Reel Big Fish
It's 1997 and it's the Year Of The Fish, and Reel Big Fish are sellin' out. Or are they? "We're the same wacky bunch of guys you've always known and loved," assures Reel Big Fish bassist Matt Wong. Sell Out is Reel Big Fish's current single at radio and the video is being played on your nifty little television sets. The band is experiencing the rock dream. Does that make them sell outs? "Selling out is changing your style to get signed, to follow a trend. How can we be sell outs if we're playing the same music we've always played?," queries Wong. "People seem to have this idea that if you're in a band that's getting played on the radio and MTV that you're a sell out. Aaron (Barrett) wrote that song to make fun of that attitude. I mean, if it's going to make us more popular, great!" Then, tongue firmly in cheek, he adds, "It's all about the ska. It's all about the money. It's all about the music, but not necessarily in that order."
Not long ago, the seven lads (young-uns all of them; the four in the horn section are 19, the rest of the band in their early 20's), that make up Reel Big Fish were clubbing around the Orange County, California scene, creating a following and making a name for themselves with their self-released CD, Everything Sucks. The CD not only sold a few thousand copies locally but spawned a #1 hit on Radio Free Hawaii. The fine folks at Mojo Records, the label also responsible for signing Goldfinger, fell head over heels for the 'Fishes, inked them up and put them back in the studio. Under the direction of Mojo Records President Jay Rifkin and Oingo Boingo bassist John Avila, Reel Big Fish recorded their second full-length CD, Turn The Radio Off.
Initially, the goal of the original members of reel Big Fish (Aaron Barrett, Matthew Wong and Andrew Gonzales), was to cover a different song from every musical style possible. Yup, covers of Wham!, Warrant and Jimi Hendrix abound, Reel Big Fish were a real big hit most likely at backyard parties. Inspired by ska, Reel Big Fish added horn players until they arrived at their distinctive big band-meets-tattered caffeine freak sound.
Though the original turnover for horn players was worse than your local McDonald's, the band finally jelled with Grant Barry and Dan Regan on trombone, Tavis Werts on trumpet and Scott Klopfenstein on trumpet and vocals.
Enter Turn The Radio Off, the band's debut CD on Mojo Records, out now. Fueled on by their huge Southern California fan base, Reel Big Fish are quickly becoming the country's latest pop darlings. They have made it to the pages of Rolling Stone (RS Feb. 6, 1997), coming in at #8 on the magazine's Top 10 Alternative Albums chart.
Tastemaker radio stations like Los Angeles' World Famous KROQ, Seattle's KNDD "The End," and WPNT "The Point" in St. Louis have been big supporters of the band.
Their debut single, "Everything Sucks" reached #53 on CMJ's (College Music Journal) album chart. The video for "Everything Sucks" has also been thrilling viewers of MTV's 120 Minutes and MTV2. "Sell Out," Reel Big Fish's second single, enjoyed extensive airplay on college and commercial radio stations across the country. The video is already being touted as "one of the best we've seen" by early viewers, has been added to MTV2 and MTV's 120 Minutes program and charted at #2 on CVC (video trade magazine). Since the release of Turn The Radio Off in August, the band has toured the United States nearly non-stop, including tours with the Toasters, Let's Go Bowling, Goldfinger and Cherry Poppin Daddies. Reel Big Fish have also been a part of the SXSW Music Conference, Board Stiff, a one-day snowboarding event at which they shared the stage with the likes of Dinosaur Jr. and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and the band has opened for legendary rock gods KISS and fellow Orange Countyans No Doubt. Reel Big Fish will perform on the 1997 summer WARP Tour, a skate & snowboarding punk-rock extravaganza, and various radio-sponsored summer festivals across the country, including the WHFS-fest (an event that will have our faithful heroes live in front of an audience in excess of 60,000). In-stores at Orange County record shops turned into utter mayhem when, in addition to the 3000+ fans who showed up to meet the Fishes, local law enforcement in riot gear, fire marshals and, Long Beach sky fuzz flocked to the stores in droves. Don't let da 'Fishes catch you starting a mosh pit at one of their shows, though. "Stop moshing and floating. It's so irritating. You should be able to go to a show and not have to watch your back or worry about someone's boot coming at your face." Wong continues, "We want to bring back this thing called dancing, be it break dancing or skanking. Breakdancing's better, I think. If you start breakdancing, I'll provide the cardboard."
Matt summarizes, "If people want to call us a ska band, that's fine. If people want to call us a pop band, that's fine. We're both. We use ska, and we rely very heavy on pop influences, especially anything from the eighties. We're all about having fun. We see things around us and instead of complaining about them, we make fun. It's called sarcasm. If we meant everything we said we'd be in a whole lot of trouble." You can hear the grin in his voice.
Maybe it's the "pop 'n' punky beats that get yo' ass shakin.'" Maybe it's the big ball of energy that is the Reel Big Fish live show that includes ska versions of The Cure's "Boys Don't Cry," and A-ha's "Take On Me." Or maybe it's the fine photo of KROQ DJ, Jed 'The Fish' being held at gun point on the album cover. Whatever the reason, Reel Big Fish have made a real big splash, the kids are crazy for them, following the horns like mice to the Pied Piper, and we're sure you'll agree, Reel Big Fish's Turn The Radio Off is one of the feel good hits of 1997!