REEL BIG FISH
Our Live Album is Better Than Your Live Album
One of the brightest moments in Reel Big Fish's lengthy career occurred roughly a decade ago, when the ska-punk band inked its major label deal (at the time, with Universal/Mojo) and subsequently released its second and most successful album, Turn The Radio Off.
The second important milestone in Reel Big Fish's career came nearly a decade later, in early 2006, when the act learned that they were finally dropped from the label's roster (which had now morphed into Jive Records) after years of begging to be cut loose.
Now, while most bands would've viewed such action as severe impediment in furthering one's musical career, Reel Big Fish simply celebrated the fact that the group finally received its wish to be cut free from its contract - something the band had been begging its label to do since
Cheer Up was released.
After all, being the only active ska-punk act on a roster that featured pop sensations Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys didn't really make the act feel that much more welcomed. And when the Backstreet Boys reunited, Reel Big Fish happily predicted their major label days were numbered.
"It's like 'Reel Big Fish, hundreds of dollars, Backstreet Boys, billions of dollars - even if it's a failure, let's go with the Backstreet Boys,'" says vocalist/guitarist Aaron Barrett of his former label's decision.
When word came in via phone from band management during Reel Big Fish's 2006 Deep Freeze tour stop in Salt Lake City, happiness was instantly in the air. "That was the most excited the band has been in ten years," recalls Barrett.
"I've never seen the guys smile that big!"
The first fruits of the group's newfound emancipation have finally arrived in the form of a live double-CD and DVD set, titled Our Live Album is Better Than Your Live Album, a full decade after the release of Turn The Radio Off. After nagging the band's former label to release a live album to no avail, Reel Big Fish will finally be self-releasing its first official live full-length via licensing deals with Ryko/CD Baby. Digital distribution will be licensed via Rock Ridge.
Produced by Barrett, the tracks on both audio CDs were recorded over a seven-day period of the band's West Coast stint on the Deep Freeze tour in January 2006. The shows were seen as a bonus for attendees, who were subsequently treated to longer, two-and-a-half hour sets by the band, of which Barrett jokingly says, "there was a lot of talking, so it was probably more like 20 minutes of actual playing time."
The audio discs feature a total of 30 songs, including an unreleased track written during the sessions of We're Not Happy 'Til You're Not Happy, "So Much For Rock N' Roll," and a cover of The Cure's "Boys Don't Cry."
As for the rest of the album's tracks, Barrett notes that they're simply part of a greatest hits collection, performed in a live setting. In fact, Barrett suggests that the album is really the band's chance to re-commit their songs to disc once more - and hopefully with better results this time around.
"Basically the live album is just an excuse to re-record everything," he adds. "That's where we've always felt most comfortable. When we're on stage, we just feel better about playing."
And because most Reel Big Fish fans end up becoming lifelong devotees of the group after attending a live show, Barrett hopes that his act's latest release will simply open more doors to those just discovering his act for the first time. "It's an easier way to get into us so you don't have to buy a whole bunch of albums, just this one," he says. “Also, Jive still owns all our other albums so this is our way of taking our music back!"
The accompanying DVD features 20 songs filmed from a live show in April 2006 at The Alley in Fullerton, Calif. The professionally shot and edited multi-camera shoot was directed by Jonathan London and features plenty of performance footage interspersed with the band's typically witty stage banter. Additionally, several special DVD features include practice footage, a small documentary regarding overdubbing, interviews with band members and a photo gallery.
Looking back on Reel Big Fish's career, Barrett sees the present as an opportune time to release a live recording of the act, since he feels the band's live performances have improved remarkably throughout the years.
"It sounded like a train falling down a hill," says Barrett of his band's earlier years. "But the train's now like the bullet train in Japan. It's smooth, there's no noise and Mt. Fuji is outside the window!"
On the task of having to assemble the newly independent act's latest wares, Barrett says, "I've never worked so hard on an album. Now that there isn't a record company, we have to do everything. But I like that we have our hands in everything that goes on. It's a whole lot of work but there is more satisfaction in knowing we did it all ourselves."