Old and Experienced: The Current State of Reel Big Fish

As 19-year veterans of the ska scene, Huntington Beach Calif.'s Reel Big Fish can attest to the underground success of today's brand of ska.

"Like all the scenes, it's not sort of forced upon the public by the radio or MTV or anything like that," said Dan Regan, trombonist for Reel Big Fish. "It's strictly word of mouth and friends getting together and that sort of thing, which is beautiful. That's where the exciting energy comes from - it's authentic."

But ska bands, such as Reel Big Fish, didn't always need to rely on word of mouth to promote their music, especially in the mid-‘90s, where ska bands were all over the radio.

With help from the single, "Sell Out," Reel Big Fish's 1996 album Turn the Radio Off sold more than 500,000 copies under the independent Mojo label. Then Jive Records bought Mojo Records.

"When we got onto Jive, they were dealing with Britney Spears, and we were just kind of a novelty and just something to have on their roster," Regan said. "And so we sort of waited. There were months where we wouldn't hear from them."

In 2005, Jive officially dropped Reel Big Fish, much to the relief of the band.

From there, the band started its own label and recorded four albums in five years, with lead vocalist and guitarist Aaron Barrett producing each one.

Recently Reel Big Fish added former Goldfinger saxophonist Matt Appleton and parted ways with trumpeter Scott Klopfenstein.

"(Matt) is a great player," Regan said. "Actually, our first record had a lot of sax solos in it, so we can finally play all of those songs the way they're supposed to be played ... he's doing a damn fine job of it. He's a very talented human being."

Despite losing long-time member Klopfenstein, Regan says that the band's lineup is one of its best.

"At this point I think we have some of the best musicians we've ever had playing with us," he said. "That sort of makes everybody play better."

As for now, Reel Big Fish plans to tour eight months out of the year in 2012 - the year that marks its 20th anniversary, which Regan says makes him feel both experienced and old.

"Before the show each night, I feel experienced; after the show each night, I feel old and wet."