Edna’s Goldfish Interview with Brian Diaz
Let it be well known that a band doesn’t have to be around very long to have a tremendous impact on their genre. From 1997-2000, Edna’s Goldfish set the Long Island Ska scene on fire with their infectiously poppy, ridiculously energetic live performances. Touring with many of the heavyweights of the genre, the group exploded in popularity and captivated listeners far and wide.
But some good things just don’t last. After the downfall of Moon Ska Records, who had just released their sophomore release “The Elements of Transition when the label found itself in dire financial trouble due to impropriety, Edna’s Goldfish found themselves in the awkward position of having a hit record with no one to back them up. Shortly thereafter, the band dissolved, members joining several other prestigious groups like Catch 22 and The Reunion Show.
Aside from a 2005 benefit show and an appearance at 2009’s Bamboozle festival, the group has remained quiet, until demand gave way and their first record, “Before You Knew Better,” made its way to vinyl thanks to Asbestos Records, Underground Communique Records, and Instant Classic Records, and you can get a copy of it right HERE if it hasn’t sold out yet.Tapped as a very surprise guest on the upcoming NYC stop of the Skalapalooza tour, featuring The Pietasters, Pilfers, and Spring Heeled Jack, Edna’s Goldfish will once again take the stage much to the delight of their adoring fans. I spoke with singer Brian Diaz prior to the tour kick off to discuss what they have been doing since their last show, the records’ impact, the ska music scene, and what may lie in store for the band.
G- What’s going on guys and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five. It’s been a very long time… How has everything been going with you all?
Hey. I can’t speak for everyone in the band, but everything has been going great for me!
G- Haha fair enough! Glad to hear it. Edna’s Goldfish was only around for 3 years, but you made a ridiculous impact on Ska scenes across the country. Can we talk a bit about how the band got together and everything you accomplished in your short time together?
There were two different versions of the band. The first version, which was more a goofy 2nd wave/3rd wave, sometimes trad project was something was put together by a bunch of us who worked together at McDonalds in 1994 when we were in high school. When that ended, mostly because of us going away to school, David Galea and myself put back together the lineup of the band you are mostly familiar with, the core of it being me, him, Vin McAuliffe on guitar, Gary Henderson on trumpet, and Mike Warner on drums. This was around 1996. I remember making a flyer looking for members but never made copies of it or posting it anywhere because we found people pretty easily. We wrote “I’m Your Density” which is the first song off of Before You Knew Better at our first ever rehearsal with Vin and we knew that something was up.
G- So what is everybody up to right now? Do you guys all still keep in touch with each other, and are there any plans to rekindle the fire of Edna’s Goldfish on a more frequent basis?
As of right now we are all scattered around the world and planet. I tour as guitar tech for a bunch of different bands. Right now I’m in Europe as a bass tech for Tommy Stinson of Guns N Roses. Dave is a booking agent for the Agency Group, who represented us back in our touring heyday. Vin and Kris Baldwin (bass) live out in San Diego. I always forget what they’re doing out there, but I know Kris is involved in video editing and some art projects. Mike is an IT guy out on Long Island and just recently had his first son with his wife. Gary, is also recently a dad to the world’s littlest Jets fan, and is a music teacher on Long Island. He also composes original pieces of music for elementary level school bands, which I think is so amazing. Tom Comerford, who played a lot with us back in the day and has participated in our reunions, is also a music teacher. Ian, our original trombonist who has declined participation in our reunions continues to play with Catch 22.
There are always plans to do these shows here and there when the time is right. The problem mostly is me. I tour so frequently for work that it’s hard to nail down a date. This Pilfers show in NYC made a lot of sense for me though. It’s in the middle of a long break and I can actually rehearse with the guys, unlike last time when I rolled in cold in the middle of tour.
G- Right on. So it sounds like you guys have all been super busy with life. Good stuff! Anyways, the Long Island Ska Scene had a ravenous following back in the day, and you were a large part of the movement on the island. Are any of you still involved in the scene now, and how is the scene and responses at the shows?
Unfortunately, I don’t get out to the island much anymore but I do hear about bands coming off of LI all the time. When I hear about a band that says they were influenced by us, I’m always flattered to know that we had that kind of impact on the local scene. It’s hard to say how that scene is now in comparison to what it was back in the day. It’s definitely more difficult with a lack of venues. My involvement now is very minimal. If there is a “must see” band I will make it out to see them, but again with my schedule and my life it’s pretty hard.
G- I had the pleasure of helping release “Before You Knew Better” on vinyl for Instant Classic Records for the first time in the US. What was it like to be approached about a physical release for the album, and what do you think of the release, both the packaging and the quality of the music it contains?
I actually haven’t seen the physical packaging of the record, but I’m stoked to know that first and foremost there’s still interest in that record after almost 15 years. I think that’s mind blowing. I’ve always been proud of that record. It was the first real recording session I was involved in, first nationally distributed record I was on. That shit was surreal to us back then. We were just some dudes having fun and writing songs that we wanted to write, so when it started to catch on all over the place we were shocked. The fact that anyone 15 years later would remember and want to re-release it is crazy to us! I never would have dreamed that it would have had the kind of impact it would have had.
G- Yea man. Like I say, it was definitely a good one! Edna’s Goldfish was a very pop oriented group, and your songs always had a very nice feel and structure to them. Who is the band typically came up with all those wonderful song ideas, and what was it like when you rehearsed?
Typically, the musical structure of these songs were the brainchild of myself, Vin, and Gary. Vin and I would come up with these pop songs and Gary would write the horn lines over them. He was and is brilliant with coming up with these incredibly catchy horn melodies. Vin would throw in his love of pop music like Elvis Costello, Squeeze, whatever… So the songs weren’t structured like these typical ska songs.
At first, we always felt the need to write the song and then change it be “more ska” which we found a little limiting. We started to drift a little further away from our roots on the second record, but I think it was a more accurate representation of what we wanted to create musically. “Everyone I Know Is From Lindenhurst” will always be my favorite song we ever wrote and meant a lot to me lyrically. We got a little of a shit for it being “not ska,” but we were just trying to write music that people could relate to lyrically and feel good listening to.
An Edna’s Goldfish rehearsal back in the day was kind of insane. We never had a legit practice space so we spent a lot of time at hourly spaces around the country and writing stuff at sound checks on tour. Usually, when someone had an idea, we all paid super close attention because we knew we were under the gun for time. We eventually became friends with the owner of the studio space Joe’s Garage, where we wrote a majority of our songs and he would cut us deals in exchange for letting him do sound for our start up venues on L.I.
G- Dig it! Obviously it has been a long time since you’ve played, but the demand is still there for many old and young Ska fans alike. What can we expect to see when you take the stage at Skalapalooza on October 21st at Gramercy Theater in NYC?
I’m stoked to be able to play for our old fans who are still around and new kids who never got the chance to see us the first time around (or at the last 2 reunions).
I really can’t say what you can expect when we take the stage. Last 2 times were unique situations and I think we stuck to a rigid set list. But, this time around I’ve been emailing back and forth with the guys and I’d like to try to throw in a couple of songs that maybe never made the cut live back in the day. You know, try to mix it up! That first time back in 2005, it ended up abruptly after I got hurt, so we never even got to finish the set and that was always a bummer to me. So you’ll see us get a little wild but not wild enough to hurt each other again.
G- Though this may be a one-off date, what bands would have to approach you to get you guys to go back on tour again, or what bands would you want to share a bill with in the future if you were to continue playing?
If we could somehow feasibly tour, I would love to go out with Less Than Jake. Those guys were always cool to us and still remain one of the hardest working bands in the ska-punk genre. It would be great to tour with RBF too just so we could both play “Veronica Sawyer”. Maybe have a contest, see who plays our song better!
G- That’d be tough to gamble on… Both versions are pretty rad! So, what would you say is the most memorable show Edna’s Goldfish has ever played? Can you tell us where it took place and what was it like?
There are 3 shows that stick out in my mind. The first time we headlined the Vanderbilt on Long Island with Spring Heeled Jack and Nine Days opening for us. 2000 kids there. Total insanity! We had just finished a pretty long tour of the United States and for the first time we sort of came home to this sense of even though tour was over, we weren’t done. There was a lot on the line at that point. There were a lot of people standing side stage and I was super nervous for some reason. Some record label people were there to look at us. Back in those days if you played ska and had any sort of following, the labels were all over you immediately.
Second was also a show at the Vanderbilt. We weren’t even scheduled to play. We all just happened to be there to see Reel Big Fish and Spring Heeled Jack and RBF’s bus broke down. Since we had just come from rehearsal we had instruments with us. I think we borrowed a bass from Shades Apart maybe, and took the stage to fill time until they got there. It was a total surprise to everyone there. That’s about as surprising as it can get. 10 minutes before you go on you’re backstage drinking with your buddies, and the next thing you know you’re playing for 2000 people.
The third was a show we played on our first European tour. We headlined a small club called MKNZ in Illirksa Bistrica, Slovenia. I remember thinking, “I’m so far from home right now, and there’s like 200 people here to see my band and they know the words.” It was so incredibly mind blowing to me. I never thought that could happen. I’m still friends to this day with a guy that I met at that show. He tours with bands as a merch seller now.
Also of note : The show where we shot our video for “Veronica Sawyer” where I had a mental breakdown and tried to go take a train home. The first time we met and played with Animal Chin. The first time we met and toured with Rx Bandits.
My mind is full of amazing memories and stories from those days.
G- Wow, man… Those are some pretty intense stories. Hopefully the NYC date will trump them all! Lastly, can you help us out and give our young readers some advice to all the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
This is always a hard one because unfortunately there is no sure fire way to “make it”. It’s all about persistence and being in the right place at the right time. We were lucky that the right people heard our music in a time when a lot of people were trying to make it all doing the same thing. Along the way, we met a lot of people who said they wanted to help us, but in reality were just in it for the money. I’m okay with that as long as the decisions they wanted to extend on our behalf got us taken care of as musicians. There are a lot of people out there who want to do things for bands in the name of money, who don’t understand what it’s like to be an artist who cares about their craft.
I would say what I’ve always said 15 years ‘til now. Be yourself, take pride in what you do. Tour your fucking ass off! When you think you’ve toured enough and you go home, tour again. Always be on the road playing in front of people and making merch money. It’s the only way a lot of bands make a living these days, and definitely was the only game back then. I’ve lived in vans and tour busses my entire adult life. Is it the best decision I could have made? Hard to say, but I know that I made a career out of music and to this day I do something that I love and don’t really answer to too many people.