To say Bif Naked is a "curiosity" is like saying Mick Jagger is "famous" or New York is "big" - one word doesn't seem quite enough.
Bif adorns herself in tattoos, multiple piercings and a thick coat of black mascara. She professes a deep love of skateboarding, snowboarding, martial arts and languages. (She speaks roughly six.) She is very well-read and is as likely to quote Chris Rock as she is Buddha.
We caught up with Bif in the midst of her zigzag tour of the country. She currently is playing in the Lilith Fair as well as opening for the Cult's on its U.S. tour. Her major label debut, "I BIFICUS," hit stores last month.
"When people look at my CD cover. I don't know what they will think. Maybe they think it will be Morbid Angel or something," she says. "A lot of people think I am goth, which drives me bananas."
Indeed, Bif is not goth. Her music was noted among the highlights of many Lilith reviews -- mainly for its offbeat mix of energy and sincerity.
"I don't know how to make people realize that I am the girl next door," she sighs, then lets loose a wicked chuckle, "The girl next door with a skateboard."
A press release Bif's new major label Atlantic Records sent out makes her seem like some long, lost Indian princess. Examine: The 27-year-old singer/songwriter was born in New Delhi, orphaned by her teenage parents at a mental institute. Soon thereafter, two American missionaries began the long and difficult process of adopting Bif and eventually brought her to the States.
But as interesting as her origin is, Bif prefers to downplay her past.
"I had a really normal North American upbringing, except that I moved around a lot. If anything, I was your typical Army brat."
Her father, a professor of dentistry, constantly moved the family around North America until finally settling in Canada. Bif now resides there when not on the road.
And though touring is a major part of her present life, Bif can foresee her future being complicated by dormitory life again, rather than by tour-bus living.
The former Winnipeg College student dropped out of college after her first year to play with a rock band she had formed. Bif says she "would love to go back" to study languages or even medicine.
"I love languages, and if I ever have time to go back, I want to take languages for sure -- a lot of them. I want to study twenty."
Then adds, "I don't know what I want to do. It's always changing."
Such statements no doubt make the Atlantic Record execs a bit nervous. Bif currently is one of the label's rising stars. With both personality and passion in her arsenal, it's no mystery why.
"People are tired of light. They need me and the Luna Chicks," she exclaims. "The world just needs some head banging chicks."
One problem Bif says she faced growing up in rock was the lack of female role models. "I didn't have a lot of female roll models, so I looked up to bands like Pantera for inspiration."
But her sound developed, and so did her following. In addition to having slots on Lilith and with the Cult, Bif recently performed at ESPN's X Games -- an experience she claims "inspired her" to take up skateboarding again.
The mainstream seems a likely part of her future, and Bif is anything but timid about the spotlight. But she does note that media backlash has made life very uncomfortable for America's most-famous female performers. Bif names Madonna as a prime example.
"People take things too seriously. They forget it's entertainment. Ultimately the music business is show business," she says. "It's like being a carnie."
As entertaining as Bif's music may be, several songs on her new album discuss very personal and emotional territory. The landscape was so emotional at times, even the outspoken artist was hesitant to release them.
The song "Chotee," for instance, is an open letter from Bif to a baby she aborted while married to a drummer in one of her former bands. "Chotee" means baby in Hindi.
"It is the story of the loss of love. I was married to a guy for about five minutes, who I thought was Steve Keating, and I wanted to be Elise Keating," she recalls.
"When I found out I was pregnant I was very excited. I thought this was just going to be the way it is.
"He informed me I was very mistaken."
But she adds, "That doesn't diminish my pro-choice status and conviction."
Even though she is a rock performer, Bif says she feels vulnerable at times, too. "I felt like I was leaving myself open for criticism (on my album), but I have to tell it like it is. I'm not gong to start being shy now."
Writing sooths her, but Bif admits she finds true solace in realizing how small her problems really are. "We've got it so good she says.
"Everybody should check out Chris Rock's social commentary. He suggests that in our society people will shoot up and drink heavily, but they won't eat pork because it will kill (them).
"We have too much food," Bif says in true Rock-style. "If you were fat in Bangladesh they would look at you and ask 'how did you do that?'
Yet as deep as the album gets, it is not always about such weighty subject matter. There are some no-brainers, odds and ends that vary from nostalgic recollections of adolescent love to observations of one boyfriend who twitched for no reason.
The track "Any Day Now" seems at first like Bif's prophesying her own success, but it is really a shout out to many of her twentysomething friends.
"All of my girlfriends, like me in their late twenties, ... are all working and making the rent," she says. "I get so tired of hearing people around me waiting for their real life to start."
Watch for Bif this fall as she makes a guest appearance on the third episode of WBâs Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She will also be in the upcoming "Buffy" soundtrack.
Bif Naked Web site from Atlantic Recods
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