This year, the punk/rock and roll band Bowling for Soup celebrate their 18th birthday. Old enough to drink, they have celebrated appropriately by completing their ‘One Big Happy’ tour of the UK and have, in their own words, ‘drunk enough vodka to qualify as Russian’.
It’s easy to get the impression from Bowling for Soup’s song writing style that they don’t take themselves too seriously. One listen to the song ‘Let’s Go to the Pub’ from their new album does nothing to dispel this feeling.
But five minutes into our interview, an entirely new idea comes across. Erik begins by trying to put his finger on the precise genre of their music and lists influences which cover country and western to death metal in one sentence. These are a bunch of friends that love almost all music and have a lot of fun creating the resulting blob for thousands of loyal fans. But they couldn’t be more serious about it.
In fact, he seems to dislike the idea that some might think it’s easy to do what they do – BFS spend more time touring and producing than many other bands of their genre. And when asked which of the two he prefers, Erik is quick to highlight how mentally and physically taxing both elements are. ‘Being in the studio is like taking tests all day long, but then being on the road is like you’re just constantly working out.’
But it’s all worth it for the feedback they get from the fans. And this is especially true of those in the UK – who Erik credits with the rescue of the band’s career in 2000. ‘We released this album that just did absolutely nothing [in the states]. We released ‘the Bitch Song’, and the video over here hit. Then all of a sudden, it was like “oh! There’s something happening!” For years and years our career was in the UK, and then the US just caught up with it… the UK music fans saved us and have given us the longevity of our career, because it happened here first!’
So, inspired by this deep thinking, we grilled him on solipsism. Erik’s response? ‘I’m quite certain that the only thing we can be sure exists is the self, but I also believe that you make the self what you want it to be, and then that projects and creates everything else around you. You create your own reality, and the more involved you are, the better it becomes. We pushed through and made a career out of something we love.’
So, seeing as he seemed to have the idea of the self covered, was he the same person he was when he started this interview? He ponders it. ‘Yes. Absolutely. We are very much about being real and what you see is what you get. I’m just me, I’m a big nerd, and you’ll never get anything other than that… What was the question again? Yeah. So in answer to your question: A2 + B2 = C2. That’s Pythagorean theory by the way!’
We left with a very different impression of BFS to when we stepped on their tour bus. They are masters of the art of balancing the playfulness of their music with the seriousness with which they take it. They’ve made it to the top not by luck, but through 18 years of clawing their way there. And now they can pay their rent doing what started as a bunch of friends playing to themselves. They’ve done it. And we like to think that’s a little bit because of us Brits.