Reel Big Fish is one of the most recognizable names of Ska. They were at the forefront of the 90s Ska Wave (considered the 3rd Ska Wave) even getting the genre some mainstream exposure. Although all of the members have changed except for lead singer and frontman Aaron Barrett, the band continues to entertain crowds with their fun, high energy live sets. I sat down with Matt Appleton (Saxophone) and Derek Gibbs (Bass) during their New York stop of the Warped Tour where they told me that although there is no Ska Wave currently, they have continued to play to a steady fan base throughout the years. Now with a whole new generation of growing RBF fans, they may even be experiencing a resurgence!
REEL BIG FISH INTERVIEW
SONIC HIGHLARK: What’s going on guys?
MATT APPLETON (SAXOPHONE // REEL BIG FISH): Oh you know, just wondering where the beer is.
DEREK GIBBS (BASS // REEL BIG FISH): Oh no your poor phone, did that just happen?
SONIC: No, no its been surviving this way for a while actually.
DEREK: I kind of like it.
SONIC: Another drop and it’ll probably be done, it’s right at that threshold.
MATT: I went to one of those – iCracked, right? iCracked, isn’t that the name of the company? They’re like a chain and they fix iPhones. They put on a new screen on for me and like and a screen protector and stuff for like 25 bucks.
SONIC: A new screen for $25?
MATT:Yeah, my microphone was busted and my proximity sensor was busted and they fixed it all for 25 bucks. I’d been going around with a busted screen like that too otherwise.
SONIC: Are they going to pay you for this promo man?
MATT: I’m just so happy with my service with iCracked!
MATT: I really am though.
SONIC: Yeah, I would be too. Wait, is it everywhere? Like nationwide?
MATT: Yeah nationwide, like I went to one in southern California, but — I was pleased with their service and the prices are very affordable and competitive.
DEREK: Enter code Reel Big Fish now!
SONIC: That’s a good idea actually. So a lot of members have changed throughout the years —
SONIC: I saw the band back in the day with the Pilfers. Do you know them?
MATT: Yeah, of course. We just did a tour of the Pilfers like 3 years ago?
SONIC: Looking back at the shows you’ve played throughout the years, is it like a different kind of crowd out there?
MATT: No that’s the cool thing, that pretty much stays the same.
MATT: Yeah, the fans are, all the fans that have been with the band since the very beginning are still coming back and now they’re bringing their teenage kids. So we’ve got parents and children coming together now – which is really cool that multiple generations can really get into it.
DEREK: The people our age must be standing in the back because when I look out into the crowd, they look just as young as ever.
SONIC: I guess it depends on where you stand on the stage or wherever.
MATT: They’re all hiding in the back.
DEREK: It makes sense, I wouldn’t want to stand in the front.
MATT: Yeah when I go to shows, I hide in the back – the kids go up front. No we’re still very fortunate to have middle school kids and high school kids still coming to the shows and liking it, we seem fairly relevant or something.
SONIC: Something, yeah that’s great because actually one of my friends were telling me that — you guys in particular that there’s a resurgence of fans in the younger crowd.
MATT: I would say that — I’ve been in the band for 6 years and I know that Derek has been playing with the band for 14 years now or something like that — not permanent the whole time but —
DEREK: Yeah 14 years, 14 or 15 years.
MATT: Oh my brain just melted – where was I going with that?
DEREK: Fans, recycling — a resurgence!?
MATT: Resurgence! It seems over the 6 years that I’ve been involved, everything seemed very steady and maybe that’s because there’s been resurgences in different areas constantly the whole time and I’m not noticing it because we travel so much and maybe some areas weren’t so good 6 years ago and I just don’t remember it — I don’t know, we’ve had pretty consistent turnout and feedback — everywhere. If anything things are getting better, or it hasn’t been bad yet.
SONIC: Yeah, yeah.
MATT:There’s never been a period where things have been really shitty and Reel Big Fish is about to have to go away because there aren’t any shows anymore.
SONIC: The ska thing, it definitely still exists but it’s a little bit of a different situation from when the band first started. Is that something you notice, or not so much?
MATT: Well, I’d say like you (Derek) and me, we’re kinda outta the loop I’d say. We’re not really good with being in touch with whats happening in whatever scene – because we’re just – because our world is kinda small and we just see what’s going on with what we’re doing in our tours and everything. We don’t really know whats happening
SONIC: Are there a lot less ska bands for you to play with compared to back then?
DEREK: Yeah, well a lot more have given up I suppose.
MATT: Especially in the states. There’s a lot of ska bands we play with overseas, in the UK especially. And in Germany for instance and in other areas of Europe – we get paired up with other ska bands all the time for short tours and other festivals and there’s always new ones – especially coming out of the UK. So yeah it might not be as strong here in the States but elsewhere in the world, Japan — things are doing really well.
SONIC: Do you know Kemuri? They were a pretty big ska band from Japan.
MATT: Oh yeah we just did an anniversary tour with Kemuri.
SONIC: Oh no way, does Mike still play? Mike Park?
MATT: Yep, yep they had 3 original members come back for it and then Kevin Higuchi on drums and then Jeff Rosenstock played bass. Which is badass, I’m a big Jeff Rosenstock fan. Bomb the Music Industry is a really cool group. Yeah, but yeah it’s happening — it’s definitely not mainstream. It’s not like there are ska bands popping up everywhere because it’s the cool thing to do. It’s certainly not the cool thing to do here in the States but there’s still so many people that really love it – like so many kids that are still doing it — and I like to think that you know having us and Less Than Jake still constantly touring maybe gives people a little bit of hope that they can have a ska band too and have it work out for them.
SONIC: What’s the most common interview questions you guys hear?
MATT: How’s the tour going so far?
DEREK: How’d you get your name?
SONIC: They still ask that question? Or are the interviewers people that don’t really know? I guess they think you guys are new?
DEREK: This is the same guy that asks if this is our first Warped Tour.
SONIC: Oh man!
DEREK: There’s plenty. We can make this a really long one if you want.
SONIC: Yeah man let’s do it.
DEREK: What’s your favorite song to play? What’s your favorite place to play? Whats the craziest thing that’s happened on tour?
MATT: Those are all good ones.
SONIC: Are you guys in charge of the press for this tour or in general?
MATT: Oh no.
SONIC: Did you guys get sent to that press tent today?
MATT: No, well the whole band is here today. We had 12 interviews [Laughter].
SONIC: Oh okay, okay.
MATT: Usually — I mean if it’s only a couple of interviews usually it’s only our trumpet player and Aaron our lead singer doing the interviews but if there’s more than one then we ‘divvie em’ up.
SONIC: Are you guys like a duo? Does it work well together for interviews?
SONIC: When there’s a lot of people in the band, does someone usually plays musical director as far as writing the music?
MATT: Well I mean with us it’s like, Aaron is the dude in charge but he doesn’t run things like he’s in charge. Everybody carries their own weight. There’s never any discussion because we just, for live situations we play the songs as they are on the records and it’s not like anybody is trying to change what we do live because we’re just doing the records. So everybody knows their part from the recordings and just does it. Nobody has to be in charge, like everyone is responsible enough – nobody has to be on anybody else’s case. Everybody has their shit together. Aaron doesn’t have to be like don’t do it like that, do it like this because everybody is doing the way it’s done on the record.
SONIC: Right, right.
MATT: And we listen to each other and I don’t know, it just works.
SONIC: Do you guys have your phones on you?
DEREK AND MATT: Yes.
SONIC: What’s the last thing you searched for?
MATT: Uh oh.
DEREK: Like on the Google?
DEREK: I’m pretty sure I delete my history every time I go —
SONIC: Porn, that already happened so don’t be embarrassed.
MATT: Yeah, no that would have been last night.
MATT: This morning, the last thing I searched was for the current Beach Boys Line Up with Mike Love
SONIC: What made you search that?
MATT: Oh because you know Instagram just pops up ads now?
SONIC: Yeah, yeah.
MATT: Like if I’m at a Live Nation thing now, they felt the need to infiltrate my Instagram feed and put up an ad for the Beach Boys playing at this venue in August or something and a picture of the Beach Boys came up and I was like okay – there’s Mike Love, I think thats Bruce Johnston so who else does Mike Love have in the Beach Boys these days? And so I looked it up and I’m a big Brian Wilson fan and Brian Wilson tours separately from the rest of Beach Boys. He and Al Jardine tour together and I prefer that version of the Beach Boys to the Mike Love version.
SONIC: Derek hid his phone, might be something good I think.
DEREK: I was walking back from our set and there was a motor home wrapped with the name of the city I was born in so I thought what is this? It’s not a band? And it’s like a movie that’s out or coming out.
SONIC: A van with a movie wrap…
DEREK: A motor home that’s wrapped with the title of a movie thats coming out this year.