There aren’t too many bands out there that reward their fans as much as The Bronx with their prolific touring schedule and high energy, intense shows. They seem to have a soft spot for Australia, gracing our shores with Pennywise not even a year ago. This time they’re headlining, supported by High Tension and Private Function, and are hitting some regional towns they’ve never been to before. MELISSA KRUGER caught up with frontman Matt Caughthran ahead of their gig at Capitol this Friday, October 26, chatting about everything from the craziest shit that’s ever happened to him while he’s performing from inside the mosh pit, to celebrations over the 15-year anniversary of their first record, The Bronx (2003).
It feels like you guys tour non-stop. Where do you find the energy for such a hectic touring schedule, especially playing such incredibly intense, high energy shows?
Uh, you know, it’s in the DNA! I don’t know what it is. We love what we do and have been touring a lot, we’ve been playing like crazy but at the same time we’re playing really well. We’re having a lot of fun, we’re just that type of band you know, we like working hard, we like playing music so we’re just gonna go for it.
I think that’s one of my favourite things about catching you guys live, it’s so obvious you guys are having the best time while you’re up there every time. So, obviously you guys have come to Australia quite a few times now, is there anything that makes you guys super excited for this tour in particular?
Yeah, I think it’s doing the more regional stuff, we’re kind of trying to take over! I look forward, of course, to all the big city shows, but there’s something about just going to a place you’ve never been before and playing music that’s really fun. It’s really exciting and those are the kind of moments that I think we thrive in. I’m looking forward to hitting all the regional spots and then we’ve got a big Halloween show in Melbourne to end the tour and that’s gonna be a blast too.
While you guys are heading around the regional spots, are you gonna spend any time being tourists?
I’m gonna try! Someone just recently told me that not too far from Byron Bay is the psychedelic capital of Australia. I might go try and check that out, you know, see what that’s all about. But yeah, we’ve been playing for a long time so we know pretty much how to get in and get the gear set up and just kinda go and hang out, so we try to have time in each city that we go to to do some exploring. And of course once the show’s over we like to go hit a bar or something like that afterwards, so hopefully we’ll get to experience everything in living colour.
Over the years of playing in Australia, is there any particular show that you guys have played here that stands out?
There’s a bunch of them. Doing Meredith with The Bronx was a lot of fun, doing Soundwave was killer but also doing Big Day Out with the Mariachi band was massive. We came over here and we played The Forum in Melbourne for a Mariachi for like a weird art week or a music art week thing. Every time we come over here it seems to just be something that’s really special. Closing out the Annandale Hotel shows in Sydney – that was a lot of fun, doing three nights there. It’s like every time we come over here it just feels like something’s in the air, and it’s gonna be a special night. Every time it just gets better and better!
You guys are playing a Melbourne show for Halloween, and I know that you’ve played in wedding dresses here before when you came way back in the day in Sydney. Can we expect any kooky Halloween costumes from you for that show?
Oh, of course! We’ve got a lot of plans for that show. We’re gonna be decorating the venue and turning it into a kind of a big Halloween bash, hopefully. I know Halloween is still a little hit and miss over here but we’re hoping everyone’s gonna dress up and come out to have a good time.
Hell yeah, I think it’s gonna go off. In terms of your setlist, obviously Bronx V has been out for a while now, can we expect to hear a few more songs from it as opposed to the setlist when you guys came out last year with Pennywise when it had just dropped?
Yeah, absolutely. We’re gonna be playing a lot of old stuff, some new stuff and kinda everything in between. Our first record’s been out for 15 years now and that’s pretty crazy to think about. So we’re playing some songs off of that that we haven’t played in a while, and we’re playing songs off of Bronx II and III we haven’t played in a while. The set is feeling pretty awesome at the moment and we have a bunch of songs that we’re gonna kinda work in and out on different nights, so it’s gonna be the full spectrum of The Bronx.
That is great to hear, congrats on the 15-year anniversary of the first record. I guess this tour feels like a bit of a celebration?
Yeah, absolutely. It’s kind of the way things have felt this entire year actually, like, we’ve been working really hard, we’ve been playing a ton of shows, and the vibe is just really, really good. Everyone’s happy and we’re playing really great and things just feel right so I can’t complain. To still be doing The Bronx at this point, all things considered, it’s pretty amazing, and then to still have the relationships that we have with ourselves and with people we’ve met along the way and people we continue to meet – it’s been a crazy, crazy, crazy blessing, and I’m super fortunate as a human being to be able to experience this in my lifetime. It’s something that none of us take for granted and something that none of us want to stop either. It’s like we’re hungry for more, so that’s always a good feeling.
Well, I’ve gotta say it’s good to hear that none of you want to stop because we’re super grateful that you guys keep coming back to Australia and that you keep making such awesome music. Something I’ve always wondered – why do you guys self-title all your albums instead of naming them?
There’s a little bit of laziness, and a little bit on the artwork side of things. Joby [guitarist] designs all the artwork for the albums so we just kinda wanna let the artwork speak for itself. There’s so many kind of pointless, meticulous things you have to do in the existence of a band and it’s so much fun making a record, so it’s just one less conversation that we all gotta have to figure out what everyone wants to title it. It’s like, we can just focus on writing music, putting it out and going on tour and it’s just a lot easier for us [laughs].
Fair enough! Let the music speak for itself. Do you have a favourite Bronx album?
Aaaaahhhh…. That’s a tough one. I don’t really have a favourite. Vice Magazine this one time asked me to put our albums in my order from most favourite to least and stuff like that and that was kind of a trip. I still think just because of what each record means to me it would have to be the first one, but at the same time that’s more just because of what it represents. It represents the start of the band and the changing of all of our lives. So I think, probably our second, fourth and fifth albums are the best ones song-wise. But, I love ‘em all. I really do, I love ‘em all, there are songs that I really cherish on each one and, honestly, there’s only one song that we have that I was never really a fan of, Safe Passage, but any other songs, I’m game for. I love it.
We talked about the high energy at your live shows and one of the things I love is how much of your time you spend actually singing from inside the mosh pit and getting amongst the madness. Has anything crazy ever happened while you were performing from the thick of things in the pit?
All kinds of stuff! I’ve been punched in the face, I’ve been kissed, I’ve been doused in beer, I’ve had the top of my foot broken when it got stomped on. But it’s where the action is, I love being out there and doing that. It always feels good being out there with people because that’s the connection that I had to punk rock – being out there with everybody and just being a part of the chaos. I love taking our shows to the next level and seeing people just drop their guards and lose their shit, and sometimes it helps. It helps people relax a little bit and get crazy, and I love doing it. There’s all sorts of stuff that happens out there.
I actually felt sorry for Pennywise having to follow you last year, and they spoke so highly of you – at the Perth gig anyway – calling you guys “the greatest band in the world”. How does THAT feel?
Ah it’s amazing. Those guys are great friends of ours, and I’ve got nothing but love and respect for those guys. It’s such a weird place to be – friends with bands that you love. They’re one of those bands for me – their first record Unknown Road is a huge record for me, and it’s just crazy to be on the same level as those guys, friendship-wise. To have them respect you as an artist and as a musician, it means a lot. That’s something we cherish because it lets you know you’re doing things the right way.
Yeah, for sure. Speaking of bands you love, do you have a favourite Australian band?
Oh man! It’s gotta be AC/DC, it has to be, they’re just so damn good! I was listening to Nunchukka Superfly the other day. I love The Vines, I love The Saints… there’s so much great rock and roll, so much great punk rock, I mean, I even like Midnight Oil, I dig it all. You guys have got a great history of music here and it’s not just in the past, there’s some great current music going on here too so I think that’s kind of part of why we get along so well. I think there’s a kinship and a love for rock and roll and for punk and just for having a good time with music. I think that we just kind of understand each other this way and it’s one of the reasons why The Bronx and Australia get along so well.
Definitely! So… is Mariachi El Bronx IV anywhere on the horizon?
Yeah, absolutely! That’s definitely coming back, I don’t know when at this point because we try not to look too far ahead of stuff, but Mariachi is something that is very much a part of us and it’s not going away. It’s a little bit on the back-burner right now while we’re doing Bronx stuff, and it’ll come back when the time’s right and there’s definitely another record in the works at some point. So rest assured that Mariachi will be back.
Do you reckon Mariachi El Bronx has influenced The Bronx sound over the years?
I would say it would be a lie to say it hasn’t. Sometimes there’s no direct influence but I think just the fact that you write records and you write songs and you learn from every song you write, from every lyric you write, it all kinda goes into one body of work. So I think that definitely it’s helped us become better song writers. We’re putting out some B-side things here in a little bit, and there’s one song on there called Necessary Evil that’s kind of like an acoustic thing that we wrote for a Bronx record but it’s super, super heavily influenced by El Bronx. But yeah, it’s all one big happy family at this point. We try not to mix it too much, we want to keep it separate, but it’s all good.