- by Christophe Vanheygen
Listen, it’s going to be a tough pickle this year to decide on the ‘punk rock record of the year’. Seriously, Descendents and Bouncing Souls both released proof that they are still very much on top of their game. We sat down with the Souls for a lengthy talk about ‘Simplicity’ and the death of emo. Among other things.
PRT: As of this month, Bouncing Souls have put out 10 albums, dating back to 1994. Which ones are your three favorites, and can you say “why” in three to five words?
Greg: That’s a hard question ... but okay …
One: ‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation’ because it’s a well rounded rock record. Two: ‘Hopeless Romantic’ simply because it has very good Songs. And three: ‘Simplicity’. We can’t stop being stoked about that one.
Pete: I’d say: ‘… Summer Vacation’, it’s just an awesome kickass perfect record. ‘Maniacal Laughter’ is old and it has all these old cool songs of ours. And ‘Simplicity’, because it’s a return to the old Bouncing Souls style.
Brian: I think Pete said it all. That would’ve been my album too.
George: I would put ‘Anchors Aweigh’ in there as well. It definitely deserves to be in the top 4.
Pete: I just had to rank all of our records for a different magazine, and have a long conversation about them.
PRT: How do you feel about going in-depth about older work.
Pete: It was cool, interesting, but it’s hard to admit which are your least favorite ones. The top five was totally fun.”
PRT: Which is your least favorite, the one that makes you think “we should’ve done things differently”?
Pete: ‘Ghosts under the Boardwalk’. It wasn’t really a record. It was a bunch of songs that we wrote as singles.
PRT: ‘Ghosts under the Boardwalk’ and ‘Comet’ both were labeled as “more mellow”. This one, however, feels about as punk as 1999’s ‘Hopeless Romantic’. Is there a reason behind it and what changed for this record?
Pete: Probably us being back to doing what we do best, going back to basics and writing songs from the heart.
Greg: We all go through stages in our lives. Our albums are like snapshots of those different times. We all have transitional times, difficult times, happy times and disconnected times so I think the records are telling those stories.
PRT: What did or do you think of that criticism?
Greg: I understand why people are critical. They know you by your early recordings and compare you to them. But we can’t and don’t want to ever make them again. All we can do is explore who we are in the moment. Or better yet: experiment with what’s happening in the moment when we are writing new music. Sometimes its doesn’t turn out that awesome ... but that’s part of being an artist and a creator.
If you take a close look at the discographies of some great musicians, every single one them has some average or bad work at the bottom of their pile of great stuff. It’s just the nature of being a creator.
PRT: Does “making records” actually still matter? It sometimes seems that it’s easier to make singles and put out as many things as possible.
Pete: Yeah, it does … but I hate that. I like listening to a full-length thing, experiencing it as a thought-out concept.
Brian: Don’t worry. We’ll keep making records, no matter what. It works better for us.
PRT: How so?
Brian: When you start writing songs, after you haven’t for a while, it becomes a momentum-thing. By the time we get to song 13, we’ll be in a sweet place where we can just keep writing great stuff. It gets better as we go.
PRT: This has been, however, the first time to do it with a new drummer in a really, really long time?
Pete: Great. It brought a whole new energy in the room.
Brian: It refreshed the whole thing. He’s like Visine. If the Bouncing Souls are dry eyes, George is Visine.
(Maniacal laughter all around)
George: Also, the process was more focused. We had about three days at a time to write songs, since I don’t live in Jersey. So we would write for three days, fuck off for a while, have another three days …
Brian: We wrote parts of the record remotely. George lives in Florida, Greg was in Idaho, and Pete and me were together. We had this round robin e-mail with riffs and demos going around. Now, George has a studio and he’s technologically a sound guy. He’s super capable, so he was able to write with us even if he wasn’t there.
PRT: Well, a good drummer is the most important backbone for a band. You’re probably quite lucky you found someone like George to replace Michael.
Pete: Yeah. It didn’t require any thought, actually. We just called George as soon as we needed a drummer. We had played together before, so he was already part of the family.
Greg: George joining the band was a big shift that coincided with a lot of things in our personal lives. Me, Pete and Bryan have been busy with creating other projects, which has provided fuel for the Souls fire. When we have been getting together for shows or song writing for the past few years, we have been having a lot of fun because we aren’t in a grind of touring anymore. I think the energy you feel in the new record has a lot to do with that.
PRT: Yeah, the new one feels has the same energy like in the good old days. With you and Descendents coming out with a new album. It makes me feel young again.
Brian: Hah! Us too …
Pete: Yeah, that must’ve been a very good week for old punks.
Brian: I think those two records coming out on the same day was the final nail in the emo coffin. I declare emo dead!
PRT: I actually read a review where you were called “heritage punks”. Any thoughts?
Greg: That’s funny!
PRT: Do you consider yourself a part of punk rock heritage, something that will still be talked about in thirty years?
Greg: It’s truly amazing to me to be mentioned alongside some great bands, all of which all played a huge part in the evolution of the Souls as a band and us as individuals. If the world feels we deserve to be in that company ... I am really stoked!
Pete: I don’t think we’re on that cusp yet.
PRT: You have, however, been around for a really long while. What determines the longevity of a band?
Greg: Love. You gotta love each other, and love what you are doing. That’s the key. Its doesn’t guarantee you are gonna have longevity but without love, you definitely won’t.
Brian: I guess “not seeing it as work” also helps.
Pete: This basically is a young man’s world, but we’re still toked to do stuff, together. Once that is over, I guess so is the band.
George: For me, personally, not being on tour for 300 days a year anymore definitely helps to keep this thing going. I’m not a young man anymore.
PRT: Can you imagine yourself, as is the case with Black Flag, selling designer t-shirts of your band for 265 bucks a pop?
Greg: Hopefully we will be remembered for being part of the same spirit that made Black Flag have such an impact on something real in us. The rest is dust in the wind to me.
Brian: I’d be bummed about that. And hope someone would buy our stuff in a more legit way.
Pete: I hope the guys in Flag are getting some of that money.
Brian: Well, my guess is Greg Ginn is getting it.
PRT: On “Digital Time Zone”, you talk about smart phones and HD quality and things you can do without ... How would you feel to go back to the days of rotary dials and things?
Greg: No, I certainly do not want to go back …
PRT: Well, some reviewer called the song a “grumpy dad” track. Are you a "grumpy dad"?
Greg: This song is indeed an attempt to express that grumpy old man side of us. So yeah, it is a “grumpy dad” track! It’s inspired by something that seems to be getting lost in our modern world. It’s hard to put your finger on, but in a lot of ways technology is making our lives more complicated instead of easier as it’s supposed to in theory.
I think our song ‘I Wanna Be Bored’ might express my feelings about technology a little better. But time will tell if this super fast growth of technology is good for our evolution on a deeper level or not. Either way, it is what it is, so that’s why the song ends with the line “Let’s live it up!”