Barenaked Ladies persevere with dignity and humor 

No respect? No problem...

In the band's 20-plus years in the music industry, almost no one has ever said the Barenaked Ladies were cool. But the Canadian quartet, previously a quintet, never much cared for being hip; after all, they'd already triumphed in the popularity contest. They made it big in their native land with an energetic debut, Gordon, in 1992, subsequently releasing albums every two years until their American breakthrough Stunt in 1998.

Their sound was catchy, their humor infectious, and their songs ubiquitous. From "One Week" to "If I Had $1,000,000" to supplying the theme song to one of the most popular shows currently on television, The Big Bang Theory, there's scarcely a corner of pop culture BNL has left untouched. In Canada, they even have their own flavor of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. And it's delicious.

Drummer Tyler Stewart calls after a soundcheck before one evening's sold-out show. He's in a good mood, receiving plenty of positive reviews for BNL's most recent album, All in Good Time (Raisin' Records/EMI). It's also the band's most important album in the last decade: It's their first since founder and co-lead singer Steven Page left the group in a tornado of controversy in 2009.

"Losing Steven was essential," Stewart says. "It had to happen. He was at a point, I think, creatively where he wasn't as satisfied as he could have been. I don't think that's anyone's fault, but he started to drift away. All the personal stuff for him that went along with that, he just got further away from the band, and it just got really difficult to manage the relationships in the group with that dynamic, so it was best that he left."

The personal stuff Stewart refers to sent tabloids into a feverish frenzy and cast the seemingly wholesome BNL in a brand-new light. In 2008, just days before the group was set to play several large-scale shows as part of the Disney Music Block Party series, Page was busted with a bag full of cocaine in a New York apartment.

The first single off the new album, "You Run Away," is a down-tempo number with telling lyrics: "But you run away from me/I tried to be your brother/You cried and ran for cover."

Stewart stands by the group's decision to address Page's departure this way.

"Obviously, the subject matter's very close to home," Stewart says with a little laugh. "But there's no elephant in the room. That's part of our story, but it was good and cathartic to lead with that."

The good news for BNL fans is that All in Good Time sounds like regulation BNL. The gaping hole many expected by Page's departure has been mostly filled by the remaining four swapping responsibilities and instruments like partners at an orgy. Singer-guitarist Ed Robertson now shares vocals on a variety of tracks with keyboardist Kevin Hearn and bassist Jim Creegan. Even Stewart's pipes are getting a workout this time around, and he couldn't be happier about the collaborative process.

"It makes for a fun recording process when you're firing on all cylinders and can really stretch out," Stewart says. "It's like any relationship. You have to find ways to spice it up and keep the flame alive. And since at this point none of us are sleeping with each other, we can't use sex to spice things up."

Easy jokes and quick wit are BNL staples, evident in interviews, onstage banter, and, for better or worse, the group's songs, including "Be My Yoko Ono," "Alternative Girlfriend," and the aforementioned "If I Had $1,000,000." Even after two decades, BNL is often considered the musical equivalent of Rodney Dangerfield: They ain't got no respect.

"I can't worry about it anymore," Stewart says. "Back in the day, while wearing shorts and jumping around like energetic 20-year-olds, I couldn't blame people for thinking we were a joke. But it's a different story now ... I can't even think about whether or not people are going to take it seriously. I just know we take it seriously, and we're having a good time."


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