Reel Big Fish was a pioneer in bringing third-wave ska music to the masses in the late ’90s.
If you were alive in 1997, more than likely you heard the band in some form. That year, the single “Sell Out” was blowing up on the airwaves and MTV. With its funny lyrics and quirky music video, the ska band from Orange County, Calif., made certain it had no qualms about “selling out” by signing on a record label’s dotted line.
And these days, concerts are what the band sell out. That includes the one Saturday at Ska Brewing Co.’s 17th Anniversary Party and Brewers Invitational, where more than 20 brewers from Colorado and the Four Corners will entertain more than 1,000 paying customers.
On the heels of RBF’s latest release, “Candy Coated Fury” (July 31), the band just wrapped up a 10-week tour of the U.S. and parts of Europe.
“Reel Big Fish is a band that never stops touring. We always keep going,” said Ryland Steen, drummer for RBF since 2005.
And the band’s stop in Durango has significance. Ska Brewing and RBF have more in common than an affinity for the ska genre. The year 1995 was good for both. That was when the suds starting flowing from Ska Brewing Co. and RBF released its first album, “Everything Sucks.”
But, the band may agree, everything does not actually suck after all. Since that release, with a few lineup changes, seven albums and an appearance in Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s movie, “Baseketball,” the brass-instrument heavy group keeps crowds skanking.
RBF just wrapped up a successful tour with Goldfinger and Big D and Kids Table, including a show July 20 at the Belly Up in Aspen. In England, RBF played the main stage in front of thousands at the BoomTown Fair festival, along with other bands like the Skatalites.
Steen is pleased.
“The band has built a reputation on its live show,” he said. “It’s great that year after year we’re able to do these tours and people keep coming out and seeing the shows.”
Before playing drums for RBF, Steen was in Square with Maroon 5’s current guitarist, James Valentine, in Lincoln, Neb. Square eventually moved to Los Angeles, where it played at the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands, which RBF judged. Square won the contest, as well as the attention of RBF.
The two bands got along well, so they kept in touch. Eventually, Maroon 5, (then called Kara’s Flowers) needed a new guitarist, so Valentine jumped on board. RBF also needed a drummer and Steen gladly accepted the offer. All is well.
Steen actually filled in for Maroon 5’s original drummer and went on tour with them for a bit.
“It was definitely fun to play with those guys,” Steen said.
The band’s audience Saturday can expect an earful of new tunes from “Candy Coated Fury,” which was produced and recorded at their private studio in Orange County.
“I’m excited about the new album. It’s been awhile since we’ve had original material, and the fan response seems really positive,” Steen said.
And, really, when you’re recording the music yourself, does everything have to be perfect? Steen says no. “It was more or less about capturing the energy of the music. People are so concerned with getting everything so perfect, that it was nice to relax and go for it.”
And go for it they did. They will keep busy this fall to support the new tunes. After Durango, they’ll play a few more U.S. dates and head out on tour in early October with ska/punk-band Less Than Jake for concerts in the U.S. and Canada.
As far as Durango goes, Steen is excited to see what it has to offer. Compared to large crowds they have played in the past, it might be a bit smaller than what RBF is used to, but that isn’t exactly a bad thing.
“Durango will probably be a lot of fun and have a crazy audience; just for the fact that maybe they don’t get as big of shows, so when they do, everyone has a good time,” Steen said. “So, in turn, we enjoy ourselves even more.”