MEB writer Kristyn Shannon had the opportunity to chat with two of the six members of Reel Big Fish at the Warped Tour stop in Camden. Check out the conversation below about having a full Reel Big Fish stage at Warped, PokemonGo, and advice for those looking to start a band.
To start off, what’s your favorite song to play during this set?
Derek [Gibbs]: Let’s see, during this set. That’d be like giving away a song. Oh, they’re probably not going to read this before we play.
Matt [Appleton]: Well, favorite song to play. There are songs I like to play for myself and then the songs I like to play because of the way we get a reaction out of people. So, playing “S.R.” is a lot of fun because we get the crowd doing all the different dance moves and I think that’s a blast. For me, personally, I really like “She’s Famous Now.” That’s my favorite song.
Derek: Ooh, that’s a good one. Or “Down In Flames.” Maybe “All I Want Is More?”
Matt: That’s a good one too.
What’s it like to see a ton of old punk-rock bands, like Sum-41 and Good Charlotte, ruling Warped Tour again?
Matt: It’s cool to be on tour with guys our age.
Derek: Close. Your age.
Matt: Guys my age. (Laughs) It’s like touring with all your buddies. We know these guys and we’ve known them for a long time. So, to have them on this Warped Tour with us is fun. It makes it more fun than usual. We came on this tour already knowing half the people here, so it’s fun for social reasons.
You’ve been around for a while – that’s not rude, I promise – how’d you manage to keep up with the changing times?
Matt: That’s a you question more than me.
Derek: We just kept doing our thing. I don’t think the band has changed much other than personnel. Music’s pretty much the same.
Matt: It’s not like there’s ever been one big change. The lineup stays pretty much the same and then one person will go every four years. So, it’s not like there’s this moment where everything changed. Is that fair to say?
Derek: Yeah. You probably mean change like what’s cool now. We never followed that path; we just keep doing our thing and that’s why we’re still here.
Matt: If you attempt to genre switch as things change, it’s a slippery slope. I think our fans appreciate us sticking to what we do best. It’s what we enjoy doing so why change?
Derek: We’re pretty good at playing death metal, so if we did that then there’d be at least one or two bands that probably wouldn’t be famous right now cause they wouldn’t have room to do their art.
Matt: Nobody would be at the Monster Energy Stage, they’d just be sitting by our stage because we’d do it all.
Derek: It would be The Reel Big Fish Stage.
Could you imagine if you had your own stage, just you guys?
Derek: That sounds like a long day.
Matt: We imagine that every night though. The Reel Big Fish stage. Bars on either side instead of the monitor desk.
Derek: Mm, yeah, bars.
Matt: Pictures of us all over it.
Derek: Oh, I don’t need that.
Matt: One big picture of you [Derek] with a mustache across the top of the stage with no shirt on reclining.
Derek: Yeah, I mean, I can’t fight what the public wants.
Matt: Gotta give the people what they want.
Derek: My public being this guy and maybe one or two other people.
How did you guys come up with the name Reel Big Fish? It’s so unique.
Derek: It was originally called The Fisher Kings, from the Robin Williams movie from way back when, and so the original demo tape was called Reel Big Fish.
Matt: So, it was like The Fisher Kings: Reel Big Fish.
Derek: Everyone would ask “oh, do you have that Reel Big Fish demo tape?” The new fans kind of blew it for us. So we overruled our naming decisions and decided that we would be called Reel Big Fish. We just went with it.
Matt: The fans were right.
I’m sorry, my phone is having a bit of an issue right now.
Derek: Oh, ‘Driod.
The droid is new for me. I switched from iPhone to Android.
Matt: Is that the one with the waterproof screen? And it has the curved screen where your texts pop up on the side?
Yeah, and it always has the time on the screen. It’s really cool.
Derek: Was it worth the switch?
For right now, yes. But I’m not sure about PokemonGo yet.
Matt: Yes! It came up again! I was looking on Facebook yesterday and everyone was talking about police killings and PokemonGo. Those were the only two things on my Facebook feed. So, turning the interview around, what is it? What is PokemonGo?
The original Pokemon games are where you go out and find pokemon and battle them. PokemonGo is like that but in real time. So, as you walk, you find pokemon around where you are and then you can catch them, which is really hard.
Derek: It’s like going from Warcraft where you mine lumber and gold to World Of Warcraft. Is there like a Pokemon Guild?
Probably. It’s not really up to anything yet. You can catch pokemon and train them, but not really do much with it.
Matt: Man, I don’t know anything about this, but it sounds awesome. Sounds like everyone needs it. But, anyway, Reel Big Fish. (Laughs)
Anyway, Reel Big Fish. (Laughs) What kind of music did you grow up with before the band came together?
Matt: Different answers for the two of us, I’m sure.
Derek: When I was learning how to play bass, I was listening to Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Van Halen. All that kind of stuff.
Matt: I guess we have similar answers. Cause when I was learning how to play guitar, I was listening to Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana, and Megadeth. But also, on all of our family car trips when I was a kid, it was always The Beetles and Jimi Hendrix always in the car. In the back of the minivan, that’s what my dad was always playing.
Metallica is still around. I went to one of their concerts, well they were in a festival I went to.
Matt: We got to play with them a couple years ago, it was great.
Derek: We got to play before them in the same festival.
Matt: Sonisphere. Outside of London.
Your music is so upbeat, I absolutely love it! What was your inspiration behind adding trumpets, or rather the entire idea of ska, to your music?
Matt: I know when Aaron started the band, it was in the midst of a ska scene that was breaking out in Southern California, in Anaheim and Orange County. Like Sublime and No Doubt. They had horns in their recordings and that’s pretty much where it came from. That was the scene that was happening. When little Aaron Barrett was 15 years old, that’s what was happening. No Doubt was happening. Sublime was happening. That was the scene and that’s how it happens.
You have some sarcasm when it comes to music videos and some themes in songs. How’d that come to be?
Matt: I think that gives you a little insight into Aaron’s brain. That’s his way of expressing himself; he’s the one that’s writing all these words. It’s his way of communicating his view of the world, his frustrations and all that. He’s not a very confrontational guy in real life, so I think the sarcastic lyrics are an expression of how he is in real life. He’s not one to say things outright. He’ll slither around the back a little bit.
Passive aggressive is the way to go.
Matt: Makes for good lyrics too.
What was the reason behind recording covers, like “Take On Me,” and re-recording older songs in your new album?
Derek: The formula was decided upon to always have a cover or two on an album. It’s the way that we wanted to do it. A lot of us are fans of 80’s music and going back to what we grew up on and what got us into wanting to do this in the first place. “Take On Me” is a great song and the video was groundbreaking with pencil art. It just worked out.
Matt: The songs that we like and they’re from an era that we all like.
Derek: Sometimes songs just scream out “Make me into a ska song” and then you try it and it sounds good, then you stick with it. There are dozens that we’ve done over the years; some that I can’t even remember we’ve done. We’ll play them at sound check and I’ll be like, “Oh yeah.”
Matt: They’re mostly 80’s songs. That’s when we were all in our formative listening years too.
Do you have any tips for those wishing to be in a band?
Derek: Practice your instrument. Jam a lot with other people. Write a lot of songs because there’s going to be a lot of shitty ones before you get a good one.
Matt: A lot of bands, once they get to a certain point, move to New York or LA to try and make it and I think that’s a terrible idea. It’s best to stay in your own town, even if you live in a small town, and get really popular in your little town and branch out from there. You’re more likely to have success that way, I think, than going out to a big city and getting lost in the crowd. That being said, assuming that you have good songs and can play, you have to find a way to make yourself stand out and not be like other bands. What’s your thing? Like, why do we need another band? What are you bringing to the table? Like, for instance, Masked Intruder, they have a really cool shtick going on. They wear all the masks and they’re robbers. They stay in character all the time and no other band is doing that and that makes them stand out. Otherwise, it’s just poppy-punk music, but they’ve made themselves stand out in the crowd with their alter egos. That will give you a boost rather than just being more guys in black shirts.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to us?
Matt: Thank you for coming to our shows. Thanks for listening. Keep coming back. We’ll keep touring, we’re gonna do this forever as long as you keep coming to our shows. Thank you!