Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Interview: Reel Big Fish

Reel Big Fish are living legends. They've been rocking their brand of ska for over ten years, and the band is still going strong with the recent release of Monkeys for Nothin' and the Chimps for Free. Read my interview with frontman Aaron Barrett to see what it's like to be in such a longstanding, respected band.

PPJ: Tell us your name and what you do in the band.

Aaron Barrett: My name is Aaron Barrett, I sing, play guitar and write songs for Reel Big Fish.

PPJ: What drew you to begin playing ska music?

Aaron: I started going to local shows at small clubs when I was in high school and I always liked the ska and reggae influenced bands the best, I loved the horns and the energy and the unique sound. after I found out what "ska" was, I realized I had been listening to it for years because some of my favorite bands were The English Beat, The Specials and Madness. I had been taking guitar lessons for a few years and messing around with playing music and forming a band but once I tried playing ska, I knew that it was for me.

PPJ: You've just released your sixth studio album. Did you ever think your band would make it that far?

Aaron: I have always had my doubts and I know how hard it is to make it in the music business but I always knew, from the very beginning that I would keep trying as hard as I could to make it no matter what. So I'm not surprised that I'm still playing in this band...I do feel very lucky to have so many people listening to my band and coming to see us play though!

PPJ: What prompted the change to having more happy songs on the record than you're usually known for?

Aaron: I think the band has just been in better spirits now since we got off Jive Records and got through our mid-life identity crisis so it was easier to make more fun, upbeat songs.

PPJ: How have you managed to keep Reel Big Fish relevant over the years, even when ska falls in and out of favor?

Aaron: We are constantly on the road playing shows and winning more and more fans and I think we have good songs, and that never goes out of style!

PPJ: What do you do to keep your live show fresh and entertaining?

Aaron: We put a lot of spontaneous humor in our live set and we try to get the crowd involved and just make the whole thing a party.

PPJ: Do you ever get tired of playing your older songs?

Aaron: No way, we love playing the old songs and the fan favorites and the hits! We love to please the crowd! And it just never gets old to see a crowd go wild when you play a song they all know and love!

PPJ: You've done a lot of cover songs over the years. Which ones are your favorites?

Aaron: I love "Kiss Me Deadly", "It's Not Easy", and "We Close Our Eyes" the best. I love to do covers!

PPJ: Several of Reel Big Fish's members also have side projects. How do those get balanced with Reel Big Fish?

Aaron: They don't. Scott and I tried to have side bands for a while but there is just no time. We're on the road with RBF 9 months out of the year and we really can't put the time needed into other bands. Dan does some dj-ing and makes electronic music with a project he calls "Black Casper" but that's just him doing it himself.

PPJ: Finally, tell us three bands you think we should be listening to.

Aaron: Cannibal Corpse, Toots and the Maytals, Say Anything.

Make sure to pick up Reel Big Fish's new album, Monkeys for Nothin' and the Chimps for Free, in stores now, and to catch them on their current tour with Less Than Jake, Streetlight Manifesto, and Against All Authority.

website | myspace | purevolume

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hawaii's National Product are beginning to make waves in the rock scene with the release of their debut album, Luna. I got to ask a few questions of frontman Danny Casler to see what it's like to be him.

PPJ: First, please tell us your name and what you do in the band.

Danny Casler: My name is Danny and I sing.

PPJ: You guys are originally from Hawaii. What's the music scene like there, and what's it like to try and break into the continental States?

Danny: The band formed in Hawaii however we added some best friends to the band when we moved to California. The music scene is incredibly diverse in the sense of where there is no segregation of genres. Everyone gets along.

Breaking into the continental United States was the hardest thing we have ever tried to do. Without a name and a "homebase" your a permanent touring band so it makes you work harder to become established and taken seriously.

PPJ: How much of a role did the internet play in getting your name out there?

Danny: Aww, the good ole inter-nerd. If it weren't for you where would we be. The internet seriously is the greatest modern day marketing tool out there. With the saturation of so many acts now, its much harder to get noticed but things like purevolume, myspace, facebook, buzznet and absolutepunk make it a lot easier.

PPJ: What made you choose to sign with R&M Records?

Danny: R&M is a family orientated label. We met with several majors, a few indie majors, and everything in between. The background that our executives have in the music & film industry and their credibility made our decision an easy one.

PPJ: How does it feel to be about to release your first full length album?

Danny: Scared, excited, and all the feelings I'm sure a parent feels when they send their kid of to school. This our baby in a sense, and its gonna be sent out into the universe to do its thing and I hope its all positive in the way it affects people.

PPJ: What is your songwriting process like?

Danny: It varies. I do a majority of the songwriting that is on the record however there are moments when we all come together or other write something. We mix it up all the time to remain fresh and creative as a team/family/band.

PPJ: What was it like to record with James Paul Wisner?

Danny: It was probably one of the highlights of my life. He has always been a dream producer to me. His records have impacted my life in many ways and to know that we would be working with him was awesome. We ended up all becoming very close friends during the process so ending the record was like walking away from a family reunion.

PPJ: What's your favorite thing about playing music?

Danny: The interaction between the listener and the maker of the music. Music to me is all about connection. The way it impacts the listener and inspires thought and feeling.

PPJ: What drives you to keep playing and keep touring?

Danny: Seeing new kids who believe in music. That is my #1 motivation.

PPJ: Finally, tell us three bands you think we should be listening to.

Danny: I could say a lot of the typical bands that are deserving but I feel like everyone knows bands like The Refused, Jimmy Eat World and more. I'll give some love to bands that aren't known yet who have incredible talent.

The Lives Of Famous Men - from Alaska, now Portland based, unsigned, strong catchy dancy tunes and phenomenal live. Very very nice guys.

Sequoyah Prep School - South Carolina band, softer indie rock, incredible hooks, very powerful presence live, strong vocals with super good songwriting.

Fiore - band from Orange County in the vein of Circa Survive however more straight forward vocals, great harmonies and hooks, very aggressive yet indie, has the softness of Copeland and the aggressiveness of Saosin.

Pick up National Product's new CD, Luna, and catch them on one of their many tour dates.

website | myspace | purevolume

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I caught up with Scenes From A Movie, who have been picking up quite a buzz online recently. Read on to find out how these pop-punkers have learned to stay ahead of the pack and have a good time while doing it.

PPJ: First, tell us your name and what you do in the band.

Adam Triplett: My name is Adam, and I play bass guitar and the stutter step in Scenes From A Movie.

PPJ: What inspired you to start playing music?

Adam: In all reality, it was Tom Hanks. I was pretty uninterested in playing any kind of musical instrument (with the exception of a cardboard guitar singing along to my Raffi tapes as a toddler) until I saw the movie That Thing You Do! in the fifth grade, and thought The Wonders were the greatest band on Earth. Unfortunately, I soon found out they weren't even a real band. This did, however spark an interest in playing music, which led me to bands like Third Eye Blind, and Blink 182.

PPJ: What artists influence you today?

Adam: Most of my life I've thought of bands like The Smiths and The Get Up Kids as having a large effect on my bass playing and songwriting. As a band there are few artists we all agree on, but one that comes to mind is The Matches. While on Warped, we do whatever we have to in order to catch The Matches set every day. There is no reason why they shouldn't be the biggest band in the world right now. They make us want to be a better band, which I think is the highest form of influence you can get at this stage in the game for us.

PPJ: Did coming from West Virginia give you any advantages or disadvantages?

Adam: There are maybe 4 touring bands in the entire state of West Virginia, so it's definitely difficult to cultivate any kind of "scene" or community. That being said, it also gave us the drive to rise up out of there and get our music out to as many people as possible.

PPJ: There are tons of pop-punk bands touring today. How do you make Scenes From A Movie stand apart?

Adam: Two things. Songwriting and Performance. Yes, Tony's voice sounds similar to others. That is why we strive to write songs that will be great regardless of who sings them. Still, there are a hundred bands fighting for space on your iPod right now, and our live show is our bid to win you over. We don't have fancy lighting or smoke and mirrors, but we are constantly finding new ways to make 5 guys standing onstage interesting and fun to watch.

PPJ: What is your songwriting process like?

Adam: For the largest part of this record, Tony will come up with some acoustic sketches, and we lock ourselves in my parent's basement and pound out all of
our little bells and whistles.

PPJ: What is your favorite part of your new album?

Adam: Wow...this is a difficult question. I think "If I Die" and "Goodbye Reckless" are neck and neck for my favorite songs on the record. Goodbye Reckless was my favorite of the bunch going into the recording process, and we were able to do so much with's the perfect way to close out the record. If I Die was a late addition to the record, but it has some of my favorite parts to play on the whole record, as well as one of the biggest choruses we've written up to this point.

PPJ: How has Warped Tour been so far this year?

Adam: I'm an antagonist at heart. That's why I'd love to sit here and talk a bunch of shit on Warped, because you always hear everyone talking about how sweet it is to be on, etc etc. Unfortunately, that antagonist has to take a backseat, because Warped is a blast. Kevin Lyman has created an amazing thing, and we're all really really happy to be a part of it.

PPJ: Do you have any tours in the works to support the new album?

Adam: Right now our plans are to finish out Warped, and then we're doing some East Coast/Midwest stuff with The Junior Varsity, Bedlight For Blue Eyes, and Permanent Me. After that, we have a few ideas and a few things we'd like to do, but nothing we can confirm at this point.

PPJ: Lastly, tell us three bands you think we should be listening to.

Adam: The Matches, Morrissey, and The Hold Steady --XO Adam

Thanks again to Adam for answering these questions, and to Mike Cubillos at Earshot Media. Catch Scenes From A Movie on Warped Tour now, and make sure to pick up their new album The Pulse while you're at it.

website | myspace | purevolume

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Louisiana's Tyler Read recently released their new record, Only Rock And Roll Can Save Us, and they are ready to take over with it. Take a look at what it's like to spend your days playing some sweet southern rock.

PPJ: To start with, can you tell us your name and what you do in the band?

Josh Johnson: My name is Josh and I sing and play guitar.

PPJ: How did Tyler Read get started?

Josh: Long story short…this band was formed by my brother (drummer) and myself way back in 2003. Back then Chris McPeters and Brent were in another band we played with a lot. That band eventually broke up and we recruited them after we lost some members. That accounts for everyone except our bassist, we picked him up from a Pentecostal school. It has worked out that everybody in the band is really passionate about music and what we do. We have a good time.

PPJ: Is there ever confusion related to the name of your band? Why did you choose the name you did?

Josh: Everyday someone is confusing us with an acoustic singer songwriter of some sort. It is confusing, but I think it makes it a bit original. If you had never heard of Pink Floyd or Lynyrd Skynyrd, you would probably think the same thing. We chose the name as sort of a tribute to a younger cousin named Tyler Reed McFadden, who has absolutely nothing to do with music. There you have it, the whole truth.

PPJ: You went through a series of bass players before settling on Chris Rimmer. What was going on there?

Josh: Well not really a series. My brother, myself, and our cousin Nacho formed this band. He (Nacho) got the both of us into playing music and is probably the reason we play it today. He left the band because he didn’t like touring very much. We auditioned a guy or two and it wasn’t really happening. Chris Rimmer called and asked to try out. We knew him from another band and liked him well enough. He came in, played a few songs and we went and played a show that night. It has worked out really great and he is turning into an unbelievable bass player. We call the bass line to Michael Jackson the “bass line of a generation.” And he is pretty to look at it. Which I like.

PPJ: Josh and Jordan, what's it like to be in a band with your brother?

Josh: Very much like Oasis. Screaming, fighting, the works. That part is true. But we love doing it enough not to kill or get rid of the other. We need each other to do this, we have two very different sets of talents that require the other to be there.

PPJ: What inspires you to write music?

Josh: It has gotten to the point where feelings inspire me more than anything. To keep it real and authentic, I am learning to put down what I am going through. I think that is the only way to write. But also great songwriters make me want to write more. I’ll hear something and think, “God, I wish I would have written that.” I would like to continually improve and I think that it takes time. Strangely enough, I enjoy the writing part of being in a band more than anything else.

PPJ: What prompted the change in sound between The Light, The Glass, The Transparency and Only Rock & Roll Can Save Us?

Josh: I think two things really contributed to the change in style. First off, we had a good bit of member changes going on between those releases. With both of the Chris’s in the band there is a different dynamic. We have a lead guitarist who can shred and a bass player that really holds it down. Putting it all together, it’s more like a big rock band rather than the more indie/emo sound we had on the earlier stuff. I think secondly time being on the road has helped us a lot. We toured independently a long time before getting our record deal and that helped us to try to find our own sound and work at it. While out on the road, we started getting into older music like The Rolling Stones and Queen, timeless rock bands. We decided we wanted to do something that would hopefully be as long lasting as that.

PPJ: You're a band that is touring constantly. How do you keep yourselves energized and entertained on the road?

Josh: A lot of Walmart stops, pulling pranks, and making up games. We work on our rapping skills in the car by putting on a beat and just going back and forth. We have shiested our way into dance clubs by pretending to be Hinder. (That also works with picking up the ladies). On the last tour with Showbread and Pillar, we brought some weights and worked out at what we called Tae’s Gym. It’s been fun but sleeping in the van sucks.

PPJ: How did you go about finding a label home?

Josh: A guy who tour managed the band Jonezetta sent them (Immortal) our demo. We were out on the road with Jonezetta a long time before they were signed. After a few phone calls, our A & R guy came out and watched us practice in a barn. He took us out to eat after that and said he wanted to sign us. I still don’t think anybody at the label has seen us play a show. But it seems like that’s how it works for us. Our booking agent hasn’t seen us play, or 2 out of the 3 of our management team haven’t either. We are pretty awesome….lol

PPJ: Did you ever think you'd be on the same label as Jared Leto?

Josh: Never in a million years. But he lived in a town very close to us growing up for a little while. Maybe it's destiny.

PPJ: Kathrine and Donna from Charleston, SC, want to know how you came up with the artwork for the new album.

Josh: The artwork was a ridiculously long process for us. We wanted to do a group picture to cement the idea of us being a band. But we were not getting anywhere with the pictures we were taking. So we found this drawing online from an artist who had drawn another band and we thought that would be a cool idea and would fit the album. We had someone at our label edit the pictures from our shoot into the formation that you see on the cover. The artist then drew the whole layout and it blew us away. It was a long process, but I’m glad we took the time to get it right. Some people have said it made them think we were on the “trail of rock and roll.” We love it.

PPJ: Finally, tell us three bands you think we should be listening to.

Josh: Brandi Carlile, Kings Of Leon, and Band of Horses are all in my sweet action playlist right now. Do it.

Thanks again to Josh for answering these questions, and to Jason Fisher at Immortal. Make sure you pick up Tyler Read's new album and see if they're coming to play near you.

website | myspace | purevolume

Monday, July 9, 2007

I'm on fire, and now I think I'm ready to bust a move

Motion City Soundtrack, Sherwood, The Higher, & The Forecast at Chain Reaction, 7.8.07.

The Forecast

The Higher


Motion City Soundtrack

Monday, July 2, 2007

sunday recs, a day late.

Every Time I Die.
These hardcore southern rockers are gearing up for some time on Sounds Of The Underground, and a new record in the fall. They've posted a new song on their myspace, and it's pretty ballin.

The Format.
I know I've recommended this band before, but now they've got their ENTIRE ALBUM, Dog Problems, but for FREE DOWNLOAD on their website. You need it. Now.

The Rocket Summer.
Another artist I've recommended recently, but it's getting closer to the release date for his new album, Do You Feel, and you can download one of the new songs for FREE from Rolling Stone.