The Bouncing Souls

Photo by Katie Hovland

Earlier this summer, The Bouncing Souls released their ninth studio album and first for Rise Records, entitled Comet. They recently came through Chicago and played the Metro, and we spoke with singer Greg Attonito, guitarist Pete Steinkopf and bassist Bryan Kienlen. We discussed the new album’s recording process, the meaning behind some of its songs, touring and more. The band also reflected on being together for over 20 years, and looked ahead to some of what they hope to achieve in the future. As always, special thanks to Kate Hiltz for the exceptional assistance.

Bill – What was it like recording your new album with Bill Stevenson at The Blasting Room?

Bryan – It was awesome. I can’t say enough good things about it. He’s a genius, a weird, awesome genius. I don’t know many people that understand and get punk rock the way that he does.

Bill – Now that it’s done and you’ve had the opportunity to listen to it a few times, what about the recording are you most pleased with?

Greg – To me it’s always about capturing the spirit of the songs. You can scrutinize the details all you want, but the energy of it is there and that makes me feel good.

Bryan – Some songs are stylistically different from others, but I feel great about the recording because there’s really good energy throughout.

Pete – It’s hard to capture sometimes, but this record definitely has our personality and it’s kind of live-sounding too, which is great.

Bill – In what ways would you say that Comet differs from your previous full-length, Ghosts on the Boardwalk?

Bryan – Probably the biggest difference is how we put the two albums together. Comet was written in more or less one session or one thought, and that’s kind of what we wanted to do. We wanted to go into a basement, plug-in, write songs and grab the first thing that we came up with. With Ghosts on the Boardwalk, that was more of a series and intentionally so. We did it during different sessions and you get a different outcome when you do things like that, for better or worse. I think the traditional approach usually leads to a more focused result.

Bill – What do you like best about your band’s new partnership with Rise Records?

Bryan – I always respond most directly on the human level, you know? I can’t say enough good things about those guys. Those are guys that I would actually want to hang out with anyway. They’re of the same ilk as us and they grew up listening to the same bands that we did. They actually happen to be Bouncing Souls fans and Hot Water Music fans too. They’re real music fans, they’re cool guys and they’re honest and trustworthy.

Bill – “Baptized” and “Static” feature some of the most political lyrics that you guys have written in years. What influenced the writing of these songs?

Bryan – “Baptized” is inspired mostly by all of the revolution that’s been going on in the Middle East, people taking back power. They have the most skin in the game of anybody in any revolution in recent history. That was the inspiration for the lyrics, but it can work on an American level as well. Standing up to an abusive government or questioning what you’re going to war for. You’re asked to kill somebody, but for what? I know it’s kind of hippie shit, but at the same time it’s not.

Greg – It’s moving to see all these people completely putting everything they have on the line, or when they just decide to be like, “Fuck it. We don’t have anything, why are we not just completely standing up for what we can get?” I think it’s a great example of standing up for what you believe in, regardless of what happens. Even risking your life, it’s all there on video for people to see. After the song “Baptized” was done, the energy of the song itself, I thought it was conveyed in the right way.

Bill – The title track talks about the end of the world and the supposed apocalypse, which some believe is quickly approaching. What motivated you to write about this topic?

Greg – Just the timeliness of it and everything. It’s also like if you believe that your consciousness lives forever, then in theory if a comet comes and hits the earth and blows everything up, you’re still going to live. You always will be alive, just in another form. It’s like what do you believe in? It poses that question.

Bryan – Whether that’s what you believe in or not, it’s the point of posing that question. Everyone can answer it in their own way, but we found that this was our answer based on our spirituality. Here’s what we think, you know? That’s The Bouncing Souls’ view of it.

Bill – “Ship in a Bottle” appropriately concludes the record, as it has an optimistic tone and deals with perseverance and determination. What inspired its lyrics?

Pete – I think our own experience. It’s pretty autobiographical, looking back at the past and stuff.

Greg – It’s kind of like a metaphor of being in a band and being on a ship. That’s one element of it. I love that metaphor, submarines and ships compared to touring in a van, all that hits pretty close to home for us. It’s also a celebration of our collective experience in this band. We started back when we were in high school. That’s kind of what the song is about, but I think it has a pretty universal message of, like you said, perseverance and holding true to things that matter. We typically write about ourselves in our songs, but we also want people to see their own lives in our words and be able to relate, whatever they do.

Bill – What have been some of the highlights so far from your current tour with The Menzingers?

Bryan – Making new friends, really, and getting to know each other better. You’re living on the road for a month at a time and getting to know these guys, and they’re a great bunch of guys. I’m becoming a fan of those bands too. I wasn’t a huge Luther or Menzingers fan before we started touring together, I’ll be honest, but I am now.

Greg – We’ve also been playing some jump-dive together. We were in San Luis Obispo, California and we’re all hanging around by the pool. And luckily there was absolutely no one else by the pool but us, all day.

Bryan – As if anyone would want to be, (laughs).

Greg – Yeah, so what you do is you jump in the pool and as soon as your feet leave the ground, somebody has to yell “jump” or “dive,” and then you have to try and do either one while you’re in the air. It’s always hilarious. If you wanted me to point out a favorite moment from this tour, that would be it.

Bill – Having played Chicago many times over the years, what are some of your fondest memories of playing here?

Greg – I definitely remember the Fireside Bowl. I remember just being so excited to get there for the first time. My very first impression of Chicago was the Fireside Bowl.

Bryan – Some label put out a live 7” of us playing at the Fireside. I think it was V.M.L. Records or something that put it out. We have tons of great memories from playing here at the Metro too, lots of great shows. Reggie’s is a great venue too. We played our full album shows there last summer and had a blast. Chicago has always been very good to us.

Bill – In 2010, The Bouncing Souls celebrated their 20th anniversary. What was it like to reflect on being a band for 20 years?

Greg – The thing that made the biggest impression on me was relearning all our songs. That really did something to us psychologically and it was a really cool thing to do. To kind of cleanout our collective closet as a group and as songwriters, looking at our entire catalog was huge. It’s hard to get an overview of the whole thing. It really cleaned out my mental blocks of all the little things that I had about certain songs, whether they were unfinished or I thought they weren’t good enough or this or that. All that stuff got straightened out and it was a cool thing to go out and play them after that.

Bryan – It was also cool to get that overview and then go and write a record. I think it really helped to revisit the early stuff and then kind of go and start fresh.

Bill – What else do you hope to accomplish when you think about the future of the band?

Bryan – More places that I’d like to see and more things that I’d like to get done. Just keep trying to push ourselves and always try to write better songs.

Pete – We also want to write stuff with some kind of substance, because if not, what’s the point of doing it?

Greg – We want to keep enjoying it in a way that’s fun and new and creative all the time. That’s the most important thing. Without one of those key ingredients it’s not going to be awesome. To always have that feeling and be inspired, then the rest of it all falls downhill I think.

Bryan – It’s true. It starts with inspiration and the rest is easy, it kind of falls into place.