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Reel Big Fish Interview: Vans Warped Tour 2018

Reel Big Fish have been staples of the Warped Tour nearly since its’ inception.  Hardcore fans and passerby’s have always flocked to the band’s set and been caught up in the skanking and dancing that comes naturally with the music.  We sat down with bassist Derrick Gibbs, sax player Matt Appleton, and trombone player Billy Kottage to talk about some of their favorite Warped Tour memories and possible new music.

Groovey.TV: Every Reel Big Fish show is an absolute blast! How does the band keep it fun after all these years?
Matt Appleton: Gin
Billy Kottage: It’s hard to not have fun when playing the music. It’s fun, upbeat, happy music. So even if you’re pissed off it’s near impossible to play the songs and not be happy.
Derrick Gibbs: It’s not like we’re playing ballads year after year after year, and people are sitting down. I think about shows like that where the audience is sitting down to watch your show; that could get old. But ours are fun.
BK: We’re always changing stuff. We’re playing different songs, Aaron’s always coming up with different gags or whatever you want to call it. It’s not like we play the same exact show every single day. Not so much on Warped Tour because it’s only 30 minutes.
MA: But mostly gin.
BK: You can’t have Reel Big Fish without the alcohol.

GTV: What can we expect to see on this years Warped Tour set?
BK: Nothing! We’re playing the same exact set as Warped Tour 2016.
MA: You just said we’re doing a bunch of different stuff and that we switch it up and now you’re saying it’s the same!
BK: I prefaced that with ‘except for Warped Tour’. We play the songs everyone wants to hear. Everyone has the deep cut song they dream about at night. We just play the songs that everyone likes.
DG: The backlash from not playing the handful of songs that everyone wants to hear would be way worse than the few people who think ‘oh, they did the same thing last time’. People would be horrified if we didn’t play ‘Beer’ and ‘Sell Out’.
MA: It’s not like the most serious Reel Big Fish fans are coming to Warped Tour just to see Reel Big Fish because we only play for a half hour. So you get a lot of people that know us, kind of.
BK: So we have to play all those ‘know us, kind of’ songs.
DG: At this point we’ve played all the songs a thousand times.
BK: It’s also really the crowd that keeps it going. Playing in front of these big crazy crowds, it’s hard not to have fun the whole time.
DG: I’m watching the crowd the entire time. The songs are happening and that’s all good, but the crowds are fun.

GTV: Reel Big Fish has played Warped Tour on a regular basis. Why was this festival such a staple for the band?
MA: We’re lucky that Kevin keeps asking us back!
BK: That’s why. Kevin just keeps asking us to do stuff.
DG: And I guess because we’ve always said yes and we’re pretty easy to work with. The band has been playing Warped Tour since ’96 and I don’t think we’ve ever caused any problems. We’re not too bad; we’re professional enough. I guess we get a good response every time we play Warped Tour so Kevin keeps asking us to do more.
BK: It’s easy to hear a lot of variations of the same thing here. We’re something different.

GTV: Has the atmosphere been different since this is the last cross-country run?
BK: It feels literally the same.
MA: It’s the same Warped Tour as always. It’s awesome!
BK: I think we’re all just going to party it out. Less Than Jake is going to jump on half way through and I think when they get here it will change for us because we will be way more debaucherous. But we have taken it easy this far. I also think Kevin’s still going to do shows and we’re still going to do shows with him. I don’t know anything about anything, but I have a hard time believing this will be the last Reel Big Fish/Warped Tour thing.

GTV: What does the legacy of Warped Tour mean to you and what has it done for music in general?
MA: What I like is that it gets a bunch of bands together that wouldn’t normally interact with each other so we end up making friends and maybe finding future tour-mates in bands that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I think Warped Tour has been really good for the community, bringing people together. When it’s done it’s going to be harder to meet new bands.
DG: That’s a really good point. It’s like a band convention.
MA: It really is because it’s not just like bands within your genre or your subgenre. It’s going to be a big deal losing that.
BK: We also get a lot of fans from that. Lately it seems like we’ve played Warped Tour every two years and it’s just a resurgence for all our club tours afterwards. Aaron always asks how many people have never seen us and every single day 25% respond.
DG: And I think 75% of that 25% are lying. I think some people just like to put their hands up. But you’re also right; it’s amazing how many people have never seen us before.
BK: They’ve also not all been forced in front of us at a festival stage. A lot of people come to see other bands and then just end up waiting in front of our stage and then hopefully they decide to keep seeing us.

GTV: Your last album, Candy Coated Fury, came out in 2012. Does the band have plans for a full-length album anytime soon?
DG: I think it’s done? I can’t remember what it sounds like.
BK: We don’t know what’s happening. We’re not supposed to talk about it. Probably coming out this fall.

GTV: You released Happy Skaholidays in 2014. Since the Fourth of July just passed, have you thought about releasing an album of patriotic songs, but skafied?
MA: Oh man, just a bunch of Sousa marches or something?
BK: I kind of doubt it, honestly. We’re pretty a-political.
DG: ‘God Bless SkAmerica’?
MA: That’s a good one! We did a Halloween song this year, but I don’t think anyone heard it. It was on some compilation. It’s called ‘Evil Approaches’ and you can just look it up on Apple Music or Spotify or whatever. It’s there.
DG: Originally recording by a band called The Forces of Evil.
MA: It was Derrick’s band. He had frosted tips! You should have seen it! He was skinny, wore baggy cargo shorts, and frosted tips; he looked good.
BK: He looked like he was in NSync, but played more video games. The big snow board race at the end of Johnny Tsunami, that song? Derrick Gibbs. Forces of Evil though, different band. Disney Channel fame, Derrick Gibbs. Him and Miley Cyrus are ex-flames. She took his virginity.

GTV: You have an extensive discography to choose from while creating set lists. Did you have any songs that were a must for this tour?
BK: Aaron does it. He sits in front of a computer and writes them out, sometimes he changes them.
MA: Our tour manager has all of our set lists from all of our shows from the last gazillion years saved on his computer. So we can go back and look when we’re in a city and see what songs we played the last time and change it up. There is some thought put into it. At least Aaron puts thought into it.
DG: Technology is involved.
BK: I didn’t know any of that, that’s how much I pay attention. I just worry about playing trombone, not what we’re playing. We have folks for that!

GTV: The band always covers songs, both on the albums and during shows. Is there any song you can’t play at this point? Is there a new one you’ve been playing on Warped?
BK: I don’t remember how to play a lot of the stuff we’ve covered.
MA: We have a cover of ‘Talk Dirty To Me’ with our friend Tatiana on it, and she’s on Warped Tour, but we don’t remember how to play it.
DG: But we could probably stumble through it.
MA: Emphasis on stumble. We’ll be stumbling anyway, might as well stumble through something. We are pretty good stumblers.

GTV: The band tours on a constant basis and will be heading over seas with Less Than Jake after Warped Tour. I’m sure at this point you guys have a strong family vibe. Does that make it easier to be on the road as frequently as you are?
DG: It definitely helps. The survivability level is higher.
BK: We get way less cranky and hate things less if we’re on tour with Less Than Jake.
DG: We could probably play a 3-hour set where both bands were on stage at the same time and each band took turns playing a song and it would probably work.
BK: We should actually do that, make a super set!

GTV: Since this is the final run, what is your favorite Warped Tour memory?
MA: The one thing I’ll always remember is when our bus got totaled on Warped Tour ’13. It’s not often that you wake up to your bus getting wrecked. There was a drunk driver in front of us that fell asleep and stopped their car in the middle of the road. Our bus driver slammed on his breaks to try and not kill that guy and then the Music Saves Lives bus rear-ended us and knocked the trailer into the back of the bus, which wrecked our engine and spilled all our beer. My favorite part of that is our old trombone player Dan Regan didn’t wake up. He only woke up when the police were on the bus and he thought we were getting busted for having weed.
DG: It wasn’t that violent of impact, from what I remember. The slamming of the breaks is what woke me up and I hadn’t really realized we had been hit until I got out.
BK: My favorite memory is Warped Tour ’13. The original trombone player Dan had a baby so I covered for the first couple of weeks for him. I was already on Warped Tour playing with Big D and the Kids Table and Goldfinger, so I ended up playing with all three bands for a few weeks. My first Warped Tour moments were playing with those three bands and then playing with Dan with two trombones in Reel Big Fish. It was kind of like a passing of the torch cause right after that Warped Tour he pretty much quit the band. But we got to hang that summer, which was fun. I also feel like every year our bus catches on fire. We hit a deer two nights ago and last time our bus caught fire twice. Anything to not get a real job, I guess.

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Photo credit to Go-Go

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