Barenaked Ladies’ Ed Robertson on finding a roundabout way to pandemic album ‘Detour’

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Barenaked Ladies (l-r) Kevin Hearn, Ed Robertson, Tyler Stewart and Jim Creeggan play a 2008 holiday show at Massey Hall in Toronto. Photo: TheHYPO

TORONTO — Barenaked Ladies frontman Ed Robertson says being forced to hit pause during the COVID-19 pandemic wound up being a “blessing in disguise” for his band.

Last year, the group was partway through recording a new album at Robertson’s cottage near Peterborough, Ont., when a brief hiatus for March break turned into an indefinite lockdown with their families.

It took months before the Ladies reunited at a Toronto recording space to finish what became “Detour de Force,” their 16th studio album released last Friday.

The shakeup helped inspire a politically edged pop sound that Robertson says reflects our turbulent times.

Several songs dive into heavy topics with a sprinkle of the band’s lighthearted humour.

Robertson says lyrics touch on the climate crisis, an encounter with a flat-earther and the rabbit holes of conspiracy theories he’s watched people fall into as they spent more time online.

“This wondrous technology, which should be uniting and enlightening us, is tearing us apart,” he said.

“People … don’t trust facts anymore and that’s a pretty dangerous place to be in. We saw it play out during this pandemic. People couldn’t even decide on objective truth. They didn’t trust health experts, they didn’t trust scientists.”

David Friend, The Canadian Press