We recently caught up with the infectiously charismatic vocalist and front-man of The Bronx, Matt Caughthran, as the renowned punk rockers release a fourth full-length effort, IV, on ATO/White Drugs today! Apart from the three prior full-lengths that defined The Bronx as leaders of the punk rock pack, the band members took a few years to establish their Mariachi-alter egos with the underground sensation Mariachi El Bronx. With a fan base that transcends punk rock, alternative, garage, and even hardcore audiences, The Bronx have created a groundswell of buzz with this latest effort hailing praise from not only fans and peers, but critics at many of the leading online and print magazines including, Rolling Stone, Boston Globe, and UK’s Kerrang!, who recently stated, “The Bronx are probably the finest punk band of this century.”
In this exclusive, in-depth interview, Matt is kind enough to take Blow The Scene readers inside the creation and recording processes behind Bronx IV, forthcoming tour plans, guilty pleasures, lyrical motifs, sleeping in the nude, and much more.
Without further ado, let’s hear from Matt!
Joshua BTS: Greetings! Thank you for taking a few minutes with Blow The Scene readers from around the world. Let’s kick off this interview by having you introduce yourself and your musical weapon of choice with LA’s practitioners of infectious and filthy punk rock, The Bronx.
Matt Caughthran: What up freaks. This interview is being handled by Mr. California, Matt Caughthran. Vocal slasher of The Bronx. I’m horny and ready to let out all my secrets.
Joshua BTS: The Bronx are set to release a new eponymous full-length effort entitled, IV, on Feb 5th via White Drugs / ATO, now more than 5 years after the release of III. First- Give us the skinny on the writing process- When did you start writing the LP? And when and where did recording sessions take place?
Matt Caughthran: We started writing Bronx 4 in early 2012 between Mariachi El Bronx tours. we had solid foundations for 15 songs within a month or two. Then banged the songs together at an undisclosed location in Fullerton, California. Once all the songs were shaped and salted to our liking, we pressed the record button at our place in Van Nuys. And another one bites the dust.
Joshua BTS: Do you all participate in the writing or is there a captain of the ship that dictates the direction of the songs?
Matt Caughthran: The direction of a song is something we all work out together. Joby and myself will try to lay a simple foundation down for the rest of the guys to build on. He will send me a riff and I will put a vocal on it. Very bare bones. If it sounds rad, we show the guys, and then we all dive in.
Joshua BTS: Do you have a particular set of engineers you like to work with?
Matt Caughthran: Our friend Beau Burchell is the dude. he’s been with us from the beginning. Between him, Joby, and our secret friend and sound guru Willis, every instrument gets the attention it deserves.
Joshua BTS: Having spent several years to focus your critically heralded side project Mariachi El Bronx– How did this experience affect your approach to the wiring and recording of Bronx IV?
Matt Caughthran: I think El Bronx had a subliminal effect on Bronx 4 in a couple ways. There are a some songs on the record that are new styles for us. Songs like “Torches” and “Life Less Ordinary” were important songs that we really wanted to make the record. Looking back, I think there’s also a lot of vocal melody on this record. More so than any other Bronx record. During the vocal tracking it didn’t feel that way at all- Almost the opposite.
Joshua BTS: Did you try anything in the studio for IV that saw you step out of your comfort zone and try new things you hadn’t with earlier Bronx or Mariachi releases?
Matt Caughthran: Like the time Brad tracked his bass naked? Or the time Joby taped a microphone on a cat and let it prance around the drum room while Jorma banged heads? Or maybe you’re talking about the time Ken recorded a solo live on Chat Roulette?…
Joshua BTS: Being something of gear nerd myself- Any special or unique pieces of musical gear or recording equipment you employed for this effort?
Matt Caughthran: We did the whole record thru this Neve console we got from a radio station in South Africa- True or false?
Joshua BTS: Being one of the leaders of the punk rock pack- Have have you defined your goals at this stage in the game when compared to previous releases and tour cycles?
Matt Caughthran: The single goal used to be to make it home alive, and it still is. But after a decade of Bronx and now El Bronx madness, the single goal is now many goals. Now the mission is to make as much music as we possibly can before we die.Bronx 4 breathed new life into our electric spirits. I don’t see a reason why both bands won’t last another 10 years and beyond.
Joshua BTS: How did you land on the tiger theme for the cover art?
Matt Caughthran: Joby went on a safari on vacation in Africa. He came back all gay about tigers.
Joshua BTS: What are some of the lyrical motifs listeners will find on Bronx IV?
Matt Caughthran: Beach cruisers in the city, false prophets, gambling debts, and schizophrenia.
Joshua BTS: Who amongst you has the oddest touring habits? We’ve heard some pretty hilarious stories over the years- From ice-t bottle collections or urine in the tour van to guerilla-tactic swimming missions in random hotels?how does The Bronx rank up?
Matt Caughthran: Ken loves screaming in the middle of the night. Outside of that our habits aren’t that weird and we never smell.
Joshua BTS: I know you mentioned in a recent interview, “I think there’s a renaissance going on and that punk is in a good place.” I would agree. What are some fresh acts that are exciting you right now?
Matt Caughthran: Lots of awesome bands out in California right now. Young surfers that sound nothing like they should. Bands like the Cosmonauts out of Fullerton. Pangea and Fidlar out of LA. Tijuana Panthers are great as well. Awesome bands seem to be everywhere now-a-days. A good source of the California garage rebirth comes from a label called Burger Records. Check it out….
Joshua BTS: When you guys are just kicking-it- What do your daily lives look like? Do you work music around a 9-to-5?
Matt Caughthran: Being an artist is like being the the on-call doctor at the ICU. Whenever the pager goes off, you better be ready. One of the rad things about music is the schedule is your own. Your work ethic and talent determine your success. Sit on your ass, you get nothing.
Joshua BTS: Apart from music- What are some of your other artistic outlets?
Matt Caughthran: I just started painting and i love it. Surfing has always been a good outlet for me, even though I’m not that great. I also just started sleeping naked.
Joshua BTS: Guilty pleasure time. Guiltiest food pleasure? And favorite spot to eat on tour? Any vegans or vegetarians in the band?
Matt Caughthran: My guilty food pleasure is a filet-o-fish from hell on earth, McDonalds. I never eat it except when in dire straits in a third world country. The filet has saved my life several times. We try our best to sample the local delicacies whenever we can. We eat meat and vegetables. No whole beans.
Joshua BTS: What does The Bronx have on deck for the rest of 2013?
Matt Caughthran: Touring and touring. Maybe play a couple shows here and there. We also have a big tour coming up, but that’s after we get back from tour.
Joshua BTS: We really appreciate you taking this time with Blow The Scene and our readers around the world! Any final thoughts?
Matt Caughthran: It’s been a pleasure. Thanks for the interview and thanks for supporting real music.
Interview by BTS Editor-in-Chief, Joshua T. Cohen.
Top Live Photo of the Bronx at the Fonda Theatre in November by Carl Pocket.
Bottom Live Photo of the Bronx by Ray Suen
More info at The Official website of The Bronx