Call and Answer: Talking with Barenaked Ladies' Tyler Stewart [Music]

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When Barenaked Ladies take the stage Saturday night at the Louisville Palace you can expect one thing - no not a medley of fellow fellow Canadian Anne Murray's hits - a fun show. It's a show that is usually just as fun for the band itself as it is for their fans.

This week I talked with drummer Tyler Stewart about a variety of topics including the band's rebirth after a tumultuous couple years, advice for young drummers, and women's hockey. He was cordial and funny, perfectly befitting this amusing and unassuming band.

Louisville.com: I don't know if the press is supposed to say it, but I've been a fan since the early 90s and have the original Gordon album cover.

Tyler: Awesome.

Louisville.com: I just turned 40 the other and day, and you guys are very similar in age. One thing that's always been unique about you guys is your ability to seem to relate to fans. I know you've got the Ships and Dip cruises, and on one of your blogs, you mention about fans patiently waiting for the band by buses after shows. Do you feel your band is more assessable than others? Do you get a sense of that?

Tyler: Well, I think we certainly don't go out of our way to exclude ourselves. We don't have a big deal of security and eight-foot tall bodyguards to keep us away from our fans. We very much involve our fans in the whole process. We go online and we talk; we're generally reachable. I think the fans like that. We've been doing this for a long enough time that we have some pretty hardcores who follow us all over the place. You know, come to 10 shows-15 shows in a row. I think those people really appreciate the accessibility. But in general I think the vibe of the shows, the live shows, it really feels like you're hanging out with the band because we take the time to talk to each other and talk to the audience while we're on the stage. I think it makes a big difference.

Louisville.com: Obviously you've had a tumultuous two years, and I wonder if what happened to Steven a couple years ago [arrest on drug charges] - if it happened in another band maybe it wouldn't have been such a big media deal, but it was because you guys are the type of band you take home to mom.

Tyler: We don't have an intense rock and roll image like say Aerosmith or any of the other bands who abuse drugs and booze, but you know, it was still a shocker for us. But you know we've moved on from that - not only in the fact that I think it was a onetime apparition, a blip on the radar - but also since we've moved on as a four-piece, we've really kind of exercised all of that shit from our whole being as a band. So the four of us now are really feeling tight and positive, and the material came out of that tumultuous two years is pretty emotional and rich, and it's a testament to the survival of the band through that time and is also a comment on some of the emotions we were going through during that period.

Louisville.com: Well, technically, you all were a four-piece on Born on a Pirate Ship, but how did that change the studio time with All in Good Time?

Tyler: The studio experience was absolutely central to the rebirth of this band. It was a total, concentrated, and joyous and musical event. And recording at Jim's [bassist Jim Creegan] house was really incredible because it allowed us to really set up shop and it felt homey, and I had the barbecue going so I fed everybody, which is also a real bonus to the whole thing. In general, it was really a good time. It was a really unifying point in our history.

Louisville.com: One thing that's come across over the years is that you seem to generally like each other and that always came across on stage. The couple of times I've seen you guys, you did a lot of improv, and obviously there might be a slightly different dynamic with a quartet, but can fans expect the same sort of things they would see in your previous shows?

Tyler: Yeah, absolutely, I think the live situation always benefitted from the fact that we liked to entertain each other, make each other laugh. And now since the band has made a real kind of recommitment to being even more supportive of each other and be more supportive musically of different directions, I think it gets reflected in the live shows. Live shows are real positive and an entertaining and energetic experience.

Louisville.com: Hopefully you all will do Four Seconds [a new song off All in Good Time] so you get a little chance to do some lead vocals, too. That would be nice.

Tyler: Yeah man, we've been doing that one. It's been really fun.

Louisville.com: Maybe an encore of Allergies [a song on Snacktime! with a Stewart vocal], too?

Tyler: Yeah, we haven't played that one in a while, but that's a fun one, too.

Louisville.com: It really is. Snacktime! Is a really good CD, and I have an eight-year-old and a soon to be three-year-old, and one thing I notice about you all is that - as I mentioned - you're similar in age, but you have kids too, and as much as you like playing your music, being on the road can be tough. I assume that has changed over the years - the good and bad part of it - because of the family.

Tyler: Definitely, it never gets easier, Kevin. That's the thing. That's something that's surprising is that after all of these years of doing it, you'd think you'd get used to it; it would be like old hat. But my kids are pretty great; they really understand what I do, and they know that I go away and do something I love, and they love the band. And Snacktime! was a great experience for them because they got to come in and sing on it which was really exciting for them, but when you have to leave and a dance recital is coming up or there's an important school event or a big hockey game or something like that, you have to miss it and it's tough.

Louisville.com: I've read that you helped coach their hockey team.

Tyler: Yeah, I helped coach one of my girl's teams, and I coach my wife as well on her hockey team. That's a lot of fun. It's Senior Ladies Hockey on a Monday night; it's like one person in the stands. I kind of live and die for it; I'm totally into it.

Louisville.com: So you won't be able to go to a Blue Jackets game tonight obviously with the show - well they're out of the playoffs anyway, so that won't even affect it.

Tyler: Frankly, I don't know what happened. It looked pretty promising last year when Columbus made it - even though they lost in the first round to Detroit, I expected at least to see more playoff appearances in a row.

Louisville.com: In Louisville, here, we haven't had minor league hockey in a few years, so we're not the most knowledable about the NHL. So, I apologize.

Tyler: I know, but you say in Kentucky hockey is not #1 there. I know that probably it's - I'm going to say college basketball?

Louisville.com: I think that would be a fine guess. That's exactly right. It's very serious around here.

Tyler: So that would be the #1 sport?

Louisville.com: Yes, I think definitely - no question between the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky, you are correct. Very insightful I might add. Speaking of Louisville, do you have any recollection of playing at the Thunderdome in Louisville.

Tyler: That's a club, right?

Louisville.com: Yes, that's exactly right. That's the first time I saw you in '97, and it was like a hole with a covering over it, and you all did a great job. But you all made fun of the name I remember, as well you should - like Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

Tyler: Yeah, the Thunderdome. Was it '97?

Louisville.com: Yes like 13 years ago exactly.

Tyler: That's the last time we played there, right? We haven't played there since.

Louisville.com: That's right. One thing I find interesting, on the new album cover, I'm wondering, do photographers tell bands to look in opposite directions and sort of have a disinterested look on their faces because you're not the anomaly.

Tyler: [Laughs] You know - [Laughs] - That's a funny question. They don't actually give us the specific instructions, but because bands have seen so many album covers over the years, it's just second nature. You start to get more menacing looking and you look the other way. It is kind of funny. I might use that direct instruction sometime if I'm ever working with a band "Try to look in opposite directions of each other and look as disinterested as possible."

Louisville.com: I have three nephews in music - two who are in the drumline at school, and one who is a very, very good drummer for being just 15. Is there any specific advice you could give an up-and-coming drummer?

Tyler: For drummers, it's way more important to play the song and be groovy and make the song groove than it is to be explosive and all over the place. I think if you're in a band that warrants that, that's fine, but essentially the most important thing for a drummer is to groove and to be sensitive to the song - enjoy the song you're playing. Think of it as a song and not as a drum part.

Louisville.com: In the years in following you guys, I've noticed that you in particular seem to have a great time. Whenever I see you, you really appear to love what you're doing. It doesn't seem like any act at all. I'm guessing you're having a great time doing what you want to do as far as being a musician.

Tyler: Well, I feel incredibly blessed to be doing it for twenty years - playing music for a living. It's a great job, and it's also a real privilege. Not many people get to do it, and that recovery we went through from the last couple years was rediscovering that and rediscovering the joy and fun because after twenty years together - it's like a marriage, man - you have to find ways to keep it exciting. You have to find different things other than raunchy sex and booze and food and 63-inch plasma screen TVs with 24-hour sports. You've got to finds things that keep you satisfied and interested. And you know the last couple years, I think by focusing on the music and by focusing on each other, we've agreed to support each other and move forward, So, there you go. That's one of the ways we ensure that we are having a good time, and I think now more than ever we've really embraced that.

Louisville.com: Even as a young band, you had a lot of amusing songs obviously, but there was still some real weight and insight and that came out in quite a few early songs that some people aren't as familiar with - When I Fall, The Same Thing, stuff like that was really, really good. Just wondering if early on were you ever concerned that people may deem you all as that wacky band from Canada as opposed to "they're humorous, but they're also really good musicians?"

Tyler: Yeah I think we've suffered that definitely in the past. That might be through our own fault in some respect - the image that we project, but any real fan of the band knows that we've always had the deeper, more emotional songs, and they know the subject matter isn't always light and fun. So, we don't worry about it anymore. Some people made up their minds about the band a long time ago and just write us off as a novelty act every time we come through, and that's fine. They can go off and listen to and enjoy their miserable 80 rock, and we'll go on having fun and serving up a wide palette of music and entertainment, and we're happy with that.

Louisville.com: I know you have to go and you get tons of questions, and they're often probably the same ones when you do the press thing. Is there a question that you wanted to be asked, but no one has asked you it? The Stanley Cup playoffs or anything?

Tyler: Well, why do people native to your area, call it a LOOWULVUL as opposed to Louy-ville or Louis-ville? It's LOOOWYVULl, and I was just wondering how that crazy pronunciation came about. That's the only question that I really wanted to be asked.

Louisville.com: Well that's a great question. I may be the anomaly here, but I always say Louy-ville. But a lot of people say Louavul.

Tyler: Looavul! It's almost like L-O-O-W-A- Ville.

Louisville.com: There are t-shirts here that have it spelt in various ways so that it's phonetically different. It would be nice if they had one for you at The Palace. Tyler , I appreciate talking to you and look forward to seeing the show Saturday. I know you're busy, and I appreciate the time very much. And thanks for all the years of good music.

Tyler: Thank you, Kevin.

Louisville.com: Good talking to you. Thanks

The show with Barenaked Ladies and opening act Ingrid Michaelson will begin at 8:00 P.M. Saturday evening. Check out the Palace website for ticket info. And if you see Tyler walking along Fourth Street before the show, tell him how you pronounce "Louisville." He seems generally interested.

About Kevin Sedelmeier
I am polite, and I'm rarely late. I like to eat ice cream, and really enjoy a nice pair of slacks.
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