by Jane Roser
Reel Big Fish, you could say, is one of the few ska-punk bands that broke into the mainstream early on and were able to stay there. Hailing from Orange County, California, Reel Big Fish were able to gather an underground following in the 90s due to word of mouth about their hyperkinetic live shows and addictive humor. In 1997, their single “Sell Out” started getting airplay on mainstream radio. Exposure as a MTV favorite and an appearance in the movie Baseketball helped them gain a large following of fans who fill their live sell-out shows to the brim.
The band is still fronted by their original lead singer Aaron Barrett and accompanied by Matt Appleton (saxophone), Derek Gibbs (bass), John Christianson (aka. Johnny Christmas/trumpet), Billy Kottage (trombone) and Ryland Steen (drums). Dan Regan departed from the band in 2013 in part to pursue his goal of starting a brewing company which he’s calling Liberation Brewing Company. In that same vein, Reel Big Fish has collaborated with the Wynkoop and Ska breweries to make their own beer which they’ve named Reel Big Stout. “It will be released at the Collaboration Fest on March 21st at the Sports Authority Field at Mile High,” says Christianson, “I’m sure we’ll get around to brewing a beer with Dan when he gets Liberation Brewing Company up and running.”
Reel Big Fish’s most current studio album, Candy Coated Fury (released via Rock Ridge Music in 2012), was their first album of newly recorded original music in five years and the seventh in the band’s twenty year history. A holiday EP entitled Happy Skalidays was released in December and is only available online.
“The original idea was to do a full-length holiday album,” says Christianson, “but due to our touring schedule we cut that idea in half. We still may do some more holiday songs and turn in a full-length record that we press up on vinyl. We’ve only put one song off Happy Skalidays on the set list, we’ll stop playing it once people stop dancing, but that hasn’t happened yet.”
Their 2015 Winter Tour kicked off on January 15th and they will be co-headlining shows with Less Than Jake and with special guest Authority Zero along for the ride. Their Philly stop will be January 24th at the Electric Factory and Christianson has a lot of fond memories of past Philly shows.
“Playing at TLA with Streetlight Manifesto and having to squeeze through the crowd to get backstage in time for our set,” he recalls, “the crowd was packed in that club like sweaty sardines and I just made it in time to get my horn out and run onstage. Philly audiences are always rowdy and awesome!”