Reel Big Fish have been flying the Ska flag for over 15 years and will be here for the Soundwave festival in 2010.
We caught up with lead singer and founding member Aaron Barnett.
For the record, tell us your name, what you do in the band and your first celebrity crush
Aaron Barrett, lead vocals, guitar, song writer, producer. i was madly in love with Dolly Parton in the movie "9 to 5" when was little.
It’s been a while since we’ve heard some new original stuff from Reel Big Fish – when can we expect a new album?
Maybe late 2010 but i’m not making any promises. We have enough good songs already anyway don’t you think?!
Ska is kind of a niche genre these days, and you guys are pretty much carrying the flag for modern-day ska – do you ever get kids coming up and saying “I started a ska band after seeing you play” or “you introduced me to ska, now I’ve really gotten into it and found a bunch of cool new bands”?
Absolutely! All of the above! it feels good to know that we’ve influenced a lot of people and inspired them to get into this music we love so much! Also, i always find it SO strange that, for the most part, once a "ska" band gets big or popular (or signed) , they want NOTHING to do with the word SKA or the scene or fans of the genre. we’re proud to be a ska band!
How did you gravitate towards ska music?
For me i loved the energy, i love the horns and the color and texture that they add to the music. i also love the danceability and the fun of the 3rd wave ska and i love the soul and groove of the old school ska.
Yourself, Scott and Dan have been together for 14 years now – what’s it like to be in such a confined environment as a touring band, with the same people for so long?
We’ve gotten very good at ignoring each other! Haha, luckily we tour in a bus so for the most part, everybody is able to find their own space and have a little privacy if they need it.
Do you think having the same people around means that you get a bit stale, or does it help because you know each other so well?
Well for us, we’ve always had a rotating cast of characters so that has always kept things interesting. Right now the line up is very solid and everyone gets along and plays together well, we have yet to see if that will get stale or not.
We’ve all heard the stereotypes in bands about the drummer being the trouble-maker, the bassist being the lazy one – how does a trombone player behave?
Trombone players are COMPLETELY insane!! I should know, I played trombone in a few ska bands!
What is it like writing for a band that includes a brass section?
For me it just came naturally and made perfect sense. i had the hardest time writing songs when i first started and then i got into ska music and something just clicked!
What’s the general make-up of the crowd at a Reel Big Fish concert?
For us there is a VERY wide variety of people. We have been doing this for quite a while and have had a lot of exposure to people who wouldn’t normally hear ska or know what it is. We were on the radio and Mtv for a while way back when and that brought quite a diverse audience, then there was the "Baseketball" movie that let even more random and different people hear our band. we’ve also done tons of college shows and festivals that let people see us who wouldn’t normally and then there’s the internet…all kinds of people on there. and of course our beloved ska kids who are the best, most enthusiastic, most loyal fans in the world! without them we definitely would not have lasted as long as we have.
You recorded a live DVD which came out in July, what do you think is the biggest difference between the performance on "Our Live Album is Better Than Your Live Album" and this latest release?
"Our live album is better…" was very different because it was VERY over-produced. We recorded 7 shows for the CD portion and just cut in the very best performances from those nights and then did fixes and overdubs for spots that we messed up. i also went as far as to re-sing a few songs and double the guitars.
For the DVD portion we shot 2 sets and used only the best songs and jokes and did the same overdubbing and polishing that we did on the CD.
For this new DVD it is ALL 100% live with no fixes and no overdubs. one night, one show, just the way it happened. both have good and bad things about them but both are very entertaining and worth checking out.
Your old label, Jive Records, released a “Greatest Hits” record in 2006 without your approval, and the same thing has recently happened to Anberlin after they split with their old label – is there something to be said for bands automatically owning all the rights to their own work?
Well when you get signed, most record labels want to own the recordings that THEY pay for. which makes sense. Most bands, if they are smart wont sign over their publishing so that they can still own the actual songs and have the rights to release re-recordings or live versions.
And about the Jive records "Greatest Hit…" album, i guess it was just one last "money grab" on their part, since they knew we had fans and potential and that there still was a demand for our "older" stuff. We definitely didn’t want it to happen at all.
You’ve now linked up with independent record label Rock Ridge Records – how is it different between being on an independent label, and being with a more corporate record company?
We just didn’t fit in with the average major label band. We are too unpredictable and quirky. They saw that we had a lot of fans that liked our music but they couldn’t quite figure out how to label, package and sell us in such a way that they could profit off of us like they did from the likes of Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears.
For us now, it’s amazing! We don’t have to ask permission and wait to get the OK from 456789 different people at the label who may or may not think it’s a good idea to give us a budget for whatever project.
Now it’s just a matter of us having and idea, booking studio time, and then recording it. we have access to a very inexpensive studio so the cost of everything has decreased dramatically. but the quality is still amazing.
Once that’s done, Rock Ridge releases it! that simple! We definitely have a lot more freedom to be creative and are able to have more fun releasing music without so much of the pressures of "business".
Your latest album “Fame, Fortune and Fornication” consists entirely of covers, and you do many covers in your live sets – is it more of a “this song is good but we could make it better”, or is it just for fun?
It really is just for fun. We have that freedom now, which can be good or bad sometimes. But we have the freedom to do things just for fun! the covers album was just 10 songs we though would be fun to record ska versions of. i hope that people can enjoy listening to "FFF" as much as we enjoyed recording it because we had great time doing it.
What would happen if Matt Wong knocked on the door and wanted back in? Bass duo?
Yea, a lead bass off! to the death! Haha.
One CD you could listen to for the rest of your life:
The Frogs – My Daughter the Broad.
One band you think everyone should check out:
One band who should never EVER be allowed to record another song:
You guys were in the movie Baseketball. Here’s a question – have you ever actually PLAYED Baseketball?
You know what, it has NEVER EVER crossed my mind to actually PLAY Baseketball! And it looks so fun!
You’re heading out here for Soundwave in February, anything you’re really looking forward to doing? Any bands you’re particularly looking forward to seeing or playing alongside?
We’re really looking forward to seeing Faith No More and our good friends the Aquabats! and we’re really looking forward to all our days off! We never have enough time to hang out in your lovely country!
Last question – what’s one thing you would like to achieve with the band, that you haven’t already?
We have already gone above and beyond anything we had ever dreamed of and we’re amazed that we are still able to continue releasing albums and touring the world! We are VERY grateful to all our fans for supporting us and allowing us to have this job! Thanks everybody!
Reel Big Fish will be in Australia as part of the Soundwave 2010 festival. For all the dates and venues click here.