ONE of the more memorable festival images from this summer involved punk pop outfit Bowling For Soup, a giant blow-up sheep and something else inflatable that wasn’t a sheep.
It finished with the riotous rock act losing one of its much-loved stage ‘pets’ as several thousand people watched in dismay.
“This year at Download one of our sheep died as a result of our actions on stage so those sheep are kind of out for a little while,” confesses Erik Chandler.
“We haven’t decided what we are going to do with them, whether we’re going to try to have them repaired or just put that one to bed. But that’s where they started... and that’s where they possibly died.”
Anyone, ahem, wool-acqainted with the Texas-band formed in 1994 will know they are really quite like no other. The mix of pop punk, the odd laddish lyric and a style of stage banter that lends itself to stand-up comedy, has sustained their reputation as one of the most entertaining bands on the circuit.
While Jaret Reddick might have been chief baa-man at Donnington, bassist Erik denies he has to reign in his guitar-wielding lead vocalist to prevent gigs descending into comedic anarchy.
“Actually he does more of the reigning in because everyone tends to take off on tangents and he’s the one who has to corral everyone – ‘back on task, let’s play some songs’.
“That’s the way it goes a lot of times. In one of our acoustic performances Jaret and I were on stage for two and a half hours and when we ended the show we realised we’d only played six songs.
It was a wonderful show but that night was definitely more stand-up than music.”
Of course, this hasn’t always gone down well with critics troubled by their antics and boyish humour, including playful album titles such as Drunk Enough To Dance or tour tag A Party In Your Pants.
“People have come to know that’s what happens and now people are ‘it’s amazing because the banter between the songs was incredible’ and then they played 15-20 rock hits.
“There are plenty of shows out there where people barely utter a word to the crowd. Sometimes that can be amazing, sometimes it comes across as this band just doesn’t have any personality.”
Erik cites the first time he saw Elvis Costello as an example of when it pays not to chat. “He played for three hours. As they finished one song the band would start the next and he would change guitars. I think he spoke to the audience twice. It was one of the most amazing musical feats I’ve ever seen – that’s an amazing amount of stamina.
“Sometimes when we’re talking in between songs it’s literally to take a break after something that’s particularly fast. A lot of times when I sing back up vocals I’m singing above Jaret. He’s a tenor and I’m a baritone and I have to get up. Some songs by the time we’re finished I’m seeing stars so I have to breathe and catch up.”
All that said, some of the contents of latest album Fishin’ For Woos demonstrate a feel for slower or broodier tunes amid the high-octane offerings. Dare we say, it’s a tad more serious.
“Songs like that have always been there, we’ve just been really cautious about how many we put on an album.
“Finally we decided this far into it maybe the Soup fan was ready to handle a few more than just the one or two.”
Perhaps one thing fans weren’t expecting to hear was Soup music being used to soundtrack cartoons intended for kids.
Regardless of their past phallic references, Nickelodeon producers saw something in the band to recruit them for the title song for 2001 movie Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. More recently Disney had them co-write and sing the theme to Phineas & Ferb. Not bad for switching on the next generation of Soup fans.
“I don’t believe we ever thought of it as trying to lure people in. When we were first approached by Nickelodeon we were really stoked because the idea of the movie when it was presented to us... we were fans of the concept.
“We gave it a shot and when it worked it was very cool and that kind of opened the door for some other things.
“Now we’re working with the show Phineas & Ferb. It’s really strange because that’s a Disney outlet and everybody knows exactly what we’re all about yet they still seem to think it’s okay for us to be working with them.
“We were ‘We’ll leave all the naughty bits out for this and give you something nice and clean but you guys still know we’re the drunks that do this other stuff, right?’”
Erik was pondering the same question ahead of playing for Russians for the first time in Moscow on the tour that sends Soup to the O2 Academy tomorrow.
“If there are rules they’ll let us know the day of the show. That’s one of those things they often keep from us until it’s time.”
The band are less in the dark with Sheffield, a place they’ve played several times in both full line-up and on Jaret and Erik’s acoustic tours.
“Sheffield’s actually one of our favourite spots,” he says with a genuine tone of voice.
“There are places that do sit comfortable.
“It has to do more with when we’ve not been jumping from venue to venue – there’s a bit of comfort whenever you walk up to a place and know exactly how it’s laid out. I know where I’m going to walk around the corner to grab my lunch or where I’m gonna walk to the pub and hang out after the show.
“There are a few places like that and Sheffield is definitely one of them.”