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awkward aural adventures

The Bronx – Matt Caughthran Interview

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thebronx2

‘I’m the last dinosaur you know, I was born out of time.’ Matt Caughthran, front man of LA sonic insurgents The Bronx, is considering the state of the world and the way in which music is consumed as they traverse the UK in support of their third album, the predictably titled, ‘The Bronx’. The Bronx are a band that can polarise opinion like no other act since Amen, a situation that is unlikely to shift with any seismic certainty following the bands announcement that not only would they be producing their third album, within a fan friendly vein of raw emotion and buzz saw guitars, but that they would also be releasing an album recorded consecutively under the moniker; El Bronx. This Hispanic twist would see the band cranking up The 3 Amigo’s and Desperado on the tour bus to concoct a mariachi album.

‘The only kind of grand idea behind anything is that, you know, we want to be able to do whatever we want. The Bronx is a band that challenges itself artistically and creatively and I think the fans appreciate that. We don’t really shut any emotions out or shut anything down because it’s not punk enough or hard enough or not anything enough, so the albums came out of a beautiful and natural inspiration and we don’t see the need to cut any of that out so we haven’t and we think that it’s really good.’ States Matt when considering the outburst of creativity that saw the band enter the studio to record the albums simultaneously. Many bands would baulk at the prospect of having to record what essentially is a double album, yet alone one that feature two such disparate styles. ‘It was fairly easy, it was a lot easier actually to go from Bronx to El Bronx than it was to go from El Bronx back to Bronx’, notes Matt. It’s testament to the bands stamina and determination that they have been able to craft two albums in one studio sitting which, on the evidence of ‘The Bronx’, certainly, have managed to retain focus and power.

Their third concurrent self titled album, ‘The Bronx’, now endearingly titled ‘III’ amongst fans finds the band re-imagining the hardcore blueprint that laid the foundations for their first two albums. Songs like ‘Knifeman’ and ‘Young Bloods’ see the band railing with all the furious intensity which made their previous two albums such intense works, yet some key personality changes find this record imbued with a sense of the grandiose previously unassocciated with The Bronx. ’III’ manages to plough more music than the band have produced over their entire career into a little over 35minutes of blunt force trauma. Even more impressive is the fact that whilst accomplishing this they have trimmed any of the fat that held back the previous two records. They may have packed on a whole load of extra weight, but it’s all lean muscle. The key reasoning behind this is the permanent addition of second guitarist Ken Horne, who had played bit parts on the bands previous album before hitting the road as a touring guitarist, alongside this the band have seen the departure of founding member and bass player Jeff tweedy. Tweedy has been replaced by Brad Magers. It seems that this combined with a relentless touring regime since the 2006 ‘The Bronx’ has left the band operating as a symbiotic unit rather than a chimerian composite of individual members. ‘Well, we’re better you know‘, concurs Matt, ’ I think the band is the best it’s ever been. We’re a lot more confident and you know we’re able to do things on our albums that we couldn’t when we’re in the studio now. So it all just adds to the healthy process and you know the ultimate goal of the band is to put out great records and as long as that continues then we’re going to be a band you know. As far as the writing process, Brad brought in a lot, new perspectives on bass and stuff, and ken is a great guitar player who’s slotted in very well. So it definitely helps having them in the band.’

It would have been easy for the band to soften some of their edges and explore more commercial themes with the new weapons in their arsenal, however ‘III’ is as raw as anything the band have previously done. This is especially true of Caughthran’s lyrical outlook. It seems he is disgusted with the current state of music and art. ‘I think it’s still very, very raw and very, very primal in its origin. I do think the sounds gotten bigger, I mean anytime you add stuff the sounds going to get bigger out of it’s own accord, but I think that’s a good step for the band, you know, I think it makes sense. There’s a lot of frustration on the record regarding the current state of music and the current state of art. You know it’s frustrating. I want things to be better you know. I want them to be more original, I want things to be more exciting.’

It’s a subject that he’s uniquely sensitive on and he recognises the position that The Bronx find themselves in as an established band railing against the system that supports them. They spent this summer doing Warped Tour, an event that has become the premier US musical tour of the summer festival season. For a festival espousing punk rock ethics it has attracted more than it’s fair share of detractors since the bands whose early careers it fostered have gone on to mega dome success, with many worrying that half the bands now on the bill are diluted versions of those who have gone before. ‘I think it can be a good thing. It’s a positive that kids can go out there and find bands that 10 years ago they’d have had no way of getting at. But it’s just not me. I’m the last of the dinosaurs. With Warped Tour it’s difficult again because it’s become this huge beast that is bigger than anything out there, it’s still a great thing, a great idea and still exposes kids to bands that they wouldn’t see otherwise. But not all the bands are that great anymore,’ ponders Caughthran considering both the tour and the way in which technology has opened up the world in a way that the early DIY scenes of the 80’s hardcore movement could only dream. It’s a theme present from the very opening of ‘III’ with the Matt raging , ‘
I want to be original; I want to be surrounded by art.

But everything is digital, the formulas are fallin’ apart.’ on the caustic ‘Knifeman’. It’s a struggle that may pitch Caughthran as King Canute fighting against the unstoppable tide, but when the results are so explosive it almost makes you wish for more homogony and lethargy within popular culture just so it can inspire the backlash.

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Written by Jonathan

March 9, 2009 at 2:50 am

One Response

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  1. bad ass article..i love the ending statement and i cant wait for the show at the independent in afew weks in sf. your a lucky man to get to interview these guys!!! i fucken love the bronx!!!!! they are saviors in my book right along with hank111…that would be an inasane show assjack and the bronx

    Jeri Vigil

    April 16, 2010 at 8:19 pm


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