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Reel Big Fish Biography

Last updated: 03/07/2011 10:00:00 AM

Reel Big Fish-photo
"WHY DO THEY ROCK SO HARD? Well lemmie tell ya......"

It has been almost two years since REEL BIG FISH raised a mighty middle finger to humorless music snobs everywhere with their single "Sell Out,'' and what a whirlwind it has been.

The monumental leap Aaron Barrett, Matt Wong, Tavis Werts, Dan Regan, Scott Klopfenstein, Andrew Gonzales, and Grant Barry took from being just a bunch of Orange County high school geeks to world-touring pros is nothing to be sneezed at. Not only has their debut album, Turn The Radio Off, surpassed gold status and continues to sell very well, they've reached beyond the confines of alt-rock stardom to convert the rest of humanity to the pleasures of REEL BIG FISH.

Last year their song "Trendy," had everyone doing the Fish, including the 1997 World Champion Florida Marlins, who made it their theme song which led to the band crooning the national anthem at a Miami Dolphins/Buffalo Bills game on Monday Night Football. The guys even made their movie debut (playing themselves, of course) as the house band in Universal Pictures' "BASEketball" with Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of "South Park".

To top these successes, the suburban septet won BAMMIES from local magazine BAM for best ska album and best ska artists of 1998. In addition, the band's horn section had the opportunity to play with Green Day on several North American tour dates this past summer and the rhythm section played a memorable gig backing up the legendary Don Ho on "Tiny Bubbles" at the KROQ Weenie Roast. In the course of their touring history, REEL BIG FISH have opened for artists such as KISS, The Cure, The Blues Brothers and Coolio.

It should come as no surprise that rabid fans of all ages have not only gobbled up the sarcastic ska party of their first album, but kept demand at such a fever pitch that the group had no choice but to put together a five-song enhanced EP, Keep Your Receipt, to ease their yearning. Devotees who've wanted to wear their RBF-infatuated hearts on their sleeves have been clamoring for key chains, antennae balls, frisbees, t-shirts (and the mysterious, still-in-development Andrew Gonzales whoopee cushion) that are all part of the band's fan-friendly merchandise.

It's hard to believe that eight years ago, with little more than a desire to play classic metal covers and pick up chicks, original members Barrett, Gonzales and Wong were just hashing out Poison riffs until ska slapped them upside the head. In fact, so much has happened so fast for the band, even the most devoted Fish fans may wonder if the bright lights and big cities haven't softened the group's sharp edges, turning gleeful young punks into tiresome, glamour-soaked rock stars.

"Fame has only brought me heartache and woe," sighs Barrett.

"And a good case of paranoid schizophrenia," offers Werts. But what about growth? Insight? Maturity? "Maturity?" snorts Werts. "I had to go from shaving once a week to shaving twice a week,that's how I've matured."

Rest assured, they're still REEL BIG FISH.

And yet on the eve of the debut of their second album for MOJO Records, Why Do They Rock So Hard, it is abundantly clear that this band has grown, managing an even finer balance of churning out the sharp hooks while keeping its soul intact.

Months of touring have paid off in a wealth of sonic riches, such as the aggressive pop of "The Set-Up" and the deceptively bouncy assault of "Somebody Hates Me." And it's not every band that can get away with the chorus "Scott's A Dork," but REEL BIG FISH makes it sing. As Werts explains it, "When we were coming up with the chorus, that fit, and we said we'd change it when we came up with something better, that was a year and a half ago."

The sharper focus may have something to do with the band jumping into the studio mix to an even greater degree this time around. "This is our record," explains Barrett. "I'm taking the attitude now that it's gotta sound right."

Nevertheless, the sound on Why Do They Rock So Hard has received a resounding thumbs up from all involved. "I think on the album we concentrated a lot more on harmonies and melodies, and musically it's just better," says bassist Wong. "It's a lot catchier, a lot poppier. But it's still ska. It's still reggae. We're just changing it up a little bit." Not bad for a band that can cover the '80's a-ha chestnut "Take On Me" and The Cure and make both merrily, unironically their own.

Their unabashedly mix-and-match style, which Barrett attributes to the fact that "whether I've liked it or not, I've taken from it," is one of the band's strengths, and a happy by-product of seven very different personalities ranging in age from 21-25 plugging into the mix. While having so many distinct personalities rubbing up against each other on the road isn't always fun, in the studio it's magic. "I don't know if we'd be friends if we weren't playing music together," says Barrett. "But I think that helps make the music. If we were all the same and listened to the same music, it just wouldn't work as well."

Even if they haggle over what goes in the CD player, the group does agree on a few things. While fan appreciation is just a hollow promise for most musicians, REEL BIG FISH goes the distance. "We always answer our mail, especially the hate mail (well almost always)" says Barrett. No fan hoping to hobnob with the guys will be turned away. "If people like your band, you should talk to them," says Barrett. "What if you wanted to meet somebody and they were mean to you?" To keep their younger fans in on the fun, the band has even adopted a policy of exclusively playing all-ages shows.

That down-to-earth attitude may have more than a little to do with the fact that these guys are still bug-eyed, knee-shaking fans themselves. "That's our problem, we're way too starstruck," says Barrett, recalling the thrill of playing with the King of "Tiny Bubbles," Don Ho. No disaffected cool for these guys, thank you very much.

Maybe it's exactly that sweet nougat center that makes pull-no-punches songs like "Big Star" go down so easy, that makes their raucous live shows rejuvenating rather than punishing. Deep down REEL BIG FISH is just a bunch of decent, hardworking guys who couldn't care less about becoming ridiculous rock gods. But don't tell them that. "My dream is to date an actress," says Werts.

"I want to be really super rich and famous. That would be fun," Barrett adds. Werts shrugs. "So would dating an actress." Oh yeah. They're still REEL BIG FISH.

Bio above is from www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Frontrow/4420/index.html, recommended by Pike Li


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