July 26th, 2012, 10:01 am · · posted by KELLI SKYE FADROSKI, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
As Reel Big Fish‘s Summer of Ska Tour with Big D & the Kids Table and Suburban Legends comes to an end this week, the Orange County sextet is looking forward to the release of its first album of new music since 2007′s Monkeys for Nothin’ and the Chimps for Free. The band delivers Candy Coated Fury on July 31 and is hosting an official release party – without actually having the release available to sell – at the outing’s final stop, Saturday night at City National Grove of Anaheim.
“I’m not exactly sure how that works,” lead vocalist and guitarist Aaron Barrett admitted with a laugh during a recent phone interview. “But we’ll celebrate with or without it.”
Barrett says he’s not sure what sorts of shenanigans the band has in store for the hometown crowd, but it will definitely incorporate a few fresh tracks into the set list.
“We’ve been playing about two new songs a night on the tour and people seem to really like them,” he adds. “In pre-production, I made sure that all of the songs were really danceable, made sure the bass lines and drum parts really made you bounce, so that for people hearing them for the first time, it’s still easy to dance to even if you don’t know the lyrics. That’s what ska music was in the first place, something you can dance to.”
The album title, Barrett says, is something he’s been sitting on for a long while. A close friend once described the band as such and it stuck with him ever since.
“It’s the perfect description of what we do,” he explains. “It’s angry, hateful, mean, sarcastic lyrics over really wacky, joyous music.”
Given song titles like “She’s Not the End of the World,” “I Dare You to Break My Heart,” “Don’t Let Me Down Gently,” “Lost Cause” and “P.S. I Hate You,” I had to ask: Who got hurt here?
Barrett simply says he found himself getting back to the roots of Reel Big Fish and thus started writing again about relationships gone wrong. Not all of the tracks are directly related to his own terrible experiences, he claims; some are derived from other band members and close friends.
“I’m an old man now,” the 37-year-old says. “I’ve seen a lot of people with a lot of heartbreaks. We haven’t done any bad relationship songs in a long time. That’s what I wrote about on the first couple of albums. I mean, I just didn’t want to write about being in a band anymore.”
Though RBF issued the all-covers collection Fame, Fortune and Fornication in 2009, Barrett says the main reasons for the five-year wait for new material boil down to several member changes and a lack of ideas for a full-length effort. By the end of last year, however, he knew it was time. Inspired to write, he headed into the group’s Orange studio to get things started. Ever since Reel Big Fish was dropped from Jive Records in 2006, the band has recorded on its own, with Barrett serving as producer.
“We have a little system going of how we record things there and it is very comfortable,” he says. “It’s easy, no stress – just go in and make music and do what we do best.”
Coming out of the studio this time, Barrett says he and his crew – bassist Derek Gibbs, trombonist Dan Regan, drummer Ryland Steen, saxophonist Matt Appleton and trumpeter John Christianson – are all equally stoked on the new material.
“Everyone is excited for people to hear it. We haven’t seen this in the band in a long time. Everyone enjoyed doing the live album and the covers album, but I just haven’t seen everyone so like, ‘Ya! New stuff!’
“Usually when we make a new album, (the band) just kind of feels like ‘Oh, people aren’t going to like these.’ There’s been a lot of doubt before, but now everyone’s like ‘Let’s play a new song!’ I think at this point we’ve been doing this long enough, and I’ve been writing long enough, that I think just maybe I might have gotten good at what I do. Finally!”
So far the band has debuted “Punisher,” “P.S. I Hate You” and the instrumental “Don’t Stop Skankin’” while on this tour. Fans seem to like hearing them as much as the band enjoys playing them, Barrett reports.
“When I look out and see people dancing to a song they’ve never heard before, that feels really good,” he says. “The last few times we’ve had an album out and we’d play a couple of new songs, people would just stand there and stare at us. That’s hard when your band is the kind of band that people jump around and go crazy to. It feels good to see this reaction now.
“The only problem is that there are so many words with the new stuff, and I can’t remember them all. I really am going to need a TelePrompTer. Once the album comes out, I’ll just let the crowd sing and I’ll sit back and go ‘Yeah, I’m doing this on purpose, you guys sing it.’ Luckily our band is kind of silly, so we can just make it a joke if I do mess up.”
Reel Big Fish only gets one day off after the Grove gig before heading off to Europe for three weeks of festivals, including the Kubana Festival in Russia and the Boomtown and Beautiful Days Festivals in the U.K. One such event Barrett is looking forward to – but slightly unsure of – is the Resurrection Festival in Spain, which will find the upbeat group performing alongside Hatebreed, At the Gates, Dead Kennedys, Agnostic Front, Descendents and Anti-Flag.
“It’s good to be the band that stands out,” he jokes. “We’ll definitely get noticed.”
With Reel Big Fish now in its 21st year, and Barrett the only remaining original member, the frontman says he feels very lucky to still be doing what he dreamed about since he was a teenager.
“When you’re a 16-year-old kid getting a guitar for your birthday, you have all of these dreams of, like, ‘I’m going to be a rock star.’ It’s a lot of unrealistic expectations of things because you really have no clue. Once a few years went by for me, I figured out how everything was going to be.
“It’s pretty amazing now, though, because as a 16-year-old kid I never thought that at nearly 40 I’d be jumping around and touring the world. The concept of being in my late 20s was crazy enough, but to imagine being in my late 30s – that never entered my mind. I had no idea what all of this was or meant. I just knew I wanted to play music.”
As for how far he’s looking into the future, Barrett says he’s game to keep touring as long as people are still willing to come out and watch.
“I still love what I do,” he adds. “I think everyone in the band really loves to do it, too, so we’ll keep it going as long as we can keep making music – until they have to roll us out on stage in our wheelchairs or we come scooting out with our walkers. I mean, we’re the band – we don’t have to skank. The crowd has to dance. We play music.”
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