On July 31st, 2012 Reel Big Fish release their 7th studio album, Candy Coated Fury (Rock Ridge Music), an inspired and infectiously catchy return to the hyperkinetic ska and biting wit of the band’s beloved early albums. “This album is a lot like our first two albums. It’s got a lot of the same intensity, frantic energy in the music, and the same sarcastic sense of humor. I think these are the fastest songs we’ve done since those albums,” Aaron Barrett, founding vocalist, guitarist, and principal songwriter says. “We’re finally just doing what Reel Big Fish does best, and that’s what we did on those first two albums.”
The Huntington Beach, California ska band first gained mainstream recognition in 1997 with the high-velocity hooks and barbed humor of the hit „Sell Out.” That song became a staple of 1990s modern rock radio and a MTV favorite, propelling RBF’s sophomore album, Turn the Radio Off (Mojo Records, 1996), up the Top 100 and onto gold sales status. RBF also garnered widespread exposure appearing as the halftime band in the 1998 David Zucker comedy BASEketball. Alongside contemporaries like No Doubt, Sublime, Goldfinger, and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, RBF was at the vanguard of the third wave of ska, reinvigorating the genre by incorporating spastic live shows, playfully puerile humor, ironic covers, and metallic shards into the mix.
“Candy coated fury pretty much describes what Reel Big Fish does,” Barrett says of the significance of the new album’s title. “It’s hateful, mean, sarcastic, and, sometimes sad lyrics, over happy, wacky, silly, joyous, fast music that makes you want to dance. This album is mostly love songs, but bitter, angry, hateful love songs. Just about everybody knows what it’s like to be in a bad relationship. These songs could be sung by a 15 year old about his first love-gone-wrong, or by a 55 year old about a bitter divorce after 30 years. They’re bad-relationship songs that everybody can relate to.”
Candy Coated Fury is Reel Big Fish’s first album of newly recorded original material in five years. Overall, it’s the seventh in the band’s twenty year history, and it feels as vital and vitriolic as RBF’s foundational releases. The record opens with the huge sing-along vocal, balmy horns, and hyperactive ska groove of “Everyone Else Is An Asshole.” The track is an exceptional distillation of Reel Big Fish’s classic euphorically-juvenile ska punk. The stately arena riffs in “I Dare You To Break My Heart” reference cock rock, new wave, and soul without sacrificing one iota of RBF’s signature simmering skank. “I listen to the Darkness a lot; it was only a matter of time till I wrote a song like this! I can’t really sing as high as that guy so this song sounds more like Kiss, if Kiss was a Motown band that played ska,” Barrett says, detailing the song’s diverse stylistic touchstones. The anthemic “I Know You Too Well To Like You Anymore” features some of Barrett’s finest cutely cruel lyrics. “I think that is an amazing badrelationship song,” he laughs. “I really captured the hateful love of two people who were once madly in love, but have been together so long, they can’t stand the sight of each other anymore but still say ‘they drive me crazy, and I hate this and this about them, but I love them.’“ No RBF album would be complete without playfully irreverent 1980s covers. The band rounds things out ska-ifying the Wonderstuff’s “Don’t Let Me Down Gently” and When In Rome’s “The Promise.”
In 1995 Reel Big Fish recorded and self-released its debut album, Everything Sucks. The record became a word-of-mouth hit in ska, punk, and college circles, which gave the band enough leverage to sign with the indie label Mojo Records. The label’s president, Jay Rifkin, and former Oingo Boingo bassist, John Avila, produced RBF’s sophomore career-making album Turn the Radio Off. The band hit the road and, over the years, have built a rabid cult-like fanbase through touring and releasing modern underground classics like Why Do They Rock So Hard (Mojo 1998), the gloriously tongue-in-cheek covers album Fame, Fortune and Fornication(Rock Ridge Music 2009), and SKAcoustic (Rock Ridge Music 2011), a 22-song collection of re-recorded hits and classic fan favorites done acoustically.
Reel Big Fish continues to tour non-stop, playing over 250 shows a year to thousands of loyal fans all over the world, gaining more and more underground popularity as the ska scene continues to flourish. “There are thousands of ska bands and ska fans all over the world. Everywhere we go we meet so many people that are just getting into ska and starting bands. It’s very flattering
to hear that we are one of the bands that have inspired them. As a ska band that has been around for 20 years, it’s amazing to see that we’re still packing concert venues all over the world. We feel very lucky to still be able to be doing what we’re doing after all this time.”