ARCHIVE: Bouncing Toward Oh-Ten

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The Bouncing Souls (Bryan Kienlen, Michael McDermott, Greg Attonito, Pete Steinkopf) OWN Asbury — and OWN the week between Christmas and New Year’s — as they take it HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS in an unprecedented four-night SOLD OUT Stone Pony stand that further features satellite events at a movie theater and a bowling alley. (All photos by the mega-talented Mike Black; see his Flickr display here for more shots from the 2K8 Souls shows, and other picture postcards)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI (First published on Red Bank oRBit December 22, 2009)

Not much has changed since the spring of ’89 when a group of high school kids from just north of New Brunswick started putting together fast, poppy songs in hopes of getting some local shows to play. The formula has stayed the same: take a few chords, insert a catchy hook and either the most ludicrous (see: “I Like Your Mom“) or most passionate (see: “Quick Chek Girl“) lyrics, throw them in the hopper and see what comes out. For 20 years, the result has been punk rock magic for New Jersey’s cast of Do-It-Yourself kings, The Bouncing Souls.

Except, in that time the Souls have staked their claim on the Jersey Shore by making Asbury Park their de facto home base, they started their own record label (Chunksaah), and have amassed a die-hard fan base that, like the band, doesn’t look like it’s losing any steam.

The Bouncing Souls have recently been celebrating two decades together (the core of singer Greg Attonito, guitarist Pete Steinkopf and bassist Bryan Kienlen, at least) by touring, as well as by teasing — they’ve released one song each month this on their website, in preparation for January 2010’s scheduled release of Ghosts on the Boardwalk, a compilation of those new tracks.

Not ones to disappoint their fans, the Souls are capping off their anniversary year with an onslaught of cockle-warming Christmas spirit that revolves around the band’s traditional Home for the Holidays stand of concerts, now in its third year.

The party gets started on Saturday, December 26 at the Stone Pony, with the first of four consecutive, completely sold out shows, presented by 101.9 RXP But there’s another way to be there in spirit even if you’re out in the cold minus a ticket: the band is holding an online contest for fans to pick out the set lists for each night, which you can vote for here.

As a warmup to the second night, December 27, the Sunday Funday starts off at 3pm over at The Showroom on Cookman Avenue for a showing of the Souls’ documentary, Do You Remember? The band will be hanging around The Showroom after the doc for a little Q&A session. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the theater or online.

The downtown screening space is also the site for a special sneak-preview event on Tuesday, December 29 — when the band presents a 3pm showing of a doc-in-progress (unspooling under the title Rough Cut) featuring footage shot during the band’s “Gold” tour. Tickets for either of the Showroom events are $10, and can be purchased at the theater or online.

And, as if four days of concerts at the Pony (and two movie matinees) wasn’t enough, Home For The Holidays is book-ended with after-parties on December 26 and 29 over at Asbury Lanes; each one starting at 11pm, and featuring all that one needs to make their holidays proper: bands and DJs and booze.

Souls guitarist Pete Steinkopf — more commonly known as The Pete — took some time out of his busy schedule to get on the horn with oRBit and talk about this end-of-year super week, and to reflect upon 20 years of maintaining punk rock’s golden standards.

Picture 1RED BANK oRBit: You’re in the third year putting on the Home For The Holidays concerts. How did this get started?

THE PETE: A few years ago we were kicking around the idea of doing some sort of event like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones do in Boston, which they’ve been doing forever. We definitely wanted it to be in Asbury Park and we thought the coolest time to do it would be the holiday, when all our friends and family are around.

And this year looks like it’s the biggest HFTH series yet, expanding to four days and throwing in a showing of the band’s documentary, DO YOU REMEMBER?

Yeah, the past two years was three nights. We wanted to get more bands involved and it seems like we can always grow. We’re going to do this for as long as we can. We’ll do it forever.

The band isn’t originally from Asbury Park. What is your connection to Asbury and how did it sort of become the hub for you guys?

We grew up north of New Brunswick and all ended up there. Asbury Park, it just kind of happened over the years. When we lived in New Brunswick we always came here to hang out. It’s just a one-of-a-kind place — you can’t really explain it. There’s music, there’s culture, there’s art. It has its own unique quality.

You still tapped into the New Brunswick scene, which seems to have re-gained some tread in producing really good music?

Yeah. It seems like New Brunswick, there wasn’t a whole lot happening there for a little while. Now there are tons of bands, tons of good music.

The last song released this year, “Never Say Die/When You’re Young,” seems to fit well with the band’s 20th anniversary. How about that and the idea of releasing a song a month in preps for your forthcoming record?

We didn’t ever plan it that way and (the song) just kind of fit. We wanted to do something different, not just release another album then go on tour.

From a listener’s perspective, The Bouncing Souls have never tried, or had to, reinvent themselves. The music has pretty much stayed the same, though the lyrics or the message has changed a little. How have you stayed inspired for so long and how do you stay relevant without becoming a shadow of yourself like many bands have?

We’ve always just kind of done our own thing in our own time. A lot of other bands worry about what’s going on around them. We don’t really. At some points we sort of did. But if you love what you do, that’s all that really matters.

We just get inspired by living life. There’s inspiration all around you, you’ve just got to look for it. As long as you’re breathing you should have something to write about.

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When the roof threatened to come down at the Stone Pony last year, the Bouncing Souls bounded over to the Grand Arcade of Asbury’s Convention Hall complex for their 2008 Home for the Holidays hootenanny.

There’s a short list of New Jersey bands that have garnered a cult following around here — by my estimation it’s Bruce Springsteen, The Misfits and The Bouncing Souls. What do you think and how’s that feel?

Wow. I have no idea. We don’t think of it that way. I’m honored to be on that list. That’s pretty cool.

Well what was the vision back in ’89, if there was one?

Back then it was just about getting shows and playing music, drink beer and fuck around. There wasn’t an expectation at all and there was no set goal.

But you’re happy with what happened, huh?

I wouldn’t change a thing. We’re really lucky to do what we do.

Looking back, what are the highs, the lows, or what sticks out in your mind after so many years touring and playing together?

We’ve gone through so much and played with so many bands and met so many cool people. There is no one thing I can put my finger on. There’s all kinds of goods and all kinds of bands, like any other relationship you’re in. It’s an ongoing ride of ups and downs.

What’s next for The Bouncing Souls?

We’re going to do the holiday shows and then release the CD (Ghosts on the Boardwalk) early next year. We’re going to take a little bit of a deep breath and start hitting it hard again in the spring.