The Beatles. Carlos Santana. Norah Jones. Bowling For Soup.
Musical heavyweights, yes. But what do these acts actually have in common? They've all been nominated for Grammys. Yep, Bowling For Soup, the drunk-rockers from Wichita Falls, Texas, scored a nomination in 2003 in the Best Performance Pop By a Duo or Group category for their power-pop Sing-a-long "Girl All the Bad Guys Want."
"It opened a lot of doors for us," admits BFS's frontman Jaret Reddick, who wore an unforgettable pale-blue tux to the event. "Now we're no longer known as the fat guys from Texas. Now we're the Grammy-nominated fat guys from Texas."
The Grammy's are just part of the continuing success story for the band with the unforgettable name. The group actually started out all the way back in 1994 in Wichita Falls, Texas, without any notions of succeeding. At the time, guitarist Chris Burney and bassist Erik Chandler were in a band that frequently played a local coffee shop (conveniently owned by Burney). Drummer Gary Wiseman was also in a group that frequented the store, as was Reddick. "Really, it was just a case where all the bands dissolved at the same time," says the singer. "And I wanted to start a band that was a punk-rock Beatles. So we all got together over a beer and worked it out."
At the time, Reddick, Burney and Chandler were attending Midwestern State University, and had no intention of doing anything more than making music for fun. "It was never like 'let's start a band and be real musicians,'" remembers Reddick. "We got together in '94 because we discovered beer. Beer is really fun! And what better way to get free beer than being in a band? You'll notice that's been a recurring theme for the band over the years."
After relocating to Denton, Texas, Bowling For Soup continued to load their concert riders with outrageous requests for alcohol and suddenly found themselves to be a popular draw. Perhaps it was due to their undeniably catchy pop hooks, or their love of old-school metal, or maybe it was the band's goofy charm.
After putting out 2 albums on their own in Wichita Falls, their third record, 1997's Rock On Honorable Ones!!, sold a whopping 10,000 copies on a tiny Denton-based label. Their fourth release, Tell Me When to Whoa!!, also on the Denton based FFROE Records featured the "The Bitch Song", which got some local radio buzz and helped the band eventually land a deal with pop heavyweights Jive Records, home to Britney Spears, NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys. "When we were signed, we were sort of the ugly stepchildren of the label, but that was OK," says Reddick. "Besides, I got to meet Aaron Carter a couple of times, before and after puberty"
Since signing to Jive, the band's career has taken off. 2000's Let's Do It For Johnny and 2002's Drunk Enough to Dance have sold over 300,000 copies and spawned hit singles, including "The Bitch Song", "Punk Rock 101" and "Girl All the Bad Guys Want." The band has also popped up on the Warped Tour, opened for Blink-182 and Sum 41, made a big splash on MTV and, well, been nominated for a Grammy.
OK, so they lost. But joking aside, the nomination DID open a lot of doors. Before the group started recording their third record for Jive, A Hangover You Don't Deserve, Reddick created a wish list of songwriters and producers he wanted to work with, including members of Fastball, Nerf Herder, Sugar Ray, the Nixons, SR-71 and Butch Walker, their longtime producer. Thanks in part to their Grammy nod, everyone said yes.
"The Grammy's, that's all everyone I worked with wanted to talk about," admits the singer. But he can't deny how the new collaborative process helped out the group. "I think working with other people helped me learn a lot about where I am musically," he says. "And here's what I really learned - if you need a silly song written about a girl, I'm your guy."
That said, the 17 tracks that make up A Hangover You Don't Deserve show off a remarkable amount of musical growth. That's growth, not maturity. Take the opener, the destined-to-be-huge "Almost," which is on the surface an addictive power-pop declaration of failed love and life's near-misses. Catchy, yes. But it also contains possibly the best worst rhyme ever written for a rock song ("I almost got drunk at school at 14 / I almost made out with the homecoming queen / who almost went on to be Miss Texas / but lost to a slut with much bigger breast-es"). Insists Reddick: "That's going to be the song people dig."
But that doesn't mean the other 16 tracks, or the two hidden bonus tracks, can be ignored. The first single, "1985," is an irresistible slab of bubblegum New Wave that fondly recalls the days of The Breakfast Club, Springsteen, Motley Crue, and pre-Kabbalah Madonna. With its rotating list of Eighties icons, the song comes off as a funnier, updated take on REM's "It's the End of the World As We Know It" or Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire".
"The Eighties were really influential to me," says Reddick. "And a lot of people coming to our shows are fourteen or fifteen, but their parents are barely in their thirties. And everyone thinks they're outdated, but you know what?" He laughs. "We're outdated too. We just disguise it well in Dickies." As usual, there are some odd twists to the song, including the fact that it was really supposed to be about 1984. "That's true," admits Reddick. "But 1985 rhymes better with 'preoccupied,' so there's the song."
The album also features a few emotionally earnest tracks, including the pretty ballad "Ridiculous" and Reddick's ode to his band, "Friends O' Mine." "When you're sitting around talking about getting your heart broken or hanging with your buddies, every once in a while you hit on a real experience," says Reddick. "It's just a different part of us. I always tell people even if you think you don't like our records, there's always something on there that you'll dig."
"If you want to be angry, this is not the album for you," says Reddick. "If you want to smile and have a good time and think about chicks and beer, this is your album."
Bonus! Five Fun Facts About Bowling For Soup
Eighties Metal Band They Most Resemble: Motley Crue. "That's because we drink a lot," says Reddick. "Our radio guy at Jive took us out four years ago, and afterwards he's like 'man, you guys are a lot like Motley Crue, but you drink a lot more and you don't get chicks.'"
Band Name Origin: A takeoff of Steve Martin's "bowling for sh-t" routine on his 1979 classic comedy album Wild and Crazy Guy.
Best Bowling Score: "Actually, we're all terrible bowlers," says Riddick. "We did a local Bowl-a-thon a few years ago, and we were picked to win because of our name. I think Chris bowled a 70."
Favorite Soup: "I'm not a soup eater," admits Reddick. "But Chris loves the Wisconsin cheese soup. And I do like minestrone. But isn't that more of a stew?"
So Why Aren't They Called Bowling For Stew: "Because that would suck."
--- from the official Bowling For Soup website