In a time when a new batch of tattooed, snot-nosed, pretty boys show up every day on the radio, whining about their ex-girlfriends, it's a breath of fresh air to hear a time-tested band like The Bouncing Souls.
After 16 years of relentless touring, seven full-length albums, and a list of compilation credits and 7" records as long as a Ford's front fender, The Bouncing Souls persevere.
Still laying it down as raw and real as the first time they struck a chord, their latest effort, "Anchors Aweigh," is a collection of 17 punk rock tunes that runs the gamut from the haunting and introspective "Night Train" to the frantic, uber-punk anthem "Blind Date."
"Anchors Aweigh" sees the band breaking new ground both musically and lyrically,
partly due to bassist Bryan Kienlen's recent separation from his girlfriend of eight years, and partly due to the desire that The Bouncing Souls share to constantly better themselves.
"We're growing and learning as musicians," says Bouncing Souls' frontman, Greg Attonito. "We're still figuring out when to play fast, when to play slow, when to really mix it up. We love all kinds of music. We love really rockin.' We love to slow it down -- all that stuff. Because we are becoming more disciplined [at creating] music, some of the songs on ["Anchors Aweigh"] have more of a dynamic impact than the previous records, and I imagine that is going to continue."
And when Attonito says that the Souls love all kinds of music, he isn't just trying to sound cultured; he doesn't hesitate to tell me that his "dream tour" would be opening for the likes of Kiss, Van Halen, and Jimi Hendrix -- not exactly what you'd expect from an East Coast punk rocker raised on the music of Youth Brigade, The Descendants, and 7 Seconds.
Another factor that keeps the Souls going after so many years is the deep friendship the members share. A far cry from a gathering of seasoned studio musicians or a "super-group" cooked up by a record label, three-fourths of the Bouncing Souls have been friends since grade school, experiencing only one lineup change when drummer Michael McDermott replaced original member Shal Khichi, who left the band for personal reasons.
"We were just kids trying to figure ourselves out," says Attonito on the forming of the band. "[We were] trying to do something real for ourselves and not be typical ; that was our drive. We were annoyed by 'the same old thing' and we let that inspire us - we just followed our hearts."
Self-described "girl-crazy, bike-riding, beverage-drinking adolescent punx," The Bouncing Souls recognized in each other that certain glint of hope that has kept them doing what they love for all these years. The idea of a group of grade school friends incessantly touring the country in a cramped van for 15 years begs the question of whether the members ever get on each other's nerves.
"We know each other so well that we can usually see it if a problem is coming." Attonito admits "I don't party and get wasted anymore so when everyone is getting wasted and acting retarded, I'm like 'Okay, I'm out of here,' and it's no problem because everyone can do what they want. We love each other, so it's like 'whatever.'"
But even after a decade and a half of touring -- nationally and internationally -- The Bouncing Souls still find a way to keep the feeling fresh. In fact, Attonito says that their recent outing on the Punk-O-Rama tour with label-mates, Hot Water Music, was "right up there" with the most fun they've ever had on tour.
"It felt like the early days of going on tour - I didn't know why," says Attonito. "When we first started touring, we didn't have any preconceived notions; we just went and slept in people's houses ... everything wasn't all planned like it is now, and [this tour] kind of had that feel to it."
Ever the hopeless romantic, Attonito's pick for craziest story from this year's Punk-O-Rama tour was his experience with the Aurora Borealis: "I don't know if that qualifies as a 'crazy story,' he says. "But I was blown away by it."
The end of this year's Punk-O-Rama tour found the Souls taking a short breather in their home state of New Jersey, before hitting the road again with Tsunami Bomb and Strike Anywhere. The trio of bands will make a stop at Minneapolis' First Avenue Club on September 28. No strangers to the area, the Souls' second album, entitled "Maniacal Laughter," contains a song that tells of the band's van breaking down "somewhere between Mankato and Rapid City." This, undoubtedly, is one of the many not-always-pleasant touring memories that the band looks back on fondly -- memories that have, quite literally, made them the people (and the band) they are today.
And where will it all go from here?
"Anything can happen and that is the fun of it," says Attonito of the band's future. "Being locked into stuff and knowing what is going to happen is what makes me bored of [touring]. But anything can happen and that's what makes life an awesome adventure for anyone. Life is full of surprises and I plan to just enjoy it."