“It’s just this way,” the guy says, leading me through the doors. I’ve just arrived at the Gramercy Theater in Manhattan, where the words “BOWLING FOR SOUP SOLD OUT” hang loudly just above the entrance. As my rock ‘n’ roll Virgil guides me toward the men of the hour, I run through my list of questions one more time in my head. After all, Bowling For Soup has been performing around the world for almost 25 years. They’re total pros, so I can’t bring anything less than my A-game.
My guide drops me off in front of the stage, where Jaret Reddick, Chris Burney, Gary Wiseman, and Erik Chandler are playing a few songs for soundcheck. And there I am, standing practically alone on the floor, getting a private concert from guys I’ve never met. Wait, am I supposed to make eye contact with them, or is that weird? Do I clap when they’re done, or would I look like a lame fanboy? Honestly, how did things get this awkward before even sitting down for the interview?
Fortunately, the jitters go away as soon as I shake hands with Erik. We meet out in the dimly lit, carpeted area where merch will be sold during the show, and I can already tell we’re gonna get along great. He seems friendly and laid-back, and he’s sporting a black T-shirt that he later tells me was plucked from a box at his mom’s house. Apparently it’s from his time in high school theater, but it somehow seems perfect for a rock show. In any case, we plop down at a table by the wall and get chatting.
Watch the band's music video for their hit single "1985"
I decide to begin at, well, the beginning: when did Erik realize he wanted to be a musician? Turns out that was the plan since age seven, when he performed onstage for the very first time. It was Texas’s 150th birthday, and there was a big celebration in his town. His grandfather’s band played, and Erik sang a couple of songs in front of about two thousand people.
“The first song didn’t go so well,” Erik admits, smiling. “I totally did the nervous choke. And then the second song picked up. I found my groove, and after it was over, it was like ‘Okaaay, yeah. I like that.’” He opens his eyes wide for emphasis. “‘I like that a LOT.’”
He later adds, “I’ve just kinda always known that I would, in some capacity, be doing music for the rest of my life after that point.” If only everyone could be so lucky to find their calling so early in life.
I’ve also heard that Erik is quite the fan of cartoons, so I ask him about his favorite animated shows. “Powerpuff Girls,” he says without hesitation. I can’t help but laugh, but I also can’t disagree… It’s a great show. He’s also a big fan of Dexter’s Lab, Bob’s Burgers, Invader Zimm, Samurai Jack, and, my personal favorite, Adventure Time. I knew I liked this guy.
Eventually, we get around to talking more about music. And Erik’s a pretty musical guy; aside from BFS, he founded the Erik Chandler Band, for which he’s both the lead singer and lead guitarist. What was it like to go from bassist to frontman?
“The first year or so was a little awkward, ’cause it was like, ‘This song is over, and nothing’s happening. So now I have to say things to people.’ . . . And I sound like a complete fucking idiot,” he says with a grin. You heard it here, folks: even rock stars have their awkward moments. Suddenly I feel a bit better about that soundcheck situation earlier.
But having so much experience as a bassist does have its perks when he gets onstage as a frontman. “My drummer, Duncan, says that he loves playing. It’s so easy because he’s got two bass players in the band! So all the unspoken communications that happen onstage between a bass player and a drummer, he’s like ‘I’m getting that from everybody!’”
Erik says that other adjustments had to be made as well, like managing his expectations. “We get to a venue and it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, this isn’t Bowling For Soup. I don’t get the good dressing room this time. I’ve got the bench that’s outside in the hallway. Cool!’” Hey, at least he’s got a positive attitude about it!
Now it’s time for a question I’ve been dying to ask. Bowling For Soup is known for their wacky sense of humor… Has he had a most embarrassing moment with the band?
“Oh crap,” he says. “Actually, we were just talking about this one the other night.” At one point the band was in New York City, and after playing in the afternoon, they were scheduled to go onstage later that night at Madison Square Garden to introduce Maroon 5 before their performance.
The problem was, they were running late. (Escalators cannot be trusted.) When the four of them finally made it to the correct spot, the organizers were rushing to get them out in front of the crowd for the introduction. They all dashed to get onto the stage, in front of a packed arena, and here’s what happened:
“I stepped up first, and Jaret was behind me. And he just grabs the other two dudes and stops. And so I walk up by myself, and the people right around the thing start the screaming bit and whatever, and I throw a nice little rock hand up in the air. But the lights don’t come on, and the lights didn’t come on because we weren’t all up there. I turn around, and there’s the other three members of the band just laughing their asses off, down at the base of the stairs, ‘cause they had sent me up there by myself so I’d look like a jackass. And it worked.”
I have to admit that’s pretty brutal, but I’m still laughing as he explains it. Do they pull pranks like that on each other regularly? “Not so much anymore,” Erik says. “Other than just, talking shit about each other’s mothers.” Like only the best of friends do.
Check out the video for the track "Circle"
We’ve covered the past and the present, so to wrap things up, I ask about the future. What excites Erik the most about what’s next for Bowling For Soup? “As of right now, we have the next two years planned out,” he says. “We’re pretty much planned out to get us to our 25th anniversary.”
But how to celebrate the anniversary? Had the band been broken up all this time, a simple reunion show would suffice. But they’ve been together all along, so just another show isn’t gonna cut it. “We gotta pull something really spectacular out of our ass,” he says. “We’re batting around some ideas right now to try and figure out what to do, but it’s gonna be big, whatever it is.”
I try to coax him into divulging these secret ideas, but all he says is that their plans might involve “some sand and some water and stuff like that.” I’m a Florida boy myself, so I definitely approve of a little sand and water from time to time.
As if it even needed saying, Erik and the guys play a fantastic show that night. I didn’t know that moshing to a song as fun and goofy as “1985” was a thing, but apparently it is. And I highly recommend it.
Another thing I recommend: Bowling For Soup’s latest album, Drunk Dynasty. I mean come on, there’s literally a song on it called “Don’t Be a Dick.”
And while you’re at it, check out some favorite childhood cartoons, or get together with some old friends. Because if my talk with Erik showed me anything, it’s that a life full of the things and people that you genuinely love is a damn good one.