Going For It: An Interview With Matt Caughthran Of The Bronx
Guest writer Crab Nicholson talks to Matt from The Bronx about their new album and drummer, tour advice, and Mariachi El Bronx.
In the sea of Discharge-clones and navel-gazing that much of contemporary punk has fallen to, LA’s The Bronx keep an important flame burning bright, and have since 2002. Whether or not you’ve spent any time with these angerybois’ albums, the joyous chaos of partying warzones they unleash live will floor any mortal. Even at their most furious, though, their sense of hooks and structure is one they share with their side project, Mariachi El Bronx, who, to the best of my knowledge, are the only English-language Mariachi band. By the time you read this, The Bronx will have released their fifth self-titled album. I envy your ability to hear more than two songs of it. Vocalist Matt Caughthran sat down on the toilet to discuss.
Based on the singles I’ve heard, it feels like this next album’s kind of a back-to-the-roots thing. Do you have that sense on your end?
Yeah, absolutely. At the core, it’s like – this is what The Bronx is. This is an aggressive punk group that tries to do something different, and tries not to do the same shit over and over again.
We’ve been a band for a long time now – it’s a beautiful thing; we love what we get to do, but, for this record we wanted to circle the wagons a little bit, and just trim the fat and fucking go for it. It feels good to be back, man. I’m in love with the record, so I’m super stoked about it.
I’ve noticed that records I and II have this hard split between aggressive hardcore jams and ballads where III and IV sort of surfed in-between. Any of those good soulful ballads on this one?
We’re figuring it out. I think it’s just kind of where we’re at, as individuals as we go into the recording process. A record is really just a moment in time, it’s where you are at that specific time in your life as a group.
In that respect, III was kind of us at the end of our rope, and then IV is after two El Bronx records, and they were bleeding into IV. We were so hungry to get back, but the songwriting just evolved. You kind of find yourself in those spots, especially after doing an El Bronx record. I think it tends to blend into The Bronx sound that comes immediately after that, whereas this – there was enough distance between El Bronx III and Bronx V, and there was enough that happened in the band and just around the band where it was just like, “Man, we just wanna plug in and go for it,” so it wasn’t really much of a bleed on this album. This album is pretty, y’know, proper Bronx.
Okay. That really puts it into context, thank you. Speaking of El Bronx, why did you decide they’re not opening the shows this time around?
We just needed to put it on ice for a little bit. It’s not going away. It’s still something that we love to do, and it’s still a full fledged band. You have to switch things up. You have to do it for yourself and you have to do it for people who respect your band, who buy your records, who come to see you play live. You can’t just play the some songs over and over and over again, and you can’t just play the same bill; you can’t just do the same thing over and over. As much as we love putting Bronx and El Bronx together, it was just time for a little bit of a break, and it’s nice to be able to do that, because you don’t wanna run anything into the ground.
Right on. I don’t know anything about the bands you are bringing out. What’s their deal?
Plague Vendor‘s an awesome punk-rock band. They’re super cool. I’ve been into them for about three or four years, and we’ve been trying to get some shows together, but it hasn’t happened. Things lined up for this tour, so we’re really stoked, obviously because it’s a new record and all that, but we’re stoked on the lineup ‘cause of them and this band ’68. ’68’s an awesome new band. They’ve got a record out this year. What’s cool about them is they’re a polarizing band. People really like em and people kind of hate em. I like that vibe; I like polarizing bands like that. I think they’re cool and I’ve never seen them live and that’s where you separate the real from the fake, so we’ll see. I think it’s gonna be a real cool tour, man. We’re stoked.
This is your first album with this drummer?
Yeah, Dave Hidalgo’s on the new album. We parted ways with Jorma. It’s a huge bummer. We started the band together – James, Joby, myself, and Jorma – and James left; where Bronx was going – and El Bronx had started – he just wasn’t really feeling it and life just took him in a different place. With Jorma, we just started seeing things differently, and it was effecting the working relationship and it was effecting the personal relationship, so unfortunately, we had to just go separate ways. It sucked at first and it still sucks. You never wanna have to go through something like that with something you guys built together. We’ve been through so much. I think we’re both in better spots now and I’m super stoked that he’s the guy he is and we’re all friends still and all that stuff. As shitty as it that stuff goes, it ended up okay. We’ve known Dave forever and Dave played his ass off on this record; he came in and really stepped it up. Dave’s a guy where you can plug in and play and he’s gonna make you better because he really applies himself, he really gets into a song when he writes and when he plays like he did on this record. It really kind of separates you. We’re really excited to have him on board.
As far as violent live bands go, you really go above and beyond the call of duty in stirring things up. How do you stay healthy doing that night after night?
I try my best, man. I drink a lot of water. I do have beers; I don’t really have that much hard alcohol on the road – some nights off, I’ll go for it, or if I feel like I really need to [chuckles] hit that next dimension. But we just take care of ourselves and you gotta be good to be your body, to a certain extent; you gotta know your limits.
There’s times when I get my lunch eaten and I bite off more than I can chew. I run myself too hard, I don’t get enough sleep, or whatever. It all levels out in the voice, and you can hear it.
For me, playing live will always be the best part about music. I love recording, I love writing, I love traveling, and I love all that shit, but when you step out on stage and there’s people that paid money to see you play, and those people that paid money to see you play know that they’re there to get through this and you’re there to get through this, and it’s about to fucking blow up – it’s the best feeling in the world, and there’s an adrenaline that goes beyond any sort of injury or fatigue or whatever. You gotta be smart eventually, but, man, playing live is the best thing ever.
We’re always gonna give it 110%, we’re always gonna do our best to blow minds. If people show up not ready to get down, we’ll force the issue.
[geeks out at that last sentence, then:] Alright, so this album isn’t out now, but will be by the time this interview’s up. Anything you wanna say in front of it?
Just that we’re really stoked to be at it. The band feels really good right now, we’re kicking a lot of ass live, and things just sound really, really good. This tour’s gonna be epic, man. The record rules, we’re sitting on five records worth of music now, and we’re just going through these songs in rehearsal, putting together a setlist, and it’s just a lot of fun. The vibe at these shows is gonna be loose, it’s gonna be gnarly, it’s gonna be heavy, and it’s gonna be madness. So c’mon out. There’s so much at everyone’s fingertips that you kind of have to force yourself to get out, but I promise you if you come see the show, you will not fucking regret it.
For tour dates and other details, visit their website or facebook.