Reel Big Fish: "We're a Little Ray of Sunshine on People's Lives"
Christina Mendenhall

Reel Big Fish: "We're a Little Ray of Sunshine on People's Lives"

Ska music is made for dancing and parties and fun, which often leads to fans' buying their favorite band drinks. Drinks they sometimes have to turn down if they're gonna make it to the next town alive -- because they're professionals who care about their craft.

Didn't expect to hear that about a ska band, right?

Reel Big Fish hits Revolution with Less Than Jake and Authority Zero on Wednesday, bringing with it the experience to know just how hard they can party in order to make sure the party is on-point for their fans.

"You learn how to do it after a while," says RBF trumpet player Johnny Christmas in a phone interview from the second stop of the tour, in Lawrenceville, Kansas.

Not that Christmas doesn't love beer and whiskey -- he does -- and he'll calmly enjoy a drink while talking to fans. Hell, the band brewed a Reel Big Fish beer while it was in Denver. The band just wants to make sure everybody gets the show he paid for.

"I'm old enough to know my limits. People think it's not rock 'n' roll, but you've got to take care of yourself. I'm here to do a job and play the best I possibly can... I'm not there to drink as much as possible and throw up in my shoes."

See also: Slideshow of Reel Big Fish at Revolution Live in 2012

Limits aside, Reel Big Fish is excited to take the professional party back out on the road after a couple of months off, especially considering that it's hitting the tour with one of its favorites: Less Than Jake.

This isn't the first tour together for the bands, who will crisscross the country, alternating the headlining slot. Christmas said he gets "giddy" watching LTJ hit the stage because of the show it's known to put on.

"It takes a professional to spot another professional," he said. "You go, 'Oh, those guys get it.' And they do get it. Giving those guys hugs the other night [before the tour opener in Denver] was like a homecoming... We always want to go on tour with them."

This year marks 20 since the band caught national notice with the song "Beer" before becoming one of the biggest ska bands of the mid-'90s "third wave" of ska when "Sell Out" hit MTV.

Both RBF and Less Than Jake are now often referred to as ska legends, with Christmas noting that he's pretty sure lead singer Aaron Barrett has written the soundtrack to a lot of people's lives.

On top of regular touring, RBF makes it a point to reach out to colleges and universities so it can play all the prefinals and end-of-semester events.

The group's live sets, including the ones so far on the current tour, are filled with the classics fans expect to see from the band, along with the relatively new "Skank for Christmas" from last fall's Happy Skalidays EP. Which makes for even-more-fired-up crowds ready to flip out at the songs they know.

"I appreciate it, and we take that position very sincerely," he said. "We realize how lucky we are to play music for a living. And not just music but ska, this great music with a long, long history."

Christmas said he's seen lots of fans come and go and then come back over the years. As a result, he has a theory that after college, a lot of people who loved ska as teens and young adults reject it because they get hit in the face with life and want to get serious with sad, moody music. They always come back, though, he insists.

"They come back 'cause they want to listen to something fun," Christmas said. "There's enough serious bands that make you want to slit your wrists. Hopefully we're a little ray of sunshine on people's lives, and we get to touch people in a positive way."

Reel Big Fish with Less Than Jake and Authority Zero. 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 4, at Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $24.50 in advance and $26 day of show, plus fees. Call 954-449-1025, or visit

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