Bowling For Soup - February 2017

The 90s was the decade that saw perhaps the biggest evolution to date for guitar based music. The success of many hair bands began to stall, decline and eventually give way to a number of  sub-genres that were beginning to spawn. These of course included grunge, nu-metal, Britrock and punk pop. With its high energy and infectious melodies, punk pop was perhaps the most uplifting of all these styles. No wonder it became the default music of choice for the younger generation. Whilst some may feel there were already traces of this type of music in the 70s and 80s, it was arguably the 90s where it caught fire with the western youth. Artists such as Blink 182, New Found Glory and Sum 41 all enjoyed huge success and have gone on to full careers, but the band often credited with being the pioneers of punk pop are Bowling For Soup. Named after a Steve Martin comedy sketch, the Texan rockers emerged in 1994 and released their debut album Let's Do It For Johnny! in 2000. After 23 years and 10 albums, Bowling For Soup have just released their new studio album, Drunk Dynasty. We catch up with singer and guitarist Jaret Reddick to learn more about his formative years, the band’s recent break from touring and how the new record came together.

I want to talk about the new album Drunk Dynasty but before we do so, I would like to go way back to the beginning, before even the beginning of the band. What was life like for you growing up in Texas? 


We lived in a pretty small town and small town USA, especially in the 80s, was low key. So your days were kind of like going outside when the sun came up and coming home when the sun went down. Obviously life in America has changed a lot since then. I kind of credit that with my childhood being so important with my songs because music and movies were such an important part of our everyday. That was what we talked about. We didn't quite have the access to the internet and television was 3 channels. So we watched a lot of movies, we listened to a lot of music, we built forts and we played outside. And then I discovered rock music when I was about 13 and from then on that's all I did. I was a drummer first and I played drums basically as long as my parents would let me each day, and they were awesome about it! My dad worked out of the house and my mum really didn't care much. But quite frankly I had a really normal childhood. My parents both worked and I had a lot of friends in my neighbourhood. I played sports and I was a very average and normal kid.


You're one of 6 children, aren't you?


Well I didn't grow up with my 4 older sisters. They were from my dad's first marriage and so by the time I was born they were grown up. My dad’s 10 years older than my mom so he was well into his 30s by the time I was born so they were all almost out of the house. 2 of them were living with their mother in a different city. So really it was just my brother and I and he's 5 years older than me, and really in our house it was just us. Being 5 years older than me he picked on me quite a bit (laughs) and made me as tough as he could and he taught me a lot. I definitely learned a lot from seeing him fuck up! That's always good!


What sort of musical influences did you have? You say you were 13 – what connected with you at that time?


Well, what I realised after I'd gotten into writing songs and just being a musician was that my parents influenced me musically without that being their end game. My parents listened to music all the time, and I don’t know if you've ever seen National Lampoon’s Vacation how the mom and dad are just singing in the car all the time – that was my parents! Our car trips were rolling concerts. They harmonised and they listened to a lot of musical things and they listened to a lot of old country and western. So from The Eagles and some of The Bee Gees and some of the things like that, I feel like that's where I got my sense of harmony. And then from Willie Nelson and Weiland Jennings and Kenny Rogers and people like that – and again The Eagles - that's where I think I got my story telling. That's the reason that I feel like I'm more of a story-telling songwriter. For the most part I feel that most of my stuff is just a tale. But then when I was 13, a kid brought a Walkman to school. I don't know if you remember what a Walkman was but it was a cassette player that you could hold on your hand. Man, once those things were invented, it was like the equivalent to the iPod as far as just changing everything in terms of being able to carry around music with you all the time. And he brought that thing to school and played me Ozzy Osbourne Crazy Train, and up until that point I was really into like Michael Jackson and John Cougar Mellencamp and things like that. I heard Crazy Train and everything at that moment completely changed. And that's happened to me now 2 separate times in my life with a band like that. Like a certain kind of music just completely changed what I was doing and where I was going and how I was going to go about it. But that was the first time. Once I heard Ozzy I was hooked. And then I got into Motley Crüe and then I got into Ratt and all of the Hollywood hair bands. And that pretty much put me on the journey to just being into music all the time.

Coming together as Bowling For Soup has been quite well documented, but at what point did you feel that you’d made it? Was there a moment you actually felt that?


Yeah, I think with Bowling For Soup it's hard because I don’t really feel like we've ever plateaued because we never just blew up. We've kind of had this gradual rise and then it just kind of stayed in this area. But I don't really ever feel like we've flatlined. It's just an ongoing saga. But I will say that we formed in ’94 and we came over to the UK for the first time in 2000. We were playing Reading and Leeds Festival. At that time the Virgin Megastore was still there on Oxford Street. A huge record store and right when we walked in the door there was like the best sellers and we had a whole spot on this wall and that was definitely the point where we were like "Holy shit!". We still weren't selling any records. That record was Let’s Do It For Johnny and that album did terrible in the States but it did great in the UK. I had never thought about that – that I'd be in another country and see our album, go and play in a tent and the tent is empty 5 bands before us, and we go up on stage and there's people as far as you can see. We had no idea you know. So that was definitely one of those moments. I mean there's several throughout your career, obviously the Grammy thing in 2003 – being at the Grammys and your grandmother seeing you on TV – and some of the headlining festivals we've done. I think we've played Download now 7 times on the main stage and headlined the acoustic stage. It's just never ending the list, but you definitely hold true to 2 or 3 things, and I would say most often that's the one that I think back to.


After 20 years together, 10 albums and a level of success many bands can only dream of, in 2013, you decided take a step back in terms of touring. Why was this and how were you personally feeling at this time?


Well, you've worded the question perfectly. I mean personally I was a mess. I was going through the break up of my family. I was getting a divorce that I didn't necessarily want to get. A lot of the pressure that had been put on my relationship was due to the band. But also the success of our being able to provide for our family and kids was also due to the band. It was a very hard time for me. Erik (Chandler, bass) had just got through a divorce, Gary (Wiseman, drums) had just had his first child and there was just a lot of stuff going on. And it's really hard for us to make people understand, and especially in the UK it's been tough. There's been a bit of a backlash. I don't think it's been as bad as we see it with doing that farewell tour, and us saying "Hey, it's not goodbye but we need a break". We sort of left it open-ended so that we could just breath for a bit. Like many of the decisions we've made in Bowling For Soup as a band, it was perfect. It was absolutely the right time and the right thing to do, instead of just imploding and me going through that really bad time in my life and resenting the band itself which is in turn is resenting me as it's all I do! We tapped the breaks. I needed some time to get mentally healthy. I realise that sounds super cheesy and almost Metallica-y but it was the first time in my life I'd ever dealt with anxiety, the first time I'd ever been diagnosed with anything – and that was depression. So here I am – the funny guy - I've been funny my whole life and the doctor’s looking at me going "Yeah, your depressed" and I'm like "No I'm not! I was laughing on the way in here!". So I needed some time to understand all that. So we took the necessary steps to do that and I think most of our fans of understood that. We still get the comments once in a while "Oh yeah, I remember when you said you were never coming back!" And it's like we never actually said we were never coming back. We said we were gonna take some time off and quite frankly we have. We don't tour anything like what we did before then. You can look back to us headlining last year. We used to come every year for a headline tour to the UK and do a festival or 2, sometimes 4 or 5 trips over a year, and we just needed to break that cycle. That's the real, solid answer and it works perfectly because we're solidified now. Erik’s happy, I'm happy, Gary’s happy and set up, Chris Burney (guitar) just does his thing, and here we are. We are going to be headlining a stage on the Slam Dunk festival this year and some other shows coming up this summer, and then we’re looking forward to some touring sometime in 2018 over there.


I suppose a question to follow that up with is do you consciously now not put yourselves as band under so much pressure and perhaps looks to maintain an element of balance?


I think really what is was more than anything was - and I guess I'm kind of repeating myself but it's something I've never really thought about - it wasn't that there was a pressure on us, it was just the cycle. It was like ‘this is what we do’. We do an album every 2 years and we do do this tour, then we do this tour, then we go back in the studio and do this. It was a matter of we've been doing this for what will be 23 years in June and there's no reason we need to keep this pace. We’re 40 year old men and we're doing the same schedule that we did all through our 20s and 30s. But it did take a lot of pressure of me, personally, because my workload is significantly less as far as Bowling For Soup is concerned. What I've done though is put that into other things and other areas of Bowling For Soup and making sure that were remaining current and know what's going on in the world of music and all that. We just needed that cycle to be broken and to teach ourselves that hey, you know what, we don't need to go on tour in the United States for 3 months. We could take a year to cover the country and go out 10 days every 2 to 3 months, and come home and regroup: be with our kids, pet our dogs, take our wives out to eat and then go back out and be excited and happy and not just completely beat down.

We can expect a duets album with Kelly Dollyrot in 2017

The great news was that in 2016 you embarked upon your "How About Another Round" tour. Was the decision to create new music always part of the plan?


The thing about us when we were stopping the touring was trying to get ourselves into creating more content. So all of these projects that we had talked about doing in the past that we’d even hint at sometimes in the press, it just never got around to being done because we just didn't have time to do it. Quite frankly, not a lot of that is happening at the moment but at least some of it is (laughs). When I went in to make this new record, it was supposed to be an EP and I think I will credit the giving ourselves a little room to breath that once we got in there the spark was crazy. It was just like "Dude, we've got to do a full record!". The EP was done - I think it was 7 songs – and we changed the release date. I'm just like "Man, let’s go back in and do some more!" and I'm so glad we did because I just think that the album came out great! There's a definite fire with us. I don't want to be all woe is me. I definitely don't want people think I'm trying to get anyone to feel sorry for us or anything like that. We realise that our dreams came true and we’re very, very lucky. It’s just that with anything in life, it doesn't matter whether you're a successful business man and people look up to you or you’re a musician and people look up to you, or an actor or whatever, you do get tired. We're human beings, you know, and you have to step back sometimes and remind yourself that, hey, other people take time off sometimes! (Laughs). To answer your question, the plan was always to put our new material and put out different kinds of new material. There's a documentary we've wanted to do forever and we've talked about it in the press called My Home Town where we go back to our little home town and we just take you on a tour of it and show you like, this is where I went to school and then tell you a story, and then this is where Chris had his first job and tell you a story, and really just where we grew up because the stories of us as kids and young adults and starting the band, we’re a walking television show. It's interesting and I'd love to see another band do that. So hopefully those are the kind of things that happen now that we're not just travelling all the time.


2016 saw you release the incredible Drunk Dynasty record. This is a very strong record - as good as any record you have made – and can only be the product of a band committed to each other and a band uncompromising in their desire to deliver quality music. So it's interesting to hear the approach that you took in that it started as an EP and that it actually grew. That's a fascinating position.


Yeah because I think that actually happens in reverse a lot of the time. I think a lot of bands go in to do an album but just don't have the material, and they’re just "You know what, let's do an EP and it will be a placeholder thing and let's go get our shit together and write and album" or whatever. And also I think personally the album is a dying product. It's almost an unnecessary thing these days. I have another band called Jarinus and as we talk about doing more Jarinus material the thought of doing an album to us seems kind of silly because really we can only pay attention to enough songs as the listener can. If you have 4 videos or whatever you've got 8 songs which really if you'd just released them on their own would have been as strong as any of them. It's almost like "why don't we just release a song every couple of months?". Those are the kinds of ideas that roll around in my head all the time. Just keep the audience's attention span and also keep it fun and fresh.


Absolutely, and I think an example of that from the album is the track Drinking Beer On A Sunday. It's a great singalong track and for me it's a track that also allows you to perhaps put things in perspective. One thing I wanted to pick up on where that song is concerned is that it does have a country twist to it. That reminds of when you were talking earlier about singing in the car with your family growing up. Had it been around at that time, is this an example of the sort of song you might have sung together as a family?


Well historically, I've always liked to put in the country vibe. On Let's Do It For Johnny!, I did this song, Everything, and we had a song All Figured Out and a song Running From Your Dad. There's a bunch of these kind of songs that lean towards this country feel. So yeah, that's our roots. Especially me and Chris, that's what we grew up listening to and there's no way for it not to sneak in there once in a while. And I've been hinting about doing country songs on my own forever and ever and as that idea came to me it made a lot of sense to tack that on to the album. I absolutely love when something like that artistically works and it's a song that you gravitate to towards. Seriously, the majority of the fans are just like "we love Don't Be A Dick, Go To Bed Mad and Drinking Beer On A Sunday"! Everybody just loves that song and that's where it all came from if you think about it. That sort of vibe and bob-your-head thing. That's where Elvis got it and The Beatles got it and made it into what we listen to today. That influence will always sneak it's way into Bowling For Soup.


I also think it's great that you have Kelly Ogden (The Dollyrots) guesting on the Happy As Happy Gets.


Well, we will be doing a record together she and I, all duets, just Kelly and myself. It's yet to be titled but that's something we will probably launch and start to promote in the next couple of months. I love the way our voices sound together and her and Luis (Cabezas – guitarist) and her family are some of my favourite people on the planet. We're family and so I'm super excited to be doing this record with her.


What does the Bowling For Soup 2017 calendar look like?


Well, we've got our touring pretty much mapped out. We're going to be doing some US touring in the Spring. We're coming straight over after that to headline the Punk Rock Stage at Slam Dunk which I'm really excited about. We have some more festivals in the UK I believe in July and just various touring and stuff but in very small doses of it. I think we really kind of have to back-track a little bit in the coming months and probably get some videos done for Drunk Dynasty and actually pay attention to the album. In this day and age as your doing these fan-funded albums, the actual making of the record and doing all of the staff that goes along with that, it's a lot. It's quite a production so you almost kind of get the album out and then it's like "It's done!" and then you forget and it's like "Oh shit! We’ve got an album out! We've got to go and do this and this…!". So I'm excited to get out there in the US and do some touring and promote the record. 

As our conversation draws to a close, it's with absolute respect that we acknowledge that to continue to achieve at this level and to deliver the very best music, sometimes taking the opportunity to catch your breath is the best decision you can take. And it's one that has resulted in Bowling For Soup creating one of the best albums of their career. 


Find out more at www.bowlingforsoup.com and check out the video to lead single Diane below.