When thinking about how significant a length of time 25 years is in the music industry, Bowling for Soup lead singer Jaret Reddick points to the evolution of how their music has been released since it began.
“We released out first album on cassette tape,” he says over the phone. “And now, we’re about to release a new single every month that will only be available for streaming.”
The longevity is even more impressive considering the band has had little turnover. Other than the departures of the group’s original drummer, Lance Morrill, in 1998, and that of original bassist Erik Chandler in 2018, the group’s lineup has been unusually solid for a veteran band. Indeed, this group has been around to witness all sorts of changes in the role of professional musicians these days, Reddick notes. The job description for “rock star” is a wildly different one now from when Bill Clinton was still living in the White House.
“I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like for (Motley Crue bassist) Nikki Sixx back in the day,” he says with a slight chuckle. “What if part of his day, every day, was that he had to take a picture of his breakfast and post it somewhere for people to make comments about?”
Bowling for Soup will celebrate its 25th anniversary starting Thursday through Sunday, with a series of concerts, a podcast taping and even an acoustic brunch at Lava Cantina in The Colony. As grand as the weekend will surely be for the group and its legion of local pop-punk fans, this sort of milestone is grander than Reddick allowed himself to think too much about in his younger days when the band formed in 1994 while living in Wichita Falls.
“It’s a quarter-century. It’s a big number,” Reddick says. “I think of this in terms of when I was a kid, and Led Zeppelin had only been around for like 15 years, so it's weird for me to know that I’ve been in this band for much longer than that. It's been over half my life. It's not one of the things you think about when you start a band. I never thought, ‘Yeah, I’ll be in this band for the rest of my life.’”
The band became one of the biggest commercial success stories to emerge from the North Texas music scene when it started collecting award nominations and hit singles as a new millennium dawned. The band famously nabbed a Grammy nomination in 2003 for "Best Pop Performance by Group or Duo” for its catchy-as-hell “Girl All the Bad Guys Want.” The mainstream crossover was successfully complete a year after their Grammy splash, when the band saw its album A Hangover You Don’t Deserve become a hit, powered by its VH1-approved smash single “1985.”
But unlike other radio-friendly bands of the 1990s, Reddick and his band didn’t reap the financial windfall one might’ve expected from seeing its songs plastered all over the radio and its videos all over cable TV. The timing of the group’s breakthrough, aligned all too neatly with the proliferation of online music file-sharing sites such as Napster, wasn’t exactly great for business.
"It’s sort of depressing when I talk to guys who are in bands from the ‘90s like Better Than Ezra or Tonic,” Reddick says. “Because they’ll say things like, ‘We feel sorry for you guys because we had hit songs back when people actually bought music.’ In 2003, we sold 700,000 copies of our album, but if people hadn’t been stealing it (via file sharing), we probably would’ve sold four or five million copies. To this day, we’ve never made a cent off of record sales.”
What the band may have missed from record sales income, they worked extra hard in making up for by constant touring in the years following their pop stardom. Repeated tours overseas, with a focus on the U.K., where the group had built a large loyal following, joined with longer tours in the States kept Bowling for Soup from becoming a poppy flash in the pan.
After all, by the time they earned that Grammy nom, Reddick says, “We weren’t exactly spring chickens.” Such a whirlwind of fame, glitz and glory might’ve sunk a younger, less experienced group once the spotlight died a tad, but while the peaks of stardom were nice, Bowling for Soup had never used them as a guiding light.
“We decided early on that whenever it stops being fun we would stop,” Reddick says. “We don’t need separate dressing rooms or our own buses. We like being together, and in fact, we don’t like being apart. In 2013 we took a long break, but we came back with all wheels churning and all fires burning.”
In the decade between the Grammys and their brief hiatus, BFS kept its productivity in overdrive, releasing a number of albums, EPs, live records and videos as trips across the Atlantic for more U.K. tours remained frequent. But once again, a quarter of a century is a long time for any band to remain intact, and even the best of buddies are susceptible to the heartbreaks and struggles that come with adulthood and growing families. That “break” in 2013, Reddick says, was the one time the group ever came to close to never seeing a 25th anniversary.
“It was only a break, not a breakup, but it could’ve been,” he says. “My life was going in circles. I was trying to repair a broken marriage, and then going through a divorce. During all of that I experienced depression and anxiety for the first time and it felt like there was this insane weight on me and I didn’t know if I could do it (the band) anymore.
"We also felt like we were overplaying some markets too. We didn’t want to be that miserable band you see playing the House of Blues one year, then only playing to 100 people the next year, looking depressed. All of these things were happening at the same time, and the break came at the right time. When we started back after the break in 2014, it was like we were kids again and it's been great since.”
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The fact that pop-punk has proven to be a lasting, viable sub-genre is also a vital factor to BFS’ sustained run. Although trailblazing punk groups including the Descendants and Agent Orange helped pave the way for a more melody-driven style, Green Day and the Offspring brought the sound to the masses in the mid-90s, cementing its place in the mainstream through top 40 radio, MTV and graphic T-shirts from Target. Reddick thinks the timeline of pop-punk will continue, which in turn, he hopes, means Bowling for Soup’s timeline will do the same.
“I don’t think pop-punk is ever going away. Not to put ‘Baby in a corner,’ but it’s going to be like hair metal,” he says with a laugh. “When you think of hair metal, you think of Motley Crue, RATT and Dokken and bands like that. From now on, when people think of pop-punk, people think of Blink 182, Sum 41, and hopefully, Bowling for Soup. Early on, it was a movement for teenagers, just like hair metal, but now those teenage fans are adults with their own kids, who they’re passing pop-punk on to.”
There’s isn't really any secret or mystery to how Bowling for Soup have stayed together for as long as it has, according to Reddick. He says that he’s a little surprised that he gets “to go onstage and tell a bunch of fart jokes,” even though he’s 47, but he knows why that is.
“We put our friendships and our families first,” he says. “We check our egos at the door, and that’s really been the key. We keep things fun and happy.”