Reel Big Fish
With summer approaching and the sun coming out in full force, there’s no better time to crack a beer open with your lighter and sink into some feel good ska. Big Fish are coming along for the ride to soak up the infinite coast line and humidity instead of freezing their arses off back in a winter-coated US of A. Some would say that the gig stops on an Australian tour are too few and far between, however trumpet extraordinaire Scott Klopfenstein begs to differ. “Every place has got its own subtle differences, places we like to go and things we like to see… and we get to experience more of everything the more we go there. I can’t really say there is one specific place in Australia that stands tall over the other,” he muses. “We dig the whole vibe and we end up being so much more relaxed, which is a big deal for us as we are usually doing one show after the other back home during tours.”
Having been in the game for over a decade and a half now, the band have had the chance to shake hands and sit down with countless other bands and influences, one of the perks of being in a band that is seemingly always on tour. “We are always excited to see other bands we’ve met and interacted with,” Scott admits, “and we have been doing this for so long that we’ve kinda met everybody in the ska/punk scene… and it’s always great to catch up with them.”
However after taking to the stage for so long, not everybody along the way is great to mingle with. In fact it’s difficult not to be in the music industry for as long as Reel Big Fish have and not piss some people off.
Achieving as much as Reel Big Fish have – something that probably could have only been dreamt of when Scott was learning the trumpet – in an area that such as ska, means that the international success they’ve had wasn’t really expected, and the scene can be relentless. Scott, however, has no problem addressing that. “Everybody goes through their asshole stage in this business – myself included – and we like to see how far we can push our ego. Those are always uncomfortable and awkward times, and I think this can be said about anybody in the band, but we have always been true to being us and it’s important to be honest with who we are.
“We’re all just trying to find our place in this world and when you start to do well, a lot of people in this industry will blow smoke up your ass. Part of that is just about being young and we were just lucky enough to survive that period where the ego takes over.”
“In my personal experience there are two different types of people that wind up succeeding in any form of business, entertainment and/or art… and there are two platforms they can stand on,” Scott elaborates. “One is the platform of ‘ego’ and the other is the platform of ‘heart’ and they will take you to the same place… but it all depends on the fuel you want to use in your engine. However one brand is a little cleaner and the other is a little cheap.”
Ska is more often than not automatically linked to the feel-good vibe it creates. Happy, loud and fun – it’s difficult to dislike in the right setting, but what happens when the people performing aren’t in the right state of mind to create something that brings smiles to faces? “When one, or a few, or even all of us are going through personal issues, we have always been pretty good at checking our shit at the door,” Scott explains. “As soon as we step on stage, it’s not about us – it’s about the fans and they don’t need to deal with that. We check all of our shit and all of our baggage before we hit the stage because the stage is no place for personal nonsense.
“It’s not going to serve us as individuals,” he continues. “It’s not going to serve us as a band and it’s not going to serve the fans, audience and the people who pay money to come out for us.”
When it comes to fans and the majority that enjoy Reel Big Fish’s craft, Scott has learnt perhaps the single most important train of thought through leaving his problems at the door before coming into the office. “People don’t come to see us,” he starts, “we go to see them. If people came to see us, then we would sit at home and people would flock from around the world to come see us play,” he grins. “But we go to see people because they are important to us”
To be honest, it’s hard not to be somewhat taken back and impressed with the outlook the band have in regards to their demographic and what they consider to be professionalism in the world’s music industry. While Scott can’t speak for the band as a whole, it’s obvious the man speaks for himself when he says that “Professionalism in the music industry is like professionalism in any situation – just treat others as you like to be treated.
“There is enough in this world for everybody and when you are dealing with people of business or other artists, you make sure you’re thinking about what you can add to the situation instead of what you can take away from it.
“We have been around long enough to make plenty of mistakes and piss a lot of people off and learnt from those mistakes from those angry people, but lessons are best learnt when they are burnt into your heart with a branding iron, unfortunately.
“Having said that,” he muses, “we’re always grateful to have learnt the lesson before it’s too late.”