INTERVIEW: Matt Caughthran (THE BRONX)
They're the punks who pour scorching passion into their spitfire tunes; unpredictable, fun and absolute weapons onstage, LA quintet The Bronx have spent over 15 years crafting their heavy-rock-meets-proper-punk wiles while also moonlighting as a legit mariachi band and journeying the globe.
2017 saw the unveiling of their fifth studio album 'V' which enticed The Bronx out to our shores with fellow punk legends Pennywise - but now almost a year later the LA-based Bronx lads have returned down under to bash our ears with rock-and-roll in slightly more "intimate" settings. And with their first leg done and a heap of shows ahead, including Canberra tonight, we grabbed frontman Matt Caughthran on the road after their first show in Brisbane to chat Aussie crowds, chaos and creativity. Interview below.
TIANA SPETER: Hi Matt!
MATT CAUGHTHRAN: What’s up Tiana, how you doing!
TIANA: I’m very well, and yourself?
MATT: Great, I’m doin’ great, we had a good show last night to start the tour off I’m feeling good! Everyone’s happy, everyone’s stoked, we’re just driving to the Gold Coast right now, so life is pretty good!
TIANA: How’s the jet-lag going? Has it worn off yet?
MATT: You know what, it hasn’t been too bad this time round, knock on wood! I think a couple of things helped, we flew over here at night, I think that helped. We landed in the morning and were able to have a full day and so it hasn’t been too bad! But having said that I could fall asleep at any point during this phone call (laughs).
TIANA: I’ll yell out if I hear snoring. So, as you mentioned, obviously the tour kicked off last night in Brisbane, and this time round you’re joined by High Tension and Private Function – AND playing slightly more “intimate” venues than previous Aussie trips. How did last night go in a smaller venue, was it sweaty and crazy?
MATT: Oh yeah, it was complete chaos! There were bodies falling everywhere, everyone was soaked in sweat and beer (laughs). The walls were dripping with water, all that shit. It was awesome! Every time we come over here it seems like the crowds get crazier and crazier, it’s a good standard to have, people really seem to enjoy going to see concerts over here, they don’t really have too many hang-ups about just lettin’ loose and having some fun. It’s really cool from the opposite side when you’re in a band to be able to play in an environment where people are just ready to kick it off!
TIANA: Well us Aussies do love a party, so it’s pretty apt given you guys are always described as “brutal party music”, so it’s the perfect pairing I feel! On that note, you guys are notorious for your ballistic onstage energy…do you have any pre-show rituals that hype you up these days?
MATT: You know, we just love what we do. We just kind of hang out together before the show, and just kind of get the juices flowing. To be honest, it’s not really that difficult to get it happening, it’s just so much fun playing music and you know the show’s gonna be awesome, and you know people are excited to see the band. It’s really easy that way, and to still be in a spot where all those kind of elements continually line up for us. Every now and then you’ll come across a show where you’re, you know, either dead tired or the odds are just stacked against you, but those shows are so few and far between. We’re just always ready to go!
TIANA: Well that’s excellent to hear, I’m extremely stoked I’ll be catching you guys at the Sydney show!
MATT: Hell yeah! That show’s gonna be awesome!
TIANA: It’s obviously not your first time in Australia though, out here late last year and you guys even played at Dark Mofo in 2014. Is there anything you’re particularly excited to do while you’re in Australia that you haven’t been able to do previously?
MATT: Someone was telling me that not too far from the Gold Coast is the psychedelic capital of Australia. I’ve never been there! But outside of that, we’re got a lot of friends here, so we’d like to get to the beach, we’d like to see our friends, hang out and just kind of keep things easy!
TIANA: As a band yourself and The Bronx have played massive festivals, huge shows, small pub rooms…pretty much every venue you could get! But do you have a preference when it comes to venues, do you love the big festivals, or do you love the sweaty craziness of these smaller shows?
MATT: I like the club shows. I mean, I love festivals but rock and roll and punk rock has always been living inside the clubs, and that’s where we had our first gig spots. So, I love those shows the best, but being able to mix it up as well, that’s one of the coolest things ever. We’ve played so many venues and different festivals, both indoor and outdoor, and been able to travel the world and just see every sort of musical climate. And that’s what keep things inspiring and interesting, and keeps things pushing forward. So as long as there’s somewhere that has something to plug into, we’ll play it!
TIANA: Awesome, well we’ve got a couple of speakers lying around at our place if you guys get stuck and want to set-up in our living room. I’ll leave the key under the door.
MATT: (laughs) Sounds good!
TIANA: But back to that note of mixing it up a bit…you guys have also ventured out with the Mariachi El Bronx stuff in the past, and then last year The Bronx released their fifth studio album with ‘V’ which was a return from the mariachi stuff…and at the time I read you guys describe ‘V’ as “proper Bronx”. Now that it’s been out for a little bit, does it hold a significant place against your previous releases?
MATT: Yeah, I think the last record was a perfect step forward with what we want to do. We try to just branch out with each new thing that we do and to come at it with creativity and try to push things forward. And I feel like all our albums fit well together, they’re like a family that way; it’s like everybody’s a little bit different but they’ve still got the same blood flowing through them. So it’s cool that way, and especially when you play live when you put the set-list together, you’re able to pick songs from all five albums and see how they kind of feed off each other, and do it that way. The song’s from all of these records, they’re crazy live, they’re rippers!
TIANA: I find it interesting with you guys, I’ve played your stuff to people in the past and no matter what age they are or what music they might be into – somehow, everyone seems to dig it! But from an insider’s perspective, do you find there’s a typical Bronx fan these days?
MATT: I think we definitely do have a lot of different types of fans, especially when we introduced the Mariarchi into the mix. But I do think that the true tried-and-tested Bronx fan is just a classic rocker, someone who likes their music loud and likes to have a good time. And I think for our fans the common ground is definitely a love of all things loud, all things raw and the ability to get a little crazy!
TIANA: Speaking of loud things…what type of music did you personally grow up with, or did you go through the usual phases that led you to the rockier, heavier genres?
MATT: Yeah, I started out with heavy metal growing up, as a kid I was listening to my sister’s record collection, and she was super into Judas Priest and all sorts of LA glam, Metallica and all that awesome, old-school metal stuff. So from there, I kind of went into my own world, the punk stuff. And that was almost kind of a working-class thing, like metal kind of existed in this fantasy world, while punk was like a slap in the face that brought you back to reality, and brought you back down to earth. It was something that I really identified with as a kid growing up, and I still do. That was the first kind of music that I found on my own, and from there you just go round, you like this band and then as a result you check out this band and then you just kind of go down the rabbit hole (laughs). There’s so much music out there, so much great music out there, it’s pretty limitless. And you can just keep searching and there’s so much rad stuff to find!
TIANA: Finally, you’ve had your hand in a few other projects along the way outside The Bronx…but hypothetically, if we temporarily went into a parallel universe: if you could play in any other band, either current or no longer with us…who would it be?
MATT: Oooo that’s crazy! I would’ve loved to have been a Ramone. Matt Ramone would’ve been pretty tight (laughs). The Ramones are my favourite band of all time so I think if I could be in any band it would be The Ramones. And also the Scorpions. I love the Scorpions! If I was born in like 1950 or whenever, I would be a member of the Scorpions.
TIANA: I’d definitely be on board for either of those. Perhaps we’ll check back in when time travel’s invented. Well thank you so much for your time, I’m so excited to see you in Sydney next week, and good luck with the rest of the tour!
MATT: Right on! I appreciate the interview, thank you.
THE BRONX ARE CURRENTLY ON THE ROAD WITH HIGH TENSION AND PRIVATE FUNCTION, HITTING CANBERRA TONIGHT AND CONTINUING ALL THE WAY TIL THE END OF THE MONTH.
FOR TICKET INFO, HEAD TO: www.destroyalllines.com/tour/the-bronx-2
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BY TIANA SPETER