If you haven’t already guessed, we’ve got some pretty disperate tastes here at TDOA. We can swoon to some old Chameleons, love our indie rock (how’s it goin’ Diehard and East Hundred?), while still loving our old school punk. Thus we’re going to follow our interview with Jaydiohead with a band that couldn’t be more different: The Bronx.
One of our constant themes here has been the debate as to whether “punk is dead”. Currently we’re sticking with the Simon Reynolds statement, “they’ve (bad “punk rock” bands) chosen punk rock as a style, as opposed to it being the sound that is produced when you’re straining at the upper limit of your ability”. Given this definition, The Bronx are one of a handful of bands that can truly be deemed “punk”. Style is not a word in their vocabulary and they put the other bands who profess to be punk to shame. We always felt that the best punk bands were the ones who did more than just thrash out 2 minutes of music. They had a guitar hook or a drum line who’s synchopation was thought out, rather than just a mile-a-minute effort to be a speed metal drummer. And vocals that either had a clever lyric or a beat to it that made you believe they actually heard the music around them. While this may seem a little too thought out and defying our definition of punk, you’ve got to provide something “musical” for it to be….music. The beauty of The Bronx is that they wrap up every expectation you have in a big, sweaty, shambolic ball and hurl it back at your face.
The Bronx are: Matt Caughthran (vocals), Joby J. Ford (guitar), Jorma Vik (Drums), Ken Horne (2nd guitar), Brad Magers (bass). Their third album was released in 2008 and they’ve been touring endlessly since then. They’re following up a hugely sucessful appearance at SXSW with an appearance at the ATP Festival in England, this May.
While we love that some of our interview subjects can wax poetic for hours about the relative merits of inserting a bridge after the second chorus… This ain’t rocket science. This is The Bronx. Love it or leave it.
TDOA: You’ve made several great videos.Can you tell us about the creative process for the ideas behind History’s Stranglers or False Alarm?Any plans for a Knifeman video?
Matt Caughthran: We actually just finished the Knifeman video. It’s shot in a pool underwater. It’s one of those videos that is gonna be really cool or really shitty. Roll the dice you know? Mike Pitchetelli usually does all of our videos but he is in Guam researching the hardcore scene breaking out there. Guamcore.
TDOA: The last time I saw you, you were a 4 piece and had no trouble filling the room with sound.Why the decision to add band members?
MC: A wall of sound isn’t really a wall without Ken Horne. We also added Brad Magers on bass about a year and a half ago. He is very violent. James left the band to research the indie scene going on in Haiti right now. He knew about it before Vice Magazine did.
TDOA: Can you talk about your time with Island and what appeared to me as a lack of support?Tell me about the differences between being with a major versus now, the good and the bad.
MC: Simon and Garfunkel once wrote that, “A rock feels no pain and an island never cries”. This sums up our major label experience. Now if we fuck up it our fault. I miss my zillion dollar scapegoat.
TDOA: When I see the success of self described “pop-punk” bands like My Chemical Romance, my stomach churns.How do you feel about bands of their ilk?Do you ever consider changing your approach to tap into this crowd?
MC: The two sides feed and fuel each other. If cops didn’t fuck with punks and were totally supportive of house partys then punks wouldnt hate cops. Then all these great anti-cop songs would have never been written. The bad creates the good and vice versa. The shittier the mainstream gets, the stronger the underground becomes.
TDOA: If you’ve read my write up of the band for SXSW you know how much I love the band.In particular Jorma has to be one of the great drummers currently in rock. Can you tell me anything about how he learned to play drums, his influences, etc.?
MC: Jorma is stoned out of his mind. He smoked weed with our sound guy and now they are just staring at eachother. I think it’s some sort of primal battle. If I break his concentration with this question the weed will turn on him and his brain will no doubt tailspin into eternal damnation. But man can he play drums.
TDOA: Talk about the music writing process for The Bronx.Do lyrics come after the music?Drum riffs before guitars?Personally Matt, I think it’s your ability to write creative vocal melodies that separates you from every current punk band.You use of what I call “percussive vocals’ does remind me of Fugazi (even though you compare the band more to Black Flag).What were your influences vocally?
MC: Songs usually start with a guitar riff or a vocal melody. Sometimes both. The majority of the lyrics are written once the songs have a strong musical base. Melody is extremely important to me. That’s why The Ramones are my favorite band. I grew up on metal, Neil Young and Sonic Youth. Then I discovered Los Angeles punk. Then I discovered America.
TDOA: When you play a showcase like SXSW what does the band aspire to?Hanging out and seeing other bands? Getting signed to another major?I saw a band called the Village Green play a tremendous set a couple of years ago and I was literally the only person there not associated with the band.A year later they’re single got picked up by Ford for use in a single.Ever think of SXSW as a springboard to a film soundtrack or (gasp) a commercial deal?
MC: Not at all. South By Southwest is a great time to see new bands play with a purpose and watch big bands play in small clubs. It’s also a great time to watch your sketchy Austin buddies sell bags of baking soda to record label dudes who are eager to reclaim there golden year via expense account. “Can I get a receipt with that?” No record contract needed. If the music industry was a college, SXSW would be spring break. Show me your tits.
To purchase music by The Bronx, visit their website at www.thebronxxx.com.