INTERVIEW: Jaret Reddick & Erik Chandler – Bowling For Soup

Texas pop-punks BOWLING FOR SOUP have very much reached the point of becoming titans of their genre by now. Having recently released their eleventh studio album Drunk Dynasty via crowdfunding, on the eve of the band’s show with STEEL PANTHER and BUCKCHERRY at Manchester Arena (read our review here) we caught up with frontman Jaret Reddick and bassist Erik Chandler and discuss the record, life on the road, side-projects and what it’s like being in the oldest fart-joke band in the world” for over two decades.

This is the third of four UK support shows with STEEL PANTHER and BUCKCHERRY for you guys. How have you found the tour so far? Any highlights?

Jaret: Yeah, third show here – we flew..

Erik: Well, we didn’t fly; we flew on top of the water on a ferry.

Jaret: We flew on a ferry to Dublin yesterday and had a great show there, and so yeah, third arena show here now – this place is massive, I just walked out there and it’s like, the place where our professional hockey and basketball teams used to play is like this size. We’ve played this arena before, but on like a big festival-type show, and here we are now as main support on a tour – it’s pretty crazy.

You played Wembley Arena on Saturday night – what was it like playing such a prestigious venue?

Jaret: It was insane and, like, one of those places where…

Erik: It’s on the list of places where it’s like “Man, it’d be really cool to play there someday”, but it’s not one of those situations where you think you’re ever gonna be there y’know?

Jaret: That said, it was the first day of the tour and, like, everything was super-rushed. I’d just had these two awesome backdrops made and they wouldn’t let us fly it, everything was just like that first-day crazy. Like, I wish that show would’ve been third or something. And not that there was anything wrong with the show, just I don’t feel like we got to bask in it really. I think it was more like “We’ve gotta get our shit together and play 1985!”

Erik: It was just rush, rush, rush and then *bam* – it’s over. And it’s like, there’s a photograph we took of us with the crowd behind us and I’ve been kinda just going back and looking at it for two days now going “Okay, yeah, that’s what that looked like”, because I don’t really remember any of it because it was just a giant blur of getting stuff taken care of.

BOWLING FOR SOUP have got quite an extensive history with this country by now and these are presumably the biggest crowds you’ve played to now?

Erik: Biggest indoor crowds for sure.

Jaret: Indoor, yeah, I mean, we’ve done Download Festival so many times, and Reading & Leeds as well, but outside of the festival world this is definitely the biggest.

The UK’s always somewhere you’re looking forward to coming to though?

Jaret: Oh definitely, yeah. Like, we had to take a break a few years back just because there was a lot of personal stuff going on, a few medical things, and we kinda needed to stop and get those things sorted out and then we were able to pick things back up. And then, we didn’t know if that would take a year, three years, five years, so we drew a line in the sand and did what we called the “farewell tour”. But we tried to market it as not being “goodbye”, but English people take shit seriously man. So we caught a little bit of grief for that, I think people maybe thought it was a piss-take, but I can honestly tell you that it needed to happen, and I think it shows in our live performances now and even in our new record that the break was much needed.

And then, obviously, you came back for Another Round as you guys put it at the time.

Jaret: Yeah, and it was almost three years later. And a lot happened in those three years, we had divorces and custody battles, bouts with anxiety and depression, and just shit that’s like grown-up stuff.

Erik: Unfun life shit, just a lot of unfun life shit went down.

Jaret: And then, like, with Gary (Wiseman, drums), he had a baby at home, and my kids were…And of course Erik and I got divorced, not from each other, but he had to move all the way back across the freakin’ country and I had to deal with figuring out what my life was gonna be like y’know, because everything just changed. It was much needed and I feel like we deserved it.

Erik: We did, and with that break, it actually allowed us to really kinda get it all sorted out the way it needed to be so that we’re now able to come back and be 100% and do it at full capacity.

Jaret: And I don’t think people understand how difficult it is to keep something going for this long, even when you all get along and whatever. And so when shit starts to get crazy in your life, you stop appreciating how awesome it is that you have it when you’re working.

Erik: You start to resent it a little bit, almost.

Jaret: Yeah, and so coming back from a little bit of a break we were all like “Holy shit, this is fun – we should keep doing this”, y’know? So yeah, it’s part of our history, it’s there and I think we’re a better live band than we’ve ever been for sure – we just can’t jump anymore because we’re old and I’m fat now so there’s that whole thing where I don’t wanna break the stage.

Erik: Or a hip. 

Jaret: Or a hip, Jesus Christ.

Erik: We don’t need any of that.

Jaret: That’s when you start to make your reservation in the cemetery.

Erik: Exactly.

Jaret: And honestly man, I think that this’ll be an album where people are like “Oh my god, that’s crazy that 17 albums later they can do this.”

Obviously, you mention the album, Drunk Dynasty, that’s just dropped in the last few days – have you had chance to gauge much of the response so far?

Jaret: It’s been all positive, and just what I thought it would be, because we are BOWLING FOR SOUP, if you like BOWLING FOR SOUP, you’re gonna love this record. And not to keep harping on about the last few years of our lives, but Lunch. Drunk. Love. people refer to as my divorce record and it was pretty angry, and there’s just a lot of emotions on there that you’re not used to hearing from BOWLING FOR SOUP. My guys were so amazing though because you’d never have known that from them, they were all just like “This is fucking great”, but from our management even, they were like “Where’s the My Wena, where’s the Almost?”, and it’s like, I don’t feel like that right now, I don’t think any of us do. This is how we feel.

Erik: I kinda feel like you didn’t get any different response from any of us because we were all kind-of in that spot at that moment. And I think it was therapeutic, maybe a little bit cathartic, for all of us at that moment.

Jaret: But, no, I feel like it’s; I’ve been asked a bunch now “What’s the inspiration behind the new record?”, and it’s just that I set out to make a happy record, happy songs, they’re gonna have happy parts and we’re gonna play fucking happy songs. And so that’s what we’re gonna do.

Did you feel almost obligated in a way to do that?

Jaret: Not necessarily as obligated because now I fucking have this stupid thing where I think I’m an artist now and shit, so I feel like…this is so bad because it’s not really gonna come across well in print, but y’know, I’m totally being facetious now. I wouldn’t say it’s that I felt obligated in any way, it just felt necessary because I’m happy now, Erik’s happy, Gary’s happy, Chris (Burney, guitar) is happy – y’know, we’re happy and we’re back, and I think it shows.

With these shows you’ve been playing over here at the moment, obviously you’re limited because it’s support slots, but am I right in saying you’ve been airing one track from the new record?

Erik: Yeah, we’ve been playing the new single, called Hey Diane, and to great response.

Jaret: And it’s cool because like, the first time we played it we saw some people singing along, and the second night a few more, and it’s like each day that it’s out we see a few more people sing along. And it’s like, we’re in Manchester – this is, if you’re gonna see BOWLING FOR SOUP outside of the United States, this is where you go. And so, I look forward to it being even more interactive tonight.

For the record, you once again went with the crowdfunding release model through PledgeMusic. What makes that kind of release so appealing to you as a band?

Jaret: Well, it’s a pre-sale that you would do anyway. But it’s a pre-sale that you schedule months out so that you actually bring the audience in. The audience gets more content, you get more interaction with everybody and it’s literally just…Well that’s it, it’s more and more content for the fan and more and more drive and a sense of; you almost feel like you have to nail it because it’s like, these people have already given us the money for it, so it’s gotta be good.

Erik: And then, at the same time, you’ve got to nail it because it’s all being broadcast to these people that have already paid for it and so they’re watching you do it each step of the way. And so, not only does it have to look good, but we’ve got to make it good too at the same time.

Jaret: These days, the attention span of all of us is shorter – I like instant gratification, you do, we’re used to it, spoilt rotten because everything is instantly available to us and we get sick of things real fast. So I think with PledgeMusic, there’s a build-up that really doesn’t exist for someone who may not participate in that. For example, if I’m like “Oh the new BEYONCÉ record comes out in 3 months” and you’re like “Oh, well I’ll entertain that idea in three months”. But if I’m like “The new BOWLING FOR SOUP record comes out in 3 months AND you can fucking watch us make it”, then that’s freakin’ appealing shit. Like, I’d wanna watch us make an album.

Erik: I would too.

Jaret: We’re so good at it.

Erik: Yeah. I’d like to see it happen. I’d like to be able to sit down and watch me do it, but not actually have to do it.

Jaret: I don’t ever actually sit down and watch all the updates because I make them all.

Erik: I don’t ever actually watch the updates because I’m there when they’re happening.

Jaret: You’re living it.

Erik: Yeah.

When you started the whole process for making this record, am I right in thinking it was originally only an EP?

Jaret: Yeah, that was the idea at first, I was over promising a 6-8 song EP and then once the songs got there, I still had stuff writing-wise coming out. And to me, after the guys all played the songs, it just felt too big to only be an EP. And so literally, I was just like “Stop everything, we’re going back in the studio”, and Erik already had a two-week vacation planned – it was a struggle. I mean, he went, I’m not like an asshole or anything. But it was like “Okay, shit, we’ve got to figure out when to get you in here and how’s this gonna happen”, and he like rolls in straight from vacation and has to come to my house and sing four songs. And it was a bit of a thing.

Erik: There was some juggling involved.

Jaret: But it needed to happen because this is the record that it needed to be.

Erik: And then, you know, on top of that people who’ve pre-ordered the EP at an EP price get a full-length album at that price.

Jaret: So really, they got way more than they pledged for in the first place.

So, with that decision to extend the record being made, did basically every track you wrote make it onto the final thing once that choice had been made?

Jaret: Everything I write doesn’t ever make it onto a record, but we’re pretty close with this one. So, if you rewind, I used to write like 60 songs and we would actually go into the rehearsal space and work them all up and demo them all. To the point where it’s like, let’s face facts – BOWLING FOR SOUP isn’t rocket science; we would start to get them all mixed up because a lot of the time they’re in the same keys, sometimes they’d have similar chord progressions or whatever. It was hard on them, just because there was so much material. But it was cool, because we had like 60 freakin’ demos and then we had to whittle that down.

Erik: But then comes the day where we all sit down on the floor and it’s like “Okay, everyone make your top 20”.

 Jaret: Yeah, and then you see which ones make it, and back then, there’d be songs that I’d really want to make it that wouldn’t make it – and that was fucking weird. But we made the records that we wanted to make. I had this song called Hey Jolene – why do I always do like “Hey” and somebody’s name?

Erik: I think it was just Jolene.

Jaret: I had this song called Jolene and Gary voted against it just because the girl’s name was Jolene. Fucking hurt my feelings. Anyway, so…I forgot what the question was.

Erik: Everything making it onto the record.

Jaret: Oh yeah. But so now, it’s like I write a song, I demo it either at my house or if it’s a co-write with Linus who produces the records then he’ll kind-of muster up the demo work. They’re so fleshed out that it’s hard to vote against though, since they’re already songs really. I think there’s two songs I wrote for this one that didn’t make it, they didn’t get recorded.

Do you think they’ll turn up at some point in any capacity?

Jaret: I don’t know really – me and Gary go meet up and have beers about once every two weeks, and we had this idea for a thing called Songs Jaret Wrote That Never Made It. But like, they wouldn’t necessarily just be BOWLING FOR SOUP songs, it’d be shit that I wrote for like the JONAS BROTHERS and stuff like that, only we’d play them. Because, like, the JONAS BROTHERS didn’t pick it and I’d be like “I get so pissed off when they don’t do the songs that I write”, and Gary just goes “Let’s just record them all and put them out there”. But I dunno, we’ll see – those ideas sometimes just get drowned in the beer and never go anywhere. I think it’d be interesting though, because some of them are just so insanely poppy and the lyrics are so dumbed down to be on pop radio and stuff, it’s pretty interesting.

In terms of stuff that did make it onto the record though, Happy As Happy Gets features a guest spot from THE DOLLYROTS frontwoman Kelly Ogden, whom you’ve worked and toured with a lot in the past – at what point in the record’s creation did you decide to collaborate with her again?

Jaret: Well, we knew we wanted a female vocalist on the song, and she and I are actually planning on doing a whole album of just duets together. But she’s real, real pregnant right now, and we’re obviously busy, and Erik just released a solo record, and there’s just so much going on that we had to push that project back. So it was just like “Let’s just get you on this and keep the momentum of just us singing together”. I just think our voices sound so cool together anyway, so it was the right decision. Mid-2017 is the plan for that right now though, she’ll have the baby next month, then have a couple of months to just kinda get settled and then we’ll start writing and recording. She’s gonna lose her baby weight, I’m gonna lose my pizza weight, and then we’ll both come out swinging for the fences.

So, with regards to Drunk Dynasty as a whole – are there any songs do you consider to be your personal highlights on the album, or is the whole thing just one big highlight for you?

Jaret: I really love the song She Doesn’t Think That It’s Ever Gonna Work Out because that was just one of those deals where I literally sat down and just wrote the lyrics over the melody I already had in my head or whatever, and it was just done. And that’s the song where it’s like I feel that’s the one a lot of people are gonna gravitate towards. And I love Drinkin’ Beer On A Sunday too because I think it’s cool that a country song is so well-received. Everyone’s just like “Dude, I love the country song at the end”. I dunno if Erik has any different ones.

Erik: Well, I mean, we talked about this last night, as far as the recording process for Drinkin’ Beer… goes, we came into the studio and it was like “Okay, yeah, let’s record this live in the studio” and we’ll think “Yeah, just knock this out in a couple of takes”, and then an hour and a half later we’re sat there going “Okay, we’ll give it one last try and nail it”.

What’s next for BOWLING FOR SOUP after this run now then?

Jaret: Well, we have a tour in the North-East US – we’re doing a couple of shows with SCREECHING WEASEL, who I know got into some trouble a few years ago with some stuff, but they’re very influential on early BOWLING FOR SOUP so to us this is fucking exciting as shit. And around all that we’re doing a couple of headline shows as well, and then I think a college show or too, so we’re out for about a week. And then we’ll do one hometown show around Christmas time like we always do, and that pretty much wraps it up for BOWLING FOR SOUP. I mean, I’ve got my other stuff going on with my podcast…

Erik: Wraps it up for the year.

Jaret: For the year, yeah – sorry, sorry, sorry

Erik: Just wanted to clarify that.

Jaret: But yeah, I’ve got my podcast I do every week, Jaret Goes To The Movies, and as I said earlier Erik just released his solo record that we made five years ago. We wrote it five years ago and got it recorded so it’s just now coming out. So, he’ll make some decisions on what he’s going to do with that, and we’ll go into the new year swinging for the fences with the new album and we’ll have some US tour dates and hopefully some UK festival dates to announce before long, and then we’ll start looking towards another UK tour.

Like you say, outside of BOWLING FOR SOUP you’ve both got a lot of stuff going on. Erik, your solo album dropped back in August, what sort of reactions have you been getting on that?

Erik: It’s been great, I’ve received nothing but positive reaction from it. You can’t really expect anything whenever you release something, especially y’know from a first release that’s so completely different from what people have known you from before. And so, the reaction it’s received in the reviews that I’ve gotten have all been through the roof as far as I’m concerned. I’ve yet to read so far, knock on wood, somewhere…

Jaret: Just go up on this stone instead.

Erik: I’ve yet to read anyone that really had anything bad to say about it, so that’s kind of inflating the ego a bit, y’know?

Jaret: It’s been awesome because, like, you read stuff like “Oh it’s the bass player for BOWLING FOR SOUP, what’s this gonna be like?”, and then they’re like “I’m two songs into this and my mind is blown”, because it’s not like…he’s not the kind of songwriter that writes fart-joke songs – he’s a real musician that writes real songs, and the album is real good. And I think it will surprise the shit out of anybody, but anybody who’s a rock & roll fan should absolutely check it out, and don’t hold it against him that he’s in the oldest fart-joke band in the world. I mean, give it a shot, because it’s absolutely something special.

Erik, how daunting was it for you to have to be out there as a frontman in that project, compared with BOWLING FOR SOUP?

Erik: At first, when I first started playing shows it was definitely a bit daunting and I was a bit uncomfortable but by now and having a few years of that under my belt it’s a bit more natural. But going from assisting someone and kinda helping to move the show along, to being the person that has to move the show along constantly, was kind-of a big transition for me. But it’s been going really well man.

Jaret: It’s been cool watching him though too, because it’s like; just when he first started putting his band together and started playing – just the way he would stand on stage was…You could tell, like in BOWLING FOR SOUP, he’s just like one of the coolest-looking bass players on stage and then here he is, but he’s like gotta be at the mic the whole time. And the bass is like, it’s not a bass, it’s a guitar so he has to hold higher and it’s just like this whole thing. Like, just watching his stances evolve and now he’s just like full-on in-your-face to the point where you think he’s just gonna come out there and fucking punch you, and that’s awesome.

Erik: Well that was one of the weirdest things, talking about holding the guitar – writing songs forever, you’re playing the guitar but you’re sitting down the entire time, and all of a sudden I’m playing electric guitar and I’m standing up – it’s like “How do I position this thing?” And I’ll put it in a position that’s comfortable, and suddenly I’m Jerry Garcia because it’s all the way up right underneath my neck. So I’ll put it lower and it’s like nope, too low, and those are things that you don’t really think about until it happens.

Jaret: Plus you wear jeans when you play, which is super weird-looking. It’s awesome, but it’s super weird-looking for me.

Erik: Yeah, exactly. And I do that on purpose.

Jaret: Oh yeah, I get it – I mean, in my other band I dress differently.

Erik: It’s like, I don’t wanna wear the BOWLING FOR SOUP uniform…

Jaret: I just said “fuck it” and now I wear the same stuff all the time, I don’t care. But you guys look cool – like, his band can get away with wearing leather and shit. We could never do that; you’d need to have a fucking whole cow to cover me.

Like you said before Jaret, for yourself, outside of the band you’ve got the podcast, and presumably you’re still working with Linus of Hollywood too?

Jaret: Yeah, Linus and I write a lot of songs, we’re planning on doing some JARINUS stuff in the new year. A little bit of it anyway – I don’t think we’ll go the album route, probably the whole single, then video, single-then video approach instead. But yeah, Jaret Goes To The Movies, I do every single week and it’s completely blowing up, it’s awesome.

Erik: It’s a delicious treat by the way, if you haven’t already heard the Jaret Goes To The Movies podcast – it’s awesome.

Jaret: And then, I’m still doing my voices for cartoons – I do auditions for that all the time. Like I said, I’ve got that thing coming up with Kelly too, and hopefully if everything all comes together right I’ll be pretty far into a kids record by the end of next year as well so we’ll see what happens.

Just to sort of wrap up really – BOWLING FOR SOUP as a band is now into its 22nd year of existence, and its 18th with the lineup you’ve got right now.

Jaret: Which is weird because, it’s like, Gary is still “the new guy” when he’s been in the band for 18 years. You almost just feel like the first four should be wiped off, but anyway, yeah I think about that all the time because Gary was a child when he started in this band.

Erik: He was a child that looked like a man, so whenever we went into clubs and were like “Oh this is our new drummer Gary, they wouldn’t even bother checking his ID, they’d just hand him a beer.

Jaret: Which is dangerous, he was 19 years old. He still is actually, it’s weird, still 19. He’s been in the band 18 years and he’s still 19 – it’s fucking crazy.

And having now kept this lineup for so long – what do you think has been the secret to maintaining such longevity within the band?

Erik: Well we like each other, that’s a big part of it.

Jaret: You know, the thing is, we all go off and do our own things and we all have relationships and friends outside of this band, but when you put the four of us into a room, it’s magic. And we gravitate towards one another, we like to spend time together, we know what each other is thinking all the time. I’m constantly thinking about like, whether Chris is comfortable or whatever, or if Gary doesn’t feel good, and it’s just on my mind all of the time. And so…I think about you too Erik, by the way.

Erik: It’s understood, you know I’m self-sufficient.

Jaret: We’re like, we know when to fuck with one another, when to leave each other alone, we’ve always got each other’s backs. So if it’s a bar fight or a knife fight or whatever, we’re fucking coming at you. And we’re fucking good at knife fights – I mean, like, we’ve never been in one but I just know that we would kick some fucking ass.

Erik: Yeah, I mean, if you’ve ever seen us at around week five on a six week tour, we’re all really fucking stabby so we would be great in a knife fight.

Jaret: But yeah, we definitely care about one another, and you’re always invested in each other. So, again, we have a deal now – if we get a show offered to us and one of us can’t do it, it’s no sweat. I mean, it’s normally Gary because he’s the one who has the young family at home and a nurse for a wife and that’s just what it is. But, just be best friends is the answer.

Finally, is there anything you’d like to say to the readers of Distorted Sound Magazine?

 Jaret: Yeah, I mean obviously thank you. We just sold out our first show at this particular club in Ireland yesterday, and I realise we’re probably speaking more to an English audience here, but to me that just goes to show you the support that this part of the world has given to us. Here we are in Manchester which is our favourite, favourite city to play in the world, and we’re playing in a freakin’ arena, and none of this would be possible without everybody reading so if you’ve been a fan for a week or 15 or 20 years or whatever just know that we 100% appreciate it and that, I think anyone who knows us would be able to tell you this, we don’t take any of it for granted.

Thanks so much for your time guys.

Jaret: No problem man, thank you.

Erik: Thanks.

Drunk Dynasty is available now via PledgeMusic.

For more information on BOWLING FOR SOUP like their official page on Facebook.