by Interviews

To celebrate their 30th anniversary, Bouncing Souls have planned a massive amount of shows this year, including their annual Stoked for Summer show in Asbury Park, NJ. In the midst of their busy schedule, Souls guitarist Pete Steinkopf took the time to sit down and talk to Punknews Pete Vincelli where they talked about being in a band for three decades, the new record, and the new book. Check out the interview with Pete and Pete, below.

So I was thinking about this on the way over here… I was at your 25th anniversary show at The Stone Pony and at the time I remember thinking, “Holy shit, it’s been 25 years!” Us too.

And all of a sudden it’s 5 years later. Yeah, it’s crazy. That was the first time we did a summertime show and we just dipped our toes in the water for that.

And that sort of got the ball rolling for these Stoked for Summer shows? Yeah, ‘cause we’d been doin’ Home for the Holidays since 2007, so every Christmas we did 3 or 4 shows at the Pony. And we did that for about 10 years and it felt like it would be cool to do it in the Summer. ‘Cause it’s a beach town and it was always fucking freezing cold, a couple snow days happened. So we figured let’s do a similar thing but in the summertime, outside. We’d get some bigger bands to come play.

It’s kinda cool you have the luxury to pick those bands that you want to play with and it’s a pretty eclectic group of bands that you’ve picked. Yeah, every year it’s always a good mix. We try to keep it interesting.

I guess there’s a few ways to think about it. I always like going to shows where the bands flow well. But I think what you guys have done, which is also pretty cool, you’ve got a mix of different sounds. Yeah, last year we had Against Me, Titus Andronicus. And the Smoking Popes, which is one of my favorite bands so that was cool to have them. This year we got the Bosstones, Leftover Crack, Spanish Love Songs, and Fucked Up

I think that’s pretty cool because you get some different sounds and different types of fans. I feel like when we were growing up, all the shows were like that. But now it’s real homogenized, like the metalcore show, or the super punk show, or the emo show. I like goin’ to shows with all kinds of shit goin’ on. When we started playin’, we played with reggae bands or with ska bands. It was always an interesting bill.

Have you ever heard that NOFX song that says something like, “When your band has been a band longer than the Ramones, that’s when you know this is for life”… (laughing) Right, yeah.

…and it’s been the three of you the whole time, with couple drummer changes… …yeah. Me, Brian, and Greg have been playing music together even before the Souls. We had bands in high school. So we’ve been doin’ it a long time.

That’s pretty crazy to me. I guess that makes you feel a little old, huh? A little old, but it also keeps you really young. It goes both ways ya know?

Right, ‘cause your doing what you like for 30 years. I feel like it’s done wonders for my life and my attitude and my spirit.

Makes sense. So let’s talk about the record. Did you have the intention of making it an EP or is that just how it worked out? We were kinda like, ‘what could we do for our 30 year anniversary that could be something different?’ We had a lot of records with a lot of songs already, so we came up with the idea to do the book and have an EP to accompany it. But then it turned into its own animal. And we were like, ‘Let’s just focus on a 6 song EP’. So we sold ‘em as a package, but also separately.

Did you already have some songs in the works or was it like, ‘It’s been 30 years, let’s make a record, now we gotta make songs’? There’s always ideas flowing, but we get together and just hash em out. There’s a couple songs we dropped.

My first thought when I listened to the record, and I don’t know if this was your intention, was that these 6 songs were pretty representative of your whole career. I think it happened that way without even thinking about it. “Crucial Moments”, I wrote about a friend of mine who passed away. But then that kinda turned into a song about all of our friends over the years. Which kinda fit into the whole theme.

I think in some cases, when fans see the title of the album and the title of the book (Crucial Moments), they think that it’s those good things throughout the 30 years that you guys remember, but I also interpreted it as even the bad moments shape who you are, ya know? It’s kind of a reminder to hold onto the things you love and to take good care of it. And to remember all the good stuff. You know, we’ve all been through good and bad stuff. And our band’s been through good and bad stuff.

When I heard the first track, I thought it was, um, not necessarily a new direction, but I knew it sounded a little different and then you get to “1989” and it’s kinda like a throwback. Yeah, that’s a throwback one.

And the next track “Favorite Everything” is a mix of sounds…the point is that the record combines all your sounds together, which is pretty cool. Yeah, thanks man.

And then there’s “Here’s to Us”. I feel like that could’ve been on Anchors Aweigh or around that era. And the rest of the EP sort of follows this idea. It’s a really cool range. I don’t know if that’s how fans interpret it, but that’s how I did. A retrospective of everything, ya know? I think subliminally it was written around us getting the whole book together. And the book was all stories from good friends of ours, so maybe collecting all of that stuff may have gone into our psyche or something like that.

Awesome. And what I think is really cool about you guys is that you have a distinct sound, and that’s clear on this record. Like, if you heard a new song by the Souls for the first time, you could easily say, ‘oh that’s the Bouncing Souls’. I think that has a lot to do with Greg’s voice being unique. Yeah absolutely.

But also your guitar playing and the tone and style of Brian’s bass. Looking back, is there a time you can pick out where you were like, ‘yeah, this is our sound’? We started in the late ‘80s. Everyone was all over the place. We were listening to Fishbone. Ska music. The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Ramones. Operation Ivy. And that was the summer that Op Ivy came out. We were into all kinds of music and our earliest stuff had funk, had ska, had reggae, had punk. And we did that for a couple years and just sort of evolved And we kept writing songs, put out the green ball EP. And then we wrote “Joe Lies”. And that was kinda like the moment. We were like “This is us!”

So it was that early and you stuck with it the whole time. Yeah, that song was the one that was like, ‘This is the band we wanna be. This is cool, let’s keep doing this.’ And I think with bands now, and the internet, and with music so accessible, people don’t just get together with their friends and play music. I don’t think that really happens anymore.

No, and there’s bands that change every album or change their persona. And I don’t think you guys have really done that. And I guess there’s a critique to that too. But I don’t think that really hurt you. I think It helped you more than hurt you. We are what we are, ya know?

And what I love is that you’re not worried so much about image. You’re playing for fun and the songs are awesome. And it works out. Thanks man.

So I read the book and my first thought as I was reading it was this sense of nostalgia. And I’m completely on the outside. So you guys must have been reading it with this crazy wave of emotion. Yeah, there’s some stories that really hit me. Some pretty heavy ones. And we slowly collected the stories over a year or so. And they started to take shape. But seeing them all together for the first time was really intense.

It’s like a 30-year yearbook. (laughing) Yeah.

The thing that struck me throughout is how humble you guys are and reading all the stories about how you’ve changed people’s lives. That’s some pretty heavy stuff. Yeah, that’s how I am about bands and about music. It save my life, that’s for fucking sure. We just sang songs about the shit we were going through and I think people just get it.

The one story that I thought was pretty funny, I don’t know if you think it’s funny, was the one where you broke your elbow. (laughing) oh yeah.

That’s how it went down? Yeah, yeah. It wasn’t funny, but it’s…

…amusing now… Amusing because I didn’t think it was that bad so I just wrapped it up real tight. Played a couple shows. And then we got back from Europe and I went to the doctor and he was like ‘your elbow is in two different places in your arm right now.’

(laughing) My favorite part is that you knew something was messed up when you did it, but you didn’t wanna say anything because you didn’t wanna disappoint the guys. Yeah, I didn’t wanna be like, ‘yeah, I fucked up, I fell, now we gotta fucking cancel’.

And I love how right after you did it, you just went onto the bus and just started eating nachos … (laughs)… just sitting there sweating and eating…

(laughing) …just pushing through it. Well, I think I’ve told you this already, but when I first started getting into punk, I remember getting your self-titled album. And it’s one of those albums that I remember where I was the first time I heard it. I was making a mixtape, trying to pick which songs to use. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Are there any albums that you can relate to in that same way, that you can remember the first time you heard it? I think the Operation Ivy record was one of the ones. We had all moved out of our houses and the first summer we all had a house together in New Brunswick. That record was on all summer long. It was the soundtrack to that fucking summer, ya know? That’s one of the ones I really remember.

And I don’t think I would consider your self-titled album your best or my favorite, but it’s definitely the one I remember the most. That’s the thing about music. There’s something that just represents a time in your life. Like the Ramones album Too Tough to Die. It’s nowhere near their best record, but everytime I hear it, it couldn’t be more vivid. In my car, listening to the cassette tape. And none of those songs would make a greatest hits album.

Right. Another one for me is I Don’t Wanna Grow Up, the Descendents. All through high school, that was in our cars. When we first started bands together, we covered songs from that album.

That’s pretty cool. I didn’t know that. They’ve been around awhile too. They’re the coolest man. They’re a band that we’ve always looked up to and aspired to be.

And you can see that connection. Just go up there, have fun, play some cool songs. Don’t worry about image. They taught us that the music can be funny. We have our joke songs. And not many bands have that. And that’s directly from the Descendents.

I’ve never really put that together. Very cool. Well thanks again for takin’ the time to talk. I know you’re a busy dude. Thanks for doing it man. This was rad!