Reel Big Fish

Reel Big Fish were one of the legions of Southern California ska-punk bands to edge into the mainstream following the mid-'90s success of No Doubt and Sublime. Like most of their peers, they were distinguished by their hyperkinetic stage shows, juvenile humor, ironic covers of new wave pop songs, and metallic shards of ska. The group cultivated an underground following that broke into the mainstream in summer 1997, when the single "Sell Out" became a modern rock radio and MTV favorite. Reel Big Fish's popularity gradually waned in the subsequent years, following the decline of ska-punk as a marketable genre. Nevertheless, the band restructured its lineup and continued issuing new material to a smaller (yet considerably rabid) fan base.

Based in Huntington Beach, California, Reel Big Fish were originally a trio comprised of vocalist/guitarist Aaron Barrett, bassist Matt Wong, and drummer Andrew Gonzales. At that stage, the group was a conventional rock band with pop-metal leanings that covered both classic rock and Top 40 songs -- essentially, it was music designed for frat parties. After several months, the band discovered ska and decided to bolster its lineup with the addition of horn players. Reel Big Fish had a difficult time maintaining a stable horn section, and it took several years before their final lineup -- featuring Tavis Werts (trumpet), Scott Klopfenstein (trumpet, vocals), Grant Barry (trombone), and Dan Regan (trombone) -- fell into place.

Everything Sucks
This definitive incarnation of Reel Big Fish recorded its self-released debut album, Everything Sucks, in 1995. Everything Sucks became a word-of-mouth underground hit in ska-punk and college circles, which gave the band enough leverage to sign with the indie label Mojo Records. The label's president, Jay Rifkin, and former Oingo Boingo bassist John Avila co-produced Turn the Radio Off, which marked the band's first album for Mojo. Turn the Radio Off was unleashed in August 1996, and over the next year, Reel Big Fish continually toured in support of the album's release, expanding their fan base all the while. In spring 1997, the single "Sell Out" began receiving heavy airplay from several influential modern rock stations in the U.S., which soon translated into MTV support for the song's quirky video. By summer, the song had become a moderate modern rock hit, and the album had charted in the Top 100. In July 1997, Reel Big Fish released the Keep Your Receipt EP, which contained "Sell Out" and several outtakes, new songs, and live cuts. Why Do They Rock So Hard followed a year later, and in early 2000 the band returned with a reissued version of Everything Sucks.

Cheer Up!
The guys wound up on Jive Records in fall 2001 when their current label, Mojo, was bought by Jive's parent label, Zomba. Reel Big Fish's first release for Jive, a rock-oriented record entitled Cheer Up!, appeared in mid-2002. Years of touring followed, during which the band shared stages with the likes of Sum 41, Catch 22, Lucky Boys Confusion, the Matches, and Zebrahead. Replacement drummer Carlos de la Garza (formerly of Suburban Rhythm) eventually decided to leave the lineup, and his last show with the group was recorded live at Anaheim's House of Blues in June 2003. A DVD of that performance, The Show Must Go Off!, was released by the end of the year, and the band's next album, the cynical yet catchy We're Not Happy 'Til You're Not Happy, was issued in April 2005. By this time, the group's lineup had shifted to include Barrett, Regan, Klopfenstein, Wong, new trumpeter John Christianson, and drummer Justin Ferreira (who was later replaced by Ryland Steen).

Our Live Album Is Better Than Your Live Album
Touring continued for the rest of the year, and Reel Big Fish happily parted ways with Jive in January 2006, having wished to be dropped from the label since Cheer Up!'s release. A co-headlining tour with MxPx followed that summer, allowing Reel Big Fish the chance to gain their footing as an independent band. In August, the group self-released a double-disc live CD (along with an accompanying DVD) titled Our Live Album Is Better Than Your Live Album. A few months later -- and much to the annoyance of the band -- Jive issued its own Reel Big Fish album, a best-of compilation entitled Greatest Hit...and More. Reel Big Fish received no money from the album's sales, as Jive Records now owned the rights to the bulk of their songs.

Duet All Night Long
Nevertheless, Reel Big Fish returned with some new material in February 2007, splitting an EP (Duet All Night Long) with their friends in Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer. Monkeys for Nothin' and the Chimps for Free followed several months later, marking the group's first full-length studio release since leaving Jive's roster, and 2009's Fame, Fortune and Fornication found the band covering songs by the likes of Poison, Slade, and Tom Petty. In 2011, longtime member Scott Klopfenstein left Reel Big Fish to focus on raising a family, with Goldfinger's Matt Appleton taking over for him. The following year, the band released its first album of new material in five years, Candy Coated Fury.

Since forming in a working class suburb of Chicago in 1995, Mest have been tearing up the punk rock scene. Playing in local Chicago punk clubs, the group self-released their debut album, "Mo' Money, Mo' 40'z". The band got their first real break when frontman Tony Lovato sent the band's album to Goldfinger's John Feldmann who helped them get signed to Maverick Records, and produced their major-label debut, "Wasting Time", which was released in July 2000. Since then the band has released 3 more albums on Maverick — 2001's "Destination Unknown", 2003's self-titled disc, and 2005's "Photographs"– and toured the world as part of the Warped Tour.

"Mest was a band that was always known for their live show. It didn't matter if we had 10 or 10,000 kids at the show, we always put everything we had out on stage every night," remembers Mest singer Tony Lovato.

Tensions between the band members about the musical direction of the band, growing up, starting a family and not wanting to tour as much caused the band to break-up in 2006, and Mest announced their breakup, as well as a farewell tour entitled "So Long and Thanx for the Booze." With the band broken up, Lovato spent the next couple of years battling the demons that had built up in his closet. Years of alcoholism and drug abuse had been quietly concealed by living on the road as a part of a traveling circus, but now Lovato was left alone with his addictions staring him in the mirror.

"When I got off the road, I was partying pretty hard and it went from recreational use to a daily thing. It got to the point where I wouldn't leave my house for two or three days at a time, because I had such bad anxiety," remembers Lovato. "I remember going on a binge of drugs and booze that didn't stop for a few days. I went to take a shower and my heart just kept racing faster and faster. It was at that point that I knew if I didn't do something to change the way I was living I would be dead. I needed to deal with a lot of the issues that I was covering up with drugs and alcohol. I needed to learn how to be a human being again and regain my life."

After spending some time working on himself, Lovato was inspired to start writing music again. The experiences he had over the past few years had provided him for the perfect place to be creatively reborn. The end result was a series of pop-punk songs that paid tribute to Mest's past, but pushed the band forward into a future that was wide open. Now after fine tuning the material on the road, Lovato and Mest are ready to have their fans scream the songs from the rooftops as they release their new album, "Not What You Expected."

"As an artist you have to constantly evolve and if you don't then you will become stagnant. It was impossible to write the same kind of record as I did in 2002, because I'm just not in the same place in my life," said Tony. "If I were to try and write the same album, it wouldn't be genuine and fans would be able to see right through it. This album is just the next evolution of Mest and I think it shows how we've progressed as musicians, and creative people."

"Not What You Expected" is a return to the care-free days of listening to bands like Green Day, Blink-182 or Social Distortion blasting with the windows rolled down. It's punk-rock with infectious guitar riffs and sing-along choruses that instantly transports you to another place, away from all the world's problems. More importantly it's a return to form for a band that has been sorely missed in music.

"When I got back out on the road playing shows, people would always come up and tell me how much of an influence Mest was on them. It is the most humbling and most flattering thing to have someone come up to you and say that you inspired them to want to go out and play music," he said. " Then, to have guys from bands like A Day To Remember or Escape The Fate who inspired me to start writing again tell me how I influenced them was a great feeling."

Lovato brought the circle of inspiration back around when he asked new friend Tom Denney from a day to remember to co-write a song with him. The track is "Radio (Something To Believe)" and is an ode to all the bands that the duo grew up listening to.

"I can't recall who was more stoked to work with whom. I would say that I was, but he would probably say he was more excited," laughs Lovato. "It's a really cool experience to work with someone when you have mutual respect for each other's songwriting and records. Jeremy, from A Day To Remember, jumped in the studio to record a part for the song, which was amazing. That's what music has always been about; supporting one other.

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