One of the highlights of Riot Fest 2010 and a guaranteed must-see act were New Jersey’s own Bouncing Souls. For many fans the world over, they are inarguably among the masters of anthemic, sing-along punk rock. The Bouncing Souls have played Riot Fest before and have long-standing ties to the Chicago music scene. Their former PR firm was Chicago’s own Riot Act Media, formerly based in Wicker Park. Even though lead singer Greg Attonito has never been to a Cubs game, he still loves the city and is always looking for a good place to get Chicago-style pizza. The band’s appearance at Riot Fest 2010 was the second show on their most recent tour with Bad Religion and Off With Their Heads. Prior to the Riot Fest whirlwind, Attonito had recently broken his toe after dropping a glass table top on it, but still made the time and effort to stroll the streets of Chicago and warmly chat about the current state of music, punk and what’s in store for Riot Fest and the rest of the Bouncing Souls tour. We met on the side of the Congress Theater and began our journey. Almost 45 minutes later, we wrapped an interview that was more like catching up with an old friend than interviewing the lead singer of one of my favorite bands.

 This is the second show of your tour with Bad Religion and Off With Their Heads. How has it been so far?

Really interesting. What’s really different about it for us is [that] we realized we haven’t done a support club tour in more than 10 years. So it’s actually kinda weird. Last night, we were like, wow, we just go up and play a 45-minute set and then we’re just hanging around the show’s not over yet! It’s been so long. It’s one of those little things that has been refreshing, and it’s nice. I’ll be perfectly honest… it’s nice to not have all of the pressure of being the headliner. Just the idea of playing and touring with Bad Religion after all these years. It’s a pretty cool combo… besides my broken toe. [Laughs]

You guys just celebrated 20 years as a band and a lot of people look at you guys as the, I hate to say it, original “indie” band. I know that term is rather trite. More like… DIY.

Well, that’s all relative also. Doing it yourself is just not really a truth, you know? We’ve got some great people to help us since being on Epitaph. We started off doing everything ourselves, but once we got kinda big, we really needed the help to get us to the next level. I always have to mention Kate [Hiltz] –our manager and she runs Chunksaah Records — when this subject arises ‘cause she really makes it possible. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.

Who’s playing on your iPod these days?

Strangely enough, I don’t listen to music a whole lot. I go in phases. But when I do, I don’t listen to a lot of new music;I listen to a lot of old music like blues and soul and stuff like that. But I usually just put it on shuffle and listen to a crazy mix — that’s what’s so fun about technology and iPods and what not. I like all kinds of music, but I don’t usually listen to punk [laughs], you know what I mean? ‘Cause it’s sorta what I do, you know, and the inspiration comes from other things. To me, punk has always been about the unexpected. Actual punk isn’t punk to me. Does that make sense? It’s the unexpected… the thing that you’re just in that moment and you’re like, “What the hell is that?” and it catches you off guard. That’s what the spirit of it is.

On your third full-length, The Bouncing Souls, there is a track called “The Toilet Song” that asks, “Who’s gonna throw the toilet off the roof?” I’ve asked around, and inquiring minds want to know: who threw the toilet off the roof?

We did. We did it. Yeah, it was us. Our buddy Dave actually got it carried up. I don’t think it would’ve actually happened if he hadn’t started carrying it up. He had this surge of energy and just grabbed it and carried it up to the top and we were just like standing there like, “Oh shit, we’re actually gonna do this!”

So that’s the unexpected moment you were talking about earlier?

Exactly!

But then the band also has plenty of other stuff that isn’t so off the cuff. Like “Lean on Sheena,” which was originally written by Joe Gittleman of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones for a side project he was working on called Avoid One Thing. Great song, very powerful video, but kinda the antithesis of the “What-just-happened punk moment,” no?

Yes! Yes! And I’m really glad that we did it. It turned out to be a cool thing. We made that version our own. We re-wrote it a little bit with Joe… well, we didn’t actually re-write it we just finished it. He only had two verses and I sang the second verse too many times in my mind. I was like, “Joe, I can’t sing the second verse a third time! Twice is OK but…” And then we came back and wrote the third verse. But yeah, that’s a good example. That’s what makes life fun and kinda spontaneous. You know, whatever it might be, that’s what makes it great. You don’t know what’s gonna happen.

That was one of those videos that I was like, “Why isn’t this getting airplay?” It was true to the song and powerful without being cheesy.

Yeah, it was pretty cool. The guys who did it had the complete idea and just came to us and were like, “We have this idea and we wanna run with it” and that’s exactly what they did. They ran with it. Which was fun, too, because when someone has such a focused idea, that’s something that you’re just like, “Alright, cool let’s do it.”

What does the band think of all of the fan tattoos of your lyrics and logos? There are a couple of pages dedicated to fans showcasing their tattoos.

Yeah, it’s cool… I don’t think about it, but when you see it you’re like, wow. I mean, it’s really pretty unreal… something that’s just beyond me or the band, you know? Someone has been compelled to put something on their body in that way. It’s … wow. It’s almost too much. I don’t know what to say… it’s just awesome.

–Dennis McLennand, Photos by Dennis McLennand

 
  1. [...] up, the Bouncing Souls ripped through a manic 30-minute set andsurely could’ve gone on for more. Lead singer Greg [...]

  2. wait, I don’t get it….

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  3. Awesome job, Den! And the photos are great!!!

    [Reply]