|Crossroads: Bif Naked|
Pivotal moments in musicians careers propelling them from obscurity to infamy
by Mark E. Waterbury
Photo Credit: Isabel Snyder
Maybe it WAS luck. Luck starting way back from early childhood to current times when a major auto manufacturer decided her music would be a valid asset in attempting to market their product to the masses. But sometimes if you work tenaciously enough you can make your own luck, and although Canadian rocker Bif Naked may have had no control over the very early years of her life, her hard work particularly on the countless stages she has prowled worldwide has made her a very lucky lady indeed.
Born in India and immediately put up for adoption by her birth mother, Bif may not have even had a chance if it had not been for a couple of American missionaries who found a way to eventually get the child to the U.S.. She would later wind up in Vancouver, British Columbia where she found she had a passion for putting words to paper. As she wrote her poetry, she found a viable platform to get her words out to people when she was attending college. "A bunch of guys in my theater class had a band, and I started jamming with them," Bif remembers. "Writing words, being able to get them across and convey my thoughts and heartbreaks to an audience listening to a band is the most satisfying thing I could have done creatively." Bif had already toured extensively in Canada and the West coast of the U.S. with previous bands, and then on a shoestring budget released her self-titled debut album in 1996 on her own record label. "I don't really know the meaning of being successful, because when (the debut album) came out I could have died happy. I couldn't believe I was lucky enough to put an album out. And everything since then has been completely beyond my expectations." Already a seasoned road warrior, Bif hit the road with the band for a long and hectic tour of Canada and Europe. The hard road work started to pay off as many labels worldwide licensed the debut album. "It's hard to beat someone who never gives up. Music was the best medium I had found to work in. The thing I like the most out of everything is having a vehicle for my poetry in songwriting and being able to play a gig every night. We tour all the time, and the best way to get your (music) out there is to get out and tour and sell the albums from the stage."
Bif returned to the studio in 1997 to record a spoken word album, which did very well on the Canadian college charts. The second musical album, "I Bificus" followed two years later, and in the interim as well as after the album release, the tours continued. The popularity was beginning to grow, and was spreading south of the border into the U.S. "It's tough breaking into the States, just like it is getting a gig in France. You just have to start playing the small punk rock venues, and then maybe next time they put you in the bigger venue because you can start bringing the fans in. And after that hopefully you can get into the even bigger venues. It's really organic to do it that way, and that's why I like it because it seems more honest." "I Bificus" also became popular on MTV, and the tour following the release featured slots on Edgefest with Creed, the Lilith Fair and Vans Warped Tour as well as opening slots for bands such as Kid Rock and The Cult. The wild tour pace also stretched into playing gigs for X-Games and other extreme sporting events. "It's always baby steps, and we make new friends every time we go somewhere. There's a song by the band Shelter called ÔIn the Van Again' that describes the entire experience of playing a gig and saying good-bye to all your friends in a town that come to see you every time you play there, and then you drive fourteen hours to the next gig. And I love that song, it epitomizes touring for me, and making new friends and having them come see you every time you come back. It's just a great experience every time."
In 2001, Bif went into the studio with band members Peter Karroll on guitars and bass, Mike Norman on keyboards, and drummer Chris Crippini, and released a new CD, "Purge." The CD was first released in Canada, and received a nomination for Best Rock Album at the Juno Awards, Canada's equivalent of the Grammys. The U.S. release followed in 2002. "When we start writing songs, some days we may just go into the studio and f**k around from three until five P.M., and then there are other times we may be on tour and something will strike me, so I have to get out my lyric book and jot something down. I wrote ("Purge") with a broken heart, I hear it in every song! It's good but it definitely came out of my blue period." Of course another intensive tour schedule followed the release of "Purge," and then the band got a welcome surprise when General Motors decided the song "I Love Myself Today" would be great background music for their commercials touting their 2003 line of cars. "That was shear luck, baby, who knew! I mean they called my manager, they said they really liked the song and wanted to know if they could use it. And we were like, Ôgo for it!' "
Currently Bif Naked is in the midst of the U.S. tour, and is already starting to write songs for their next album. As the popularity grows, some may look at the story of Bif Naked and how success is extrapolating even without a true targeted marketing plan and think that yes, they are lucky. But Bif Naked has become a paradigm for road warriors, and it's very possible that the luck may never have happened if Bif and her band had not been touring their butts off since the beginning. "I always feel that I'm flying by the seat of my pants. I've been really really lucky, but if it was all luck then the landscape of artists would be different. It takes perseverance and hard work, and touring isn't for everyone. But I love playing gigs, I love being on tour, and it really keeps me doing the music. I love to travel and I've been able to see a lot of different places around the world and I can't think of more fun or a better job. Success for me would be when I can play a ninety minute show three hundred and sixty-four days a year and be able to afford to do that."
Bif Naked's advice: "Don't quit! Just keep going. Never quit, never give up, just keep doing what you do. Don't try to follow what anyone else is doing, just do your own thing."