The Bouncing Souls have never been in the New Yorker. The NJ band that has been kicking their singular brand of angular punk-anthems for upwards of 15 years now, are not necessarily what you would classify as critical darlings, but they have something more tangible. The boys have an arsenal of songs that no one in the North East corridor can deny, tracks like Sing Along Forever, Kate Is Great, or The Freaks, The Nerds, And The Romantics are as potent as anything to come up from the NJ boardwalks. All offer a glimpse of the spark that makes The Bouncing Souls such a cultural enigma; their simple straight-ahead love of the live set and steadfast dedication to their rabid devotees.
The band expands, "We started as a live band playing basements, bars, parties, and clubs to anyone who cared. Over the years we’ve made records, toured the world over, met so many people and created countless memories together. Through it all, the live show has remained the essence of The Bouncing Souls.”
The Bouncing Souls have been a band longer than some of their fans have been alive. That’s quite a statement to make in these times of no-hit wonders, sub-genres here and gone before you can name them, complete musical saturation…and quite a story to tell.
Officially the band names 1987 as it’s start…a vague reference to the first time the original members jammed together in high school, and perhaps when the name came about. Nothing of note happened until at least 1991 when the band moved to New Brunswick, NJ to live in the ghetto and try to make the big time. When no one would give them a show, they put on their own shows in their basement or yard. When no one would put out their record, they started their own label (Chunksaah) and did it themselves (that’s right, DIY). Through persistence and charm they landed a US tour…and never looked back.
The story gets really good now. It’s late 1995 and The Bouncing Souls are scheduled to make a record to license to BYO Records…the studio is booked, the plans in place…. the only problem was that there weren’t enough songs yet. The Souls didn’t have enough money to go home to NJ and then get back to LA to record, so they camped out in the living room of the BYO house and wrote songs and jammed in the basement for a couple of weeks. Manager/guru Kate [Hiltz] would cook breakfast and dinner, and at night they would all sit around spinning yarns and spilling hopes. They spent every minute of every day together and that spirit, that comradery, that togetherness comes through in those songs. It is a definitive record of a place in time and what was important and meaningful. Maniacal Laughter stands the test of time because of that feeling.
Shortly afterwards, the band signed to Epitaph records. It is impossible to recount the trials and tribulations during the next 9 years spent mostly on the road. The records tell the stories of loves won and lost, friends here and gone, homes squatted and deserted. The songs themselves are a testimony to the good times and the low points. The basic outline of those times was this: tour, tour, tour, get home and kiss the ground, tour, get home and be thankful you are away from everyone for a week or a month, tour, tour, get home and realize that you are going to the studio so you’d better write songs about tour and missing your girl or some “life” in an alternate universe, tour, go to the studio and lay down some tracks, wait being bored and broke until the record comes out, repeat. In between and all along there were marriages, a line-up change, break-ups, a baby, a lot of birthdays, several beers, even a couple mortgages and motorcycles. The lives of the highway kings diverged and came together; wherever this road takes us it was meant to be…they were already home. Somehow it all took it’s toll and when the cycle was in full swing, everyone stopped and looked around and decided they wanted to be more in control of their destiny and their story again. So there was a separation, a summer vacation…and then…the spark re-appeared. Everyone missed everyone else.
So that could be the end of the story but somehow it’s not. What is truly earth shattering is that these boyhood friends have continued to put out relevant and vibrant records as their fan base has continued to grow. On any given night at any given Souls show you can find equal parts mid-30’s professionals and 13-year-old diehards; it’s a rare band that can span generations and with the summer release of The Gold Record [Epitaph] the Bouncing Souls are in top form showing no signs of disappointing their devotees.
Says bassist Bryan Kienlen, “This record was essentially conceived and written in Kate Hiltz's basement in Asbury Park NJ, and somehow the spirit of that old town has possessed it's content, both lyrically and musically. I can't wait for the world to hear this one, it's special for sure, but we'll let it speak for itself.”
Early this year the band converged once again in Kate’s basement for a couple of intense weeks of writing and hanging out. They took the old show out on the road for a couple of dates just for the fun of it and then spent some time in Greg’s garage in LA soaking in the sun and the company. Technology got involved with mboxes and pro-tools and filesharing during the time spent apart. And then…like 10 years had never passed, everyone moved into Little Eden (fancy name for Kate’s house in Asbury Park). The mornings were filled with the familiar sounds of showers, toasters, and coffee. The days spent in the basement, home-cooked dinners, evenings by the fire with acoustic guitars. And the songs tell the story of a family returning to its roots and talking about what really has mattered all of this time.
Attonito adds, “Writing this record for me was a digging deep experience. I wanted to get really into what I love about music and then find out where it came from and why I love it.”
And as The Gold Record unfolds it’s obvious that the boys have nailed it: The Gold Song kicks things off in classic Souls form; all tight riffage and fist in the air sing-a-longs. Attonito, bellows, “I heard someone say that nothing gold can stay, but there’s a love in all our souls and it shines like gold.” The Pizza Song finds the band expanding on their already stellar catalog, acoustic guitars ring out; accordions & a wash of keyboards flesh out the mix as the band sings out, “and if these walls could talk they’d say they’ve seen it coming all along.”
No band has a history so rich, influencing and playing with everyone from relative newbies Against Me, goth-popsters Alkaline Trio, and streetpunks The Casualties. No band has a broader catalogue of underground gems. No current, continual band has had such a lasting impact on the punk landscape. And with the release of The Gold Record that legacy of family and follow-thru promises to be set in stone.
Attonito continues, “It blows me away when I listen to songs I love now. Songs that get redefined with age, songs that change every time you hear them. Songs that work some unexplainable magic on you and you walk away a different person. I think everybody in the Bouncing Souls has always been running for that line. Knocking at that door to get into one more amazing than the last. Another chance to make a little scratch on that amazing line of rock and roll history, running after a feeling, digging for a sound straight from the soul. That’s what the Gold record is [to me].”