Reel Big Fish — We're Awkward! Interview by Cosmic-A (Monica Demattei) | Transcription by Kiya Gaskin
26 years on the scene has not slowed them down. Ska Punk band Reel Big Fish spread their quirky sound all over the U.S. during their latest stint on The Vans Warped Tour. 2016 marked the band’s 7th leg of the Warped Tour.
Reel Big Fish was more than ecstatic to back on the road with some of the Alternative scene’s finest musicians.
“It’s great to be back,” said John Christianson, the trumpet player and vocalist of the band. “I think we’re doing a great job making new fans, and that’s really why we do this. [We want] to bring a whole new generation of people in to Reel Big Fish family. I think we are doing a great job of that.”
The band’s autograph signings allow Reel Big Fish to see just how much they have transcended the generations.
“There are a lot of people that come up to our autograph signings and go ‘I had no idea who you were’, and it was the most awesome thing,” he said. “That’s a real compliment. And we’re having a lot of kids come up and say ‘can I get an autograph for my dad or my mom’ and it’s just really great.”
Although the band still has an immensely large fanbase, the types of fans they have acquired has changed over the years.
“They’re still crazy,” he said. “They are not quite the diehard Ska fans we’ve seen over the years – usually there are people in suspenders with their bowler hat and their Doc Martens on, ready to dance – it’s more of homogenized music fans, but the reaction is the same. Everybody’s going crazy. Being in Reel Big Fish is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. It’s really special, and we have the best fans in the world. I’ve played a lot of other gigs, and this is hands down the most fun you can have.”
At the time, the band was preparing for the re-release of their Holiday album on a timeless music medium: vinyl. They were also looking forward to producing new music.
“We have a holiday album we’re re-releasing on gold vinyl because that’s what everyone likes. It’s a colorful vinyl. And hopefully I can convince Aaron to start recording another record. A third of the songs that we play on this tour are off of Candy Coated Fury, which was the last full length album we did. It’s definitely valid and I think we have some more stuff to say.”
Photograph by Jonathan Thorpe
Warped Tour was not the bands only plans for the year. Immediately following Warped, Reel Big Fish was headed to South America to play shows.
“We’re on tour eight months out of the year,” Christianson said. “We go around the world every year. We go to the Southern Hemisphere every other year. Right after this tour, we go to Brazil and play Sao Paulo, Brazil. Then we go to Mexico and play Mexico City. Then we’ll be home for a week, and then we fly back out."
Because of his experience being out on the road, Christianson offered up some noteworthy advice.
“This life isn’t for everybody,” he stated. “We’ve had a lot of members in this band – over 25 for 26 years. Not everybody can live on the road. Not everyone can maintain a relationship at home. A lot of people have had kids and want more, which I completely respect. I have a three -year- old daughter. I hope to make her a pirate, have her live on the road, play music and enjoy this life.”
He also gave some great insight to the life of a musician for artists just starting out.
“Don’t expect to make money doing this,” he said. “If you do get to make money and making a living, it’s like being hit by lightning. We barely eek out enough to pay everybody; it’s really, really difficult. That’s why we have to tour so much. That’s our only source of income.”
Photograph by Cosmic-A Photos
Christianson reinforced the importance of supporting the scene. The support not only let’s bands continue to create inspiring music, but also makes their lives easier.
“If there’s a band that you love, go see a live show and support that band,” he said. “Let them know that you love their music because otherwise, bands like us – or any band – can’t sustain. It’s not the ‘80s anymore. Very few people are selling millions of records where they don’t have to tour. Like Adele. She’s like ‘I’m going to take the next five years off and raise my kid’. Well that’s great for you because you’ve sold 50 million in records. It doesn’t work that way with us unfortunately. So go support a band.”
Most importantly, Christianson stressed that practice really does make perfect.
“Practice,” he said. “Please practice. Get good at your instruments. As my good friend Aaron would say, ‘write only hit songs’."
Jokingly, Aaron Barrett, lead singer of Reel Big Fish, added, “write only hits. I mean, I can’t do it. But if you can, do it.”
As some musicians rise to fame, they forget to stay humble. John Christianson said that musicians need to remember that they can play music whilst being decent human beings.
“Don’t be an asshole,” he said. “There’s no place for people to be mean to other people. There are times to be an asshole, but those are few and far between. You have to be 95% awesome human being and then 5% asshole. So don’t make it 95% asshole and 5% good human being.”
While Warped Tour is long and grueling, Reel Big Fish continues to do what they do because they love their fans.
“We love you,” he said. “Thank you for the 26 years of support. Without you we would be able to have careers in music. We realize how special this is, and it’s a shared journey between us and the fans that come to see us. We really appreciate you coming out to the shows.”
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