The Bouncing Souls break down every track on their new acoustic(ish) album
Today, long-running NJ punk greats The Bouncing Souls released Volume 2, a not-your-average acoustic album featuring drastic reworks of songs from all throughout their 30+ career and the new song "World On Fire." "We initially wanted to recreate some of the stripped-down vibe of the acoustic sets [we played in 2019]," guitarist Pete Steinkopf said, "but if anything, these versions are much more involved than the original versions." That's very true; there's also electronic drums and strings and other embellishments, and it's an album that really holds up on its own merits. No matter how many times you've heard the original versions of these songs, you haven't heard them like this.
To celebrate the album's release, Pete, vocalist Greg Attonito, and drummer Bryan Kienlen were kind enough to give us a track-by-track breakdown of what went into reinventing each song, and Pete also answered some questions about the album, life in 2020, and more. Stream the record and read on for what the band had to say...
Q&A WITH PETE STEINKOPF
BV: You've said this album grew out of the acoustic shows that you played last year, and a lot of the album is acoustic, but there's also electronic drums and strings and other embellishments that go beyond "acoustic" or "stripped down," etc. How did this process grow from the initial idea into the ambitious undertaking it became?
Pete: We went into the studio with no agenda at all. We knew a few of the songs that we wanted to do, but didn’t really have a plan. When we got to the studio the first day, we all sat together with our guitars, bass, and drums, and Will [Yip] said to us "we’re not gonna just make an acoustic record, right guys?" That kinda sparked the whole process. We just started picking songs day by day and thinking of fun ways to treat each one on the fly.
A handful of these songs are fan faves and live staples, but it's cool that this tracklist doesn't just mirror what a "greatest hits" might be. What went into selecting this particular batch of songs?
Kinda the same answer... haha! There were a few that we knew would be rad to reimagine, but the rest we picked day by day. We mostly wanted to do songs that we felt that the words were really moving, but maybe got lost in the rock versions. We were pretty much surprising ourselves every day. And getting more stoked!
Were there are any songs that you wanted to rework for the album that didn't end up fitting or working out?
There’s a lot that we thought of. There will definitely be a Volume 2: Volume 2...
Did going back and reworking some of the much older songs give you a new perspective on them, and if so, could you talk about that?
Yes totally. Like I said, we really wanted the sentiment of the lyrics to come through. I think the best example of songs like that are “Argyle" and "Simple Man." Bryan particularly really wanted to do “Argyle" and we’d talked about that one a lot before the studio and how to approach it. The lyrics are so cool. It finally took shape and is one of the most different ones and is one of my favorites for sure.
What most surprised you about this process?
Just how fun it was to let go of our usual process and just to be able to do whatever we wanted, and to explore styles of music that we all love but don’t really get to do as The Souls. We do a certain thing that we fuckin' love — we love being on stage and playing loud, aggressive and fast! But sometimes you gotta chill haha.
Like last year's Crucial Moments, you did this with Will Yip, who's become a go-to producer (if not THE go-to producer) for the current generation of punk/emo bands. What did Will bring to the table that was new for The Bouncing Souls?
Will’s creative perspective, energy, and positivity is intoxicating. You get into the room with him and you just want to do cool shit! He’s so awesome to work with. We can’t wait to do it again!
Along with all the reworked songs is the new song, "World On Fire," which sounds directly inspired by the chaotic world it was released into. It's obviously not the first time The Bouncing Souls have been vocal about nationwide or global issues. In your opinion, what's the role of your band or any punk band in a time like this?
I feel that everyone needs to say what they gotta say. Whether it’s getting up on a soapbox and yelling a message, or letting it come out in your songs and art. It’s a crazy time right now and everyone has a responsibility to get involved on whatever level they feel comfortable with. It’s always awkward when it’s forced though.
Your last day in the studio was also the first day of COVID lockdown. Obviously it's been a tough time since then with no touring, etc. How has it affected you both as individuals and as a band?
Man... that’s a big question. I could write a book on how it’s affected me as an individual, but it’s affected everyone the same way with live music. Being in a room with a ton of people has an energy that we all need. To me it’s like needing air or water. Without it, I feel like I’m suffocating a bit. It’s not just about playing shows, but it’s the feeling of all being together. We feed off of its vibe. It’s healing and it’s an outlet for all the things we gotta get out of our systems.
Any plans for a full-band livestream or socially distant concert or anything like that?
We’ve been toying with some ideas, but we live all over the country so it’s not easy for us to all get together.
Anything else you'd like people to know about Volume 2 or any other topic that I haven't asked about?
Check out the record! We had a lot of fun making it and I hope you have as much fun listening to it. It’s been a crazy year, but we will all be in a room together dancing and screaming again! We just gotta hold on tight.
TRACK-BY-TRACK BY GREG ATTONITO, PETE STEINKOPF & BRYAN KIENLEN
Greg: Written about 25 years ago. We all really like the lyrics to this one and thought it would be cool to highlight them in a more broken down version BUT... we had trouble. We played it 20 different ways that didn’t work before we got into the studio with Will where it all came together in a couple of hours. [Drummer] George [Rebelo] plays some kind of box... I love how this came out.
Greg: When we make a new record I barely know the songs. They haven’t really been road tested and I haven’t had the opportunity to create muscle memory around the performance of the songs. We must have played “Gone" thousands of times so I know the vocal inside and out. It was so satisfying to put all those years experience into this version of the song.
Greg: This song wasn’t changed all that much from the OG. I believe the original has an acoustic intro. It just had to be on this record… not sure why... it just did.
Greg: This was a song primarily written by Bryan as many of the songs were on Anchors Aweigh. The band loved this song and so many people love it as well but it seemed to fall a little flat when we tried playing it live. We realized the issue lies with the arrangement. It was one of those things that kind of slipped by in the writing and recording process. For years we would play through it or listen to it and kick ourselves a little bit for not seeing it before it was immortalized. SO... This was a great opportunity to “set the record straight,” so to speak. In my opinion, the new version paints the picture a little more succinctly of the deep sentiment that Bryan is and was trying to express with the lyrics and the melody.
Greg: We had some loose goals with this record. We wanted to do some straightforward things, some deep cuts, and get weird (for us at least) on a few tracks. So why not take one of our most popular and well-known tunes and sing it with a Casio beat? This kind of thing would never, ever occur on a Souls record, so I’m so proud of us that we followed through with it! We had so much fun breaking out of our normal musical routine.
"Kids and Heroes"
Pete: This one has always been a live staple and seemed like an obvious pick for this record. We didn’t change it up too much. George came up with that shuffle beat and it all fell into place. We changed the guitar solo a bit to help fit the vibe.
Pete: I think this is the last one we ended up doing in the session. We really wanted this song on the record but we didn’t know how to approach it. Will suggested the jazzy swing and that really made it unique. The "Save It For Later" guitar homage tied it together and I think this one is the most different one from the original.
Bryan: One of my favorite places in the world to be is on the road, between places. It’s a unique combination of feeling free of wherever you just left, and the excitement of the unknown ahead. I’m so grateful that all my favorite people in the world share my love of the highway. I penned these lyrics in our truck while doing just that, rolling down the highway on tour. It’s a celebration of what we do, and who we are, word for word. This time, we really marched into unknown territory. I had no expectations going into this, I certainly didn't expect to end up so excited by what we accomplished. Certain tracks on this record are true departures for us, and that was so liberating, I think we've broken some stale molds we'd formed over the decades. The music is totally fresh, and the lyrics really get a chance to shine in this new setting.
"World On Fire"
Pete: We took a break for a few days and went home in the middle of the session. That’s when the Covid thing really started coming up on the news. No one really knew what was going on but it felt like some weird shit was about to happen. I wrote most of this on the car ride back to the studio after watching the news the night before and we all finished it together that day.
Pete: We wanted to have one that was just Greg playing guitar and singing. He’s been doing this one acoustic for years and it’s one of our favorite Souls songs. It was the perfect one to round out the record with the totally stripped down vibe.
"Ghosts On The Boardwalk"
Greg: This is one of the few tunes that we have actually been doing as an acoustic song live. It always went over well so it seemed to make perfect sense to include it in this collection of “chilled out” Souls tunes. When we sat down with Will to hash it out it sounded good but there was something missing. George came up with the solution when he suggested a swinging rhythm. He referenced the Tom Petty tune “Breakdown.” This was another realm of uncharted territory that I’m so glad we stepped into. I love the way it came out with all of the strings too.
Order Volume 2 from Pure Noise.