“Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone,” a documentary on the creation and life of the funk-punk-rock band Fishbone is more than a simple tale about a successful band as it’s truly a commentary on the social and economic movements of the past 30 years. Directed by Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler, “Everyday Sunshine” is a compelling documentary for both music and film enthusiasts. Narrated by Laurence Fishburne, its in-depth interviews with band members, friends and fellow musicians from the punk/ska scene of the late 1980’s make it so you don’t have to be a fan of Fishbone to be enthralled by their story.
Where the film succeeds is in its storytelling of the band’s formative years, specifically the racial segregation in Los Angeles and the toll bussing took on urban kids. Growing up in an America where race remained a divisive issue, specifically in the ways of education and socioeconomic growth, it seems that music was the only universal thing that was able to cross boundaries. They grew up on a steady diet of the Jackson Five, Parliament Funkadelic and the dream music of any angst-filled teen, punk rock. But it was that open-mindedness, specifically from Fishbone founders Norwood Fisher and Angelo Moore that would hold the band back from ever receiving their necessary accolades. The racial mix of Brit imports like ska didn’t seem to quite catch over here, especially in Los Angeles, which is still racially divided. Similar to that of Bad Brains, they were “too white for black audiences” and “too black for white audiences”—meaning record executives had no idea what to do with them. And while their counterparts like the Red Hot Chili Peppers saw success hand over fist, Fishbone only grabbed a few hits and remained a favorite of music connoisseurs. And according to the important interview sequences, the likes of George Clinton, ?uestLove, Mike Watt, Ice-T and Keith Morris all consider Fishbone influential to each of their quite different music sensibilities. Too bad radio and MTV seemed to ignore the draw of this diverse band.
Beyond the issues of race and the inadequacies of the recording industry, we are able to see what a toll 25 years working in a creative environment does to a friendship. We have heard the adage for years that bands naturally become family after a certain amount of time, and “Everyday Sunshine” shows this in a painfully truthful way. What do you do when you work with your family and you begin to, as we all naturally do, grow apart? Moreover, wait for your true moment in the sun for nearly 30 years? The friendship of Fisher and Moore was dealt a major blow right when they joined the Lollapalooza tour in 1993, when original guitarist Kendall Jones seemingly lost his mind and joined a “cult.” Fisher and other members “kidnapped” Jones and were charged as such, which is one of the many reasons Sony dropped the band shortly after. The band never quite recovered after that, and while they still perform to this day, they have never been able to reach the level they were once at.
On this subject of their personal and professional issues with each other, the band nor the film pull any punches. Sometimes in life there aren’t happy endings, and most importantly success cannot always dictate your own level of satisfaction with your endeavors. There was a bit of irony that this was a featured film at the CMJ Music Marathon and Film Festival, which is a showcase for upcoming and on-the-verge bands. It was like a massive warning sign to scare newbies into the realization that no matter what a record executive or a publicist tells you one day, or how many fans you have singing along — the music game is about luck and timing and sometimes they just don’t line up for the most talented folks in the room. [A-]