Thanks to Scott Cole for the awesome photo, you can check out his other photos here: http://www.flickr.com/musicandmodels
Last month during their extensive UK tour, I was privileged to catch up with Bowling for Soup bassist and all round fantastic guy Erik Chandler before the opening night of the tour at the Cambridge Corn Exchange (read the review of BFS live in Cambridge right here). For an extensive interview and history lesson about all things Bowling For Soup, please read on!
Jamie: As a long time Bowling For Soup fan, I’m really glad I have this chance to interview you, because I’ve been wanting to ask this for a very long time…at Download 2005, what made you give the blow up sheep the banana enema?
(if you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, please watch the following video )
Erik: Why wouldn’t I?! *laughs* You’ve got a sheep…you’ve got a banana…of course you’re going to fuck the sheep!
Jamie: Seems like a perfectly fair answer to me!
Erik: Yeah! *laughs more*
Jamie: And from there, what made you guys bring back the two enormous sheep to Download two years later?
Erik: That moment…through emails and correspondence with fans and whatever..for some reason it became like a huge moment for us and so, from then on coming back on the next tour that we did people were bringing sheep to the show, throwing them up on stage and whatever so it became a thing, so we were like..yeah..fuck it..
Jamie: It was the next natural step
Erik: Yeah, and we used them on that show and then we may have used them…one more time, but we bought them just for that show (Download 07), and I thought it was amazing.
Jamie: 2005 was the first time I’d seen Bowling For Soup live and I remember (at Download 2007) that was one of the things we were talking about the entire weekend for the rest of the festival and I just remember thinking “that was really smart”..
Erik: You know..that was one of the defining shows of our career. It’s hard to say when something like that actually happens but looking back in retrospect, that’s one of those big moments for us.
Jamie: Do you think that was something that really raised your profile here in the UK?
Erik: Yeah, I do! All the press about that day was so fantastic you know, to do the kind of music that we do and to be going on a stage sandwiching between all this metal essentially, and for us to come out and do what we do and have it go over so well as it did, it raised the profile and got us a lot of new fans. Maybe people that knew of us…and could care less..they saw us and saw that, hey, this is what we do and we make no apologies for it and we didn’t try to “metal our show up” or anything like that. I think we got a lot of new converts out of that whole thing.
Jamie: You guys have been back here at least once a year for the last five or six years, is the UK your next best market after the US?
Erik: Things happened for us here (in the UK) before they happened for us in the US. The UK is really what has given us this career. I don’t know exactly what it was but things started happening really well for us over here and honestly, this is our favourite place in the world to tour. We bitch about the inconveniences and whatever but that’s just because we’re not at home but that’s all it boils down to, we make up things to cry about but we really do love being here, its a different kind of music fan over here altogether, and its a good different kind of music fan.
Jamie: I think everyone sees how fun you are and the fact you’ve gone down so well at Download, twice and been sandwiched by the likes of Lamb of God and Machine Head and Ozzy Osbourne and all these different bands, people don’t take you too seriously, which I think is a good thing.
Erik: Yeah, and we are very serious about not taking ourselves too seriously…
Jamie: *laughs* That’s good, I went to your acoustic show in Islington in April and I think that was never more evident than at that show, I mean it was basically a three hour stand up show with some songs thrown in, you both (Erik and Jaret) seemed to be having a great tine…
Erik: Yeah! And we’ll be back again in April (2011) doing that again, we’re going to make that a yearly event as well
Jamie: Oh really?! I saw Jaret (Reddick, Bowling For Soup singer) saying that to a few people on Twitter and wasn’t 100% sure if he was being serious.
Erik: That’s our plan; we sat down in May and kinda mapped it out; every April he and I are coming to do the acoustic thing and every October we’re coming to do the full band tour
Jamie: Oh wow..
Erik: That’s the plan, at least for the next five or six years. For the foreseeable future, that’s the plan
Jamie: Well that’s great news for everyone who loves you guys! Did you have a lot of fun doing the acoustic tour? (for a review of the london bfs accoustic show please click here)
Erik: Absolutely man. A lot like you said, it’s a three hour stand up and it’s basically me and Jaret hanging out and shootin the shit and having some drinks and then its “ok we’ve talked enough lets play another song”. I was actually just talking about it with one of our crew guys in the dressing room and he didn’t come on that tour and was asking about it and whatnot and was asking “you guys play for like an hour or somethin?” and I was like, “uh…no”. I read a review of one of the shows and the guy that did the review included a set list and it was like 26 songs or something ridiculous. I mean, we were on stage for 3 hours, did 26 songs…how do people sit through that?!! *laughs* That’s my thought, when I was a teenager I used to love that kind of stuff but now I’d be like dude I don’t know if I have the patience to go look at somebody for three hours.
Jamie: Myself and my wife went to the show and when we saw the timetable on the wall and it said you guys were on at quarter past seven we were like shit this is gonna be over by like half eight or something, we couldn’t believe it. But I’ve seen you guys live seven or eight times and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a crowd enjoy itself so much at a Bowling For Soup show.
Erik: It’s a very different kind of experience and its very much more like hanging out at a house party, that kind of thing and we just happen to have guitars and we’ll do some songs here in a minute and that’s exactly the way we feel about it. It’s very relaxed and I think that obviously comes across and lends a helping hand to everybody’s good time.
Jamie: Is the acoustic stuff something you’ve done much of in the US? I know you’ve done it for some shows when you’ve had the VIP fans in and you’ve done it before a main full band show?
Erik: Doing the acoustic thing is actually how Jaret and I were able to quit our jobs when we first quit our “day jobs”…long story told shortly, his brother-in-law bought a bar, and from the time that the band started he and I were like “whenever we get old we should do an acoustic show at the bar at the holiday inn or somethin like that” and his brother-in-law bought this small bar and I was like “dude, we should ask Jimmy if we can come in and play on a Monday night” and just do one (show) and then it kinda turns into we’re gonna do it every Monday night for a month and by the second one that we did, we went on at nine, if you weren’t in the bar by seven you weren’t getting a seat or a space and it was a really small and tight place that would normally hold about 75 people and that would be packed and we were putting like 300 people in this place by the second time we did it.
Erik: It just became this thing, and we did it for like a year or something like that and then we added a Tuesday night and a Wednesday night at another couple of places and by about a month into it we realised and we just played for tips, once an hour we had a friend of ours who was really hot chick just walk around with a bucket and just ask for tips and all of a sudden its like “man, we’re making really good money” and we were just playing for tips! It was like, we could actually quit our jobs if we continued doing this so..I was able to stop bartending and waiting tables and just do music full time so Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday Jaret and I would do those acoustic shows and then Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday was all Bowling For Soup and so he and I were playing every night of the week.
Jamie: Were you guys playing covers at that point or were you doing early Bowling For Soup stuff?
Erik: We were doing mainly covers at that point, this is in like 1999, 98-99, we were doing mainly covers but a few Bowling For Soup songs thrown in. I think he and I had a list of like 100-something songs that we could just pull out. We had them all in a binder – like the music stand that we used at the acoustic (BFS) shows, that’s where that all came from. We never actually had to really learn these songs so long as we knew how they went and we had the lyrics in front of us and so it wasn’t a big deal, we could be like “yes we can play that song, absolutely” y’kno and we would do a thing with the tip jar, if you wanted a song the next week you could write the name of the song on a $20 bill and put it in the jar *laughs* and it happened all the time!
Erik: So we’d get these requests and we’d get together at like 4 O’clock on Monday afternoon and know the songs we were gonna work up and have the lyrics printed out and go over it a couple times to rehearse it and then pull it out that night. It would be like “this one’s for Edgar, Edgar asked to hear this one last week so here we go, hope we don’t screw it up too bad”. Through that we were adding new songs every week and we just got to have this massive amount of material that we could draw from, it was really cool.
Jamie: And I guess that was the basis of you guys never using set lists for Bowling For Soup shows?
Erik: Well…we never used one to begin with; I mean all this was about four years into the band already. One time we used a set list at a show we thought was gonna be “THE SHOW” this was gonna be “the one” that will take us to the next level and blah blah blah and we made a set list and did the first ever little group prayer before the show and it ended up being one of the worst shows we ever had!
Jamie: Aw man…
Erik: We were…just awful. So after that, it was no more group ritual before the show and no more set lists, ever again! So that has become our pre-show ritual and our set list.
Jamie: Not to have one…
Erik: Yeah, the fact that we don’t do that shit, and it’s not us. For example, I just did an acoustic show by myself last week for the first time in sixteen years for the first time that I wasn’t playing with any of the other guys (from Bowling For Soup) and the band used a set list and it was SO WEIRD! (laughs). It was like, oh..ok I guess I have to do this song next because it’s written there on that piece of paper, but it was strange.
Jamie: I can imagine, the way (Bowling For Soup) does things it works so well for you guys, you must enjoy the spontaneity of it.
Erik: Yeah, because we never know what’s coming next! Jaret calls all the songs and sometimes it’ll be a case of “this is a song called whatever” and then we’ll play it. And then sometimes it’s…he just has these little clues, it’s like “oh, he just said that, so it means that song is coming up”. But its really strange, as a tour progresses about three or four nights in you can kinda feel what’s song is coming next, and its going to be strange on this tour because we’ve got a few songs, a couple of older ones that we haven’t played in three or four years, one older one that we’ve never played live as a band, a new cover, and a new song that we just released as a giveaway for this tour called Friends Chicks Guitars, we’re playing that. So there is some new stuff and we don’t know where it fits in yet…
Jamie: So Jaret might catch you guys out?
Erik: Yeah exactly, exactly, so you have to be on your toes. But that’s the cool thing! It makes it fresh and new for us because it’s never the same show every night, even when we do fall into a rhythm of knowing what song is coming up or whatever it still changes there’s still variables in it, so it’s not a mundane same thing every night you know? When we did The Warped Tour (in the US) in 2004 and 2005 or 05 and 06..we did two years in a row and you’re outside your merch booth all day so you get to hear all the bands that are playing and there were bands that just did the same set every day over and over again like down to the in-between song banter.
Jamie: So you literally heard the same routine twenty or thirty times in a row?
Erik: Yeah, and its like, this is bugging the shit outta me, how can that be even remotely entertaining to you? So that was another thing that said to us that we were doing the right thing by not having a set list and all that because it makes it better for us.
Jamie: Well that totally makes sense. I hear that you guys have put your EP back because it sounds like you are pretty close to finishing a full album or something along those lines, is that why you’ve put it back?
Erik: Its all recorded, what’s happened is that we’ve left our record label, so there are things going on in that realm, and I think one of the coolest things that we could have ever done was to record a whole album on our own dime and do it exactly the way we wanted for the very very first time in ten years. There has been no-one outside of the band and the producers that has had any kind of say whatsoever on what we were doing, not even our managers. One of our managers came by the studio one day, he didn’t even go into the control room. He was passing through to go pick up his family to go on vacation and he stopped by and hung out for like thirty minutes in the lounge. He didn’t ask to hear anything didn’t wanna hear anything, just said hi, and it’s the only time that it’s gone down like this and we’ve made an amazing Bowling For Soup album, its very core to the sound of Bowling For Soup. On the last couple of albums, not saying that we got away from it but we used a lot of tricks and trinkets in the studio and decidedly for this album it was lets get it back down to two guitars, bass and drums. We still have the tricks and trinkets and whatever, “the candy for the kids” as we call it but it’s a lot more two guitars, bass and drums driven and it feels very cool, it feels very much like a 2002 – 2004 Bowling For Soup sound.
Jamie: Is that how “A Really Cool Dance Song” came about? Is that something that was suggested to you that might be a good idea?
Erik: Jaret wrote that song with Linus of Hollywood who co-produced the last album and he co-produced the new stuff that we’ve done as well and it was just this immense joke because it just seemed like folks in our genre, all of a sudden everybody had “a dance song”. So it was a case of “ok, we’ll have a dance song, talking about how shit it is to have a dance song” and we all thought it was really funny and then as we got into the studio and we were recording it we thought “this is actually a really good dance song” about being shit about dance songs, or whatever. It was an amazing time and we have a lot of fun doing it live.
Jamie: Totally, I saw you guys I think on the Party in Your Pants Tour Part 2 at The Roundhouse (in Camden) and you played it and there was 3,000 people even the ones up in the seats just bouncing around thinking this is awesome!
Erik: Yeah, and the fact that that song goes over the way that it does live is just ridiculous and amazing to me, but its a case of everybody “gets it” and lets have fun so its cool!
Jamie: Do you know when the album is likely to be out is that subject to when you resolve stuff with Jive (BFS’s former record label)?
Erik: The stuff with Jive is already resolved, it’s other folks that we are talking with right now that’s unresolved
Jamie: Is that in terms of how you’re going to distribute it?
Erik: Yeah and all that. There are people interested in putting our album out and right now we’re just weighing up all the options. We’ve never been in a position like this before where we could actually put it out on our own, but would it be more beneficial for us to actually go with another record label and do it that way or do we want to try…its still really new in the stages of bands can actually do releases without record labels and its like, is that where we want to go with it. On one hand it would be amazing and really really cool to do but on the other hand, to have somebody else that’s working it for you it takes some of the pressure off and a lot of the work off us ourselves and so we’re still weighing that up and seeing if that’s going to be better than doing it ourselves.
Jamie: If you were to do it yourselves do you think it would end up getting done through crappy records (Jaret’s record label)?
Erik: It wouldn’t go through crappy records…or it might, it’s all still kinda up in the air. Jaret has said before that he doesn’t want to do it through crappy but at the same time it wouldn’t be bad for crappy records but then again its all…if we were going to do it on our own we probably wouldn’t have it on crappy because we would create something else that all four of us are involved in rather than just Jaret. That way it would all fall back onto the four of us instead of just Jaret. If something goes down that’s not quite kosher it’s not a case of “you and your stupid people that you work with!”
Jamie: It would be all of your faults..
Erik: Exactly. So that is why that wouldn’t happen..but once again who knows.
Jamie: Makes total sense again, you guys have been doing this for a long time now and the music industry has changed an awful lot since you started. I was reading an interview with Chris (BFS guitarist) saying that when A Hangover You Don’t Deserve came out it was right in the middle of when all the illegal downloading stuff really started and you sold nearly a million copies of the album and that was pretty good but if it had come out two years earlier it probably would have been three or four times that amount.
Erik: Yeah, its one of the mind-blowing things, with people who’ve been in the industry forever its like selling 750,000 albums equates to selling 6 million ten years ago, I mean shit I’d like to see the $6,000,000 money
Jamie: I’m sure you would
Erik: Yeah, and that’s another thing, with putting an album out for yourself, say we sell 30,000 copies at ten bucks a piece and that all goes straight into your pocket you know, so that’s the options that we’re weighing back and forth. The industry has changed immensely and we’re attempting to keep our finger on the pulse but basically for us we just want to do right by the fans and I think we have and I think we do. We do our best and a lot of the decisions that we make aren’t necessarily about us and our well being, it’s for what’s going to be best for the audience that likes Bowling For Soup and how is that going to affect them and their ability to receive and hear our music and to come see our shows. We’re very fan minded I guess in regards to the big decisions.
Jamie: Do you guys have any kind of plan mapped out for 2011 yet apart from what you said about coming here for the acoustic shows, are you going to do any US touring?
Erik: We’ll do a little bit of US touring, it’ll probably be…I’d doubt that we would do more than six weeks in the states. There are some other projects that are going on on the side right now and I think next year is going to be devoted to that a lot but we will be back here in April for the acoustic shows and back in Summer for festivals and then back in October for a full band tour and somewhere in there there will be a month to six weeks of touring in the states. We will be working on some other things that hopefully we’ll get to bring over here as well, I don’t know if they’ll make here (to the UK) next year but those plans are in the making right now. We will keep everybody updated, we’re not making any announcements about anything just yet, but there are some other, non Bowling For Soup things coming. That doesn’t mean the end of Bowling For Soup by any means, it just means we’re exploring…
Jamie: Some more fun on the side?
Erik: Yeah, we’ve found ourselves in a position where we can actually explore some other things now, 16 years in. We’ve got a little breathing room I think, and there are some songs that needed to be written that aren’t necessarily Bowling For Soup stuff, so we’re working on that.
Jamie: Cool, I know for festivals in the UK this year you played Wireless as opposed to something like Download or Sonisphere, which while you’re not a “metal” band is still probably your core audience, how was it doing that and doing something different that was basically a pop festival?
Erik: It was cool! We had a blast and I think doing that we play in front of people who wouldn’t know our music and know what we’re about. The cool about it is that I think we translate into both worlds, we’re accessible to the strictly “pop folks” as well as the metal kids at Download or wherever. We love it when people around us are saying “why are you doing this” and its more a case of “why wouldn’t we do that?”
Jamie: Its a chance to get out to a new audience
Erik: Exactly, exactly! And its like “well this generally goes in this direction” and we’re always like “so?”, haven’t we made a career out of doing the things that everyone said were the wrong decisions and 16 years later, we’re still here and things that people said would be the wrong decision, in the end we get together and can be like “told you it would be good!” *laughs*
Jamie: Time for a couple of really random questions, as we’ve asked our website readers to write in with questions. There’s a thing in the UK called Movember every November which is for raising money for cancer charities where guys dont shave for the whole of November, so if the four of you guys did that who do you think would have the best moustache?
Erik: We all have a ritual when we go in the studio and we don’t shave while we’re recording the album and when we recorded Sorry For Partyin that was the longest that we ever spent in the studio on an album and by the end of it there were some rediculous beards *laughs*, mine was borderline emo sadboy mountain guy, like it got big and long and I was having to trim it on the sides. I couldn’t cut it off, it was exploding so I had to trim this shit. We all do well, fairly impressive moustaches and beards. I think it may be the age that we are reaching now where that middle aged guy facial hair just fucking explodes *laughs*. One day I’m nice and clean shaven in my twenties and now its like holy shit where did all this come from?! I can’t say that any one of us does better than the others, we all do really well.
Jamie: Fair enough. Completely different topic: In regards to the song 1985, was it actually originally an SR-71 song, or was it that Jaret wrote the song with SR-71? Someone just wanted me to clear that up
Erik: Mitch Allen (from SR-71) wrote the song and it was recorded as SR-71 and never released. Mitch was a buddy and we’d actually finished recording that album and it was the last couple of days in the studio and we got a call from Mitch and it was like “we’ve got this song I think would be great for you guys, I don’t think we’re actually gonna release it so check it out see what you think”. We really dug it, it wasn’t the song that it is now at all but it was a case of we can take that and work with it. It was re-written a little bit and kinda turned into what it is now. That is one of the greatest phone calls that has ever come to us, we’ve never been big on doing other peoples music but at the same time but it ended up being a co-write by the finished version when it was all said and done and re-written and changed around it wasn’t the same song that was presented to us. It wasn’t a case of someone says “heres a song” and us saying “alright then we’ll do that song”. It was like “we can definitely work with that, there are very great elements”. Originally the song was a lot sadder than what it is now, it was very much lamenting about where my life went wrong kinda thing rather than relishing the past, wishing things had been different rather than celebrating the way that it was.
Jamie: You guys don’t do too many sad songs…
Erik: No, we don’t. There are a couple of doozies on the new one. I say this all the time there are absolutely two sides to Bowling For Soup; there is the silliness and the wackiness and whatever and then we’ve got some really serious shit going on and a couple of the new ones are…
Jamie: Some serious shit?
Erik: Yeah! Heavy shit and recording them it was like “can you turn the vocal track off please”, I really don’t want to listen to these words while I’m laying this part down because its rough.
Jamie: Thats’ pretty heavy
Erik: Yeah. There was one on the last album called Goodbye Friend, our old manager who managed us for ten years, we left him for a couple of years and then he very unexpectedly passed away and it really affected us all in a big way. The song was written about him and as I’m laying down the bass tracks in the studio with tears coming down my face and I’m supposed to be concentrating on making this part right and I can’t do it because I’m crying because of this song is so heavy. So there was one on the new album where I asked for the vocal track to be taken down, I don’t need that to guide me through this I’d rather not hear it.
Jamie: I imagine I’m probably about to get my arsed kick by your tour manager for keeping you for so long now
Erik: Don’t worry I won’t let him *laughs*
Jamie: Ok last question, out of all your material and you guys have quite a lot of material now do you have a favourite song out of everything?
Erik: It’s so hard to say y’kno, its hard to pick those out because with every new album you get a new set of kids basically and they’re all great. Of course it’s me saying that but I love them all and there are ones that I think I’m not gonna like and by the time we get into the studio and record them I think “oh my god I can’t believe I doubted that song” so its really hard to narrow it down. Yeah, I don’t know, I don’t think I can pick one, I sit here and I think 2113, no what about Almost, nah I really can’t choose.
Jamie: That’s fair enough
Erik: I can’t narrow it down to one, they all mark a specific time in life, thats the way that I view them and think about them so it’s hard to say which time in life is better than others. This song reminds me of this tour or this song reminds me of being in the studio doing this certain thing so they’re all really great.
Jamie: Alright I think that’s it thank you very much
Erik: Cool man thanks! Did you even ask me anything? I just chatted for like 40 minutes, shit *laughs*