No Place Like Home - Bowling For Soup interview exclusive Print E-mail
Written by Rob Lane   
Thursday, 18 November 2010 05:00

 

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"I lived in a town called Henrietta, twenty miles outside of Wichita Falls, Texas - population 3139!" recalls Bowling For Soup bassist Erik Chandler, "It was my dream as a kid that when I grew up I was gonna move to Wichita Falls! I was gonna get to The City!" Sat backstage at Sheffield's Corporation Club, the band are currently wrapping up a three week tour of the UK which goes a large way to proving that Chandler, along with his bandmates Jaret Reddick (vocals/guitar), Gary Wiseman (drums) and Chris Burney (guitar), made it a little bit further than their home state of Texas! What they've never forgotten though in their sixteen year career (and still going strong) is exactly where they came from and their hometown roots. Very rarely will a conversation go by without the mention of Texas, some great memory they have from 'back in the day' or one of the colourful characters that helped make them the band they are now. Forming in Wichita Falls, tucked in the North East corner of the Panhandle Plains of Texas, way back in 1994, it was a time when music was in something of a transition period, and for me, one of the reasons BFS have been so successful. They've never denied or shied away from the music that influenced them, in fact they've shouted very loudly about it, and they never followed any trends like a lot of bands did. I wanted to try and scrape the surface a little on how they came to be and what hometown memories they have from back in a time when hair metal met grunge, in a headlock battle with alternative and pop punk. And back when you found out about a rock show by a flyer and not a Facebook event invitation!

 

 

 

Bowling For Soup formed when, if I'm honest, I don't think anybody knew what was really cool or what kind of music was popular. Was there ever a conscious decision as to what direction the band should go in as you had a large number of influences - rock/hair metal/alternative/punk - it was quite a mash up?!


Jaret: Very true statement for sure, and where we lived, it was even more confusing! The band I was in before BFS (Coolfork!!) pretty much set the tone for the direction we would go. Even the songs we took from Erik and Chris's band, The Folkadots, we made them sound like Coolfork songs so the immediate direction was set. But, after the 'Rock On Honorable Ones' album (1998), I think we knew where we were going. I think that's where you hear ALL of the influences in the lyrics and the way the songs are structured.

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From when the band started out, how long did you spend touring around the Wichita Falls area before you went national? I guess you could spend weeks touring Texas alone?


Jaret: We didn't play a ton, maybe just a few times but we confused everyone. We started travelling to Dallas right away, and yeah, within three or four years we had about ten markets in Texas we could play. We probably could have stuck with that and play Texas four to six weeks straight and make enough money to tour to Florida and back, playing to NO ONE, ha ha! We were in the van for nine years! That just seems crazy to me now thinking back!


Outside of the band do you remember the first rock club or rock night you went to as a kid?


Jaret: For me, my first super valid memory of a rock club was a place pretty close to my house called Haley's Comet. They'd get all the big Dallas bands to come in and play two nights, Friday and Saturday, and then they would do an all-ages Sunday matinee show. It was just a full-on rock bar. I got see Pantera and RATT, just all of these crazy bands when I was like only thirteen. They'd do the two nights and stay over for a Sunday afternoon show! It was really cool, I still have tonnes of autographed stuff from all those bands. Pantera were just a local band back at that time but RATT were touring through.


Gary: I'm a little younger than these guys so that place had closed by the time I'd begun to go see live bands. I think the first actual bar place I went to was in Wichita Falls called 7/24. My band got to play there when we were like fourteen and it was a big deal for us. I've no idea why they even let us play because anybody who would have wanted to see us wouldn't have been able to get in. You had to load all your shit up the stairs and I remember thinking, "Man, I'm glad I don't play bass 'cause that shit's heavy!" Then of course, when I start loading in all my drums I was like, "Fuck, I've got a lot of stuff! I gotta go up the stairs like six times!!" Also, after that I totally understood why they shouldn't let fourteen year olds play 21+ bars because anytime people weren't looking I was walking over to a table and downing anything I could find!


Jaret: That particular place had two levels so on the ground floor they would play house and dance music and upstairs was a live venue. It was where basically anyone who came through our home town would play, so we had Tripping Daisy, Billy Goat, The Nixons and all these huge Dallas bands who would play. It was owned by a friend of mine and it's at that particular club were Bowling For Soup was actually born! The band I was in before this played our last show there and we announced we were starting Bowling For Soup.


Would there be a rock night afterwards with DJ's playing music like over here in the UK?


Jaret: The funny thing is we never really had any sort of 'Rock Night'. It's interesting for us when we see what a 'Rock Night' is over here in the UK where you guys play rock and roll music and dance to it. That will never happen in the States. The first time we were ever at Nottingham Rock City we were completely freaked out seeing people dancing to Skid Row songs!


Gary: We walked in and just watched them and we were like "What the fuck is going on?!"


Jaret: It was the coolest thing we'd ever seen!


Gary: Over in the States there's very few places that do live music then a dance club afterwards. The music venue will be in a different part of town to where people go out to night clubs.


Who were some of the local heroes back in the day?


Jaret: We actually had quite a few bands in Wichita Falls that went on and did some stuff. Probably the biggest was called Obscene Jester who later became just Jester. They played with Pantera all around Texas. We also had a classic rock band called A. A. Bottom who basically everybody went to see. I remember when I was a really little kid and the bands at that time were called Damien and one was called Fury. Those guys are all still around to this day. It's crazy to see them turn up on places like Facebook!


Gary: I think by the time I was growing up the local heroes were kind of Denton, Texas bands, like Hagfish and Brutle Juice. Not really local but they were the ones we were all watching and trying to figure out how the fuck to do what they were doing.bfs4


Was it a big event when a national act came to town?


Jaret: The funny thing is when I mentioned RATT earlier. It was a really big deal when they were coming to town because 'Round & Round' was huge on MTV at the time. The following week they had their on-air interview on Headbanger's Ball and they were asked what was the worst place they ever played and they said "Wichita Falls, Texas!!" We didn't get a lot of those style bands coming through though, it'd usually be super, nostalgic classic stuff like The Beach Boys or Jerry Lee Lewis. If you wanted to see someone different you could drive to a place about an hour away which is probably the weirdest city ever called Lawton, Oklahoma, a smaller town than Wichita Falls, where my grandparents live. There's a huge army base there and this guy opened up a place called The Hard Roxx in the late 80s and everybody came.... Trixter, Testament, LA Guns... everyone! All these bands which were on television every week would come to this club! That was really were I got to see pretty much everything.


What about music stores?


Jaret: We had two particular ones - the first was Mc Carty Music and they're the ones I mention in the song 'My Hometown' and they would basically just give us gear and let us have an account. You could just go in, get new shit and from time to time make a payment which was life saving. The other place was called Great Neck Guitars which is where Erik would go.


Erik: Yeah, I started as a 'Great Neck Guy' when I lived in Henrietta but when I moved to Wichita Falls and got in the scene with everybody, I realised all the cool kids where going to Mc Carty.


Jaret: They did something that was really cool. If you needed shirts for your band, they would pay half towards the costs if you let them put their logo on the back. So everybody in the city wore these shirts with Mc Carty on them because they'd just throw you one every time you went in!


Are there any early Bowling For Soup shirts floating around with the Mc Carty logo on the back?


Jaret: No, Terminal Seasons, the last Metal band I was in had Mc Carty Music shirts though.


What about music stores selling records and cassettes?


Erik: We had two Tracks Stores in the same mall! Literally down the hall from each other.


Jaret: We had a Record Town in the mall too and that was basically where everybody went.


Erik: I used to work in a store called Hastings who did music, books and rented videos. I was there a few years and ended up running the music department.bfs3


Gary: I've still got a Gift Card from there that I haven't spent!


Jaret: One of our friends started a place called CD Trade World and he was basically the first guy in Wichita Falls who was doing the whole used CD thing which I thought was genius and he did really well with it. Then a place called CD Warehouse came in doing the same thing but they were more of a chain store. That was where a bunch of the early Bowling For Soup shows happened. Just right in front of the store, we'd set up and play in the parking lot on Friday nights. I don't really think about them as being hugely successful but I hear from people all the time who came to see us. People would just sit in their cars and watch us play! We were hustlers back in the day for sure!


Erik: Interestingly enough, I hadn't owned a copy of our second CD 'Cell Mates' for years and when we moved to Denton I went into the CD Warehouse and found three copies in the used bin, two of them still in the plastic!


Jaret: There was only a thousand of those printed and it was a split with another band (The V.I.M.S). We got 500 and they got 500 but they broke up before it came out. So they just went to this big festival and passed all their copies out for free which was killing us! They still pop up once in a while.


How did you tackle promoting your bands back in the day?


Jaret: My thing with bands is always wanting to be way more organised than anyone else out there. So when I started the band before this one we had merch and flyers out for four months before our first show! Our very first show sold out because we'd created such huge hype.


Erik: They had their first album for sale at their very first show!


Jaret: We sold little cassettes to every kid in there so by the second show they knew all the words.

 

How do you think it is for new bands these days? Do you think they ignore the whole grass roots ethic of flyering and getting out on the streets in favour of Facebook/MySpace style marketing?


Jaret: I think about it a lot and it's just different. Chris and I would go to schools or the mall and pass out flyers to kids at lunch. I don't know if that's as necessary anymore because you can bfs5reach all those people online. It's something I miss though and I used to find it really cool. I would spend A LOT of time making the flyers and would put in a lot of effort.


Erik: Yeah, you'd do some that were really cool and it was a little piece of artwork!


Gary: You still have to self promote but now things are so easy and it's changed a lot of the work ethic. You don't find people wanting to spend four hours making a flyer.


Erik: Back on 'Mailer Day' we had a mailing list and we'd send out postcards with all of our tour dates on them. We'd go over to the studio and spend all day sat on the floor peeling off name labels and sticking on stamps.


Jaret: Chris used to do a newsletter and that became a postcard thing which I made but we would have to hand stamp them all. When I went to the post office and asked for twenty rolls of stamps they would look at me like I was crazy.


What were some of the best or worst things about Wichita Falls from a band and tourist point of view?


Jaret: Tourist wise, there is absolutely nothing to do! I remember being a kid and having people come visit and be like, "Well, we can drive to Oklahoma or Dallas...or go see a movie?" Band wise, at the time, it was tough too - people just didn't GET us. They had no idea how to receive us because we weren't a cover band, or we weren't metal....or we weren't REM!! Then when we DID occasionally start doing cover shows, we packed the place and got paid too which was nice. The best thing about being in a band there though, and this is the truth, is all we did was practice, because there was nothing else to do. We would rehearse five nights a week so by the time we actually started playing out, we knew each other's thoughts before they happened. And when I say we rehearsed, I mean like five times a week for fours hours - We haven't rehearsed longer than twenty minutes in years!


This far into your career what's it like when you go back now and do a show in Wichita Falls?


Jaret: It's a bit strange. Lots of high school people and family. It's kinda hard to explain. There's always a wacky vibe in the air with less people rocking out and more people trying to talk to us between songs about a shop class memory!


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