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Published: Saturday, 5/8/2010

BARENAKED LADIES: Veteran pop rock band rolls into the Toledo Zoo

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Tyler Stewart loves what he does.

"I live and die by it," he says. "I'm so into it. If anyone actually saw how into it I was they'd probably start making fun of me."

And that's just him talking about coaching his wife's hockey team. (He is Canadian, after all.) Imagine if you got him going about being the drummer for the multiplatinum-selling Barenaked Ladies, who come to town Friday for a show at the Toledo Zoo.

The quirky pop rock group out of the Great White North that shot to fame with such hits as "One Week" and "If I Had $1,000,000" will arrive here with a new album, "All in Good Time," and without one of its founding members. Steven Page left the band last year to pursue solo projects after facing drug charges that were eventually dropped.

Those who remain — Stewart on drums; co-founder Ed Robertson on guitar; Jim Creeggan on bass, and Kevin Hearn on keyboard and guitar — say the change to a four-man band actually has been creatively liberating.

Stewart, a father of two, took some time before a recent show in Hamilton, Ontario, to talk with The Blade about the departure of Page, the band's new album, and his feelings about the Wiggles.

Q: I'm wondering how the loss of Steven Page affected the band musically.

A: I think the great thing about one less guy is that there's more space for everybody else to step up to the plate. That's been the way we've really been experiencing this whole thing. It's been a real opening and creatively inspiring time for the band. Both Kevin and Jim are avid songwriters and singers and I sing myself, and we all play multi-instruments so the extra space has been a real godsend for us.

Q: Some of the reviews of "All in Good Time" have called the album more mature than past offerings. Do you agree with that?

A: [Laughs] Every album we put out they say that, man. ... I'm like OK, whatever, I guess so. We keep getting older, we're not getting any younger. This is our 20th year in the business and 20th year as a band. We're all fathers and we have lots of life experience, so I guess that's reflected in the music every time we put out a record. And also because of the image of some of our earlier material as kind of more humor-based or more energetic and fun, etc. There's still lots of that coming out, but I guess there's a little more ... sober material, reflective material on this record.

Q: With "You Run Away," are you guys looking to send any kind of message with that song?

A: Not necessarily looking to send a message. It's a song about disappointment in relationships and having to move on and sometimes just admitting that you need to move on and start fresh.

Q: Did that grow out of what happened with Page?

A: Somewhat. Yeah, I'd say somewhat, but it's not entirely about that. I'd say it certainly informed that song and some of the other songs on the record as well. But ... we're not off on a revenge album.

Q: Everyone who buys tickets for your Toledo concert ... online gets a free download of your new album. Can you explain a little bit about that marketing strategy?

A: It's a way to get people to hear the music. These days no one really buys CDs anymore. ... You get it for free on the Internet or you download it from iTunes or some other place. [This] is a great way to also preview the new songs so that we can play them live and people are more familiar with them.

Q: What about the quality of [downloaded music versus CDs]? Did that bug you at all that it's not quite the same?

A: Doesn't bother me in the slightest. I thought it would bother me. It doesn't. Because what do most people listen to music on these days? Their computer speakers or crappy little earbud-headphones or whatever, so I really am not at all disappointed in the quality. I have a really great stereo at home with some expensive speakers and, you know, DVDs sound great on it. Explosions sound good on it. So there we go.

Q: Before "All in Good Time," you guys actually did a children's album. What led you to do "Snacktime" back in 2008?

A: Like I said before, we all have kids so we're dads, and I think we wanted to put out something that wasn't impossible for adults to listen to because it wasn't crappy kids' music. So we set about making a fun record for children that parents would also enjoy. ... It ended up winning a Juno Award here in Canada, which is kind of our equivalent to the Grammys.

Q: You mention that it's not crappy children's music. Have you had a lot of experience with that with your own kids?

A: I think sometimes what happens is kids get talked down to in music or that artists put out music for kids and they don't really have a sense for what kids like. My kids listen to everything from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to the Cars to Beyonce to Justin Bieber to High School Musical and Camp Rock and all that stuff.

There's a very wide palate, wide swath of music. One of the things they don't listen to [is] some of that kind of lowest-common-denominator children's music. I don't want to point at the Wiggles, but I'm going to have to invoke the "W"-word here and say that I think we aim a little higher than they do. ... Music just shouldn't be crappy, whether it's for kids or adults.

Barenaked Ladies and special guest Ingrid Michaelson will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Toledo Zoo. Tickets are $37.50, $47.50, and $55, and are available at Ticketmaster outlets, 800-745-3000, livenation.com, or the zoo's main box office near the Anthony Wayne Trail entrance. Ticket sales and will-call move to the zoo box office at the Broadway Street entrance the night of the show at 6 p.m. Information: toledozoo.org.

Contact Ryan E. Smith at:

ryansmith@theblade.com

or 419-724-6103



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