The Bronx have spoken to NME about what to expect from their “big, badass new rock record” ‘VI’, and the return of their side project Mariachi El Bronx.
The Los Angeles hardcore band’s last album, 2017’s ‘V’, saw the Californian five-piece raging against political turmoil, social unrest and personal uncertainty and stood up as a big musical middle finger to the world at large.
“We had to make that record,” vocalist Matt Caughthran told NME. “We had to prove to ourselves that we could do it. A lot of people tripped out on the nastiness of the recording, but it captured that moment in time perfectly. However, this new album was more about making a big, badass rock record and having fun.”
Released today (August 27), ‘VI’ is a far more playful collection of songs. “It’s very much a return to style,” said Caughthran. “It feels heavy when it needs to be, but nothing feels forced. It’s got a lot of sarcasm to it, it’s got a lot of aggression but it also feels big.”
Written and recorded over a four-month span in 2019, the direction for the album became clear when they wrote the song ‘Curb Feelers’ and it started to feel “instantly felt great”. “It’s one of the best classic The Bronx songs we’ve ever written,” Caughthran explained. “Lyrically, it’s very tongue-in-cheek about being a burnt-out old punk and it’s just a real hard-hitting, groove-laced rock song.
He continued: “Then you’ve got ‘White Shadow’ which is a classic, anxiety-ridden The Bronx tune. ‘Superbloom’ is a true story about me reconnecting with an old friend in the wildflowers of Californian and just tripping out on everything we had been through on our separate paths. ‘Watering The Well’ is a classic AC/DC bar song. It’s the sort of track where you wonder if it’s too cheesy when you’re writing it but fuck it.
“Whatever I was feeling, I just rolled with it. I trust the guys to tell me if something sucks.”
The Bronx have always had a touch of classic rock to their hardcore thrash sound, but ‘VI’ boasts plenty of nods to the likes of Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath. “It’s a big part of what we do,” said Caughthran. “We’ve always been a blend of punk and rock’n’roll and it’s cool to tap into that. We don’t make records with one specific sound but we’re definitely getting closer and closer to making an entire AC/DC style record. Maybe it’ll be an album, maybe it’ll be an EP, but it’s in us somewhere and it’s going to come out because it feels too good not to pursue it.”
Elsewhere on the record, the song ‘Breaking News’ is “a classic punk tune about overstimulation, police brutality and government bullshit,” but despite some curveballs Caughthran said that the album ultimately has “good balance to it, creatively and sonically. It feels worthy.”
To any critics unhappy that The Bronx are chasing fun over fury, the frontman said: “You can’t deprive yourself of experiencing happiness within your art. You can’t block the joy out. People say positivity is death to a punk rocker but the only thing that’s death to an artist is doing the same thing over and over again. If you keep yourself miserable or feel like you must have a certain attitude to make every single record, eventually it’s going to sound fake, watered down and people are going to be sick of it.
“If you’re going to make music for the span of your lifetime, you’re going to feel a lot of different emotions. You have to reflect that in your work. It’s what gives each The Bronx record its own identity and its own feel.”
Working with a variety of artists on limited-edition vinyl, NFTs, lager and skateboards, The Bronx have also opened themselves up to the idea of collaboration on this record. “We’re always been the odd band out,” the singer told us. “We’ve always been some weirdos off to the side doing our own thing, and that’s been good for us. It’s who we are.
“But at the same time, it feels good to be a part of something. There was a moment between our fourth album ‘IV’ and ‘V’ where we realised we had stopped communicating with other bands because we were so wrapped up in our own little world. When we first started the band, that community was such a big part of the band that we’ve been trying to re-join it ever since. This has been a cool way to do that.”
Having formed in 2002, The Bronx celebrate their 20th anniversary next year – and they have big plans in store. “We’re going to try and put a tour together but there’s a lot of great records coming out, a lot of important conversations and interesting shit happening around the world right now and we’re going to let that breath,” Caughthran said. “We want to let people do what they need to do to get back to their lives. When it comes around though, next year or perhaps the year after that, we’ll celebrate for sure. You can’t not celebrate turning 20 as a punk rock band who never thought they’d do something cool.”
The Bronx put the secret to their longevity down to “the fact we love it”. Caughthran went on: “We’re not doing this band because we feel like we have to. We’re doing it because we want to. There’ll be no stopping anytime soon either because honestly, life just makes a lot more sense to me now I’m a little older. It absolutely feels like the best is still to come.”
After a run of shows supporting Dropkick Murphys and Rancid around the US and ahead of their UK co-headline tour with Every Time I Die, The Bronx have a little time off. That’s when they say that they’ll “start the writing process for the big Mariachi El Bronx comeback record. It’s going to be amazing.”
Elaborating on the next move for their mariachi side project, Caughthran said: “It’s good to know the energy you put into one band inspires the creativity in the other. We’re not going to settle for anything less than a great fucking record because that band is super important to us. If anyones going to have a magical comeback record, it’s El Bronx.”
After 20 years of party-starting punk rock, Caughthran told NME that ultimately he wants The Bronx to remind people that “there’s no need to be boring, there’s no need to be flat and there’s no need to be grey. You can do what you want in this world, you truly can, if you’re not afraid to work and not afraid to think creatively.”
He added: “For us, doing our own thing has been super rewarding. It’s been hard at times but you reach moments like we’re at right now, and it just feels really good. I’d like people to view The Bronx as an example of hard work, DIY ethics and kick ass rock’n’roll. It feels like we’ve got a lot of good times ahead.”
‘Bronx VI’ is out now via Cooking vinyl.