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A ska band in the United States. Along with groups such as No Doubt and Sublime it is one of the big successes of the Orange County ska scene in The Nineties. The group began as a standard Hard Rock trio featuring Aaron Barrett on guitar and vocals, Matt "Mattwong" Wong on bass and Andrew Gonzales on drums, before going through a fluctuating roster of additional guitarists, singers and - after the fledgling band switched from straightforward rock to Ska Punk - horn sections. By the time they got around to recording their first album, Reel Big Fish consisted of Barrett, Wong and Gonzales with Grant Barry and Dan Regan on trombones and Tavis Werts and Scott Klopfenstein on trumpets.
This line-up had a hit single on the Modern Rock Chart with "Sell Out" and recorded two well-received albums; Turn the Radio Off and Why Do They Rock So Hard?. However, after the recording of the second album Tavis Werts and Grant Barry were both sacked and Andrew Gonzales decided to leave. For a second time, the band went through several line-up changes, went independent and continued to record and perform live, at which point Matt Wong left to spend more time with his family. In 2011, Scott left much the same way Matt Wong did, and left to spend time with his family.
The memberhip appears to have settled for now, with Aaron as the remaining founding member along with Dan, John "Little Johnny Christmas" Christianson on trumpet, Ryland "the Rabbit" Steen on drums, Derek Gibbs on bass guitar and newcomer Matt Appleton (formerly of Goldfinger) on sax. While not as mainstream as they were ten years ago, they remain very popular and consistently awesome.
Notable songs include:
- Album Title Drop: Aaron has stated that he wanted each album to have a song with the same title as the album that preceded it, hence "Everything Sucks" on Turn The Radio Off. It didn't quite work out, although a song called "Turn the Radio Off" shows up three albums later on We're Not Happy 'til You're Not Happy.
- Anime Theme Song: They did "Rave-o-lution", the opening theme music for the English dub of Rave Master.
- Anti-Love Song: Where Have You Been is a poignantly brutal one, while All I Want Is More is more upbeat. A lot of the other songs will often bring up similar themes in passing.
- Artist Disillusionment: Judging from older interviews Aaron Barrett became a bit annoyed with the notoriety of "Sell Out" as well as the Executive Meddling that obliged the band to record the Cheer Up! album. Since leaving their label, he seems to have gotten better.
- Black Sheep Hit; "Sell Out". Aaron Barrett has referred to it as "the novelty song I wrote ten years ago" and believes that the song that's kept the group popular was "Beer" from the same album.
- Cluster F-Bomb: "Hey kids! It's time to use the F-word!"
- Also Nothin.
"This song has the F-word in it. A lot."
- Cover Version: They're well known for doing ska-influenced versions of pop songs. "Take On Me" is the best known; similarly weird song choices include "Hungry Like the Wolf" and "Another Day In Paradise".
- Their 2009 cd, "Fame, Fortune and Fornication" is all covers
- Dissimile: "Ladies and gentlemen, this is the meanest song I ever wrote." "You mean mean like Michael Jackson's mean?" "When I wrote this song, I was in a bad mood, and it wouldn't stop." "You mean 'bad' like Michael Jackson's bad?" "No, I mean pissed off!" "Like Michael Jackson is pissed off?"
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "Rock and Roll is Bitchin!" is a hard rock number about how completely bitchin' Rock and Roll is, in fact those are pretty much the only words used in the song.
- Executive Meddling: Part of the reason they're so happy to be on an independent label now.
- Full-Name Basis: Aaron Barrett always referred to former bassist Matt Wong by his full name in concerts.
- Genre Shift: Live performances of "Suburban Rhythm" feature the band performing the song in multiple genres, including: punk rock, blues, country, disco, death metal, and emo.
- "And now for this next song, which is, in fact, the same song..."
- Not to mention "Party Down," with its multi-genre breakdowns. (ska, disco-ish, country, reggae, slow dance music, death metal, while the majority of the song is straight up rock n' roll but with a horn section.
- Girl-On-Girl Is Hot: "She Has a Girlfriend Now".
Aaron Barrett:"This is a song about a girl who left me for another girl. And it can happen to you, too, if you follow your hopes and dreams!"
Scott Klopfenstein: "Don't quit believing!"
- Last-Note Nightmare: The hidden track "You're Gonna Die" at the end of We're Not Happy Til' You're Not Happy.
- Lyrical Dissonance: Crops up in a lot of their songs, although it's often Played for Laughs.
- One-Hit Wonder: They did a song about it called "One-Hit Wonderful," which is used in the page quote. While "Sell Out" was their one song that actually charted, they're almost as well known for their cover of "Take On Me" by A-ha.
- One of Us: Dan Regan and Derek Gibbs are World of Warcraft fans and Matt Wong enjoys City of Heroes.
- Oh Crap: "Hate You", from Monkeys For Nothing and the Chimps for Free, begins with Aaron saying in apprehension "Oh, shitfuck!"
- Precision F-Strike: John Christianson's catchphrase for rousing the audience is "Make some fucking noise!" although he doesn't often swear outside of that phrase.
- Rockstar Song: "Sell Out" and "Don't Start a Band." The titles should let you know where they stand on the Sliding Scale.
- Running Gag: Dan Regan changes his hairstyle every so often so he always looks like the newest guy in the band.
- Self-Deprecation: In spades.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Playfully cynical.
- Special Guest: Monique Powell of Save Ferris sings the female lead vocal on "She Has A Girlfriend Now".
- Stage Names: Ryland "The Rabbit" Steen and John "Little Johnny Christmas" Christianson.
- Story Arc: Turn the Radio Off, Why Do They Rock So Hard and We're Not Happy 'Till You're Not Happy are about a band getting into the music business, being famous and being older and jaded respectively.
- Take That: "Your Guts (I Hate 'Em)" is the most obvious one. "We Care" and "You Don't Know" from Why Do They Rock So Hard? are all about how annoying the band though their Fan Dumb was.