For over 25 years Reel Big Fish have spread their signature irreverent (usually happy-sounding tunes with somewhat nihilistic lyrics) version of ska-punk. On Saturday, July 6, they return to Destin’s Club LA stage to help you dance your worries away.
Trumpet player and backing vocalist John Christianson (a/k/a Johnny Christmas) took time during the UK stretch of their tour to answer a few questions about life, music, and how ska-punk has managed to stay afloat.
The straight musical definition of ska-punk is the combination of island music (by way of Jamaica) with the speed and energy attributed to punk rock. But at its heart, it is an assortment of musical influences that attracts a diverse assortment of fans.
“The fans have just turned into regular people coming to the shows,” Christianson says. “Gone are the days when you would get die hard ska kids dressed up to the nines in their suspenders, suits and Doc Martens, only there to hear ska music. Now it’s people from all walks of life at all ages looking to have a good time and forgetting their problems that they have the rest of the week. We know how hard everyone’s lives can be at times, and we give you an excuse to smile, laugh, throw your fist in the air and sing ‘You Got Me Pissed Off’ and have a good time.
“Ska, like any music, is like making soup—no two recipes are exactly alike. You take a pinch of the Specials, a handful of Rancid, and have it all fronted by the amazing Amy Interrupter, and you have a delicious gazpacho that is the Interrupters. It’s always fun music that puts a smile on your face and makes you want to dance.”
That philosophy is likely part of the reason Reel Big Fish’s late 2018 release is entitled Life Sucks…Lets Dance. It marks their ninth studio album, their first in six years.
For a band that is nearing their third decade, it seems natural to ask Christianson about the type of legacy he wants to have associated with Reel Big Fish. “That we made this world a little bit better than we left it, through music,” he says. “Our band helps people laugh at the absurdities of life. We poke fun at the human condition, so you can laugh and not take yourself so seriously. Because the majority of the problems in this world are caused by people who can’t laugh at themselves. Take your life sincerely, not seriously. There’s a big difference between those two words.”
Christianson embraces the familiar battle cry of supporting what you love by getting out and seeing shows. “Please go see the bands that you love and help them continue to put a smile on your face. Music is like therapy. It helps you process emotions and teaches you what it’s like to be a human being. So go to a show (and) buy a shirt so an artist can continue to make music that has a positive impact on your (life).”
Christianson seems excited to return to the Emerald Coast, recalling our beaches and the Gator Beach attraction at Fudpucker’s, as well as “watching our drummer eject the contents of his stomach into a garbage can during the show and not miss a beat. It’s always a good time when we come to Destin.”
He promises a good time at the July concert, where the band will be supported by the Aquabats. “That’s what this music and Reel Big Fish is all about. Checking your problems at the door and having the most fun you can possibly have…with your clothes on.”