Interview: Reel Big Fish
I was honored to be able to sit down with Johnny Christmas of legendary ska band, Reel Big Fish. We had a short little discussion about The Beer Run Tour, possible studio time, and of course.. more beer. Here is how that went down, with a word for word interview between us.
P2P: First of all, thanks for taking the time to talk with us today, how are you doing?
JC: Doing good, man, thank you.
P2P: Awesome, could you give our readers your name and role in the band?
JC: Sure thing, my name is Johnny Christmas. I play trumpet, do back up singing, and overall cheerleader of the band.
P2P: Great! So you guys have began the Beer Run Tour, how has that been going?
JC: It's been great, it has been a lot of fun so far. It has been a good time being out with The Expendables, The Queers, Tunnel Vision. All the bands are great, and they're great guys, so yeah, ton of fun. The shows have been outstanding.
P2P: Glad to hear that. So how did this tour come about? The lineup is a pretty good little mixup of sound.
JC: It's all done through the agents. We don't have a whole ton of say. Some of the bands you suggest and think, "Ehhh, that would be nice" so you throw it out there, then the agents take it away. It's very, uhh, non-glamorous.
P2P: Well, it's always good to have you guys back. I feel like you guys were just here, so it's nice to see you all again.
JC: Thanks! Yeah, yeah, yeah. We were here not too long ago with Anti-Flag.
P2P: Oh that's right! I was thinking last time was Less Than Jake, that was the tour before then.
JC: Could have been. It's hard to remember, haha.
P2P: Doesn't help that you tour like crazy, does it?
JC: No, it doesnt. After a while they start to mentally blend together.
P2P: So.. I'm just going to ask. Any new album coming our way soon or in the works?
JC: We just went into the studio to record a song for an upcoming Halloween compilation.
JC: Yeah! That was the first we've been in the studio since the Christmas EP, and it was a really positive experience. So I think after Aaron gets married, he gets married in Decemember, then we'll start working on a new record.
P2P: That's all good news, always excited to hear something new from you.
JC: It has been 5 years since Candy Coated Fury and that Christmas EP, so it has been a while.. Too long, too long.
P2P: Have you started to write at all for any of it, or is it all upstairs? (pointing to the brain)
JC: Aaron has got a bunch of songs up in his head. He writes songs without ever touching a guitar. It just blows me away that he can do that, it's just awesome. And I've got songs, Matt has songs.. we've got plenty of stuff.
P2P: Cool, so when you all go into the studio, you just pop them out really quick?
JC: Whenever we went in to demo for Candy Coated Fury, we left for a European tour, and during sound check would play those songs to feel them out. We came back in and that way works really really well. Hopefully we do something like that again.
P2P: Do you feel like there is a pressure in the studio with songs you haven't jammed out fully, or maybe not have written fully before going in?
JC: Just playing those songs during sound check really helps you hash those out when you're playing them. It will let you figure out what works and what doesn't. In the studio, under pressure paying for that time, not the best place to write songs, for sure.
P2P: Reel Big Fish has been together 20 plus years at this point, is it becoming harder to cherry pick which songs you have in the set?
JC: You'll always get sort of the same skeletal structure. You're going to hear "Beer", "Take On Me", "Sellout", "She Has A Girlfriend Now", then a lot of stuff is up for grabs. Aaron does a really great job of selecting songs from each one of the albums, putting in something everybody should enjoy. A lot of the stuff we play is off Candy Coated Fury, and we all love that.
P2P: Do you have one that has been sort of pushed away from the setlist or maybe you just don't play live that you would like add?
JC: Oh, hmmm. On the 'Turn the Radio Off' 20th anniversary, we played "Nothing" every night. I LIKE that song. It's fun to play, I get to sing on it, play the trumpet on it.. just a ton of fun to play. That is one I'd like to play more often.
P2P: Do you ever think about maybe doing a more intiment 'Ska-coustic' tour
JC: I think about that all the time, but I'm not so sure Aaron is up for that. You know, doing something like that would really change the dynamic and the show aspect. I would love to do like a, uhhh... MTV thing, like Nirvana did.
P2P: Oh, like an Unplugged thing?
JC: Yeah! Like, sit down and do a DVD of all the songs that way. That would be a lot of fun. I'll suggest it. It's one of those things I can see Aaron saying, "NO, no, no, no" but 5 years later saying "You know, that would be a great idea", haha!
P2P: Well, you are on the Beer Run Tour, tell us your favorite type of beer, if you have one.
JC: I love all things Belgian when it comes to beer, so I love me some St. Bernardus 12 or Gulden Drakk. I love the really strong, highly carbonated, slightly fruity beers. Also, Unibroue in Canada makes some great Belgian style beers. Ommegang in Cooperstertown, NY as well. It is an absolute pleasure to drink them.
P2P: Some of the dates on the Beer Run Tour are craft beer tasting events. Has there been anything you've tried during these dates so far that you would recommend?
JC: Ohhh, on the tour, we did, oh gosh.. let me see, we did a beer with a brewery called Jailbreak in Maryland, and they have a Belgian strong ale that is called Van Gogh. That one is delicious.
P2P: Yeah, that does sound good.
JC: For me, I like to drink after the shows. So with that I don't get to experience the same experience everyone else is getting. But in Texas, I need to try some out.
P2P: Yeah, you differently got to try some out other than a few of the Shiner or St. Arnold's beers. Karbach is great.
JC: Oh yeah, absolutely, I really like.. whats it called.. Hopadillo? And Big Bright IPA.
P2P: Yup, that's Karbach. That's a good one. And I think 8th Wonder is brewed right here in Houston as well.
JC: Always got to try more!
P2P: For sure. Well, is there anything else you'd like to add before we wrap up here?
JC: COME TO THE SHOWS! There's a lot of crap we all deal with in our day to day lives and in the world, so please come laugh with us and have a good time.
P2P: Absolutely, thank you so much for taking with us.
JC: Not a problem! See you tonight. Enjoy!