In a lot of ways, Bif Naked needs no introduction. A central figure in the Canadian punk scene for over 20 years, she’s known for hits like “Spaceman,” “Tango Shoes,” and the endlessly catchy “I Love Myself Today.” On top of her career as a musician, Bif is an activist, a poet, a cancer survivor, a dog lover. She’s equal parts funny, honest, and exuberant. Fans of Bif will know that she is also a force of endless positivity, with an Instagram feed full of affirmations and photos of the Toronto sunrise. She joined our video call with her signature smile, already joking about using the camera to peer down her throat. We talked about her upcoming Taste of Edmonton performance, her new projects, and her love for literature.
You are playing at Taste of Edmonton on July 22! Are you excited to be back in Edmonton? Tell us more about your relationship with the city.
I have so much to say about Edmonton! So, I first played in Edmonton in 1990. Over the years, I think I’ve played at almost every single venue. Obviously, the Bronx and Rev’s which is now called the Starlite. For me, it’s a part of my upbringing in a way. You know, the highlight of my career—I don’t care what anybody says, its not The Tonight Show—is being on 2 SNFU records and being able to perform with them. That, to this day, is the highlight of my career.
And Taste of Edmonton we played pre-pandemic, and it was absolutely serendipitous! It was so much fun to be there! I have such a history emotionally with the city anyways, so it was very meaningful. To come back and do Taste of Edmonton again is a little dream come true in so many different ways. It’s a really wonderful community event. We are here in 2022 and people are starting to kind of recover psychologically and economically from the past two years. And, of course, ever-looming variants are stressful for people, they are anxiety causing. So, I think having community events outdoors that bring everybody together are really important. I think it’s vital for the community, and it’s critical for us as individuals to be able to gather with other like-minded people. And music is always fun!
How does it feel to play live music again, post-pandemic?
They always say whenever it comes to doing something you love, like riding a bike or sex, it’s just like riding a bike. You don’t miss a beat, you kind of pick up where you left off. You never forget how to do it. You have muscle memory, but you also have that muscle memory in your heart. That feeling always happens every time! I still get butterflies before every show. I always have, and I always will.
What’s your favourite song to play live?
It oscillates, but it’s almost always “I Love Myself Today.” We finish every single show with it because it is really how I want to leave the room. It’s almost like—if I was leading Yoga class for example—it would be our ending prayer. It would be the exclamation mark, the cherry on top. It always is. The song resonates with people, and it still resonates with me! I never get tired of singing these songs.
Your newest single “Rollerdome” is a summer anthem! Can you talk more about what went into writing this song and why the roller rink is special to you?
When I was 12 years old, we had a roller rink called Champs in Lexington Kentucky, before we moved to Canada—to Dauphin Manitoba specifically. Man, that was all we wanted to do! Every weekend and evening. Back then we were all latch-key kids too, so we had a lot more freedom. Those summer nights, that’s all I can think of. My sister used to accuse us of looking like we had greasy chicken’s butts on our faces because we had Bonne Bell lip gloss all over our faces! We had acne because of all the lipgloss residue! And we were just learning to kiss. We were nuts! We were insane. Pre-pubescent, in love with every single grade five boy.
I think that kind of innocent but really deep feeling never leaves us. We are always grasping for it, even as adults. Which is why adult relationships are always disappointing, because we have these immature emotional expectations that we place upon everyone. We are trying to replicate all these unrequited loves we had in the sixth grade!
It was a really deliberate writing between Snake, Doug [Fury], and myself. All three of us had our memories of roller-skating. It has had a very big comeback, partly because of roller derby. But now roller-skating, street-skating, is something that’s accessible to everybody. We are gonna be shooting a video, I’m looking forward to that. I have my pink roller-skates of course, but I’m terrified! I broke my wrist on my BMX two years ago. So now I’m trepidatious, I’m going to have pillows all over me just in case because I am clumsy!
Tell us more about your upcoming album, Champion.
We wrote [“Rollerdome”] in 2020 for Champion. I had stalled my record for the last two years because it was more important to work on social justice and things that needed attention. I didn’t feel like the world needed a fucking Bif Naked record. I mean come on, there was too much going on! But now we are finally getting on with it, and it is the third single for the record which was the intention.
But you never stopped writing when Champion was delayed, so now there’s so much material on this record.
You know, a lot of people bemoan the internet and streaming services, they say they ruined our artistic ability to surprise anybody or make a living. But what it is allowing me to do as an artist is basically whatever the heck I want. What we’ve decided to do is take this entire body of work and release it as Champion and it’s going to be a triple record. That sounds preposterous! But we’re going to do it anyways!
It’s going to be in three sections: Rock Show, Afterparty and Hotel Room and it is going to have those moods. It’s really turned into a bit of a body of work and I think that that’s really appropriate.
And on top of all that, you’re doing a documentary! Tell us more about the recently announced Bif Naked: One of a Kind, co-directed by Jennifer Abbott of “The Corporation”.
Crazy! I’m a huge fan of Jennifer Abbott. She’s a woman and someone who is very legendary and so well respected. I know that the way it is going to be treated is something that is very authentically her vision but, at the same time, allowing me and my story to be told organically and very creatively. I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds! We started shooting footage for it last fall. And they are going to be using a lot of archival footage that has never surfaced before. I came of age as an artist in a nondigital age, so there’s lots of film and stuff to go through. It is going to unfold in a really crazy way, I don’t even know what to expect!
You’ve told your story through literature before with your memoir I, Bificus. What excites you about stepping into the new medium of film?
It’s very interesting to me. With writing the book, it was only my voice and only my narrative. Jennifer Abbott will have the ability to tell the story from a different lens. They are going to be doing a lot of interviews with other people who are prominent in the entertainment business and society. To me, it’s going to be a surprise!
It took me a while to get used to the idea, I was just so humbled that they would even want to that I felt a little embarrassed. It conjured up my own internal questions of worthiness, that maybe they should make a documentary about someone else. But then, kind of having to acknowledge that the story is not just about singing in a band as a young person. It’s also about being adopted in India and what that looks like. It’s about going back to the roots and all my other endeavours besides music.
Finally, you are a huge poetry fan! Do you have any recommendations? How do you find poetry and song writing working together?
Farzana Doctor just put out her first book of poetry, You Still Look the Same. It is very riveting, and beautiful, and vulnerable, and jarring. It’s really amazing.
I’ve also been collecting Irving Layton since I was a kid. I stole a book in grade ten from my library in school, I didn’t return it for like three years! So I started collecting him over the years. That book that I initially stole is called The Whole Bloody Bird. The way he used language and the way he wrote, it was just primal male observations and gratifications, but he was so literate and passionate. It just blew me away and I got into poetry through Layton really.
For me, I’d always been a hack poet like every other emo teenage girl, which lent itself to lyric writing anyway. I finally wrote my first book of poetry called Razorblade Chewing Gum 2 years ago. The book is equal parts upsetting and silly but I haven’t found the right publisher yet.
Catch Bif Naked’s show on July 22 at 9:30pm on the McLennan Ross stage! And don’t rock out on an empty stomach! Head down to Churchill Square early to sample dishes from 50 restaurants. Get your discounted food tickets online until 11:59 pm on July 20.