With its impossible-to-pin-down sound and uncontainable energy, Fishbone seemingly burst out of nowhere to top everyone’s short list of the coolest band in America in the mid-’80s. Mixing punk, ska, funk, and whatever else occurred to its members, the group won high-profile fans like Tim Robbins—who wore the band’s T-shirt in Bull Durham—and inspired contemporaries like Red Hot Chili Peppers and later acts like No Doubt, all of whom enjoyed more success with some of Fishbone’s innovations than the band did. Though signed to a major label not long after its first public gigs, Fishbone found its commercial breakthrough remained just out of reach as the ’80s turned into the ’90s, a frustration that added further pressure to the band’s all-for-one, everyone-has-a-voice structure. “Had Fishbone been less of a democracy, they might have been a more successful band,” former manager Roger Perry says early in Everyday Sunshine: The Story Of Fishbone. “But had they been less of a democracy, they wouldn’t have been Fishbone.”
Made with affection and access but not enough structure, Everyday Sunshine never fully shows what he means. Directors Chris Metzler and Lev Anderson seem to have considered several different approaches for their film and settled on all of them. One’s a history of the time and place that shaped the band, some of it recreated through unappealing, low-budget animation narrated by Laurence Fishburne. Another’s a portrait of the band as it existed when the film was shot in the late ’00s, when its original members dwindled to mercurial frontman Angelo Moore and bassist Norwood Fisher, who keep the band running even though they now play to half-bored crowds at public festivals in Eastern Europe, when they used to pack houses. A third depicts the band’s meltdown in the early ’90s, following the failure of the should-have-been hit “Everyday Sunshine,” the L.A. riots, and Kendall Jones’ newfound religious fervor, which led to his defection from the band and kidnapping charges for Fisher when he tried to force the guitarist’s return.
There’s nothing wrong with any of these approaches—apart from that animation—but none of them get the depth they deserve, and the directors never find a way to stitch them all together. They also elide over the band’s artistic heyday in favor of latter-day dysfunction. Still, as a document of a band that should have gotten a lot further than it did, Everyday Sunshine is invaluable, and Moore and Fisher emerge as fascinating personalities, people who probably should have given up on their shared dreams years ago, but still take the stage together, if only because they don’t know what else to do, and can’t imagine doing it with anyone else.