With Harvest of Hope just over a month away, we would like to spotlight some of the bands participating. We kick things off with an interview between our own Tyler Barrett and Greg Attonito of Bouncing Souls. While the band's last full-length was 2006's The Gold Record, they are two songs into their plan to release one new song every month during 2009. "Gasoline" was released on January 1, while "We All Sing Along" was made available yesterday.
As Iâm sure youâve noticed, itâs like 15 below outside. What brings you to Minnesota in the middle of January?
Greg: Yeah, usually itâs our policy not to tour in the wintertime, but weâre not touring, weâre here to make a video. And our friend Justin Staggs from Minneapolis here is doing the video with us, and itâs not your normal video, itâs actually gonna be an extended video, like a long-play video, I donât know what you call itâbut weâre doing like a mock-Bouncing Souls 20-year TV anniversary special-like 70s-style TV special thatâs really funny and thereâs a whole lotta stuff thatâs going on with it. And in that thereâs two videos, like standard music videos. One for "Gasoline" and one for a song called "Airport Security," which is coming out in March.
I had a chance to catch you in NYC for CMJ 2007 with Lifetime, Modern Life is War, and the Low Budgets, and it was really great to see the Bouncing Souls in more of a hometown setting. On the other hand, it seems like you guys have enjoyed touring, with "Highway Kings" and being on the road so much, so what do you like or dislike about playing to a hometown crowd as opposed to being out on the road?
Itâs just what it isâ¦sometimes itâs a little more kinetic, thereâs more people [in a hometown show], but sometimes you can get those kind of shows anywhere, depending on what the night is, whatâs going onâ¦ theyâre all good for different reasonsâ[The Framed start playing, cutting Greg off as we have to move backstage to a quieter setting]
What are some of your favorite spots around the country and even around the world that you like to go? Not even necessarily to tour, but just to have an opportunity to visit, and spend timeâ¦like an excuse to tour there.
Weâre going to South America next month, which weâve never been to in all the years weâve been touring, which is pretty cool weâre finally gonna get there. Thatâll be an adventure and just be fun to see it. I love going to the West Coast, I like going to Australia when you actually have timeâ¦sometimes itâs sort of torturous because youâre just traveling, and you canât stay any places you wanna see. But itâs about the trip itself sometimes, itâs about the people youâre with, itâs about whatâs going on, and itâs about making the place that youâre in fun, a lot of timesâ¦even Minneapolis in the wintertime [laughs].
Iâve always been curious, whatâs the in-between song banter and crowd interaction like when youâre playing in a non-English speaking country?
I know a little Spanish so I can get by with some funny stuff that people respond to, but other than Spanish I havenât really messed around with it much, and itâs just kind like sometimes you say "Hi" and thatâs about it, but we have little things that we can sometimes connect to people with.
Most people know by now that the Bouncing Souls have a new "record" coming out in 2009, but for those that donât know or maybe donât have the details, explain a little bit about whatâs going on with how youâre doing it.
Yeah, weâre just releasing 12 songs to celebrate the 20 year anniversary in 09. Weâre releasing one song on the first of every month and four seven-inches throughout the year, and then weâre working on a box-set that weâre gonna release around the end of the year, and these videos. And the videos are gonna be really fun. And we might release that in segments because itâs gonna be kinda like a half-hour special.
And the records and digital will all be out on Chunksaah?
Yeah, Chunksaah will putting all of them out.
Because last year when Pennywise was putting out their new record [which ended up on MySpace Records], they commented that they were getting some resistance from Epitaph, not really being into putting it out, and I was just curious if you ran into the same type of thing.
No, it was [just that] our contract was up. Brett was like, "You guys started out putting your music out yourselves, thatâs what I did, so, why not?" He was like "Gimme a call if you guys wanna do something," and it was pretty much that way.
So Ted Hutt produced the first single, "Gasoline," did he produce all the tracks?
He did all of The Gold Record. And yeah, he did all the recording and production. He worked with us on some of the songs as we were writing them.
Iâve heard heâs a pretty engaging and proactive producer, so I just wondered what it was like working with him and what he brought to the table.
Yeah, heâs really good. He has a good ear, a natural ear-- heâs good with the songwriting end of it. Heâs good with the whole thing, but he just brings something special. When you have an idea--maybe itâs not quite complete--he really brings something into it. And you can hear it on The Gold Record, you can hear it on the new songs too.
Is there a certain feel to the new songs? Like I would say The Gold Record has kind of a nostalgic feel, while the self-titled is kind of a fun, party record, and Hopeless Romantic has kind of a lovelorn mood. Would you describe the new songs in a similar way?
Iâd say the collection of songs is a good picture of the whole story I think. We have some new things that are different, and some really classic kind of Souls style, and then some like, really kind of earlier stuff, going back to like 16-year-old-style punk. So itâs kind of running the gamut in that way.
You guys are headed down to do the Harvest of Hope fest in March. Talk a little about whatâs going on with that, what itâs all about, and why youâre doing it.
It just popped up, itâs the first year theyâre doing it. Itâs a benefit for migrant farm workers, and it just seemed like a good idea to be a part of that, as a band and as an individual who makes music. The more we can support each other in the world, the better off weâre gonna be.
The Bad Brains are gonna be playing that too, and thatâs not the first time youâve shared the stage with them. You also did the "School of Rock" show with them awhile backâ¦
Weâve played with them a couple different times in the last few years.
Yeah, I was just curious if you had any funny Bad Brains anecdotes or stories to share.
Nothing that out of the ordinary. HR is just always kind of a little bitâ¦ kind of strange. Nothing in particular really, other than that heâs just kind of running his own race [laughs].
On Tuesday, Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States. Your thoughts?
Itâs really relieving on some levels. At the same time, the Onion just said-- which is pretty funny-- but true at the same time, I think the headline was "Black man gets worst job in the world," which says it all to me. Everyoneâs feeling optimistic and positive, which is great, thereâs no doubt about it, that means everything. If people start having faith in each other and in their President, that could just snowball into who knows what. That could mean everything. So Iâm really optimistic, but at the same time we all have to be very real. Things are all just veryâ¦I donât even know to what extent things are buried into an economic messâ¦ But Iâm excited to be alive right now so weâll see how it goes.
Yeah, it seems like the last eight years of Bush have been pretty bad for a lot of people, but great for punk rock. Do you think an Obama presidency will put a lot of punk rockers out of work?
Itâs funny, without Bush we wouldnât have what we had. Some things really had to happen I think. George Bush did just what he did, and that was just right [for punk]. Even though it seems like a lot of the stuff he did on some levels just sucks, it seems like in retrospect, we all had to walk through that time and all the stuff that happened. I think we always have to reinvent ourselves as far as being a punk rocker--like, what does that mean? We canât be Johnny Rotten, you know what I mean? No one caresâ¦ we already saw Johnny Rotten, we already saw the Damned, or whatever you want to apply to your punk rock picture, your own individual punk rock picture, from when to whenever. Whatever era you want to call it or lock into-- Ian Mackaye, whatever-- or whoever you want to call punk rock, thatâs what lifeâs about. Itâs about reinventing yourself and figuring out who you are in that process. Itâs constantly changing. Iâve been in a band for 20 years, and the challenge of stressing your individuality is a moment-to-moment process. Itâs not about being a punk or a punk rock band, itâs about how youâre living in every moment. We all have that challenge.
Itâs been seven years since The Bad, the Worse, and the Out of Print, and you guys have had three full-lengths, and done some compilations like the Johnny Cash and Sick of it All tributesâis there any chance for another collection of rarities and B-sides anytime soon?
Surprisingly, we donât have a whole lot [of B-sides], but we are putting some special things on the seven inches that are coming out. So there will be some [B-sides] coming out, yeah.
And these will be exclusively digital and vinyl?
Digital and vinyl, and eventually a CD, but I donât know. Probably a CD at some point, we donât know exactly when. And weâre working on a box set, we want to do a full-on box set, weâve never done that.
I was just curious since thereâs been some debate recently of whether vinyl is a sustainable solution to slumping CD sales given that itâs made from petroleum and seems prone to over-consumption lately. But it seems ideal for the Bouncing Souls right now?
I just think it seems natural. Itâs so easy to discover and get music from the internet, itâs just too easy for everyone. Like, why should I go to a store? I can just shop right online. I can listen to part of it, if I like it, I can just buy it. I mean, what am I going to do, not buy it? Am I gonna drive miles, spend money on gas, likeâ¦itâs just too easy. But for those things that are special that you really enjoy and want something physical, vinyl is perfect. Because you already have the songs, now you have all the visual stuff, which is better. Like a CD for visual things never was as cool as vinyl no matter how you slice it. So it makes sense, just like a natural progression. So theyâre both providing like a hand-in-hand kind of thing. Weâll see how it goes from there.
You guys do fun stuff like ride motorcycles and bmx bikes and write childrenâs booksâ¦what kind of other things do you do for fun?
Everybody does their own thing. We have our own relationships at home, we all have friends, everybody likes to do their own thing. Snowboarding when I have a chance. Maybe this winter. Iâm also doing another acoustic tour with my wife Shanti and Vic [Ruggiero] from the Slackers, which will be fun. That will be in April on the East Coast for about ten days. Just to always be creative and do creative stuff.
If you could pick any Bouncing Souls song for a movie, what would be the song and what would be the movie? Or what song do you think would work well with a plot on the silver screen?
Well, one of our new songs-- the "Airport Security" oneâit has that movie-esque, video-movie thing, so we made the video kind of follow the song. It kind of has a little storyâ¦so Iâm gonna go with that. Itâs coming out in March.
Lastly, if you can look into the crystal ball for whatâs on the horizon for the Bouncing Souls this year and onward, what does the future hold?
Just really enjoying the entire year for what it is, seeing how everything goes with the digital releases and just kind of enjoying it to its maximum. And taking each moment as best as we can, and just really living it. Now that Iâve been in a band for so long, Iâm appreciating every single day more and more. What happens is when you get old, the complaining factor swings, and you realize life is flying by. So whatever happens, really stay open to whatever is possible and figure out what that means all the time. Continue to break down the walls of being negative and slipping into lazy old ways of being, and start enjoying the moment.