Reel Big Fish was one of the legions of Southern California ska-punk bands to edge into the mainstream following the mid-’90s success of No Doubt and Sublime. Like most of their peers, the band was distinguished by their hyperkinetic stage shows, juvenile humor, ironic covers of new wave pop songs, and metallic shards of ska. The group cultivated an underground following that broke into the mainstream in summer 1997, when their single “Sell Out” became a modern rock radio and MTV favorite. Their appearance in the movie “Baseketball” as the halftime band also gained them more fans and helped the bands popularity to grow. Still fronted by original lead singer and song writer Aaron Barrett, they continue releasing albums and touring relentlessly, playing more and more countries and bigger venues all over the world. We caught them this time around on Vans Warped Tour to talk all things music and travel.
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Read the interview highlights below, or listen to SCP Radio’s full-length podcast:
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Chris Remmers: So, why don’t we start by telling us and the fans about where you’re from.
Matt Appleton: I’m from Barre, Vermont. I’m an east coaster in the band, but I’ve been living in [Los Angeles] for the last 12 years doing the ska thing. But yeah, born and raised an northeasterner.
© Chuck Miller
CR: So, what brought you out west?
MA: Music! There’s not a lot of opportunities to do music when you live in Vermont.
CR: Yeah, we’ll I figure you can go to New York or you can go to LA. What made you completely switch coasts?
MA: Right. I like being outside and I like mountains. I mean, I lived in Manhattan for a year, like I dig it. I worked in a studio there, but you’re just kind of stuck there when you’re there. I wanted to go somewhere where I had wide-open spaces, oceans and mountains. The weather doesn’t hurt, you know.
CR: So, music and travel, they tie into each other, they’re inseparable. What brings you inspiration when you’re on the road traveling? Do you guys write on the road? Or, you just kind of prepare for your shows?
MA: Yes, we do some writing on the road. I do a lot of work. I have some side gigs. So, I’m always writing for other things. I write children’s songs, so I’m always doing that on the road. I just finished a song about plant cells last night.
© Stiller Beobachter
CR: Are you serious?
MA: Yeah, I do a YouTube series for DreamWorksTV. I have two of them called Sung Science and Sung History. So, last night I was working on a rap song about plants.
CR: That’s absolutely amazing! So, you’re a science guy to make a song about cells?
MA: Uh no. Well I just do some research. I work with a writer who lives in Queens named Danny Tieger, and he’s the real clever guy. I’m more the music guy, the production end of things. He’s not a science guy either. He’s a theater guy.
READ MORE: Warped Tour Profile: Chris DeMakes of Less Than Jake
CR: And, you just end up with a song about cells!
MA: You know, the Internet. You can learn a lot. So, we learn a lot of stuff and then we put it into song. So yeah, we do 200 shows a year. I am always out on the road, and I’m always working when I’m out on the road. The other guys in the band are always doing stuff too. I know Aaron’s always coming up with song ideas for us when we’re on the road. Most of the time we’re drinking beer and sightseeing.
CR: That’s really the only way to do it if you are going to be doing that type of traveling. I mean, there’s so many things to see as you’re going around, it would be a crime to just lock yourself away in the bus and not even look out the window.
MA: Yeah, you’ll go crazy doing that. So, we always make sure that we get up and go out and do things. And, it’s usually revolving around beer. We really like beer.
CR: Can I ask do you have a preference?
MA: I have lots of preferences. I can do a little long island shout out, I really like Sixpoint [Brewery] stuff, particularly the resin and the high res. I’m a hop head. I like hoppy beers.
CR: I feel that. We were just hit the Blue Point Brewery for the first time.
MA: Oh, Blue Point is great! I forgot about Blue Point.
CR: Absolutely amazing. I love the blueberry myself. They had like 25-30 different types of beers. IPA’s were amazing. If you guys have anytime at all you got to stop there.
© Diego Torres Silvestre
MA: I’ve got time; I just don’t have means. This bus is stuck in the parking lot. Our driver is sleeping and we don’t have any cars. That’s the thing about Warped Tour man, when you’re here you’re here. There’s no going off site.
CR: So, aside from Warped Tour, do you have any big plans coming up in the next year, whether it be personal travel or the band’s going somewhere huge?
MA: Two-or-three-days after Warped Tour ends we’re flying to São Paulo to do a festival with Less Than Jake.
CR: When you have Less Than Jake that’s all you need. Chris is amazing.
MA: Oh yeah, they’re our best buddies. We get to do so many shows with them. We’re very lucky. So we’re going to São Paulo, doing that one show in São Paulo. Then, I think we fly out right after the show to backtrack and play a ska festival in Mexico City with Less Than Jake, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Save Ferris, among others. So, those are the big immediate plans. Other than that there are some festivals coming up this fall in the NY area, that I can’t announce yet, because of Warped Tour clauses. But, there is some stuff coming up for Reel Big Fish in the NY area in September. We’re doing some stuff in [New] Jersey; we’re doing some stuff in Philly and Brooklyn. Then after that I don’t know. But, that’s what’s happening immediately after.
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For more on Reel Big Fish and Warped Tour: