Next year American punk-rockers Bowling For Soup will celebrate their 20th anniversary as a band. It was therefore somewhat surprising when in April this year they announced that their annual UK trek would be their 'UK Farewell Tour'. Prior to the bands sold out show at the UEA LCR in Norwich eGigs had the chance to chat with bassist Erik Chandler about what this means for Bowling For Soup.
Here we are on the second date of your 'Farewell Tour', why is this farewell and why now?
Ok, it all depends on how you pronounce it. You can say it's the 'Farewell to the UK Tour' but that's not exactly what it is; it's the 'Farewell to the UK Tour'. Every year for the last 13, we've toured here at least once a year and it's been mainly in October. We're not getting any younger, and you know with families, wives, kids, dogs and homes as well as other things we've got our fingers in, it's just not easy to be out of the country for like a month at a time any more. It doesn't mean we're not coming back to the UK, it just means we're not going to be touring everyday for 26 days straight in a row with no day off. We're not done coming here, we're just done with the official super mega tour that we do.
You did make it quite clear that this isn't a break up.
Right, I mean next year we have two albums and three DVDs coming out. There's no end in sight.
For your most recent album, 'Lunch. Drunk. Love.', you used Pledge Music for the first time. How did you find that experience?
It was really cool. It was an idea, because we own our own record label now, to see how it would work. It's also a super cool way to keep fans very viscerally involved in the album process. It was an idea of like "how can we stick it to the man" and help prove that you don't need major record labels any more to do things. We've been talking about that for years and just because of our experience with major record labels it was nice to be able to kind of prove to ourselves and to them, if any of them were paying any attention, that we don't need you guys anymore. Nobody needs you guys anymore; this can all happen without you and the huge conglomerate record labels. They'll never go away, but it's nice to know that there are ways to do things without them.
How did you find the reaction from the fans, as in the response to the campaign?
Oh it was amazing. We set our goal and I think we tripled our goal as far as the pledge packages that people bought, so it was absolutely fantastic.
Did anyone buy the master rights to the record?
No! It was $220,000 and you can own the masters to the album, that was a bit of a joke but nobody went for it.
This is your farewell tour, has it therefore been hard to pick the set list?
We sat down one day a couple of weeks ago and started with a list of 65 potential songs to play and then narrowed it down to 35 and then out of those, it literally took us 4 hours, we sat down and made a set list. So for the first time ever on this tour you're seeing Bowling For Soup play from a set list, and last night was the first time we ever used it! It was a bit nerve wracking to have to know what was coming up next, rather than the way we've always done it before. Which is Jaret always has these audible clues he'll say and everybody knows what song is coming next as he's just hinted at it. But if you were just listening to him talk and you didn't know what he was saying, you wouldn't have any idea he was calling the songs to the band. So I was a little flustered last night trying to look down and see what song is next, but it went fine.
Are there any new songs from the latest album in the set list?
How have you found the reaction to these new songs and album as a whole?
Actually, I can't believe how many people are singing along and it hasn't been out that long and so yeah it's been fantastic.
You've been coming over for 13 years and you always bring over some pretty good support bands with you. Who have been your favourite people to tour with?
Interesting, I am going to have to say Patent Pending and The Dollyrots. Those two bands are as far as bands go our best friends in the world. Patent Pending are our little brothers, that band is us 10 years ago it's amazing. I toured with them with my solo project last April and they were my backup band, it was awesome. Then The Dollyrots, Lewis and Kelly. I don't talk on the phone, I'm not a big phone talker, but Lewis and I chat at least once a week; normally around 1 o'clock in the morning over beers, they're just great folks.
Is there anyone that you've wanted to bring along with you, but haven't been able to get here?
Well, we've always kind of got our way I guess. But the biggest one we finally got to do it, we for years tried to get A back together to do a tour with us, and we finally, finally a couple of years ago convinced them to get back together and do one more tour, and come on tour with us. We just wanted to hear them play each night and they did it and it was amazing, it was one of the coolest tours that I've ever done.
You're quite an accessible band. You've done the Pledge Music campaign, you've done VIP tickets with meets and greets and acoustic performances. Is it important for you as a band to be accessible to your fans?
We're all very acutely aware of why we're here and why we're able to do what we do in the capacity that we do it and it's fans. So you've got to give back to the people that give to you and so it's kind of a no brainer to me. Sometimes it's harder than others like at the end of the night, you're tired and you're pissed off at something that happened at home and you're 3000 miles away so you can't do anything about it, and you walk out and it's like I don't want to deal with the people that are hanging out around the bus. But then it's like, wait a minute, I do want to deal with the people that are hanging out around the bus, because they're the reason why I am 3000 miles away from home and on this bus so it's an easy thing to do.
Has the rise in social media helped? Because when you first got together that wasn't something that was around.
Oh no, when we got our first email address that was so huge you know, and it was back in the day when email was firstname.lastname@example.org! You couldn't even have your name, some company just assigned you a number and that was your email. With the advent of Twitter and Facebook, I guess it all started with myspace, and then Facebook came along and just revolutionised the whole thing and then twitter took off. The immediacy that you have to deliver information to your fans is just awesome. But now people expect it, like when you haven't been active for a couple of days people get all like "you haven't said anything about what you're doing, you haven't sent a picture of you sitting at the bar for three days” and you're like "I haven't been sitting at the bar for 3 days, nothing's happened that is noteworthy." So it's funny how people's expectations have changed.
But using the social media stuff is absolutely fantastic because back when I was a kid you had to wait like a month for the next rock magazine to come out so you can read two pages about what's going on with your favourite bands life, and you may not get a band that you like in the issue that comes out, but you buy it anyway just to see what's happening.
It's your 20th anniversary next year, are you doing anything special to celebrate?
I can't really talk about that right now, but there are plans and yes there will be something, but I can't say right now.
You've got 20 years to look back on now, so what's been your biggest highlight?
Just making it to 20 years! I mean that question has been asked several times before and its always been like "okay, you've been nominated for a Grammy, played main stage at Download, all this stuff, what's the next step?", and we're like "if we can make it as a band to 20 years that's going to be the ultimate highlight for me" and we're going to do it!
You've been asked the greatest moment question quite a lot, but what has been the lowest moment?
We were on tour for a week and a half to two weeks and it was all going to be financed by two shows in California by this one promote. One was a skate festival and one was a club show, but he was paying us this ridiculous amount of money. It was when we were just blowing up in the UK and the US was just starting to happen for us and one of the music magazines sent over a journalist and photographer to follow us for two days in California.
We get there to the first show and he didn't have the right permits so the skate festival was shut down and he moved the venue to like this community centre, and not one person showed up. So we've got a journalist from this country over there and nobody came to our show. The promoters all apologetic and like "tomorrow night is going to be great, we'll push the shit out of it" and I think there were like five people at the show the next night and it was just shitty. He couldn't pay us the money that we had been promised so the next day we drove down to LA and we sat at a bar on the Santa Monica pier and purchased two pitchers of beer because that's all the money we had left and we made the decision to cancel the rest of the shows and drive straight home as we had just enough money left to buy gas to get us back to Texas.
That is the most defeated we've ever been as a band and the only time we ever threw up our hands and said we can't do it, the road beat us finally. Everything is fine now; it's just that particular trip. It's like a 24 hour drive from LA to Dallas and I don't know if there were three words spoken in that 24 hours that we drove straight back other than just "somebody else drive" that was about it.
Is there anything else that you'd like to add?
I'd just like to say thanks to everybody for supporting us for so long and for being so great, Bowling For Soup has the greatest fans on earth and we love each and everyone one of them so thank you!