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PREVIEW: REEL BIG FISH

REEL BIG FISH frontman AARON BARRETT gets in touch with TOM HERSEY to discuss what has kept the ska band dancing for 20-plus years.

Talk about Peter Pan syndrome. Since their inception in the late ‘80s, Californian ska-pop-punk outfit Reel Big Fish have kept crowds and themselves grooving to songs about adolescent concerns like beer, partying and girls. Earlier this year, the band released their seventh record Candy Coated Fury. Their first new material in five years, the record managed to harness the youthful energy that featured on the band’s classic run of late ‘90s records.

A record that proves never growing up is going to sound awesome, Candy Coated Fury is a record jam packed with energy. Barrett weighs in on the new material.

“With our latest album Candy Coated Fury I kind of feel like we’re going back to the Turn The Radio Off days where we’re going back to the energetic, reckless abandon; not worrying about trying to get things perfect and being more focussed on trying to creating an energy that will hopefully make the audience want to get up and dance.”

Though Reel Big Fish seem resolute in their desire to never grow up, that doesn’t mean they’re ill-equipped to deal with change. Just prior to the Candy Coated Fury session, the band lost their trumpet player/second guitarist/hilarious onstage counterpoint to Barrett, Scott Klopfenstein.

“Scott contributed a huge amount to the band — obviously, as he’d been with us for 15 years. As far as his leaving the band, him and his wife wanted to start a family and he didn’t want to be a touring father; he wanted to be home. And being with the band for 15 years, he’d put in his time. His prison sentence was over. So it was definitely a loss when he left, but then we brought in a saxophone player and it kind of breathed a new life into the band. We’d always wanted to bring in a saxophone to help round out the sound of the woodwind instruments. It’s a bit of a different vibe, but that energy and excitement is still there.

“I guess the whole on-stage banter thing used to be a back and forth between Scott and myself, but now it’s more a whole band effort. It’s been a lot of fun to try something different.”

Discussing the band’s onstage presence, the conversation turns towards the band’s upcoming Australian run with fellow ska veterans Goldfinger. I ask Aaron how the seemingly perfect double billing fell together.

“I’d love to say that our bands got together and made plans for world domination or there was some awesome story like that, but honestly it just came down to AJ, the head of Soundwave — he loves both of the bands and put it together.”

As for the secret behind the band’s unfailingly youthful energy, Barrett reckons that a lot of that has to do with the crowds that turn up to skank with the Fish.

“I don’t know that we know how to play a show any other way than going completely insane onstage. And I think a lot of that has to do with us having these great, energetic crowds at the show so we can’t help but to go totally crazy ourselves. So bring your dancing shoes, and make sure you come hydrated.”

REEL BIG FISH play The Tivoli with Goldfinger and Zebrahead Thu Nov 29. Candy Coated Fury is out now through Rock Ridge Music.

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About DENIS SEMCHENKO

Media & comms pro who works in mysterious ways. Writer, vinyl enthusiast, sort-of cineaste, history and geopolitics nerd and (nearly) reformed muso. Has a soft spot for hyphens and slashes. Will chew off your ear about obscure music, random facts and world football.

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