Celebrating 40-years as a band – an anniversary that was put in pause due to the pandemic – Fishbone have announced the May 26 release of their new eponymous EP. Recorded and produced by NOFX’s Fat Mike, Fishbone will be released via his new label Bottles To The Ground. After years of touring and rotating members, 2023 finds Fishbone back to their most solid line up which includes four of its six original members, including Chris Dowd who returns to the band for the first time since 1994. Today they share another taste of the EP by way of “Estranged Fruit,” a collaboration with NOFX.
Dowd says, “‘Estranged Fruit’ is a timeless composition merging the past and present embodied by the irony of us repeating what should be in the rear view mirror of a so called evolved society that still has far to go.”
“Fishbone is the one band I’ve always wanted to produce ever since NOFX toured with them in 1992,” shares Fat Mike. “When I got the chance two years ago….. I fucking gave it everything I got! I fucking love this band so much as friends and musicians, but I may like this record even more! I thank all of them for the opportunity.”
Fishbone have also shared the EPs “All We Have Is Now” and The New York Times said “The ever-peppy ska-punk-funk-rock band Fishbone has persevered since 1979…‘All We Have Is Now’ is a philosophical pronouncement briskly delivered in ska form. One thing to enjoy in the moment is the way organ and horns each play just a few notes, placing them exactly where they’re needed.” Consequence called it “signature Fishbone with its joyous horns and funky rhythm.” Watch the video here:
Fishbone have just concluded a headline tour of North America where they played to sold-out rooms across the country including a stop at New York City’s Gramery Theater. Next week they head back out for a run of dates that includes the Punk Rock Music Festival in Las Vegas May 27 and 28 and shows supporting Les Claypool’s Flying Frog Brigade. Tickets are on sale now and all dates are listed below.
There once was a time when a new release by important musical artists served as a kind of State of the Union, an oratorio about what we were all going through. Not merely a political diatribe, but All! Of! It! and politics being part of that civic and social duty, not shying away from calling out names and policies and the wickedness that dwells in the hearts of men who influence history. It seemed like part of a world-conscious band’s duty – especially a punk band’s duty – was to speak their truth. And if there’s one thing you probably already know about Fishbone — even in the unlikely event that their new self-titled EP is the very first music you‘re hearing by a group that has been a cornerstone of Los Angeles’ punk, funk, ska, jazz and experimental sound since the early 1980s — it’s that their truth has always been foremost on their minds.
So it’s funny to hear Norwood Fisher, Fishbone’s bassist, co-founder/-leader, say that the state-of-the-world sense prevalent all over the band’s new five-song EP is down to its producer Fat Mike, aka Michael Burkett, singer/founder of NOFX, and the man behind Fat Wreck Chords, the label putting out Fishbone.
“I know he is conscious of the need for Fishbone to make those kinds of statements,” says Fisher of the EP’s themes, revealing that the band “handed over the song selection to Fat Mike. It was an experiment. We presented him with what we thought were our best songs, and he picked ’em all. We didn’t do a whole lot of discussing and just went with it.” Which speaks a ton of the relationship between producer and band, a friendship Fisher says stretches back to 1991, when Fishbone took NOFX on tour with them, and has been ongoing through all the ensuing West Coast punk histories, anniversaries, and community revivals.
Begun pre-pandemic, Fishbone is the first new recorded Fishbone music in six years. It was initiated a few years ago, but interrupted by the fact that for a short period of time in 2019, all of Fishbone’s original members — who with the exception of mainstays Fisher and vocalist/saxophonist/frontman Angelo Moore, have been coming and going for 30 years — were threatening to simultaneously return into the fold. What Fisher acknowledges with a knowing smile is “the difficulties of being in a whacked-out, everybody-is-somewhat-crazy band. The thing that creates the beauty can sometimes be the thing that creates the obstacles.” By the time they finished the EP in 2022, it was still the closest to an “original” Fishbone line-up its been in eons, with Angelo and Norwood rejoined by keyboardist/vocalist Chris Dowd (Keys/Vocals) and trumpeter/vocalist “Dirty Walt” Kibby, and rounded out with veteran ‘bone drummer John Steward, and guitarist Mark Phillips.
Though only five songs long, Fishbone vibrates with the candor about the state of the world. Both sides: some pulled from the headlines, and some from diaries. Take bassist Norwood Fisher’s crisp soulful skank “All We Have Is Now,” a wonderful addition to the long list of Fishbone classics, part biography and part call-to-Zen, all punky funky presence, with Dowd’s rolling organ a revelation. On the flipside of the anger scale lies “Estranged Fruit,” Fat Mike’s update on one of the greatest compositions in this country’s songbook, Abel Meeropol and Billie Holiday’s 1939 “Strange Fruit.” Where the original metaphorically addressed Jim Crow lynchings, the new version describes a United States where the “poplar trees are now populist, and not just in the South” and “cops can just lynch you,” all of it delivered in imitable Angelo Moore style, with grinning cakewalk rage, and backed by a Dirty Walt’s wailing blue trumpet. Another new Fishbone classic, and as a good tune about Tr*mp’s Amerikkka, as has been recorded the past few years. And if Dowd’s reaffirmation of youthful punk values “I Don’t Care,” or Phillps’ Zoot-Suit-attired historic Black Los Angeles chronicle “Wake Up My Child” scale down the gravitas, they too are the perfect Fishbone tunes, vignettes of a band whose legacy in American cultural psyche is assured. (And if you think that’s hyperbole, I urge you to look up Kevin Young’s great biographical poems inspired by the band.)
Important musical artists don’t just deliver states of the union, they’ve got perfect timing. So too Fishbone, which, if all goes well, will use the release of Fishbone to mark the 40th anniversary of their very first paid gig. “May 21st, 1983 at Madame Wong’s Chinatown,” says Fisher gleefully. “It was the night of Angelo’s prom and we got paid $25. So, yeah man we are celebrating.” They’ve earned the right, having brought joy and knowledge and a unique sound everywhere they go. And in Fisher’s mind, they’re nowhere near done. “I appreciate the privilege to be doing this at this point. And as long as the band continues to have fun and we all feel like we’re all creating great art, to possibly do it for another 20-30 years.”
Fishbone is: Angelo Moore (vocals/Saxophone), Chris Dowd (Keys/Vocals), Dirty Walt (Trumpet/Vocals), Norwood Fisher (Bass), rounding it out with veteran Fishbone drummer, John Steward, and Mark Phillips.
Fishbone tour dates
5/16 – South Shore Room at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe – Stateline, NV +
5/17 – South Shore Room at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe – Stateline, NV +
5/18 – Bluenote Summer Sessions – Napa, CA +
5/20 – Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium – Santa Cruz, CA +
5/21 – The Observatory North Park – San Diego, CA +
5/23 – Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre – Salt Lake City, UT +
5/24 – The Mission Ballroom – Denver, CO +
5/27 – Punk Rock Bowling Music Festival – Las Vegas, NV
5/28 – Punk Rock Bowling Music Festival – Las Vegas, NV (With Son Rompe Pera and HR)
6/14 – Lillie Zenith – Lille, FR (with Sum 41)
6/15 – Hellfest – Clisson, FR
6/17 – Copenhell – Copenhagen, DK
+ – support for Les Claypool’s Flying Frog Brigade
Find Fishbone here: