23 April 2020 (released)
23 April 2020
With classic tracks like 'I Love Myself Today', 'Moment of Weakness', 'Spaceman', and 'Tango Shoes', Bif Naked has been a fixture of the rock scene for over 25 years. The scrappy, straight-edge singer is back with the infectious new single 'JIM' from her upcoming album CHAMPION. We caught up with the Canadian singer to discuss her latest release as well as the effect of Covid-19 on the many causes for which she is a champion.
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I know you're stuck inside like the rest of us but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty to worry about from home. I hope you and your loved ones are healthy and safe.
What's life been like for you under quarantine?
Life at home is probably kind of "routine" for many working-from-home artists and writers, like me. The trouble is not really having a regular paycheque, so most friends I know are truly stressed and feeling very unsure economically. For us, we are hoping none of our already rescheduled shows get pushed back further. I suppose that is a distraction that would not otherwise interrupt our creative flow, but it definitely permeates our thinking. In the meantime we are trying to continue with our creative tasks-at-hand, which is to keep working on a book I am doing (about "cancer" and "caretaking") and also clean up and re-visit some of our mixes for the upcoming new record called "CHAMPION".
As someone with such a tight-knit relationship with health care workers thanks to your time as a patient advocate, what have you heard from the front lines during the pandemic? How is the local response in Canada? Are cancer patients still able to get treatment?
It is terrible. That's the truth. Many healthcare workers are very limited by their access and also by their proximity. When I say "limited" I mean the healthcare teams of volunteers I know that work in palliative care and in cancer care, as they no longer have access to patients. Myself, included, we are not able to physically be with patients who would be reaching out whether it's for medical chaperones or just volunteer driving. As far as the palliative care volunteers go, well...it's a very sad situation because there is not really any amount of video chatting that would ever equal the importance of being in the room with someone who needs death companioning, or that need some help with their own loved ones. It is very hard. When I say "proximity" I am referring to all the incredible health teams that are working to support particular communities, or more vulnerable populations with multiple barriers, for example (street workers and social work teams) and they simply do not have the protection that will keep them safe from infection themselves. This is very frustrating. And very, very scary.
You have a new single/video for 'JIM' from the forthcoming album Champion. It's a little more sombre than your previous singles. What direction have you taken on the new album? Can we expect a similar tone throughout?
I have been so lucky as an artist, and have always been able to flow between genres on every album. When I did my very first record, back in the early nineties, I wanted to include punk, metal, hip-hop, pop, and make each song sincerely true to that particular song. As a nineties kid, I simply liked all these styles, and wanted my own songwriting to reflect that. I was a fan of everything from Cro Mags to Toni Braxon, and from Neneh Cherry to White Zombie. I guess this has never changed and the new record is definitely eclectic. "JIM" was a very deliberate choice for the first single for precisely the reason that it sounds very different than anything I have done before. Hopefully, the fans agree that it was a surprise in sound and in theme. It is very dark and I love that!
This song has some great synth/arpeggiator parts. Was there a conscious effort to break out of the basic rock combo setup on this record?
Oh yes most definitely. Again, many people may only think of the traditionally more rock singles when they think of me, but we had such a variety of songs on each record that most of the fans will find it no surprise. I hope everyone gets into the story of the song more than anything, and feels that the synths and drama of the track really carry them into the story.
The video is directed by part-time co-writer and bandmate Doug Fury. What's the experience like working with him across platforms? Is there a shorthand that can come in handy during the filming process?
Having worked with Doug since 1996 on so many aspects of the records before, and having toured so extensively with Doug, really lends itself to our trust. I trust his vision completely, and he trusts mine. The bond we have as friends is unbreakable, and the language we share surrounding artwork whether it's musical or visual, is absolutely unmatched: it is a spoken and an unspoken language between us. It's like we are spies or twins or brothers. It's a blessing.
You seem to have an inherent belief in the goodness in people. An optimism that they will do the right thing. Is that why songs like 'JIM' can come out so scathing, because their actions come as such a shock?
Yes, absolutely. I believe in the essential good of everyone, even my "enemies" LOL! People are all the same...every individual person is a living, breathing, little sentient being that was once five years old and vulnerable to sadness and needed their mummy's love. All of us. And then, yeah...when there appears malice or vindictiveness I am utterly crestfallen and broken-hearted by it, probably overreactively so. I just can't comprehend people having such disregard for others (and I see this in politics and animal cruelty cases a lot) I have no words other than what I can frame into lyrics as a way of dealing with my complete disappointment.
Are there plans to tour the record once this crisis passes? How do you think live performance will change in the face of this global shift? Is this the end of the pit?
I am a tremendously hopeful girl. I do so hope we will be touring, as planned, of course. I think that music fans will want to go to shows, not just my show but everyone's shows! Even for myself, as a music fan, all I want to do is JUMP IN THE PIT with a carefree abandon and I can't say whether or not that will actually ever even happen again. I can only hope and wish and try and help make that a reality for all of us.
You've been a fixture in the music scene for 25 years now. What are your favourite tracks from early in your career? Are there any songs that were overlooked at the time that have taken on new meaning now?
Oh, yes. Most definitely I am very happy to sing all of my songs and perform all of my more well-known favourites, for sure. "I Love Myself Today" never gets annoying ever I love singing it and we perform it every show, like "Spaceman" or "Tango Shoes" among others. I love some overlooked songs for sure, like "Violence" or "Hold On" or "Anything" or "The Peacock Song" or "Welcome To The End" haha I can name dozens! We just don't have three hours to play all of them.
You are a champion for several great causes. What are you focusing on these days?
I have always tried to amplify voices and speak for the voiceless and now, more than ever before, I think this effort is very needed in the world. On my website, I list three animal charities I love: Muffin's Halo ( a charity that provides mobility aids for blind dogs and shelter dogs) and Vintage Pet Rescue (a senior dog retirement home and hospice in Rhode Island) and SAINTS Rescue , in Mission B.C. (a special needs and end-of-life sanctuary for animals). Since I have moved to Toronto I have become very passionate about palliative care and particularly for vulnerable and homeless patient populations. There are some incredible doctors, nurses, and volunteers working at Journey Home Hospice and I admire their work very much.
Thanks so much to Bif Naked for taking the time to chat with us! You can find her single 'JIM' on all major streaming platforms now.
WATCH THE VIDEO: https://youtu.be/t0SKqhAKQy0
Visit some of Bif's favourite organizations:
MUFFIN'S HALO: muffinshalo.com
VINTAGE PET RESCUE: vintagepetrescue.org
SAINTS RESCUE: saintsrescue.ca
JOURNEY HOME HOSPICE: journeyhomehospice.ca