It’s been five years since LA punk heroes The Bronx released an album – choosing to take the road less travelled and focus their efforts on side ‘project’ Mariachi El Bronx. On the eve of their second sold-out show at the iconic Annandale Hotel in Sydney, we sat down with frontman Matt Caughthran to talk ‘IV‘, admitting to your demons and the Bronx legacy.
By Meghan Player
“It was awesome. There’s something about the Annandale that we’ve always loved and felt a kinship too,” the singer reflects. After fighting jet lag and following it up with a hectic gig the previous night, Bronx frontman Matt Caughthran is surprisingly upbeat. “After getting here and having a whole day off to get used to the jet lag, we were chompin’ at the bit for last nights show. It was crazy,” he laughs.
Undoubtedly, the last few months have been a similar story for the band – if not the last ten years. Having taken a “break” from their hardcore punk roots in 2008, the band spent the last five years concentrating on their alter-egos, Mariachi El Bronx – a more left-field approach to the Bronx familiar style.
While to some fans the initial change in sound, style and mode of dress that came with El Bronx set alarm bells ringing, the band and indeed Caughthran stand by the opportunity it presented – not only to continue making music and try something new, but to breathe new life into the Bronx itself.
“There were two reasons why we started the mariachi band,” he explains. “We wanted to do something different, and we felt like we could do something different. We kind of had this voice in the back of our heads that wouldn’t shut up. The other part of it was that we were burnt out in the Bronx. We had gone from an independent label to a major label to no label – no management, no money, nothing.”
“It had become super stressful and fucked up. We all love music so much, and love this band so much – and to have that be something that was a source of anger, was super weird. So we decided to just kind of let it breathe a little bit. Rather than ‘take a break’ or whatever, we thought, why don’t we just play some more music? Different music. Then coming back to it again, it felt like it was something brand new.”
Evidently the formula worked. ‘IV‘ is the bands most accessible album to date – a straight-up, no bullshit swag of anthematic punk tunes that Caughthran is unsurprisingly proud of.
“The rawness and the simplicity of the album were the two things that we had. You’re not supposed to go into a record, in our Bronx world, and try to map the whole thing out before you do it,” he explains. “But, we wanted to simplify our sound and songs – make a Ramones style record. It was very much an in-house, DIY-style record. We’re super proud of it.”
Recorded in their own studio with long-time friend [and debut album producer] Beau Burchell at the helm, the albums messages and themes are an interesting choice. Spirits, demons and devils [in a metaphorical sense] feature heavily throughout the LP resulting in what appears to be a release of sorts for the band, a cathartic experience – an idea that Caughthran is happy to delve into.
“It was also about admitting to them [the demons],” he tells. “It was more about admitting some things about yourself that you’ve been trying to hide for a while, y’know? A lot of that reflection came on the album because after being a band for ten years, then having a five-year break then coming back again – there were so many emotions going around.”
“The Bronx is a beautiful thing, but it’s kind of a negative force in my life,” he continues, “it pulls the darker side out of me.”
Interestingly, the acknowledgement of personal demons goes hand-in-hand with perhaps the biggest message on the album – not wasting your opportunities – an attitude that has seen the band through their decade together.
“There’s so many amazing, beautiful things that happen in life – and sometimes it’s not easy to realise that. Being in a band is so hard, it’s fucking hard – and to be able to maintain some level of sanity, integrity or motivation when you’re not making zillions of dollars is fucking hard. You really have to love what you do.”
“Even in the darkest hours, when you’re broke, you’re depressed, when you’re empty inside – it’s like you still have an opportunity to do something that you feel with all your heart. Music is my passion, my calling. I don’t really care about anything else. I’ve never been turned on by anything more in life than music. I may not have a lot of money, but I feel so rich and I just want there to be something that I can pass down.”
“I want to be happy. I want to have a good life. I want to leave a mark, and that’s it.”
Which ultimately begs the question, what mark does Caughthran and – indeed the Bronx – want to leave behind?
“Being ourselves. That’s the one thing that I’m proud of with this band. Our sound is a sum of our individual spirits, and I’m very proud of that. With the El Bronx thing, that was a huge deal for us to be able to get out and do something completely different – and trust ourselves. That’s what I want to be known for.”
Many thanks to Matt for taking the time to chat to us. Special thanks to Helise at Shock Records and PTF photographer Alyce Schulte.
You can check out the dates for the Bronx for their current Australian tour by heading to: https://pushtofire.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/news-the-bronx-announce-australian-sideshows/