There are certain things in this world that can’t be put down, held back, or killed. Like cockroaches or wild bamboo, they’re going to bust out — even with scarce food, sunlight, and water, they will find a way.
Packing venues like Webster Hall, House Of Blues, The Mayan, and Freebird Live this summer, it’s hard to imagine The Bouncing Souls were ever scraping up change for fried chicken and biscuits in New Brunswick, NJ. It’s also hard to believe that they’ve been at this for 25 years (how quick those last few have flown since the band’s 20th anniversary) with three of the original four members.
But when the road ahead looked impossible to pass, the Souls simply found a way. And it was usually the most fun way. No one will put out our album? We’ll put it out ourselves (years before the Internet, mind you.) No one will have us in their towns? We’ll book our own tours, make our own contacts, and pour our hearts into our great records. “We’re gonna play no matter what they say.”
There’s no pretense, posing, or preening with The Bouncing Souls — just infections punk rock. EasternSurf.com was lucky enough to do an in-depth interview with longtime Souls guitarist and charmer Pete Steinkopf on the eve of the release of the band’s new album, Comet, and another dirty summer on the road.
ESM: So all is well in The Bouncing Souls camp?
Pete Steinkopf: Yeah, well, I broke my elbow recently. I fell at this festival in Europe, but I didn’t know it was broken. I played the last two shows on tour and then came home and had it X-rayed. It was totally broken in half and I had to get surgery two weeks ago — had my bones screwed back together.
ESM: You healed up now?
PS: I can play guitar, and that’s all that matters right now.
ESM: Not as dramatic as [bassist] Bryan Kienlen’s wrecked knee back in the day?
PS: It’s pretty fucking dramatic. I had it wrapped up. I could finish the tour and when the doctor said it was fractured, I had to go back on tour for six shows and play. And then after Bamboozle, an orthopedic surgeon stuck an eight-centimeter screw in my arm. It’s going to be there for a long time.
ESM: So you’re out on the road in support of the new album, Comet. How has the initial feedback been so far?
PS: So far, so good. We’ll see what people really think. We’re super stoked about the early feedback, though. Our friends seem to like it and our friends are usually the harshest critics. We’ve had some people tell us that it’s our best record in a really long time, which I agree with. I think it’s the best album we’ve done since How I Spent My Summer Vacation, [which came out] seven years ago.
ESM: You chose to do a traditional release as opposed to releasing one song a month for a year on iTunes with a series of seven-inches as you did in 2009. You once told us that your fans really like having something tangible to hold onto.
PS: Myself, I like having something to look at [along with] the whole experience of listening to a record. So I’m glad that we did it the old-fashioned way. I mean, it was really cool doing [the seven-inch thing] for our 20th anniversary to do something different for everyone, but it’s good to have that cohesive album that everyone is fucking stoked about.
ESM: Do you think that has to do with the fact that you’ve had fans for 20 years — and when those people got into music, there was no such thing as an mp3. Or are there a whole lot of True Believers out there?
PS: I don’t know. It’s hard to really say what format people are going to listen to our music on. I think it’s a mix. But it seems like vinyl is coming back to the scene in a big way when you include a digital download card. Then you have the best of both worlds — that piece of artwork that you can follow along with or the download for your iPod.
ESM: You chose to do release Comet dually via the Souls’ own label, Chunksaah, Records and Rise Records. What was the strategy behind that?
PS: We wanted to try something new and Rise is doing a lot of cool bands — our peers like Hot Water Music and Cheap Girls and other bands like that. And Chunksaah wanted to join forces with somebody else. They were totally supportive the whole time: just our friends who are super into music and have another label.
ESM: Are they old friends of the Souls?
PS: No. They’re new friends of ours from Portland, OR. Cool label. They put out a shitload of bands. They did a lot of emo and metalcore, but they’re doing a lot of other kinds of music now.
ESM: Let me preface this next question by mentioning that in a recent interview I did with Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem, he said, “The Bouncing Souls never have a bad thing to say about anybody.” Now you guys just played the Bamboozle and normally if the Souls, Hot Water Music, Promise Ring, Gaslight Anthem, Boysetsfire, Dramarama, and Murphy’s Law are playing in Asbury, I’m there. But I wanted nothing to do with the Bon Jovi circus.
PS: [Laughs] Right.
ESM: There was nothing funny or ironic about that to me. How did it all go down?
PS: It was great. Our stage was in the park and it was a whole different vibe. I didn’t even see the Bon Jovi crowd, but it wouldn’t have bothered me anyway.
ESM: So once again, The Bouncing Souls still have nothing bad to say about anybody!
PS: Well, the Bon Jovi crowd would have been all the girls that I went to high school with. That wouldn’t have bothered me. We were on the Zumiez Stage and it was super cool with mostly punk and a lot of Jersey bands. But yeah, The Bouncing Souls still have nothing bad to say about anybody. That’s not really true, but we definitely have nothing bad to say about Bon Jovi fans.
ESM: So who do you have something bad to say something about?
PS: [Laughs] No comment.
ESM: See? Unblemished record! Nicest guys in the world. You formed around the same time as Pennywise and other bands of that generation. Some bands’ sound got very repetitive after four or five albums, but you guys always kept it fresh. How do you change things up without simply morphing with the times?
PS: I guess we write songs about what’s going on in our lives and what’s going on around us in the world. I think the world is always changing and people’s lives are always changing, so obviously I think the music is always going to evolve as we evolve as people. Writing the same record over and over again is something we never wanted to do. I think there’s a common theme threaded through our records, but just as four people, our music also progresses.
ESM: Comet seems to have a little Agent Orange influence — a little old-school west coast sound.
PS: Yeah, I’ve gotten a couple comments about the guitar stuff on a couple songs. It’s kind of true. There is a punky, surfy vibe on some songs. I consider it a compliment because I love Agent Orange.
ESM: The Bouncing Souls are the definition of road veterans. Do you have time where you guys get to do fun stuff besides drive, sound check, play, drive, sound check, drink, play?
PS: Yeah, especially when we travel abroad — in Europe we try to go out and do fun shit all the time. Our manager Kate loves castles, so whenever we can, we go to an old castle or house in Europe. We try to get to a town and go walk around. We call it marching. Everyone will be like, “We’re going for a march around town.”
ESM: After all these years, do the four of you still march together?
PS: Sometimes. Sometimes we all hang out together. Sometimes you have to just do your own thing.
ESM: Everyone says that the music industry is dead and it’s impossible to make money from selling your recordings, but you guys put out your own records in the early ‘90s when that was unheard of. The record companies have had to “cut the fat,” but you guys never had any fat. Do you think it put you guys ahead of the game?
PS: I don’t know. I think the reality is that less people buy music. They get it all different ways. You can’t fight it and you can’t think it’s going to be like the ‘90s when everyone is buying your CDs. You have to find creative ways to do things, like we did when we started — like going out and giving our seven-inches away. We’re trying to accept it. You hope people will get your music and then go to the show and buy a T-shirt. It’s all relative.
ESM: Is there anything you guys do specifically to pay the bills and eat?
PS: Put out memorable records with cool art and different colored vinyl. People enjoy having collectables. A lot of bands are doing that and it helps sell some more stuff. I love it personally. I buy it from bands that I listen to.
ESM: So those small segments of people with that vinyl fetish are helping keep the lights on to some extent?
PS: I don’t know economically, but it’s a cool, new thing to have — like putting out a product that we care about.
ESM: At this point, everyone in the band has a little side thing. Greg has a solo career. Bryan is tattooing. I don’t know what McDermott does, but you chose producing. How’s that going?
PS: It’s great. I have a studio in Asbury Park and I’ve put out a bunch of cool records. I did the Dave Hause records, a bunch of local stuff, and this band Luther that we put out on Chunksaah — that came out really good.
ESM: I have to admit that I didn’t know that “Better Things” was a Kinks song. I heard it coming from my neighbors’ yard recently and my wife told me.
PS: [Laughs] Some band covering the Bouncing Souls?
ESM: Yeah. But what is the one band you would love to cover that the rest of the guys were like “We’re not doing that!”
PS: I don’t know that I’ve ever suggested something and gotten totally shot down. They just kind of happen. Someone will just start playing something at practice and then we’ll all start playing along. “Better Things” came about when Ted Hutt recorded The Gold Record with us. It was his idea. We were listening to a lot of The Kinks when we were writing that record. He said, “This is kind of like a Bouncing Souls song — lyrically too.” And we were like, “Wow. It’s a song that we could have written.”
For all things The Bouncing Souls, visit www.Facebook.com/BouncingSouls
UPCOMING THE BOUNCING SOULS TOUR DATES:
6/21 The Mohawk Austin, TX
6/22 Trees Dallas, TX
6/23 Fitzgeralds Houston, TX
7/7 Oak Canyon Ranch Irvine, CA
7/8 Nile Theatre Mesa, AZ
7/11 House Of Blues San Diego, CA
7/12 The Mayan Los Angeles, CA
7/13 House Of Blues Las Vegas, NV
7/14 SLO Brew San Luis Obispo, CA
7/17 Slim’s San Francisco, CA
7/18 Slim’s San Francisco, CA
7/20 The Alley Sparks, NV
7/21 Hawthorne Theatre Portland, OR
7/22 Chop Suey Seattle, WA
7/23 Venue Nightclub Vancouver, BC
7/25 In The Venue Salt Lake City, UT
7/26 Summit Music Hall Denver, CO
7/27 Sokol Underground Omaha, NE
7/28 First Avenue Minneapolis, MN
7/29 Metro Chicago, IL
7/31 Magic Stick Detroit, MI
8/1 Beachland Ballroom Cleveland, OH
8/2 Mr. Smalls Theatre Millvale, PA
8/3 Crocodile Rock Allentown, PA
8/4 House Of Blues Boston, MA
8/5 Brooklyn Bowl Brooklyn, NY