The Bronx are set to release their new full-length album this month, and in keeping with tradition, Bronx VI will be the first full length album from the Los Angeles-based band since the release of V in 2017.
The naming each record with a numeric value of chronological release instead of a traditional title is a story without an epic origin. The band has long since admitted to simply not wanting to, for a variety of reasons. Among these is the fact that each record has become known instead by its cover art, designed by founding member and guitarist, Joby J Ford.
“[Joby is] an awesome graphic designer, and it’s kind of nice having the artwork separate the records,” says vocalist Matt Caughthran.
Since their inception, The Bronx have been a band operating at their own pace, and they have always pinned an honest heart to their sleeve. As the music industry continues to evolve and change focus in response to societal shifts, the continued authenticity across subsequent Bronx albums serves as a lesson in how to stay genuine while remaining relevant as an artist. With a 20-year anniversary for the band peeking just over the horizon, and tours booked for 2022— across the U.S. with Rancid and Dropkick Murphys, and Europe with Every Time I Die— The Bronx continue to prove that following your heart is way more fun than chasing expectations.
In March of 2021, The Bronx officially announced their new album in typical fashion for the band, with more than just a simple announcement. Not only was a new full-length on the way, but it was announced that each track from the album would be available as an individual, limited-edition 7” single.
“We figured since we were going to be in lockdown for a year, preventing us from getting the record out there, why not at least work the record for a year, instead of waiting?” Caughthran explains.
Taking things one step even further, a monthly subscription, dubbed the Mirror Press series, was offered, through which each subscriber would receive a new single every month, along with a collectible handmade wooden box embossed with the band’s logo, a lyrical decoder mirror, and a 7” slip mat.
Each single also features unique artwork from a hand-picked group of artists, including Estevan Oriol, DABS MYLA, Craig Stecyk, and Tim Armstrong.
“We’re all creative people and we have friends who are equally as creative in different ways, so getting to collaborate with them really gave this record a different vibe overall,” says Caughthran. “It’s really cool to see how it continues to take shape with every new song we release.”
One bonus gift for a lucky fan was the original artwork for the single “Superbloom,” randomly inserted into a 7” sleeve.
Aside from live shows (pre-quarantine), the last anyone had heard from The Bronx was in 2019, with the release of Dead Tracks Vinyl Lovers Package, a two-LP collection featuring B-sides and rarities spanning the entire history of the band. Not long after the release, the band’s alter ego, Mariachi El Bronx, released Música Muerta Vol. 1 & Vol. 2, a similar collection of lost or unheard songs.
When the world shut down in 2020, any and all plans for touring were instantly sidelined, leaving The Bronx with the option to be patient or get creative. At the height of a new unknown, the band kept busy with what they called, “The cure for quarantine!” This was a partnership with water brand Liquid Death to present The Halloween Dead Stream, in which The Bronx and Marachi El Bronx joined forces to perform reimagined tracks as a cohesive supergroup. Due to overwhelming demand from fans, the Dead Stream was eventually pressed onto a limited run of 666 ‘candy corn stripe’ colored vinyl.
On Bronx VI, the band recorded with renowned producer Joe Barresi (Melvins, Tool, Bad Religion) at his House of Compression studio in Pasadena, California. Barresi is somebody the band had wanted to work with for many years.
“We’d been talking about doing a record since 2005,” explains Ford. “It finally aligned, schedule-wise, and we were able to knock it out with him. And it was a great experience for us.”
“He’s such a badass producer,” adds Caughthran. “And he was just the perfect guy for this record. We just needed someone to make them sound fucking badass and to take it to the next level. That was definitely Joe.”
The new album offers a familiar range of musical styles, from rock ’n’ roll groove and rhythm, to unhinged and unrelenting hardcore punk rock. The first two singles released are the perfect introduction. “White Shadow” has a toe-tapping pace crowned by an onslaught of vocal aggression, while “Superbloom” blasts into what Caughthran exclaims as: “CLASSIC FU#&ING BRONX!”
Sequentially released songs, such as “Watering The Well” and “Peace Pipe,” offer a counterbalance of musical energy and lyrical tone. Themes of dark warnings and tragic realties with brutal storytelling definitely get close to scraping the emotional bottom. The song “Breaking News”— which Caughtrhan says will be a favorite to reveal because of the collaboration with Rancid’s Tim Armstrong— is full of references to a dystopian daydream coupled with a nightmarish police state.
Simultaneously, however, The Bronx have the ability to sneak inside jokes into choruses, as can be heard on tracks like “Jack of All Trades” and “High Five.” The song “Curb Feelers” presents an attitude of jaded misfortune, as the phrase “rebel becomes routine” is sporadically repeated. Lyrically, there is just as much a smorgasbord of emotion to choose from on this album as there is musically.
But despite hitting familiar notes, there is clearly a new tone of confidence on Bronx VI. Caughthran and Ford both confirm that while the album is not a major departure in terms of sound, the band took a different approach this time around when it came to writing.
“From day one, we really decided that we wanted to make a record that went in different directions and places,” Ford explains. “The thing I like a lot about it is that everybody contributed songs. It’s not just Joby J Ford guitars with Matt singing over it. I loved listening to what other people wrote, and I think those differences and nuances really come through.”
“We’ve known each other for a long time,” adds Caughthran. “We’re such good friends and we’re so tight creatively, but we’re still learning stuff about each other, especially when it comes to the process of creating an album. Brad [Magers, bass] and Ken [Horne, guitar] are just coming out as songwriters, and we’re learning to write songs as a group around ideas they bring to the table. We’re all growing together, and it never stops— and that’s something we strive for, promote, and push within each other, because we don’t want this to get stale.”
It is exactly that type of growth and reinvigoration process that shines throughout the new album. After 19 years as a band, Caughthran compares it to being married.
“You have to spice it up a little, you know? We never try to make one specific type of record or have a certain sound. The last thing we want to do is put ourselves in a corner to have a perfect theme or over-production. We like a lot of flavor in our records, so we just see where the creative juices take us.”
So, what about the future, at a time when many people are either concerned with potential future health warnings or ready to get back to a new normal sooner rather than later?
“You have to take the good with the bad and hope for the best,” Caughthran insists. “All we can is learn and try to be better, you know? I’m not gonna tell anyone what to do, I just hope people stay safe and stay diligent in looking out for one another so we can get back to all hanging out again.”
The Bronx will tour Europe in the early part of 2022 with Every Time I Die, as well as being part of the From Boston to Berkeley 2 tour alongside Dropkick Murphys and Rancid. Both iterations of the band, including Mariachi El Bronx, will also be performing at the inaugural return to an audience-attended Punk Rock Bowling Music Festival and Bowling Tournament in old Las Vegas.
Along with the excitement for their new record, 2021 marks the 15th anniversary of The Bronx II and social media was grateful the band acknowledged the album’s significance. When asked about any potential plans for celebrating, re-releasing, or touring on that album, Caughthran keeps his cards close to his chest.
“I don’t want to say anything for sure right now, but I can promise we always have something in the works,” he says. “The wheels are always turning.”
Bronx VI will be available from Cooking Vinyl for purchase on digital and physical release on August 27, 2021.
Watch the video for “Curb Feelers” here:
Photos courtesy of The Bronx, Pat Gilrane, and Michael Thorn.