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Aaron Barrett, 'Captain' Of The Reel Big Fish Ship, On Why Ska Is Here To Stay

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Ska punk was big in the nineties. Huge, even. And now, with the fashion world firmly focusing on the revival of dungarees, tartan and crop tops, is it time for the decade's music to make a comeback too?

Well, in fact it never actually went away.

But never fear, you can keep your Sketchers firmly in the closet, as ska punk has been dragged into the 21st century - and it's here to stay, according to Aaron Barrett, frontman of Reel Big Fish.

Barrett, who describes himself as "the captain of the ship", founded the band in 1992. And, despite acknowledge there's currently "a bit of nostalgia" for the nineties, he's adamant his band's no novelty.

We had a chat with Barrett to find out just how he keeps the band sounding fresh - and what he's most looking forward to when he plays in London this weekend.

reel big fish

Barrett (front) with the current band line-up

You've been around since 1992.. Just how do you keep your music sounding fresh?

Barrett: We just all love this music we play and have a great time playing it, especially live in front of an audience, so wether a song is 20 years old or 6 months old we're just as excited to play it and have just as much fun and I think the audience can see that.

As far as writing music, I just write songs that I want to hear and that get me excited so that's what keeps that freshness and that energy in our music.

Nineties fashion seems to have had a revival of late.. have you noticed a recent rise in popularity of ska music too?

AB: I definitely see a bit of nostalgia for 90's fashions and music these days. I don't like being called a "90's band" though, just because our band started in the 90's doesn't mean we are stuck there. We are still touring constantly and it's 2014!

We've made lots of records and had some successful singles in the 2000's as well as the 90's. Not that we have anything against the 90's but we are a band that plays music, a ska band, not just a novelty from a certain time period. I mean would you call the Rolling Stones "A 60's Band"?

Fair point. Do you think the UK music scene is more receptive to alternative music than your native US?

AB: the UK music fans have always been very very kind to us. Also it seems that in the UK, you guys are more open to ska and reggae than the majority of people in the USA Ska and Reggae music have been an important part of your culture and musical history for a long time whereas in the USA it's always been and still is just a novelty. I see more respect for ska music in the UK and being a ska band, that has helped us out a lot!

You had a deal with Mojo Records but now you're independent. What do you prefer: mainstream recognition? Or a faithful cult following?

AB: When we were on a major label and they were working hard to promote us and our music, it was pretty awesome. But once they realised they couldn't make millions of dollars off of us they kind of just brushed us aside and it really was terrible and hard to get anything done. Hard to get a new record recorded and released and such. Being independent means that now it's up to us to decide when and what we want to record and when it is released which is great.

And we are so very lucky and grateful to have a faithful cult following of fans that care about our music and are interested in new records from us and in seeing us live so this independence really works for us. We are in a very good place as a band.

Obviously the line-up has changed considerably since the founding of the band.. do you feel it's still the same band? Or something completely new?

AB: Well obviously we look different, different band members have come and gone but as far as the sound and the songs, I have always been the main songwriter and the "captain of the ship" so to speak so i've always been in charge of the musical direction and all that so as long as I'm around we are still Reel Big Fish no matter who else may be in the band. the "Reel Big Fish sound" is me and my songs.

So what are you most looking forward to about performing in London?

AB: Playing two sold out nights in London to sweaty, skankin', screaming ska fans who are ready to party with us and have a good time dancing to ska music, it doesn't get better than that!

And finally.. what's coming next?

AB:: More tours, more albums, we're gonna keep doing what we do and like the song on our latest album "Candy Coated Fury" says, "Don't Stop Skankin'"!

Don't worry Barrett, we won't!

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