed Barenaked Ladies’ drummer Tyler Stewart.

Wednesday, 16th March 2022, 5:12 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th March 2022, 5:12 pm

We were talking about the Canadian rock band’s then forthcoming UK tour, and how he was excited as they were about to go and record a new album at frontman Ed Robertson’s cabin.

The tour never happened thanks to the pandemic, but the album sessions did go ahead – and they laid the ground work for what became the band’s 16th album, Detour De Force, which was finally released last July.

And now the tour is happening too.

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In April 2020 they were supposed to be at The Pyramids here in Portsmouth, but seeing as that is now a soft-play centre, the gig has moved across town to the Guildhall.

Over the course of 33 years, the quartet has sold 15m records worldwide and built up an arsenal of hits such as If I Had $1,000,000, One Week, Pinch Me, and the theme to the hit TV show The Big Bang Theory.

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Speaking from his home in Toronto, Ed recalls, deadpan, how Covid derailed things for the four-piece.

Barenaked Ladies are at Portsmouth Guildhall on March 20, 2022. Picture by Matt Barnes

‘We did the first half of the record up at my cabin on the lake, which was an amazing way to start the record, but then, I don't know if you guys experienced this in the UK? But in Canada, we had a global pandemic.

‘Obviously like the rest of the world, everything closed and went into lockdown.

‘I thought it was going to be weird to put a record on hold and we'd be out of the vibe – it would be too different. But it ended up being something really great for the record, it afforded us the luxury of time, which is something we never have when we're making a record,’ he laughs.

‘We were able to reflect on the songs, and really see what they needed. Some things needed more attention, some things needed less.

Barenaked Ladies are at Portsmouth Guildhall on March 20, 2022. Picture by Matt Barnes

‘Songs like Live Well, we realised, well, the live off-the-floor performance is kind of perfect, we shouldn't touch it.

‘I think if we had just ploughed ahead in the mind set we were in, we would have layered a bunch of guitars and done all sorts of extra production on it. Time really helped this record become something special.

‘We went in with more than enough songs to make the record – we had 18-20 songs by the time we were hitting the studio. Nothing was written after that period, it was just that we completed the record after the lockdown began.’

Some of the album’s songs, though, have become more relevant than ever since they written.

Lead single and album opener Flip is about how we are increasingly unwilling to see other points of view and become entrenched in our own attitudes and prejudices.

Meanwhile, the follow-up single New Disaster is ‘about the distraction of modern politics coupled with the pressures of the 24-hour news cycle,’ says Ed.

‘Those songs were written in the headspace of the previous four years of political madness which we've experienced in North America, and then ended up feeling very topical for a world upside-down due to this crazy virus.

‘But they took on new meanings, and took on deeper meaning as everyone started to experience the same sort of dread I was experiencing in a political context. Then it got quite personal for everybody.’

While bandmates Jim Creeggan and Kevin Hearn share the songwriting duties with Ed, the latter also wrote with Kevin Griffin, frontman of Better Than Ezra – best known for their huge American radio hit Good.

‘We've been writing together for over 10 years now,’ says Ed. ‘He's a good friend, I've written probably at least a dozen songs with him, if not more – we've written a bunch. Some of my favourite songs of the last 10 years I've written with him.’

But Ed also created a new songwriting partnership on this album, with folk/country singer Donovan Woods, yielding the tracks God Forbid and Man Made Lake.

Ed explains how it came about: ‘I've been a huge fan of his for the past five or six years, ever since I first heard his song Put On, Cologne.

‘He presented a pretty fancy songwriting award which I got over here a couple of years back and we really hit it off and decided to do some writing together.

‘It was a really interesting process because we were writing for a Barenaked Ladies record, and when we finished the songs, Donovan said: “Those are two of my favourite songs I've written... I kind of want to put them on my record too!”

‘I said, that's awesome – that's super-cool, so both of those songs have versions on our record and Donovan's record.

‘It's really cool for me, I can enjoy a song that I co-wrote for myself but being performed by an artist I totally admire. it allows me to listen to my own songs in a totally different way.’

During lockdown the band kept in regular contact even though they couldn’t physically be together.

‘I went up and sequestered myself at the cabin where we recorded the album, so I spent 18 months up in a cabin on a lake in a forest in the middle of nowhere with my wife and kids – it was pretty spectacular.

‘But the band were in constant communication. We did these selfie-cam-jams, performances where we all performed remotely then put them together after the fact and we had a tonne of fun with that. We occasionally got together and did some virtual performances for various charity things.

‘In 30 years I've seen those guys multiple times a week and done shows constantly for three decades so it was very strange to then just be on my own.

‘On one hand it was great because I got time with my family I'd never had before, but of course I missed playing live. I love playing shows and I really missed them.

‘We've never sat on material this long without being able to tour it, so I'm really looking forward to it.’

Now though, the band are looking forward to resuming touring. It’s been four years since they last visited the UK.

‘Yeah, it feels like a decade though,' says Ed. ‘I can't wait to get back there. UK tours have been our favourites for 30 years, so we're really looking forward to getting back there.’

They then plan to resume their regular North American Last Summer on Earth tours. The 2020 iteration was of course cancelled.

'Well, one of these years we're going to be right!’ chuckles Ed when asked about them. ‘We started the Last Summer on Earth tour in 2012 at the end of the Mayan calendar as a tongue-in-cheek joke.’

If you recall, some believed the world was going to end in 2012 because the Mayan calendar was expiring.

‘But when we had to start cancelling the Last Summer on Earth tour, it started to feel less funny. We're heading out this year though, doing 35 shows or so with Gin Blossoms and Toad The Wet Sprocket opening.’

The last shows the band played together were towards the end of 2021, when they had a hometown residency.

‘We had scheduled a run of 15 shows at a theatre in downtown Toronto, but we only managed to get about eight of them done before we had to cancel the remaining shows, because Ontario, our home province went back into lockdown. But that was an enormous amount of fun to do those shows – and it was quite nice because I was home 10 minutes after show.’

Portsmouth may be a little further from home, but hopefully just as much fun.

Barenaked Ladies are at Portsmouth Guildhall on Sunday, March 20, doors 7pm. Tickets £36.18.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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