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Q&A: Tyler Stewart of Barenaked Ladies

Barenaked Ladies drummer Tyler Stewart and the rest of his bandmates are spending the summer on the road as they pen the music for an "Animal House" musical and prep a new album. So how much more fun will it get on the "Last Summer on Earth" tour with Blues Traveler, Big Head Todd and the Monsters and Cracker? // Tour dates at SoundSpike

Barenaked Ladies drummer Tyler Stewart and the rest of his bandmates are spending the summer on the road as they pen the music for an "Animal House" musical and prep a new album. So how much more fun will it get on the "Last Summer on Earth" tour with Blues Traveler, Big Head Todd and the Monsters and Cracker?

"I'm looking forward to just being out on the road for an extended period of time," Stewart told SoundSpike. "Living on a tour bus and, you know, getting terrible sleep, hanging out in parking lots and all the rock 'n' roll glamour. I can't wait. Men in their 40s hurtling along the highway bringing the rock to you."

OK, so he's being facetious. But humor is what the Ladies are known for. During the last 22 years, they have scored hits with songs like "One Week," "Pinch Me," "Brian Wilson," "If I Had $1,000,000" and the theme song to the CBS TV series "The Big Bang Theory."

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There's nothing funny about these numbers, though: Eight Juno Awards, multiple Grammy nominations and more than 14 million albums sold worldwide. Last year Barenaked Ladies -- guitarist/vocalist Ed Robertson, bassist/vocalist Jim Creeggan and keyboardist/vocalist Kevin Hearn -- released "All In Good Time," their 11th studio album and first as a four piece.

This summer, the act is pushing its rarities collection "Stop Us If You've Heard This One Before," featuring B-sides, live tracks, covers and demos. The set includes BNL's rendition of the Beastie Boys' "Shake Your Rump."

Stewart talked about the bittersweet nature of including "Shake Your Rump," the "Last Summer on Earth" jaunt and the "Animal House" musical.

It must have been fun to go through the proverbial vault and pull out tracks for "Stop Us If You've Heard This One Before."

Tyler Stewart: Listening back to those tracks, there's a lot of stuff in our vaults. What strikes me is some of the early live stuff, it was fast. Everything was fast. It was like we were such horny young men, so much testosterone flowing through our bodies. If you listen to the audience in some of those tracks -- those were the days we were playing arenas in Canada -- we were in our early 20s, our audience was teenagers and in their early 20s. It was really an enthusiastic, crazy crowd. So the energy we were getting, we put right back into music, which means the tempos are all breakneck. I love it. I'm thinking, "I don't even know if I could play like that anymore." Sometimes it gets so exciting and frenetic up there, but every song was fast and everybody singing it. There's so much rhythm and craziness. It was great. It was great to listen to that stuff. Whenever we play some of those songs live -- some of them we haven't played since the early '90s -- but when we do break out those songs, the audience is immediately transported back to a time in their youth as well. The energy is still so infectious and we're pretty excited about it.

How long did it take to decide which songs to include?

We had done a bunch of archival work. A good friend of ours and a huge fan of the band, Jay Coyle, had compiled a lot of material for us for a box set. We decided not to release the box set right away. It was due to come out right around the time Steven [Page, singer] left the band. We really felt it was important for us to put out some new material as a four piece to get our legs back and show that we're still doing this. We're still a great band and we wanted to get out there and prove ourselves. We thought at the time that releasing archival material and looking back wasn't the way to go. We wanted to keep looking forward. You get into that situation where looking back is not necessarily where you want to be. You want to continue looking forward. For us, because we've been working on this "Animal House" musical, we've been busy doing one-off shows, we haven't had a chance to write a ton of new material, although now that's starting again, too. We thought now was a good time to release some of the archival stuff. That's a little bit of a teaser. There's much more hopefully that'll come out over the next few years as well. This is our initial foray into the dusty, moldy vaults of Barenaked Ladies.

Tell me about the "Animal House" musical you're working on for Broadway.

The producers of the show approached us about the music and we were pretty excited because "Animal House" is a very beloved movie. It's one of the biggest comedies of all time. We thought, "Wow, this is an interesting foray to the left in terms of something different." We've never written for a Broadway musical before. They wanted all original songs. All new songs. We thought what a great challenge. We're working with some really fabulous people. The director, he's a Tony Award-winning director for "The Book of Mormon." The producers are some heavyweights out there. We really thought, "What a great opportunity." It's been great. We'd been there from the ground up working on the material and working with the writer and the director. It's been a really great collaborative process. It's a little bit different than the usual getting together to write for a rock 'n' roll album. Obviously there's a bunch of other stiff to take into account -- character development, the stage. All that stuff. It's been real eye-opening and a really intensely creative experience.

It sounds challenging.

Oh it was. Definitely. It's a lot of work. You're stepping out of your comfort zone really, right? Normally you write music for the band with our own voices. With this, we're writing for characters and a general vibe of the show, whereas normally we just write good songs for ourselves. They'll definitely reflect us and sound like Barenaked Ladies. They'll have different people singing them, the cast members and all that stuff. Taking all that into account, the overall message of the production and the plot and all that stuff, it's definitely been challenging. It's a whole new thing for us.

Are you working on a new album as well?

We're writing some new songs as well. Hopefully, we'll start working in earnest in fall on the new record. I think we're going to record a new song sometime in the next couple weeks to try to have out for the summer tour, which is kind of cool. We've been busy, working hard.

On "Stop Us If You've Heard This One Before," you've included a cover of the Beastie Boys' "Shake Your Rump." That must have been bittersweet because the album came out around the same time that Adam "MCA" Yauch died.

Certainly was. Well, moreso, it's just really hard to lose a guy like MCA, like Adam Yauch. It's just too bad. He's so young and he's such a creative dude, such a part of an influential band. The Beastie Boys and their whole ethic and their whole attitude, sense of humor, lyrics, their creativity were very influential to Barenaked Ladies. We've covered that pretty much note for note because we love those guys. We loved playing that song live almost 20 years ago. In some ways, I felt it was a nice tribute: Here are these guys who are young and totally inspired by an amazing band. It's a bit of a tribute to them. I hope it's seen that way. I hope that it's something that people use to remember how great the Beastie Boys are.

What can we expect from your live show on the "Last Summer on Earth" tour?

Well, expect the unexpected. That's Barenaked Ladies. Every show is different. This summer you're going to get the hits. You're going to get the songs you want to hear and a song or two from this rarities collection. [We may] dust one off that we haven't played in forever. That should be kind of cool. You know, we've done everything in the past from choreographed dance numbers to acoustic sets to covers. I think you're looking at a mixed bag this summer. Keep it fun, keep it interesting for everybody.

 tour dates and tickets

July 2012
9 - Chicago, IL - Charter One Pavilion at Northerly Island (Last Summer on Earth)
11 - Vienna, VA - Filene Center at Wolf Trap (Last Summer on Earth)
12 - Raleigh, NC - Raleigh Amphitheater (Last Summer on Earth)
13 - Charlotte, NC - Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre (Last Summer on Earth)
14 - Charleston, SC - Family Circle Stadium (Last Summer on Earth)
16 - Alpharetta, GA - Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park (Last Summer on Earth)
17 - Tampa, FL - 1-800 ASK-GARY Amphitheatre (Last Summer on Earth)
18 - West Palm Beach, FL - Cruzan Amphitheatre (Last Summer on Earth)
20 - The Woodlands, TX - The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion (Last Summer on Earth)
21 - Austin, TX - Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater (Last Summer on Earth)
22 - Dallas, TX - Gexa Energy Pavilion (Last Summer on Earth)
24 - Albuquerque, NM - Sandia Casino Amphitheater (Last Summer on Earth)
25 - Phoenix, AZ - Comerica Theatre (Last Summer on Earth)
27 - Universal City, CA - Gibson Amphitheater at Universal CityWalk (Last Summer on Earth)
28 - Las Vegas, NV - The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel/Casino (Last Summer on Earth)
29 - Valley Center, CA - Harrah's Rincon Casino and Resort (Last Summer on Earth)
31 - Saratoga, CA - The Mountain Winery (Last Summer on Earth)

August 2012
2 - Boise, ID - Idaho Botanical Garden (Last Summer on Earth)
3 - Redmond, WA - Marymoor Amphitheatre (Last Summer on Earth)
4 - Sandpoint, ID - Memorial Field (Festival at Sandpoint)
7 - Apple Valley, MN - Minnesota Zoo Amphitheatre (Last Summer on Earth)
9 - Council Bluffs, IA - Harrah's Casino - Stir Concert Cove (Last Summer on Earth)
10 - West Allis, WI - Wisconsin State Fair Park (Wisconsin State Fair/Last Summer on Earth)
11 - Clarkston, MI - DTE Energy Music Theatre (Last Summer on Earth)
12 - Indianapolis, IN - Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park (Last Summer on Earth)
14 - Wantagh, NY - Nikon at Jones Beach Theater (Last Summer on Earth)
15 - Philadelphia, PA - Penn's Landing (Last Summer on Earth)
17 - Bethlehem, PA - Sands Bethlehem Event Center (Last Summer on Earth)
18 - Boston, MA - Bank of America Pavilion (Last Summer on Earth)
19 - Bangor, ME - Downtown Bangor/Bangor Waterfront (Last Summer on Earth)

 tour dates and tickets

     

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