The band's first tape, Buck Naked, released in 1989, was recorded in basements and bedrooms, and featured only Steve and Ed. Barenaked Lunch (also known as the Pink Tape) was released in 1990, and featured two new band members, Andy and Jim Creeggan. Unfortunately, the tape was mastered incorrectly and plays too fast. As there were very few copies made of both, these tapes are now extremely rare. While Andy was on a trip to Ecuador and the band was lacking a percussionist, Tyler Stewart took over the position, and remained after Andy's return.
The full band's first release of note was the 1991 independent Yellow Tape which was the only indie release to achieve platinum status in Canada. Sales of the tape were jumpstarted when BNL were taken off the bill of a concert at Toronto's City Hall because a staffer for then-mayor June Rowlands saw the band's name and felt it objectified women, which catapulted BNL into a media frenzy. (Ironically, in 1996, it was made legal for women in the province of Ontario to go topless without clothing in the same places as men are allowed. The BNL are not related to this new law.)
The band's first album, Gordon, released in 1992, was a smash hit in Canada and included some of the band's most well-known songs, including "Be My Yoko Ono" (the single which helped fund the album), "If I Had $1000000" (which spawned a macaroni-throwing tradition at live shows that the band has recently been trying to discourage), and "Brian Wilson" (named after the Beach Boy who later covered the song for his recent live album).
BNL's second album, Maybe You Should Drive, released in 1994, fared considerably less well with the Canadian public. After the release, Andy Creeggan left the band to begin college and to separate himself from the infighting that had taken place after the album's failure.
The band released Born on a Pirate Ship in 1996 as a quartet. The album received two large boosts from the Jason Priestley-directed video for "The Old Apartment" and the inclusion of the song "Shoebox" on the Friends soundtrack. Kevin Hearn was hired as the keyboardist for the subsequent tour and then was asked to join the band.
From two dates on the Born on a Pirate Ship tour during 1996, BNL recorded and released a live album called Rock Spectacle, which had a modest radio hit with "Brian Wilson."
The band's greatest success to date and greatest recognition within the United States has come from their fourth album, Stunt, released in 1998, buoyed by the #1 single "One Week". Immediately after Stunt was released, however, Kevin Hearn was diagnosed with leukemia and had to spend several months in the hospital recovering. The band toured, but with friends Chris Brown and Greg Kurstin on keyboards until Kevin recovered enough to rejoin them on the road. The singles "It's All Been Done" and "Call and Answer" also came from this highly successful album.
Maroon, released in 2000, also did fairly well in stores, led by the single "Pinch Me". In 2001, they released a compilation album, entitled Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits 1991-2001.
BNL's most recent album, released October 21, 2003, is entitled Everything to Everyone. The first single off that album was "Another Postcard," which received modest radio play. "Testing 1,2,3" is the second single off the album, and the video is currently being shown on VH1.
BNL has a reputation as an excellent live band, and are particularly well-known for improvising amusing songs during their shows.
Both Jim Creeggan and Kevin Hearn have side projects that are worked on during hiatus from BNL touring and studio time. Jim is part of the alternative/jazz trio The Brothers Creeggan, with brother and former BNL member Andy Creeggan and friend Ian McLauchlan. Kevin is the frontman of Kevin Hearn and Thin Buckle, who play a mix of alternative rock and jazz with many other eclectic influences. Thin Buckle features players from several other Canadian alternative bands, such as The Rheostatics.
Barenaked Ladies also have an authorized biography, written by friend of the band and fellow "Scarberian" Paul Myers, brother of Mike Myers, of former SNL fame. The book is called Public Stunts Private Stories and is published in Canada by Madrigal Press. An updated 2003 version includes a different cover, information about Disc One and Everything to Everyone, and fixes several typos found in the original version.
With the release of Everything to Everyone, BNL have fulfilled their contract with Reprise, and are rumoured to be going independent. The band is currently working on an as-yet-untitled holiday album.