News Editor Deanna Del Ciello sat down with Reel Big Fish’s Ryland Steen before the band’s performance at the Staller Steps on Labor Day.
Deanna Del Ciello: You guys have been around for a really long time.
Ryland Steen: 20 years. Probably longer than you’ve been alive at this point.
DD: What has changed the most?
RS: Probably the band members. Reel Big Fish has been one of those bands that have always been really loud and proud of being a ska punk band. We’ve never really tried to change what we do because our fans love us for it, we’ve sort of created a Reel Big Fish sound at this point. I think when a band has been together this long you get the privilege of no longer calling yourself a certain genre, you become your own genre at that point. So it’s the Reel Big Fish genre…Really the only thing that has changed is that some members come and go, I’ve been in the band for eight years now and I still feel like the new guy sometimes. We’ve had a pretty solid lineup…but really not much has changed. Just the faces have changed. Not only the members but the new fans, they tend to recycle every few years.
DD: With lineup changes, etc, how many people have been in the band?
RS: I hear it’s in the high 20s but I think most of those lineup changes happened very early in the band’s career. It’s really over the last 10 years that there have been 3-4 lineup changes and most of those were earlier on in our career. I think once again Reel Big Fish has become its own entity, people aren’t coming here to just see one band member anymore.
DD: Out of all the locations you guys have played, which has the best fans?
RS: We’re very lucky in the sense that we can take an audience from the Czech Republic or NYC or South America or Montana and RBF music has a universal quality that makes people want to go crazy and have fun. There’s really no one place we go to where there’s a lackluster audience or they’re extra crazy anywhere. I like to think of it as a carousel of energy between the band and the audience and if you have the band going crazy I think the audience picks up on that really well and it just goes round and round and that’s generally what we try to accomplish with each show around the world and we’ve been fortunate enough to just be able to accomplish that. There’s no place that’s better than the next.
DD: What do you like best about playing college shows?
RS: I love college shows because you never know what to expect. Sometimes it’s a small school with 200 kids and a small room, and other times it’s a college football field and 5000 people will be there…I never went to college so I love the college nightlife. I don’t know if I’d enjoy what happens at the college during the day but the craziness of the nightlife, you never know what can happen, it’s always fun to go out afterwards. You’ll ask “where does everyone go?” and sometimes you’ll get “nobody really does anything around here” and that’s kind of a bum out but sometimes you’ll get “oh there’s this whole strip of bars and everyone gets crazy and you’ll go out and be like oh my god you people do this every night this is insane.” I think it’s the idea of you never know what to expect.
DD: You guys have consistently been touring and putting out new music since you hit the scene in 1997 with “Sell Out,” which is not an easy feat for music acts. Why do you think your fame and fortune hasn’t wavered in the past 14 years?
RS: A lot of it has to do with the fact that we’ve never stopped touring and we’re very gracious for the few radio stations that do play us whether it’s college radio or internet radio or even at this point being on the weekend flashback lunch break time. We haven’t allowed our fans to forget about us because we’re always touring and playing and we’re always trying to put out new projects like greatest hits or cover albums. We have a new album, “Candy Coated Fury,” which is the first album of originals we’ve put out in 4-5 years so that’s been really exciting. I think the band has built its reputation over our live shows over the years. Some people don’t buy our records but still come see us live because they know it’s going to be an action packed energetic show and that’s a huge part of it.
DD: Isn’t that exhausting though to just be constantly working like that?
RS: Yes. But we’ve been able to maintain the perspective of us being lucky to do what we do for a living. There’s a lot of other things that we could be doing. There are people who spend years in college and getting degrees in whatever fields and get jobs in fields they really don’t enjoy. Even though you spend a lot of time away from family and friends and it can be hard, we love what we do. I think we have a really good group of people that are pretty easygoing and obviously if we’re gone for a few months at a time people are going to get stressed out and a little short with each other…I think it goes with just feeling lucky that we get to do what we do. Everyone in the band is old enough now that we just know that there’s so much we could argue about but it’s just pointless. We’re able to put certain things aside and have fun and really feel like we’re all on the same team, accomplish something together, I think that helps a lot. I mean at this point it’s just limitless, I guess until our bodies finally give out. People are still coming to our shows and buying our records and enjoying this so I think there’s really no end. I wish I had a much sexier answer than that but I think as long we people enjoy us and we enjoy us I think it’ll keep going.
DD: Where is the future of the band going? Is there anything you guys want to do that you haven’t done yet?
RS: I would love it if we can win a Grammy. Some people think it’s really lame but I think it’d be really cool. I think we’ve been on autopilot for so long touring and making music, it would be great to just become a much bigger band all of a sudden and play much huger arenas but I think that when a band has been around this long, you almost stop in terms of “what’s the next step?”,” what do we do next?”, “what’s the next big thing?”, it’s more just “how do we keep this going?” There’s so many young bands out there when you’re young you want to try and accomplish a certain amount of things but I think once you reach a certain point you really just think about how to keep the dream going, you just wanna stay asleep as long as you can.