After 15 years and almost as many members, Reel Big Fish are still alive and kicking.
With an Australian tour locked in for December, Reel Big Fish’s main man Aaron Barrett spoke to us about major labels, revolving doors and why ska still has its place in the music world…
Interview w/ Aaron Barrett (Vocals/Guitar)
of Reel Big Fish
By Cameron Chambers
Pleasure speaking to you today
Aaron, how are you?
Not a problem man. You good?
I’m great man.
What have you and the rest of Reel Big Fish been up to
Argh… we’ve had some time
off actually. I haven’t seen those guys for a few weeks which is cool,
“Monkeys For Nothin And The
Chimps For Free” has been out since July, are you happy with the way
the record has been received?
Oh yeah man, ha ha. Our fans have
actually been liking this one and it’s been getting some good comments.
Usually you do a new album and it’s hated on and people say it’s
terrible but then when you do your next album people are like
“it’s not like the last one, it’s so good”.
So I’m scared of all the positive
feedback because they might hate it later but hey, it’s all positive
I read that the record was
originally intended to be a B-Sides album. What made you guys take the
record in a different direction?
It was originally intended as
a bonus disc for a live album and we were like “let’s do even more
live stuff”, ha ha. We’re about to take someone on the road with
us with all the recording stuff but I mean, c’mon, we don’t need
anymore live stuff… it’s ridiculous!
So we said, let’s do the b-sides
thing, let’s dig through the old stuff and our demos and maybe we
can re-record the songs we like. We found a couple of things we like
but there wasn’t enough so we wrote about 10 more songs and now we
have an album!
Is there a chance that we’ll
see any of the discarded songs pop up on future Reel Big Fish release?
You never now, ha ha. We don’t
like anything to go to waste so they might pop up somewhere.
This is your first record since
finishing your deal with Jive Records
– do you think being free from a major label made recording the album
a more enjoyable experience?
It definitely was. There was no
A & R guys asking hanging around, we didn’t have to ask anyone
for a budget or get an OK on our demos. It was just lie, let’s record
something cool and fun and let’s just do it!
We used a studio that was really
inexpensive and didn’t hurt our budget too much. We just went in and
had some fun. It took about 3 weeks and it was just awesome. We’re
happy with it and we think it sounds great.
Our friends at Rock Ridge put
it out and it actually came out when it was supposed to and it was out
all over the world as opposed to our last record which was only released
in the US, ha ha.
Ska hasn’t really had a lot
of mainstream attention since the late 90’s, what’s the scene like
in the US at the moment?
It doesn’t really get any radio
attention so you don’t hear too much about it, but there are a lot
of ska bands everywhere we go. Heaps of kids at shows tell us they’ve
started bands and give us demos so it’s definitely bubbling under
Regardless of trends or your
genre’s commercial popularity, Reel Big Fish is one band that has
been able to release records on a regular basis and still be met with
positive reviews – what do you think it is that separates you guys
from so many other ska bands?
I dunno. I guess it helps that
we listen to all kinds of music… not just ska and punk, but all kinds
of crazy stuff. We take our influences from all over. I think that helps
make the music different from other ska bands.
I think we try to please our fans
and we try not to worry about what the record label says. We just worry
about what our fans like and what will please them and we try to put
on a show they like.
We got our big break in 96 or
97 and we got popular and a lot of our friend’s bands got popular
but then they went and made albums without horns because they listened
to their label, but we never did that. We just did our own thing.
What touring have you guys
done to support your latest record?
We did a huge tour in the US…
Who was that with?
We were on the road with Less
Than Jake, Against All Authority and Streetlight Manifesto. It was such
a good fun tour!
Reel Big Fish have been through
more band members than I’ve had hot dinners
– given that you’re the only original member,
how do you stay motivated to keep the band going?
Um, ha ha. I guess I’m just
the crazy guy who wants to keep the band going and write songs. Scott
and Dan have been in the band since 1994 and I consider them to be original
members even though they haven’t technically been there since the
Matt Wong has been one of the
band’s most popular members – was it hard to see him leave?
It was weird man. He was in the
band for so long. We knew he was miserable being away from his wife
and baby. He liked to be at home and he wanted to be the family guy.
He wasn’t into being in a band
for a living. Don’t get me wrong, he loves playing but it’s not
his first love, ha ha. We’re happy with his decision.
Have fans been accepting of
your new bassist Derek Gibbs?
He’s really good man. He’s
been in other ska bands… he was in Forces Of Evil with me. So, a few
people now who he is, ha ha.
Some people are sceptical until
they seem him rock out and then they dig it!
Does the introduction of new
blood into the band give you guys a fresh perspective when it comes
to writing and recording?
It definitely does. Someone new
helps us to remember why being in a band is so fun. Having someone who
is so excited to be playing and glad to be in the band makes it more
fun for everyone.
Will Reel Big Fish continue
to self release your own records or will you be seeking out a new label
for your next album?
So far it’s working out really
well so we’ll see where it goes. If there’s an indie label that
wants to give us an amazing deal then we’ll consider it, but we’re
doing well on our own.
You guys are hitting Australia
in December with Less Than Jake – how do you think the 2007 version
of Reel Big Fish will compare to the last line-up that toured down under?
This will be one of our best tours
ever. We toured with Less Than Jake in the US and it was my favourite
tour ever. We’re really happy we’re bringing the same line-up to
Australia with us and we want to take it to Europe as well!
As for our line-up, they’re
all great musicians and we’re all pretty solid players, so yeah, we’re
Less Than Jake like to get
a little rowdy, can we expect some band on band pranks on this tour?
Yeah, ha ha. Definitely!
We drank a lot this summer! It
was fun and a really good time for everyone. It was just a non stop
party… good times for all!
Have you got a particularly
nasty tour story that you’d like to share with us?
Um, I dunno. We always get that
question, ha ha. Normally I’m like, “wait, I don’t remember anything
it all because it’s all a blur”, ha ha.
I remember the last show of this
US tour and Less Than Jake had a confetti shooting cannon and they were
aiming it at the audience. On the last night they filled the cannon
with glitter and pointed it at us so when we were playing we, along
with all our equipment was completely covered.
It was a fun tour!
I’ve got to ask
– how did you guys end up in Baseketball, which is easily one of the
best films of all time by the way!?
Well yeah, ha ha. We still to
this day wonder how we got in that movie! We have no idea but someone
called us and yeah, it just happened.
We were excited because we love
South Park and the thought of being in a movie was cool. It never crossed
our minds that being in a movie was something we could do… we just
wanted to be in a band for a living.
But yeah, meeting Matt and Trey
was really cool. Some people found out about our band which is always
That’s about it mate, anything
else you’d like to say?
We can’t wait for December,
ha ha. Get to these shows!
Ha ha, we’ll see you then
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