Interview: Bowling for Soup

MILF’s, touring and going solo: bassist Erik Chandler talks to about the band from 1994 to 2012

‘I didn’t know fans like that existed until we got there!’; so says Erik Chandler, bassist and one quarter of legendary pop-punkers Bowling for Soup. The comment is made in reference to the ‘amazing support’ they receive from our fine country, most notably from England’s fairer sex, whom they once referred to as ‘aging like a fine wine’ on their song ‘Girls in America’ (when I ask him if that means our country has a multiplicity of *ahem* MILFs, he replies in the affirmative).

Erik and the band’s singer/guitarist Jarrett Reddick are due to hop the pond next month to undertake their third annual acoustic tour as a duo, visiting a number of small venues like, among other places, our very own Duchess in York. ‘I know it’s so cliché, out of the book to say [an acoustic show] is a much more intimate experience, but honestly it is and we design it that way’. It’s a point that I agree with him on; after my experience of seeing Flight of the Conchords at the gigantic Wembley Arena, it always seemed strange to me that two guys and their guitars should be housed in anything but a smaller room.

Despite Erik claiming that 2012 will be ‘a quiet year’ for them as a band ‘to spend with their families’, they still seem to be fitting quite a lot in for what he indicates is something of a sabbatical. Interspersed between the acoustic shows are a series of military gigs with the full band in Africa and the Middle East, and that’s without even mention the fact that Erik has a solo album, which he describes as ‘taking on a more personal tone’, coming out as well. After touring under his own name during the summer, he pledges that the band in full will return for a tour round the States and Europe, giving the impression that although they may see this year as a break, they’re hardly sitting around twiddling their thumbs.

As aforementioned, Erik’s forthcoming album is set to indicate a marked tonal shift from some of Bowling for Soup’s more well-known songs. For years, the band have combined often scatological humour with tales of unrequited love and messy break-ups, most famously on ‘Girl All the Bad Guys Want’ about a girl far too immersed in nu-metal (remember that?) for singer Jarret to romance or the ‘Bitch Song’, with its surprisingly poignant take on despising your other half yet still being utterly infatuated with them (‘you’re a bitch/but I love you anyway’). It does seem though that in recent years the band’s themselves have changed, not only with the more introvert sentiments on Erik’s solo material but also following on from the band’s last album Fishin’ for Woos (2011), in which they led off with the surprisingly tender and grand-sweeping single ‘Turbulance’.

However, Erik is keen to point out that this apparent change arises more from where they are professionally than from some new-found emotional maturity. He maintains that there have always been ‘two very distinct sides to Bowling for Soup’, in which ‘the more serious side often gets overshadowed by the more humorous’. But on their most recent LP, ‘we finally felt that we were in a spot where we could lead off with one of the more serious songs…and it wasn’t by design to do that but we were still able to say “Hey, y’know look at this other side”’. The ‘spot’ he refers to is the band’s position as heads of their own record company, ‘Que-so Records’.

The opportunity arose for the band to start their own label after they were unceremoniously dropped by the now defunct Jive in 2009 right after releasing their tenth studio album ‘Sorry for Partyin’, a move that Erik describes as at first scary (‘we were like “OK what the fuck do we do?’) before actually turning out to be a blessing in disguise. ‘[The label] had ideas that we didn’t always agree with…we’d go behind their backs and start the ball rolling on what we’d wanted to do, then they’d turn around tell us to do exactly that’. It was this kind of infuriating process that led them to even ‘actively pursuing the idea of how to get out of our record deal’ years before the decision was made for them, hence the band remains largely sanguine about their situation, calling it ‘great’ and ‘exactly what we wanted’.

Whilst we’re in the realm of serious questions, I ask Erik about the band’s ties to the often maligned state of Texas, whose map appears on many of Jarret’s guitars and became the subject of their song ‘Ohio (Come back to Texas)’. He’s ready to stand up and defend it, arguing that it gets ‘a bad reputation…a lot of times in the news and the media, where people don’t quite get to see all that we have to offer’, before slyly adding ‘especially in the realm of presidents and presidential candidates’. In the case of the latter, he reveals his exact thoughts were ‘Oh shit!’ upon hearing the news that Texas’ controversial governor Rick Perry was running for the presidential candidacy. Perry, a man whom has 234 executions under his belt since he started and is certainly one who ‘likes to turn the switch’ as Erik grimly puts it, recently dropped out, a move that came as a complete relief to the Bowling for Soup bassist. It’s interesting to know that for a band that often sings about their ‘weenas’ and make videos of themselves urinating whilst playing guitar (as in the one for ‘Emily’), they do have a politically ‘liberal’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ conscience.

Finally, before Erik goes, I’m prompted to ask him if they’ve ever considered taking godawful elctro-[party]rockers LMFAO to court after clearly ripping off BFS’s aforementioned ‘Sorry for Partyin’ with their album name ‘Sorry for Party Rocking’. After laughing off the idea, he brilliantly describes the reaction on hearing the news as ‘a big group shrug’ (perfectly summing up the best reaction possible for anything LMFAO ever release), although he does say it was ‘extremely flattering’. All it goes to show is that when it comes to make decent party rocking music, Bowling for Soup come out over LMFAO and many others every time.

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