Interview: Barenaked Ladies Look for Common Ground in Arena-Ready Anthem “Flip”

Barenaked Ladies (L-R): Kevin Hearn (keyboards), Ed Robertson (vocals/guitar), Tyler Stewart (drums), Jim Creeggan (bass) © Matt Barnes
Barenaked Ladies (L-R): Kevin Hearn (keyboards), Ed Robertson (vocals/guitar), Tyler Stewart (drums), Jim Creeggan (bass) © Matt Barnes
Barenaked Ladies’ Ed Robertson talks to Atwood Magazine about the band’s politically-minded new single “Flip,” an uplifting arena-ready anthem whose charismatic charm and wit implore us to open our minds just a little bit – to unite rather than divide, and try to find common ground.
Stream: “Flip” – Barenaked Ladies




It was a very toxic time in American politics especially, and it felt like there was no discussion, and zero room for nuance. ‘Flip’ is about expanding your viewpoint to find common ground, and have productive dialogue.

Will you listen to views you don’t agree with? Can you try to understand them, even if you don’t see eye to eye? Barenaked Ladies’ contribution to the 2021 oeuvre is a bona fide jam, but it comes with an earnest message of connection and understanding. A buoyant, driving arena-ready anthem, the uplifting “Flip” employs the Canadian Music Hall of Famers’ charismatic charm and wit to open our minds just a little bit, imploring us to unite rather than divide and look for ways to connect, even where we’re still worlds apart.

Flip - Barenaked Ladies
Flip – Barenaked Ladies
I could be a little devil
Or I could be a little saint
I kind of like it in the middle
Is you is or is you ain’t
Nothing’s indelible
Everything is sellable
Whether you’re an animal or vegetable or mineral
It’s criminal to think
It drives a man to drink
Am I coming off like my hits don’t stink?

Released April 12, 2021 via Raisin’ Records, “Flip” is a stunning springtime and summer anthem, not to mention a refreshingly topical and welcome return from Barenaked Ladies. The rock band – who recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of their career-defining No. 1 album, Maroon – arrive into 2021 with a song for seeing past the fracture and looking to humanity in each and every one of us. They’re not preaching naivety or blind hope; they’re simply asking us to listen before we speak.

“It’s not about changing sides, it’s about flipping your perspective so that you can at least understand another point of view,” the band’s lead singer and guitarist Ed Robertson tells Atwood Magazine. “It’s about understanding Confirmation Bias, and Intellectual (Anti-Intellectual) Echo Chambers. I’m a Leftie by nature, but I don’t think Conservative people are Monsters, and I don’t think branding them as such does anything to advance my causes. In fact, I think it only increases the likelihood of NEVER making progress. I try to understand why people feel the way they do, and think of a way to explain my position to them that isn’t dismissive of theirs, or threatening to them.”

Barenaked Ladies © Edward Pond
Barenaked Ladies © Edward Pond

The entire Trump presidency can be construed as a toxic time in American politics, but the past few years especially – 2021 included – have revealed the silos and bubbles in which people of different ideological beliefs exist. Each side calls out the other’s “fake news,” and words like “truth” just don’t seem to hold the same weight or mean as much as they used to. What’s “right” or “wrong” to one person seems completely different to another, and reconciling that chasm has been – well, it’s a work in progress, to say the least. Many have stopped trying and resigned themselves to live and let live.

Barenaked Ladies’ “Flip” wants us to stay in the fight: To keep listening, learning, and trying bridge our divisions. Robertson rises to an impassioned chorus as the band shine with effervescent acoustic grace:

C’mon flip (Flip)
Bend a little bit
Maybe get wise to a new tip
C’mon flip (Flip)
Take a little trip
See another side of the same ship
This is the church, this is the steeple
Turn up the lights, see all my people
C’mon flip (Flip)
Take it for a rip
You’re never gonna fly ’til you lose your grip

“We live in a time where people seem to just dig deeper into their own trenches, without any willingness to see another viewpoint, or even engage in discussion,” Robertson adds. “It’s all yelling, and no listening. I like that saying, ‘We were given one mouth, and two ears, and we’re supposed to use them proportionately!’”

Listeners can choose whether or not to heed Barenaked Ladies’ advice, but they’re not the only ones preaching love over hate or unity over division.

Speaking with Stephen Colbert on a recent episode of The Late Show‘s “The Colbert Questionert” segment, Ringo Starr shared that “Come Together” was his all-time favorite song – citing the song’s pure energy and meaningful, ever-important message as his inspirations.

Am I living in a bubble?
Am I really out of touch?
Do you think I’ll get in trouble?
If I talk too much?
Am I too cynical?
A bit too clinical?
Maybe that pinnacle’s unwinnable, subliminal
Original sin
Yo, tell me where you been
Can we get a do-over and start again?
I can’t understand it for you
But I’ll try to explain

“Flip” arrives as the United States is very slowly coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the looming “return to normal-ish” life will come an inevitable reinvigorated discussion of politics. Rather than turn people off, let’s listen; rather than walk away, let’s engage. You don’t have to give an inch or change your mind, but as “Flip” tells us, “You’re never gonna fly ’til you lose your grip.”

Barenaked Ladies’ Ed Robertson dove into the depths of “Flip” with Atwood Magazine in a conversation about politics, songwriting, and catchy choruses. C’mon and flip into our interview below!

Barenaked Ladies © Matt Barnes
Barenaked Ladies (L-R): Kevin Hearn (keyboards), Ed Robertson (vocals/guitar), Tyler Stewart (drums), Jim Creeggan (bass) © Matt Barnes

FLIP

Flip - Barenaked Ladies

Atwood Magazine: When was “Flip” first written, and can you talk a bit about the initial concept for the song?

Barenaked Ladies: I wrote ‘Flip’ with my good pal, and longtime collaborator, Kevin Griffin. I make a couple of trips a year down to his home in Franklin, TN and we hang out, share stories, and laughs, and end up with a couple of great songs EVERY TIME. It’s been working like that for over a decade now. It’s a relationship I really treasure. It was all built around that fun acoustic guitar riff that drives the whole thing. The initial idea was just about encouraging people to see another viewpoint. It was a very toxic time in American politics especially, and it felt like there was no discussion, and zero room for nuance. ‘Flip’ is about expanding your viewpoint to find common ground, and have productive dialogue.

From a musical perspective, this song radiates what I would call a kind of classic positive Barenaked Ladies energy. How did you go about recording this song and what informed those choices?

Barenaked Ladies: We wanted it to have the raw energy of a band playing live together, but also take advantage of a lot of slick modern recording techniques. I’m a huge modern music fan, so there are Pop, Hip Hop and R&B influences all over the production choices. Ultimately though, the track starts with a band in a room playing live music. Eric Ratz is a really great Rock producer who embraces all the studio wizardry that can really take a song over the top.

“Flip” is obviously anthemic – it has this larger-than-life quality, with call-and-response action in the chorus. Why design the song as an anthem in this way?

Barenaked Ladies: It’s really fun to write songs FOR a concert. I was really inspired by friends of mine in the band, The Arkells. I went to see them live a few years ago, and I was truck by how their songs seemed to be written with the Arena in mind. There were parts FOR the crowd. It was So FUN. Eric Ratz produced their record too. It was one of the reasons I wanted to work with him. It’s really fun and challenging to make an Arena Banger out of a relatively intellectual emotional idea.

It was one of the reasons I wanted to work with him. It’s really fun and challenging to make an arena banger out of a relatively intellectual emotional idea.

Why is the concept of “being open to other perspectives” important to you personally? I obviously see the timeliness to it and just the impact of everything going on politically in recent years, but I'd love to learn a little more about how that's impacted you and what it meant to write this song?

Barenaked Ladies: I find being on “Social” Media increasingly difficult. I find myself unable to cope with the barrage of negativity. Not just things directed towards me, which I mostly shield myself from, but everywhere. The things I enjoy are also under siege from a growing army of angry trolls. It takes the fun out of everything.

It's possible folks of all walks of life could see this song's title, or just hear the chorus, and think you're asking them to flip sides or change their minds without thinking. How would you respond to those listeners?

Barenaked Ladies: It’s not about changing sides, it’s about flipping your perspective so that you can at least understand another point of view. It’s about understanding Confirmation Bias, and Intellectual (Anti-Intellectual) Echo Chambers. I’m a Leftie by nature, but I don’t think Conservative people are Monsters, and I don’t think branding them as such does anything to advance my causes. In fact, I think it only increases the likelihood of NEVER making progress. I try to understand why people feel the way they do, and think of a way to explain my position to them that isn’t dismissive of theirs, or threatening to them.

With so much going on - including a big presidential election - between the song's recording and release, how has your relationship with “Flip” changed since it was first written and what does it mean for you today?

Barenaked Ladies: There are a couple of songs on the record that seem to be “plucked from the headlines”, as it were. The truth is, I’ve been thinking about these things for a long time. Flip, New Disaster, Flat Earth are all about the cognitive dissonance growing everywhere. I’m fascinated by how much easily debunk-able nonsense people will swallow if it supports their initial assumption. It’s a combination of the 24 hour news cycle (which is almost entirely a bad thing, as far as I can tell.), and the Democratization of voices online… Again, a Horrible idea. If it’s more important to be First than it is to be correct, then your motives shift from informing people to engaging people… and “Truth” isn’t even in the mix. If “Experts” mean nothing anymore, and the average person with an iPhone and a Facebook account is being trusted over an Immunologist, or a Professor of Infectious Diseases… We have a very broken system.

Where do you feel “Flip” sits in the Barenaked Ladies catalog?

Barenaked Ladies: Hopefully it’ll join a growing list of Crowd Favourites.  I’m really hoping people will do the “This is the Church, This is the Steeple…” hand signs in the chorus. It would be a ton of fun to see that! I love having these high energy new songs in the live set. I think it draws people to check out our newer material, and leads them to more pensive deeper cuts on the records.

What do you hope listeners take away from “Flip”? What have you taken away from creating it and now putting it out?

Barenaked Ladies: I always hope that people enjoy it first and foremost. I hope it makes them look forward to seeing us live again. It’s the one new song we including in our latest streaming Special, and it was a blast to play live. Lyrically Challenging, and groovy, and super high energy.  I can’t get enough of songs like this. They’re fun to write, fun to record, and Fun to play live! Now that I’m playing it live, I’m also enjoying how intricate the guitar riff is under the verse vocals. It’s a very difficult and specific pattern that is subtly much harder than it sounds. Not to get too guitar nerdy here but the patter sounds like 4-4-4-4, but it’s actually 4-3 (rest) -4-4… which is REALLY hard to do while you’re singing. It’s part of what gives the song it’s groove though… that little twist adds a lot.

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:: stream/purchase “Flip” here ::
Stream: “Flip” – Barenaked Ladies



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Flip - Barenaked Ladies

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