Everyday Sunshine after all these years

Cult legends Fishbone at Oddbody’s

By Gary Spencer

Some things are meant to last, other things not so much. Then there are things that, on paper, don’t look like they were meant to happen at all, let alone last almost 40 years. The latter scenario is the case for Los Angeles-based combo Fishbone, who have defied racial stereotyping and easy categorization since the band’s formation. Inspired by Two Tone ska, Parliament-Funkadelic and Bad Brains, Fishbone began as a group of African-American junior high kids who decided to start playing music in the late 1970s just for fun.

“We played our first club show in 1982,” said Fishbone founding member and bassist Norwood Fisher. “The (then) President of Warner Brothers Records ran The Mix Club in Hollywood. He really liked the band and we got to open for Run DMC. Out of that show we got our first manager. By the time that was solidified we signed our first record contract with Columbia Records, and we’ve traveled the U.S. and the world ever since.”

Fishbone released their first single “Party at Ground Zero” for Columbia in 1985, and soon the band was touring with Beastie Boys on the License to Ill tour. The band quickly earned a reputation for their rowdy, stage-dive-inducing live shows and for their sound hybrid that mixed punk, ska, funk, metal and soul in ways that hadn’t really been done before. According to Fisher, their crisscrossing of musical styles was both unintentional yet deliberate.

“It was absolutely us doing what came naturally,” Fisher said. “The conscious part of it was everyone around us constantly being like ‘you need to figure out what you want to do, one or two things.’ We decided to defy this advice.”

By the early 1990s, Fishbone’s records were starting to chart and boasted MTV hits such as “Everyday Sunshine” and “Sunless Saturday” (complete with a video directed by Spike Lee), as well as a feature spot on the inaugural Lollapalooza tour. While per capita Fishbone’s music stayed on the fun side of the tracks, lyrically the band was tackling subjects such as racism, war, classism and other forms of societal oppression. All the while, the media tended not to focus so much on Fishbone’s music, but more on the fact that the group was somewhat of a novelty being an all-black rock band instead.

“I didn’t really have a problem with that,” Fisher said. “I wouldn’t say we never played it up but we never used it as a crutch. The society that we live in still ain’t got much past what black people can or can’t do. Fishbone caused so much anarchy and confusion that they had to go about it like that. But I always had the understanding that the job wasn’t finished until it was just rock music no matter who was playing it. The ethnic makeup of the artist is inconsequential.”

Whatever the case, Fishbone was enjoying a cult following with the alternative-music-minded youth of the ’90’s before inner turmoil started to derail the band, which led Columbia to drop the band later in the decade. Despite returning to the underground, Fishbone never let up on the gas and continues to rock the house with the same frenetic energy for which they originally became famous.

“We are still are bringing an intensity that’s difficult to capture,” Fisher said. “The band will put the stomp down anytime we hit the stage. If you have shitkickers in the closet, it’s a good opportunity to put on your dancing shoes and kick up some dust. We’re bringing that unbridled teenage energy no matter if they’re 40, 80 or 19. There ain’t a lot of bands that can kick our asses.”

Fishbone was recently the subject of a full-length documentary film entitled “Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone” directed by Chris Metzler and Lev Anderson. Released in 2010, this rockumentary details the wild music, wild shows and wild ride of the band’s career. The film was met with rave reviews by critics and fans, and went on to be screened at more than 100 film festivals in 20 countries while earning several different awards for best documentary. The movie sparked renewed interest in Fishbone, which has fueled their resurgence as a band to see and hear in the modern millennium.

“Because of the movie, new people discovered us and wanted to see us,” Fisher said. “Old fans who stopped going to concerts got renewed interest. Some of them bring their kids [to our shows]. The documentary gave them a way to explain their experience and show them what they’ve been talking about!”

Despite the ups and downs of the group’s career, Fishbone plans to continue making music and bringing the party to whatever town they’re playing in for the long haul.

“I came in with the intentions of being a lifer,” Fisher said. “Whatever the journey, we’re ready for it. Whether I’m getting bumps in the road, getting gravel on my knees…it’s all part of the experience.”

Fishbone will perform Saturday, June 4, at Oddbody’s Music Room, 5418 Burkhardt Rd. in Dayton. Downtown Brown is also on the bill. Tickets are $20 in advance and the show is open to patrons 18 and over. Doors open at 7 p.m., music at 7:30. For more information please visit oddbodys.com or fishbone.net.

Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Gary Spencer
Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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