Louder with Gary Wiseman of Bowling for Soup
Bowling for Soup are perhaps the best example of a band who, after over 25 years in the punk rock game, have maintained a following as loyal and devoted as any point in their career. Alongside the release of their new single ‘Alexa Bliss’, the band are continuing to bring unabated youthful joy to crowds across the globe, encapsulated in them headlining the Pit Stage at last summer’s Reading and Leeds Festival, to a tent so packed that revellers were spilling out from every entrance, trying desperately to join in the fun! Now, they’re back across the pond for yet another sold-out UK run, and are still cooking on as much gas (whether bottled or self-produced!) as ever. We caught up with drummer Gary Wiseman before their show at the O2 Victoria Warehouse in Manchester (the band’s self-proclaimed ‘favourite city to play’) to discuss the storm of their latest single, shaking realtor conferences to their foundations, and this new chapter in the band’s already illustrious legacy:
First of all, you guys have just released a new single, ‘Alexa Bliss’; how have you found the response to the single so far?
Awesome. I mean, we're blown away with it and by just how much video traction it's getting. I mean, every day we're looking at it like, ‘Oh my gosh, there's another hundred thousand views. That's incredible!’ We've been playing it live at these shows, and none of us have messed up, because it's a new song, and the crowd is digging it. So, we're very, very happy with it. And she's happy with it too, so that's good!
So has working alongside the world of wrestling, which does have a kind of artistic element, impacted on you guys in terms of the production for this tour, for example?
Not so much for our production. We always want to do the biggest show with the best production that we can and, and luckily, we've got a really good working relationship with Jon Smith and his production company. We've been working with him for years, and every year he ups his game and just does more and more for us. So, I don't think we were really thinking, ‘Hey, we need to put on like a Wrestlemania-type production thing. But we're all very, very pleased and think that our stage show is incredible this tour. And we've also got some friends out on the road doing some social media for us. And so our stuff that we're putting out looks really great.
Related to dipping your toes into other fields, lots of you guys have lots of different projects and things going on outside the band. But I'm curious, because you’re a realtor by trade- has anyone ever recognised when you've been selling houses?
Yeah, a few times. I've always joked, like, I'm the drummer, so I'm further in the back, right? And I don't have the crazy hair or anything like that. So, I'm not as noticeable, but it just depends on where I am. I always joke like, if I'm in Dillards - I don't know if they'll have that store here; it's like Macy's or something - I'm probably not going to get recognised as much. But if I go to the bar and it's two o'clock in the morning, I get recognised more there. So, it's kind of the same thing in real estate.
When I started getting involved in real estate, I thought I'll be the ‘rock and roll realtor’ and try to not be the boring, stuffy guy that most of that industry is [made up of]. But it just didn't take off, because most people don't want some drunken jackass to sell their home! So I stopped trying to push forward with the ‘Hey, I'm the rock and roll guy!’. And then as the relationship goes with clients, they'll tell a story that they're from this city, or they've been to this city, and I can always go ‘Well, I've been there’ and they go ‘What were you doing there?’, and so it always comes up somehow. But now it comes up during the middle of the process, and they always are like ‘I would have never guessed that, you're so professional!’. And then they tell all their friends ‘My real estate agent is a rock star!’ - and it works when they tell people!
It's pretty fun when I go to conferences or networking events and stuff, and everyone's wearing their khakis and a polo shirt, and I show up with tattoos down my arms and don't look like I belong, but everyone likes it!
That kind of punk rock ethos is something I wanted to pick up on, because in this day and age when you’ve got access to every kind of music on your phone, genres start blending together. How you think the genre of punk rock was changed, and has it still got a resonance in this day and age?
Yeah, I think it's like just about everything; everything is so multifaceted. When we were growing up, there [were] like three tv channels, and that's what you watch on TV. And now I don't even watch TV because you have podcasts and YouTube so you can find what you're interested in. The punk rock attitude of back in the day was so DIY, and so things had a grittiness and a dirtiness to them because you couldn't do mass production and quality on a shoestring budget. And now, with all the technology, you can literally record onto your computer or your laptop and put out really great sounding stuff. So, I think there's a lot more polished aspects which makes it weird to some of the older punk rockers, but the attitude is still there and the there's different genres [that have] that attitude. I think the outsider ethos of ‘not fitting in’, that's always going to be a thing. To me, that's punk rock. It's more of the idea of that lifestyle and the meaning behind it. You can have polished bands or sloppy, noisy bands and it doesn't matter. It's just the attitude.
In terms of other kinds of restrictions within music, Bowling for Soup have always been known as the ‘comedy band’. But has that ever felt like a constrictive label when you’ve wanted to delve into exploring more personal, emotional topics?
Yeah, I mean, there's definitely a weird thing that we brought upon ourselves. We're the ones going out there being jackasses - and a lot of times we come offstage, and it's like, ‘Hey, was it funny?’, not like, ‘Hey, did we play good?’. Obviously, the comedy aspect of our band is predominant, and it's highly, highly important. Back in the day, when we were growing up and becoming a bigger band, a lot of the radio stations would go, ‘Oh, we don't need to play this next single because they're just a novelty band. This song is just a funny novelty song.’ And then the next one ‘Oh, this one's just a funny novelty song.’ But then after they said that four or five times, we started going ‘But we've had multiple hits, maybe we have something going on here.’ And also, we do have some depth to it. If we dive into the records, usually there's a power ballad or there's a song that has a funny twist on a serious topic. So yes, being funny is highly important to us. It's probably hurt us a little bit, but it's also what makes us stand apart.
Not to perpetuate an old stereotype, but you've been referred to as the ‘new guy’ in Bowling for Soup for about 20 years - now that you've got Rob in the band, has that changed the dynamic in any way with the band or has it brought any new elements to it?
It definitely has. I mean, it has been the funny thing of like, I was the ‘new guy’ for 20 years, but I don't think Rob got nearly as much of the ‘new guy’ treatment as I did, and he’s been in the band for like two years! His joining the band definitely reinvigorated us and kind of brought some new life into the band. Everything with the transition was great, and it's for the best for everybody. He's happy, he's doing great. We support him. It's kind of like we’re young again!
In terms of taking things forwards, does this feel a bit like a new chapter for you guys then?
It's got to be a new chapter. I mean, obviously it is whenever there's that big of a change, but it’s a new chapter for him, and it's a new chapter for us - and not in a bad way. We've been a band so many years that we were just kind of stuck. We communicate [on stage] by looking at each other: we can just give one of the other members a look and have a deep conversation. So, I think we were kind of trapped and we were just doing things the way we've done them forever. And so that's part of what's made it fun for us, is we have someone coming in with a new way of doing things, new ideas, and we're having to figure that communication with him. And it's all worked great - it's just good fun!
And the night that followed could not have been a better example of that, with Bowling for Soup indulging in all the devil-may-care antics that have endeared them to so many of their fans. From renditions of the infamous ‘Bitch Song’, to the effervescently light-hearted ‘No Hablo Ingles’, to closer ‘A Really Cool Dance Song’, self-aware silliness was in full swing! Yet the shining nuggets of candour in amongst the revelry were their cover of Blue October’s heart-wrenching ‘HRSA’, and the poignant ‘When We Die’, through which the shining heart of the band glistened. They may have already been at this game for 25 years, but Bowling for Soup are showing no signs of slowing down any time soon- and neither are their stalwart fanbase!
Bowling for Soup's latest single, 'Alexa Bliss', is out now:
Check out the video for 'Alex Bliss', featuring the woman herself, below:
Bowling for Soup have several upcoming live dates across the US scheduled for next month- the full list and the link for tickets can be found here.