Star Apps: Barenaked Ladies

Barenaked Ladies singer-guitarist Ed Robertson chats with Download.com about his "Last Summer" tour, the apps he uses in the studio and on the road, playing tour director with his iPhone, and which app he would use on his last day on Earth.

Over a 25-year career, multi-platinum rock band Barenaked Ladies built a dedicated fanbase on the strength of such memorable singles as the Billboard No. 1 smash "One Week," "Pinch Me, "Brian Wilson," "If I Had $1,000,000," and "History of Everything" -- the theme song for the hit CBS series "The Big Bang Theory."

Are we not men? We are Barenaked Ladies. (Ed Robertson stands second from right.)

(Credit: David Leyes)

The Canadian rockers are currently celebrating their silver anniversary with the release of their 12th album, "Grinning Streak" (which debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard Top 200) and their much-acclaimed "Last Summer On Earth" tour, supported by Ben Folds Five and Guster.

BNL's guitarist-vocalist Ed Robertson chatted with Download.com about the tour, recording with GarageBand, playing tour director with Google Maps, and which app he would use most on his last day on earth.

Tell us what fans can expect to see at "Last Summer on Earth 2013."
Well, I think we're just hoping that the Mayans were wrong and this is actually the last summer on earth, so we want people to go out rockin'. So we're going out for one last, great summer party before the world ends.

Congratulations on your new album, debuting at No. 10. Which apps or software did you guys use to record it?
We use Pro Tools in the studio. But when I'm writing at home, I don't want there to be a huge barrier between the idea and moving forward, so I use what is essentially the high-tech version of a four-track recorder, which is GarageBand on my iPad, so I can bang out a quick idea and keep rolling forward. So it's the high-tech version of being low-tech.

I'm also experimenting with a lot of the mobile apps that are coming out, from a K Oscillator to some of the interesting Korg, hand-held stuff that's coming out. I love using that stuff to work on basic beats and crazy loops. I try to incorporate that stuff into our songs.

While you're on tour, what are some of the apps that you find yourself using the most?
It's a simple answer, but I use Google Maps constantly. I know it's like saying, "I use salt on my food" [laughs], but it's really incredibly handy when you're a traveling musician.

That's surprising, because I'd assume that you have a tour manager who takes you where you need to go. Do you ever have to be the directions person?
Absolutely. Our tour manager gets us where we need to be when we need to be there, but I would be the tour director of this cruise. When we roll into a town, I pull out Yelp and Google Places and Flixster, and I look for local attractions. Then I'll send an e-mail or text to all the guys, like last night I texted everyone and said, "I'm going to see ["We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks"] at this cool theater in Boise or I've sent them tubing information for going tubing down the Boise River. Right now I'm talking to you on my bike and I Google Mapped out a comic shop that was only three miles from the venue, so I'm on my way to get "Saga, Vol. 2," which has just come out. I make use of the tech to find something interesting to do at all times.

How have apps changed the way that you communicate with the band?
We're pretty close, us guys, and we talk all the time anyway. But it's great for organizing stuff, meeting for breakfast, going to see a film, or whatever. I can just blast the movie times or yelp a recommendation to all the guys. So I'm probably the busiest in terms of using my phone and texting all the guys the details. But we're also very close as a band. So we stick together and do stuff together anyway. I just realized that I made a wrong turn on my bike [laughs].

While Robertson admits to using apps to communicate with the rest of the band, he prefers old-fashioned modes -- like talking.

(Credit: David Leyes)

Since you guys are based in Toronto, I'm curious: which social media apps are popular in Canada?
We just use all the same things that Americans do: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They're almost identical, except if you're comparing the Canadian version to the American one, the Canadian version has free healthcare and no handguns.

Because of our CBS connection, I have to ask you about recording "The Big Bang Theory" theme song, "History of Everything." How was BNL enlisted for that?
It was actually a pretty ludicrous bit of serendipity, because I had just finished a book called "Big Bang" by Simon Singh, which is basically an entire history of the math and science required to end up at the understanding of cosmological theory. It's actually a really entertaining read.

So we were rolling through L.A., and our band does a lot of improv and spontaneity in the show, and I made up some song about cosmological theory and math and science. The creators of the show, who happen to be big fans of ours, were in the audience and were developing "The Big Bang Theory," and they just looked at each other and said, "We've got to get these guys to write the theme song. " So it was that simple.

In line with your "Last Summer on Earth" tour, if it were humankind's final day on Earth, which app would you use most and why?
It would be Google Maps. I would be searching for all of my favorite things closest to my current location. The highest-rated sushi place, maybe a nice park...Or the other day we were in Los Gatos, so I just googled "redwoods," and I found Big Basin Redwoods State Park; so I just find it such an endlessly useful app. It seems like such a vanilla answer, but it's the app that I use all the time.

CNET Top 5
Companies Apple could buy with their billions
Apple's sitting on a massive pile of cash. Here are five interesting ways they could spend it.
Play Video
 

Member Comments