For a band like The Bronx, an unexpected loss of momentum could’ve been a death sentence. The Californian punk five-piece have thrived on their raw energy and boundless enthusiasm since the release of their bloody 2003 debut. But a pandemic makes fools of us all, and like many bands, The Bronx were stopped in their tracks with an album in the can. But now, with Bronx IV finally unleashed upon the world, these guys are ready to unleash a year and a half’s worth of pent-up punk-rock fury on their fans. And in frontman Matt Caughthran’s opinion, this new record is that to a T.
“The Bronx is always best when it’s aggressive, but it’s sarcastic, when it’s got style and attitude,” says Caughthran. “Every song on the record’s got that. A song like ‘Jack of All Trades’ is fun, it’s tongue-in-cheek, it’s a Big Lebowski Logjammin’ porno song. The fact that those songs are on there too…that’s us! We’re funny motherfuckers at times. Every song on the record just feels Bronx, and I love that.”
The beauty of Bronx IV is the line it walks between traditional punk and the genre’s filthy outlying step-siblings. One moment, the record is bristling with melodic East Coast lightning (“Superbloom”), the next they’re starting an anthemic singalong (“Peace Pipe”), and before you know it they’re ripping through a breakneck garage-thrash track (“Breaking News”). This sounds like an album only this band could make, summing up their special place within rock and roll at large. Now, on tour with Rancid and Dropkick Muprhys for their first shows since the pandemic, Caughthran is stoked to return to the cities that get exactly what it is The Bronx do, and burn them to the ground.
“We were in Kansas City, and it’s definitely one of those places,” says Matt. “It’s a sleeper city, and we have a lot of great friends there. It’s got a lot of crazy punk rock fans. A big underground community. That’s one of those places we’re always stoked to see on the route. These first shows back have been insane. The first show was so crazy, super chaotic but so much fun. But the second show, we were a little more in control of our emotions. It felt like we played better.”
How did it feel to play your first live gigs since the pandemic?
First shows since January 2020! It was quite a release, man. And it was that way for everybody — it was the same for Rancid and Dropkick. No one had really played in well over a year. So it was a lot. The fans were there for it. They showed up, and the energy was unbelievable. There was, for the first time in a long time, a little bit of nerves! It was a trip!
Was there a moment of pure yes, where you just found yourself overjoyed to be back?
The whole night was unbelievable, but the first song — we’re opening the set with ‘White Shadow’ off of the new record, so we recreated the record intro with a little bit of feedback, then the opening guitar lead, then the whole band kicking in. And the moment when that first single crash hit, it was overwhelming. I felt so good. I think we played a little fast that first night, but nobody seemed to care too much.
How much of Bronx IV was conceived, written, or recorded under COVID?
It’s a trip — absolutely zero percent was written during the pandemic. The crazy thing is, we recorded it in 2019, and literally were looking to put it out in 2020. When everything shut down, we had a bunch of tours lined up, and a record to be released, and we’ve seen enough things in our time to know we didn’t want to release the record with all of this stuff bubbling up. It felt like it was gonna be something really big and bad. So we’re very fortunate that we had the luxury to pull the record and hold it ourselves. A lot of bands had just started the process, and who had headlined tours booked because their record was out, or who were gaining momentum — fortunately for us, we had the record done before the pandemic hit. So once it did hit, we made the decision to sit on the record, wait until things got better, focus on our own lives and make sure everyone is healthy and got through the shutdown. There was so much going on — the election, social injustice…It just didn’t feel right to be like, Hey, we have a new record! Strategically, it was bad, and just on a social consciousness level. It just felt wrong. After we were able to come up for air a little bit, we started talking about when we’d release the record, how we wanted to.
What led to putting it out as a long series of singles?
We came up with the idea of a singles campaign because we knew we wouldn’t be able to tour. It was like, Well, if we can’t tour, let’s work the record for a whole year, and release it song by song. Collaborate with different artists, come up with cool ideas for each song. So we poured all of our creative energy into that — Who do we want to work with? Who does the band know? Who DON’T we know? What’s a good fit for The Bronx? What’s a good thing for this song? That was a super positive place to put our energy, and it really paid off. Nowadays, releasing singles is really the way to go. The attention span is crazy right now. There’s so much happening in the world, people have so many things to care about — the attention span has just been dropping rapidly over the years. It’s not that people don’t care about music, it’s just that they listen to it differently.
There’s a confidence and maturity on this album that definitely makes it sound like the band havea better grip on who and what they are.
Yeah, we kind of had our own pandemic even before! Being in a band is a trip, man. We’ve been through a lot in this band, so I think getting through the fifth record, getting to the point where the heart and soul of the band — I think we were at a point with that record where we needed to reestablish ourselves, and I think we did that. So going into the sixth record, we were just freer. We didn’t really have too much weight on our shoulders. We were allowed to just write some songs, enjoy some fucking music. Everyone contributed on this record. The band’s just really opening up. It feels really, really good, and I think it’s a sign of things to come. You go through so much as a band, and you have to rely on each other a lot. You have to rely on an industry that’s constantly changing and evolving. There’s just a lot to it. Next year’s been 20 years for us, and there have been a lot of ups and downs, but that’s just the cause and effect of being in a band for that long. From Day 1 until me sitting in this lobby talking to you now, the Bronx as a whole has been the best experience of my life. And going into the 6th album, the band just feels good.
Is there a song on the record that, for you, best sums up where The Bronx are at now?
There are a couple, for a couple different reasons. ‘Curb Feelers’ is the purest form of the Bronx’s evolution. If you were to draw a direct line from songs like ‘Heart Attack America’ or ‘False Alarm,’ songs like that from our first record…where ‘Curb Feelers’ is at is the most modern adaptation of The Bronx. So that song just feels super pure and true to me. But you also have kind of a new direction with songs like ‘Breaking News’ — that’s the influence of Ken [Mochikoshi Horne, guitars] and Joey [Castillo, drums]. Ken is a rocker through and through, and Joey’s a punk rock motherfucker, and on that song you really hear that garage-rock punk, and it feels really good. And we’re definitely going to be doing a lot more of that in the future.
These days, the world is familiar with your alternative version of the band, Mariachi El Bronx. Is it hard separating the writing processes for both bands? Do you ever catch yourself writing Mariachi stuff for The Bronx, or vice versa?
For a long time, we’ve tried to keep the bands pretty separate, and for the most part they still are. But there’s a song on the record called “Mexican Summer” that has pretty direct references to El Bronx. We had out buddy Fredo [Ortiz] who does all the percussion for El Bronx come in and do some percussion on it. I do think that that is the first real time that the bands have kind of collided snd existed on a record. I wouldn’t exactly call it a full collision yet, but I know at some point, it’s going to get there. For the first time, we’re toying with doing both bands in the same set. We did a Halloween stream during the pandemic where we played both bands together for the first time, and did revitalized versions of some classics on both sides. There’s definitely a lot more of that happening.
The Bronx’s Bronx IV is out not and available for purchase.
Catch the band on one of their remaining dates with Rancid and Dropkick Murphys:
8/27 – Asbury Park, NJ Stone Pony Summerstage
8/28 – New York, NY Forest Hills Stadium
8/31 – Philadelphia, PA Skyline Stage @ Mann Music Center
9/1 – Bridgeport, CT Hartford Health Care Amphitheater
9/27 – Corpus Christi, TX Concrete Street Amphitheatre
9/28 – Grand Prairie, TX Texas Trust CU Theatre
9/29 – Oklahoma City, OK The Zoom Amphitheatre
10/1 – Denver, CO Mission Ballroom Outdoors
10/2 – Sandy, UT U of U Health Plaza Rio Tinto Stadium
10/4 – Nampa, ID Ford Idaho Center Amphitheater
10/5 – Seattle, WA WAMU Theater
10/7 – Palo Alto, CA Frost Amphitheater
10/9 – Santa Ana, CA Observatory OC Festival Grounds
10/10 – San Diego, CA Gallagher Square at Petco Park
10/12 – Mesa, AZ Mesa Amphitheatre
10/13 – Paso Robles, CA Vina Robles Amphitheatre
10/15 – Las Vegas, NV Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas
10/16 – Los Angeles, CA Shrine LA Outdoors
Words by Chris Krovatin