Band profile: Bouncing Souls
By Alan Sculley
In some respects, the Bouncing Souls had things easier in making their new CD, "Anchors Away," than when the band did their 2001 CD, "How I Spent My Summer Vacation."
For one thing, on "Summer Vacation," the band was breaking in a new drummer, Michael McDermott.
Also, having already worked with co-producer John Seymour on "Summer Vacation," the group didn't have to go through the learning curve of working with an unfamiliar producer on "Anchors Aweigh."
"We all knew each other better, like knew John better and like knew how to convey to each other what we wanted," said Bouncing Souls guitarist Pete Steinkopf (better known to fans as "The Pete"). "We pretty much recorded it at the same place."
But one key issue made the writing and recording of "Anchors Aweigh" a notably more difficult challenge than the preceding CD - the band's own higher standards.
"It was actually harder because I think our last record we were all really happy with and we all like loved it and thought it was the best thing we had done in a long time," Steinkopf said. "So it was kind of hard, just like for yourself to kind of live up to your own expectations of what you should do next. You're always trying to out-do yourself, and when you make something that you think is really good, or you think is like the best album you ever made, you go into the next one like 'How am I going to top that?'"
One answer to that was for Steinkopf and his bandmates - singer Greg Attonito, bassist Bryan "Papillion" Kienlen and McDermott -- to have a clear idea of the kind of CD they wanted to make. That's something that Steinkopf said had never been a top priority in the past.
"This time we really knew what we wanted it (the new CD) to sound like," said Steinkopf, who along with Kienlen, co-produced the CD with Seymour. "So we kind of went in with like an agenda on how we wanted to get it done and how we wanted it to come out in the end sound wise, which usually is like the last thing on our mind. We usually go in and bang out the songs. But this time we wanted to make it really like sound really sonically pleasing."
Buckling down as songwriters was another major move for the band.
"We worked really hard on writing songs and I think a lot of the songs really come from really serious shit that went on in peoples' lives," Steinkopf said. "I think this time the songs are a little deeper, and when they actually all came together, we were all like 'Wow, dude, this is really good.'"
Of course, Bouncing Souls fans will be the final judges in terms of how "Anchors Aweigh" compares to "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" or any of the group's five other full-length CDs.
But there are signs that the group members have matured and expanded their horizons as songwriters -- without losing the full-on punk sound that has always been a Bouncing Souls signature.
The punk side of the band slams through emphatically on full-throttle rockers like "Sing Along Forever," "Apartment 5F" and "Born Free." None of these songs break stylistic ground, but they are solid and catchy.
But other songs show a more adventurous side to today's Bouncing Souls. "New Day," uses a nifty opening guitar hook to push that song into more of a driving straight-ahead rock sound. "Inside Out" is another song that leans more toward rock than punk with its more measured beat and even an effective shift in tempo. "Kids & Heroes" and "Night Train" are two songs that add a strong element of pop to the band's punk sound.
"I think like this time we didn't go in with any agenda," Steinkopf said of the songwriting. "We kind of wrote what we felt. And we kind of like came out with really fast songs and really slow songs and a lot of ones like down the middle too...I don't know if we drew from different influences or let ourselves be a little more open to just writing whatever (sounded good) instead of having some kind of agenda, like (staying) super punk or super this or that. We kind of just let it happen."
Steinkopf credited the arrival of McDermott with prompting the entire band, which formed about 15 years ago in New Brunswick, New Jersey, to step up their game musically.
"We had to relearn like all of our music with a different drummer. We kind of realized how drunkenly, sloppily we had been playing for like years and years," Steinkopf said.