Before things got a little crazy in the Slade Rooms for the spetacle that is The Bronx live we were invited on to their tour bus to have a chat with Matt about the new record, birthday celebrations, the garage punk revival going on back in LA and their intense touring schedule.
So The Bronx are back and with a brand new album, is it good to be back?
Yeah it feels great, Bronx have been playing the whole time El Bronx have been going but now we have a new record out it definitely feels different. It feels like a rebirth in a lot of ways and we are stoked to be back on tour playing new songs.
The Bronx IV has been out just under a month, what has been the reaction so far to the record?
People dig it man, you know, its cool. I think people have learned to expect different things from us each time around, I know for some die hard people the record is not as aggressive as they want it to be but people still like it and we’re stoked on it. It’s the record we wanted to make, it’s a super inspired record. Bronx fans are a trip, they’re pretty cool, they give us a licence to do whatever we want, as long as we trust our guts and don’t turn in a record that’s fake I think people are going to dig it and understand it; the feedback’s been great.
You had an exclusive stream on the Rolling Stone website, how did that come about?
Rolling Stone and Spin have been long time supporters of the band, they’ve always been really cool to us. Even when the band first started, we have always been a critic’s band almost, that can be somewhat of a curse in a way, most of the time critics don’t go to shows! It’s one thing to have the support of magazines and labels and stuff like that or people that really dig music and who write about it but you want to make sure you have actual fans too. So they’ve been there since the beginning and have always been a real big supporter of The Bronx and El Bronx so they wanted to stream the record and why not? It’s Rolling Stone!
So the new record is pretty good! Do you think the break doing Mariachi El Bronx helped?
Oh yeah, absolutely. After Bronx III we hit a wall pretty hard, we didn’t really know what we were doing, where we were going to go with the band. It kind of felt like it might be ending in a lot of ways, everyone was broke, we didn’t have a label, we didn’t have a manager and it was just dark, it was a bleak time. Writing the first Mariachi record focused everyone’s brains in a completely different place, it took us away from that kind of darkness and allowed us to be creative in a completely different way. Writing the second record and the evolution musically, melodically, lyrically, all that stuff, it taught us a lot about ourselves during that time. It rejuvenated The Bronx, it gave us confidence in ourselves. It gave us time to step away from The Bronx and see what we wanted to do and where we wanted to take the band. The time we spent doing El Bronx I very much think saved The Bronx in a lot of ways.
There are a couple of songs on the new record that sound like they have been slightly influenced by your alter ego like a ‘Life Less Ordinary’, would you agree with that?
The Bronx have always done songs like that, ‘Dirty Leaves’ was on the second record, the first record didn’t really have anything, the third record had a couple but they ended up on The Social Club. We’ve always written songs like that but whether or not they make it on the records is a whole other thing. But we really like that song, we tried it a bunch of different ways; all instruments, fast, heavy. We had that song and we really put it through the wringer and at the end of the day it just sounded best with just guitar and vocals on it and we thought about not putting it on the record but why not? We liked it, we wanted to put it on there so we went for it.
Do you plan on releasing any B-sides or 7” or anything?
Yeah, there’s a ton, there’s a ton of music. We are actually working on a box set right now of re-releasing all the records on vinyl and actually coming with a b-sides record of all the extra shit we’ve done throughout the years plus stuff from the new record. Bronx III never even got released on vinyl so we’re looking to get that out for the first time plus everything else.
Is the psychical product of music important to the band rather than just digital?
Yeah absolutely, I mean digital is great, its great to have music at your fingertips and pretty much available everywhere you go but we are very much still attached to the psychical product especially in the vinyl world. We are all big record collectors and something tangible that you can hold onto and put up on the wall or slowly open and take out and read while your listening to it and absorb the artwork in a physical form is something that we cherish and we really like. We’re not ever going to veer away from that, I think pretty much the way it works nowadays is vinyl and digital. People have started to repress tapes again and that’s cool because its cheap, CDs are cheap as hell. In my world it’s usually just digital or vinyl, I mean computers aren’t even coming with disk drives any more, its crazy!
What are your personal favourite songs from the new record?
I really like ‘Too Many Devils’ a lot, I really like ‘Style Over Everything’. A song like ‘Torches’ is really cool because it’s a different song for us and that song took a long time to put together on the record so it means a lot. Some songs you don’t know until the last 2 or 3 days whether all the pieces are going to fit together, if the vocals are going to be right or whatever, so that song came out great, I love that song. ‘Valley Heat’ I really like, ‘Under The Rabbit’ is a song we’ve had for a while, I really dig that song. ‘Youth Wasted’, we’ve got a video coming out for that that’s pretty awesome. It’s one of those songs where I think the video accentuates the song more so I kind of rediscovered that song after we finished the video so I really like that one.
How’s this tour been going so far and any particular highlights?
It’s been great, London was amazing. I turned 34 on February 13th and we did 2 sold out shows in London on the 12th and 13th and they were crazy, absolutely crazy. We had a barricade the first night and I kept trying to tell everyone that those things do more harm than do good and a girl ended up with a cut head because there was no security there and that show was crazy, crazy, crazy! After all that happened we were able to get the barricade removed for the second show and it was absolute madness but no one got hurt so it was great. That was the birthday show so that was amazing. Cardiff was great, we got to see some old friends, our very first tour manager, the guy who drove us around when we first came over here in 2003 showed up! This guy is a fucking maniac and Wales has just won some big rugby thing against France so everyone was just jacked and ready to party, that was a great show. Brighton is always good, I love Brighton, there’s such a great musical history there and everywhere else in between has been great but those are the stand outs.
You’ve got your own record label, White Drugs. Is that purely to release you own stuff or release other bands music?
We’re between 2 bands and people have different side projects going on, Joby produces bands and everyone else kind of have their lives and stuff. It’s not really anyone’s ambition as of now to actively run the label, now its more cataloguing The Bronx and everything we’ve done and a way to reissue stuff and have our own in-house operation. Maybe one day down the road we’ll get it going as an official label but right now there’s no real plans.
Are there any up-and-coming bands in LA that we should be checking out?
Yeah there’s actually a bunch. There is a really cool rebirth of garage punk going on right now in LA, I live by the beach and there’s a lot of amazing bands actually coming out of Orange County and LA. Usually it’s just LA but now there’s some good bands coming out of Orange County, there’s a band out of Fullerton called ‘The Cosmonauts‘ that are awesome and there’s a record label in Fullerton called Burger Records and they are pretty much running the whole revival. There’s so many good records coming out on that label but that band Cosmonauts is one of my favourites, they kind of sound like Wire, Wire is smart kind of drony almost like a post-hardcore type sound; just really smart and they sound a lot older than they are. They’re like 19 or something like that, they’re just an amazing band, they’ve got a full length record out that’s great. There’s a band called Pangea that’s awesome. There are so many, I really like Audacity, that’s another Burger band they’re ruining it right now in California. I think they’ve got like Burger Records.com so check it out!
What are the plans for the rest of this year?
It’s crazy, we’re writing another El Bronx record right now, getting that ready for whenever we have time to record it. After this we go home for about 5 days, I’m recording a project called Bullet Treatment with a couple of other friends, that’s a record that should have been done 2 years ago but we’ve just been too busy so that will be coming out. Then El Bronx is going on tour for 2 weeks up the west coast and then Bronx goes to Australia and some of Europe and then we come back and we have a week off, then Bronx does a full US tour. Then there’s some festivals and shit like that and then somewhere in there we’ll record a new record and write a new Bronx record; back and forth, back and forth.
So when you’re not recording or playing what do you like to do to relax?
I have a lot of friends at home that I don’t get to catch up with a lot so usually when I’m home I’m hanging out with my other friends who I don’t get to travel with. Surfing, listening to records, going out to bars and having some drinks and trying to stay active creatively whether it’s painting or just writing lyrics. As a singer you can never have enough lyrics so you’re always trying to keep writing so just doing that. Sometimes to fight getting burnt out you try and find different ways to do stuff that’s creative and physical. As long as you keep yourself moving and keep your mind going that’s the key.
Have you got a title for the next Bronx record yet?
No, we’re still working on a title. It will be the greatest title ever. What’s that fucking Fiona Apple record? Do you remember that? That was like ‘when the pawn fights the moon against the fucking stratosphere the devil shows up…’ it was like a fucking paragraph, it’s fucking amazing! So hilarious!
Many thanks to Matt for taking the time to talk to Birmingham Live, make sure you check them out on this tour because you don’t want to miss out on one of the most fun live bands around today!
Interview by Hannah Sebestjanowicz
Photographs by Steve Gerrard