Friday, 8 July 2016

The Bouncing Souls Interviewed by Christine Leonard-Cripps

The Bouncing Souls stay golden

Jersey punks return to street-smart formula

Race City Speedway Formed in 1987 under the self-propelled banner of their label Chunksaah records, New Jersey’s Bouncing Souls have leapt into the hearts and record collections of fans all over the globe. Along with their insatiable appetite for enjoyment, the band is revered for their old school esthetic and achingly authentic punk rock sound. Think beer-swilling sing-alongs and down-and-out dirty living and you’ll have a good idea of what the Bouncing Souls are all about.

Of course, this rowdy reputation, though well-earned, is only one facet of a band that has risen through the ranks of mediocrity to distinguish themselves as talented musicians, competent songwriters and steadfast companions.

"We’ve been a band for a long time, so it’s important to us to be inspired in what we do," says lead-singer Greg Attonito. "When it came to making The Gold Record, we knew we wanted to do more than make just another three-chord punk song album. Of course, we love that kind of album, and we do it well, but we also like a lot of other kinds of music and we wanted to try something new – to just dive into it!"

And dive into it they do – mosh pit style. After 20-some releases The Bouncing Souls are as feisty and fisty as ever. Their latest effort The Gold Record, successfully recaptures the poignant might of 2003’s Anchors Aweigh, which marked a high point in the arc of their careers.

Returning to the street-smart formula that brought them to the attention of their current label, Epitaph Records (they still run their own label, Chunksaah), they continue to add to their impressive catalogue by issuing CDs and DVDs of their ecstatic live performances. With seminal punk albums like The Bad, The Worse and The Argyle, Tie One On, Maniacal Laughter and How I Spent My Summer Vacation to stand on it’s easy to see why The Bouncing Souls are synonymous with partying hard and rocking out even harder. But the question remains – how can you be part of the "punk revival" movement when you’ve been punk since the beginning?

"I literally knew nothing when we started out," Attonito admits. "I would just hang out with Pete and Bryan while they practised cover songs. Eventually, I started singing along and here we are today. Since then, I’ve learned how to play guitar and drums and some other instruments, too. On our latest album we brought in some keyboards, accordion and harmonica to flesh out the sound. Funnily enough, one of the first songs we ever wrote had harmonica in it, so I guess this is a return to our roots.

"When we were younger we didn’t have an established identity as a band. We were too busy trying to enjoy the journey of making music and following whatever path it lead us down. That’s still the beautiful thing about being in this band – we capture snapshots of our lives and throw them out there for the world to see."

Displaying all their nasty bits to the general public has become second nature. And as over-exposed as they might be, their ever-expanding audience has yet to be deterred by their raucous antics. Quite the opposite. In addition to their plans to dominate this summer’s Warped Tour, the Souls, including guitarist Pete Steinkopf, bassist Bryan Kienlen and drummer Michael McDermott, recently concluded a six-night, sold-out engagement at New York’s infamous Knitting Factory. A musical marathon that, by all accounts, left them drained but completely satisfied.

"Playing six nights in a row was demanding but fun. Next time I’ll take a few weeks to get my voice in shape for it and sing every day," Attonito explains. "By the third night I was just destroyed. But it was very fun and it inspired you to give your all the next day even when you’re thinking ‘Oh, shit! I still have three more nights to go….

"And when you’ve got hundreds of thousands of thoroughly psyched Canadians to play for, you know it’s going to be a fun time. It’s very different than headlining a club tour, the pressure is off your back, you just come out for half an hour and give it your all."

Bouncing Souls perform at WARPED TOUR Thursday, June 20, 2006

by Christine Leonard

Originally published June 2006 in FastForward Magazine.

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