I have often been told that my music and vocal style sounds like that of the Barenaked Ladies – in particular Steven Page – many times before. The comparison is admittedly flattering and complementary.
I can’t say that I’ve always been a Barenaked Ladies fan or that they were ever my primary influence. They’ve just always kind of been there.
Still, I have memories of listening to them on vacation in Malaysia when I was a kid, and I also remember the big break they had with “One Week” when I was in high school.
A lot of people thought that the band was brand new when they broke into the U.S. market, but they had spent many years as independents, and released several demo tapes before they experienced any kind of mainstream success. Looking for a hardworking band? You’ve found one.
Gordon (affiliate link) is therefore their first official commercial release, in a matter of speaking. It sold extremely well in Canada, which is not surprising considering how polished and simultaneously quirky it was.
The Ladies cite artists like the B-52s, They Might Be Giants and “Weird Al” Yankovic as influences, and I suppose that is where some of the similarities between them and David Andrew Wiebe becomes more apparent.
“Weird Al” was a staple in my dad’s music collection, and I would later become obsessed with They Might Be Giants on my uncle’s recommendation. I have also had a love affair with New Wave music, and that’s where the B-52s fit in.
Both Yankovic and TMBG have influenced my approach to music significantly, though it doesn’t always come across lyrically. Musically speaking, I can draw some similarities (I often play acoustic guitar and use jazz chords; so do the Ladies).
As I sit back and listen to Gordon again, I am amazed at how every song is so recognizable. Again, it’s not like I wore out any of their CDs at any point. Somehow, this album has embedded itself into my subconscious without me being aware of it.
Many of the songs found here are fan favorites, and I’m partial to “Enid” and “Brian Wilson” myself. In a way, it’s almost like a Greatest Hits album. It’s what an album is supposed to be.
Gordon is serious, smart, sentimental, quirky and funny all at the same time. I think this is due in part to the chord progressions and harmonies. Though there are some frantic and upbeat numbers, there are also some slower, more laid-back songs like “Hello City”, “Wrap Your Arms Around Me,” and “What A Good Boy.”
Gordon is also daring. I think it goes a lot of places perfectionists wouldn’t go. Just listen to Page nearly breaking out in laughter on “The King of Bedside Manor”, the weird vocals and tip-of-the-hats to Rush on “Grade 9” or the comedic call-and-response banter on “If I Had $1000000”, and you find a band that was willing to let it all hang out.
What is sometimes overlooked is that they are also backed by serious talent. They could write catchy pop hits and then turn around and write ballads or folk and bluegrass tunes. They could be poignant and heartwarming, and they could be equally lighthearted and fun. They could also pay homage to Rush within the context of their own songs.
My band mate Anna pointed out that the Barenaked Ladies sound like “frustrated jazz musicians,” and nowhere is that more apparent than on this record. Just listen to “Box Set,” and you’ll see what I mean.
I can’t call myself a frustrated jazz musician, because my roots are overwhelmingly in blues and classic rock. But I am easily bored with traditional open chords (“zombie” chords), and I have often used jazz chords and suspended chords in place of them. Again, that’s where I might share some things in common with the Ladies.
In all, this is a great collection of songs. Though the they can be enjoyed individually, this is one of those rare cases where the sum is better than its parts.
If I could collaborate with any musician in the world, living or… living, I would pick the following individuals to create albums with.
Nuno Bettencourt is most known for his work with the Funk Metal band Extreme during the late 80s and early-to-mid 90s and their hit song “More Than Words”.
He has since been involved in a variety of bands and projects, including The Mourning Widows, DramaGods, Satellite Party and more recently, Rihanna. He is considered one of the most accomplished rock guitarists alive.
I think it would be awesome just to trade riffs and learn from the best. Guitar collaboration projects don’t always measure up to the hype they create (I’m definitely not comparing myself to the masters), but I think Nuno and I could create some great hooks, explore some new musical territory and maybe even develop some twin guitar licks.
Nuno is super versatile, so no matter how ambitious we got in terms of scope or genre, I’m sure we could come up with some great music.
Santilli is a Canadian R&B singer and multi-instrumentalist.
I’ve always loved the sound of a Fender Rhodes, and when I think of Rhodes players, I can’t help but think of Ivana Santilli (and she has a great, smoky, vintage-y voice besides).
If we collaborated, I’m sure we could cover a lot of ground, from jazz to soul to funk to R&B, but I think it would be just as cool if we experimented with electronica and rock.
Another cool angle would be to write a few stripped-down, acoustic guitar and keyboard numbers.
Remy Shand is another Canadian R&B/soul singer and multi-instrumentalist.
It wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to say that I developed my falsetto voice while repeatedly singing to Remy Shand’s only official release, The Way I Feel (affiliate link).
I know that Remy is a versatile guy, and whatever he contributed to the project would be nothing short of stellar (bass, keyboards, vocals, etc). Undoubtedly we could make some great grooves and harmonies together, and since I already have a few songs that are stylistically similar to Remy’s, we could flesh those out as well.
Lead vocalist of Canadian melodic rock band Harem Scarem.
I’ve always loved the melodic rock/power pop genre, and I can’t think of a better vocalist to collaborate with in that genre than Harry. I don’t necessarily have a great voice to carry a rock tune, but Harry does, and I’m sure we could come up with some great harmonies too.
Harry is also an accomplished studio engineer, and has a great ear for vocals and instruments.
Guitarist of Canadian melodic rock band Harem Scarem.
Pete Lesperance is quite easily one of the best guitarists in the melodic rock genre. He also writes songs, plays keyboard and sings.
At one point, Pete was collaborating with Our Lady Peace’s Mike Turner under the name Fair Ground, and that was a great project with a different feel from Harem Scarem’s music.
I’m sure that no matter what type of music we created together, it would be melodic and hooky.
Lead vocalist and chief songwriter for Canadian punk rock band Marianas Trench.
I like practically everything the Trench has ever done. Unlike many bands in the same genre, they back their music with talent.
Aside from creating some awesome hooks, I think it would be awesome if Josh and I did a concept album.
Again, vocals have not always been my strong suit, and I would love to work with other vocalists who could help me realize some of my musical visions.
Besides that, I’m sure Josh and I could create some great music plain and simple.
Lead singer of the Dan Reed Network.
The Dan Reed Network was a largely overlooked funk rock/electronic rock band from the 80s, but they had a lot of catchy songs with great hooks.
I’m a sucker for rock with a groove (Pat Travers, Rick Derringer, Lenny Kravitz, etc.) and I think we could make some great groove rock together.
But even if we went in more of a laid-back acoustic direction, I would be elated.