Bif Naked is Canada’s tattooed, scantily-clad girl next door
“It’s something else over here. I’ve never been to this part of the world, to be honest with you,” punk-pop princess Bif Naked says of Hilton Head, South Carolina, where her current tour has landed her. There’s a note of hesitation in her voice as she says, “I’m a Vancouver girl, so I’m a little ... overwhelmed.”
Landing in places with names like Hilton Head isn’t that unusual for the Canadian singer-songwriter whose first album in four years (Superbeautifulmonster) dropped a few months ago. That four-year gap is the result of touring at a politician’s pace. Sounds tiring, but Bificus—who has yet to find the monumental success in the U.S. she enjoys in the Great White North—finds little successes in the Hilton Heads of the world to be just as satisfying.
|Bif Naked: a star in Canada, she remains a cult figure in the U.S.|
“There’s just something hugely rewarding about playing in a roomful of people who’re going to listen to you whine about love,” she says. “I don’t really care if it’s 10 people or 1,000. Everything to me has just been terrifically successful.”
Despite a chiseled body adorned with more tattoos than the average biker, a penchant for mini-miniskirts and lacy bras (with little else), and a Betty Page-meets-East Indian look that’s just about as exotic as it sounds, Bif is sugary sweet in that take-her-home-to-ma way. Her voice practically pops from its bubbliness. “I don’t think I dress risqué,” she says when asked about the sexy style that spawns impersonators across Canada. “To me, it’s just fashion. You know, dressing like everyone else does.”
That raises the inevitable question: Does “everyone” in Canada strut around in skirts like that and bras that ... um, lacy?
“I think so,” Bif laughs. “Maybe all the girls I hang out with are all sluts.”
In her own way, Bif is the girl next door. You know, if you lived next door to a tattoo parlor run by the Cleavers.
But what about that new album, her fifth since her eponymous debut in 1995? “It was a real hard time in my personal life. I’d gone through a tremendously excruciating break-up and just kind of dealing with a lot of things in my history,” she says. “We wound up writing, God, 75 songs. It was so hard to whittle it down. Out of 75 songs, 50 were ones I wanted to put on the record. I’m just really proud of the songs that are on there.”
And what happens to the dozens of angsty songs—all of which were completed in studio—that didn’t make the angsty 13-track cut? “I don’t know!” Bif cries out. “I just hope they find a home.”
Speaking of home, Bif was adopted long before she can remember. Her birth parents were teenage boarding students in India, one of whom was Canadian. “There seems to be a lot of mystery surrounding the identity of my father, so it kind of remains to be seen,” she says, adopting a tone of mystery in her voice.
Bif was listed only as “Baby G” on her birth certificate. Two U.S. missionaries eventually brought her to America where she was adopted by a Canadian couple. Almost two decades later, she finally met her birth mother, who now lives in Ontario. Bif sees her when she’s in town on tour.
“The funny thing is that my birth mom is adopted, too, so I don’t really have a heritage,” she says. “The way I was raised, half-American/half-Indian heritage is all I really had to cling to. So as a result, I think I have a real connection with my birth country.”
| K-rock’s Holiday Havoc 2:
Default, Hinder, Bif Naked,
Thousand Foot Krutch
Thu, Dec 15
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That connection has driven her to visit India several times, events that are filled with joy but also marred by plenty of Western guilt over the country’s history. This part of her identity has also inspired many of the tattoos with which she’s adorned her body, including Hindu deities and Buddhist sayings.
Ironically, her passion for such peaceful introspection and outward expression has recently come back to bite her in the ass, though the puritanical hang-ups of the United States are mostly to blame. BodogMusic, who distributes Bif stateside, launched a campaign at the beginning of the 2005 school year to promote her album via a major promotion company that would display posters in more than 4,500 U.S. high schools. The poster photo was initially approved, but yanked at the 11th hour for reasons that left Bif baffled.
“They said the artwork was satanic,” she scoffs.
The photo was the same as Superbeautifulmonster’s cover art— which had been released in Canada without even a yawn. Bif is wearing a miniskirt and traditional Indian dance top, which exposes the tattoos on her midriff and arms. The image ultimately proved unsuitable because of the come-hither look in her eyes, her “aggressive stance,” and the decorative swirls in the background that were deemed satanic.
So what exactly were those swirls, if not a call by Bif for U.S. high-school students to decapitate their teachers, strip naked, and fornicate on lunch tables?
“They’re mandala,” Bif laughingly says of the traditional Buddhist symbol. “It makes me laugh because I’m the biggest square in the world.” •
By Cole Haddon