An Interview with The Bouncing Souls: Raising The Anchor

With nine studio albums under their belt, decades of relentless touring, and countless numbers of highly-energetic shows throughout their legendary career, New Brunswick-based punk rock icons The Bouncing Souls have proven this year that they are still alive and stronger than ever.

This past summer, the band celebrated their 25th anniversary at the legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park alongside the support of The Menzingers and Ted Leo; both are longtime friends of The Souls, who have also gained a lot of notoriety within the New Jersey punk scene over the years. Not only did The Souls have a chance to briefly come back home in the summertime, the band also continued their annual festival route through Chicago and Denver from playing this year’s Riot Fest as well.

Now that we are moving closer and closer toward the holiday season, it is almost time for every Garden State punk rock lover’s favorite time of year, The Bouncing Souls’ annual Home For The Holidays. Returning to its home base in Asbury Park, The Souls are bringing to the table another exciting run of holiday shows this year, which includes a special karaoke portion for each night, along with performances from a variety of acts including Bane, None More Black, The Van Pelt, The Scandals and Morning Glory. What makes this year’s Home For The Holidays stand out in comparison, is the fact that The Souls will be playing two special shows in Denver around New Year’s as well.

A few weeks before their annual festivities, I had the chance to speak with The Souls’ lead vocalist, Greg Attonito, about the surprises that they have store for these upcoming shows, the factors that come into play when choosing the lineups every year, their inspiration behind incorporating New Year’s dates out west and some future plans to look out for in the upcoming year.

Your annual Home For The Holidays shows are just around the corner. What are you looking forward to the most about playing these shows, especially this year in particular?

A lot of things, actually. We try to do something different, like put a twist on our set—something that we never really do anywhere else in the world—and we just do something new as best as we can. This year is going to be fun—we’re going to have like, a karaoke thing, and it was fun to see a lot of excitement and response from people who want to come up and play a song with us.

I’m also excited about the general party, which it always is. It’s always fun to see everybody that you normally don’t see all of the time. Like, I think that’s what is great for everybody—it’s like getting back together…home for the holidays, and that’s just what it is.

I was actually very intrigued when I first heard that you were going to be incorporating a karaoke component to your sets for each night. How did this idea come about? Has this been the first time you’ve let fans come on stage with you during the holidays?

We’ve talked about it for years as an idea, and it never really made it in the past because we’ve chose a lot of other things over it. I think it was like, “Okay, let’s try this, this year, finally.” And we’ve done it at other shows—you know, like, having someone come up and sing a song. But figuring out how to do it as an actual theme for the three nights, we decided to go for it, and people seem to be excited, so it’s going to be fun.

This year you have bands like Bane, None More Black and The Scandals among many other supporting acts who will be playing on all three nights of the Jersey shows. What are some factors that normally come into play when you are choosing the lineups for Home For The Holidays?

Well, we usually have this ongoing “wish list” that we keep working at. So, we start there, and then you’ll always have to see who is available, so it kind of feels like a game you play of like, “Who you want?” “Who can you get?” “Who is available?” and things just sort of, give-and-take that happens with it. And we end up with what we end up with and that’s usually the part of it. It’s like, kind of a gamble —sometimes we get really good mixed bills and that’s what I also enjoy about it.

Since a lot of Bouncing Souls fans are also into a wide range of subgenres including hardcore, folk, pop punk and indie rock as well, do you think the diversity that you offer within each lineup also makes an influence on the kind of bands you’d like to add on this “wish list” every year?

Yeah, absolutely. From our experience and my experience going to shows—like, growing up over the years and playing in shows—you know, being a part of a lineup, it’s always more, I think, to have different genres even. I mean, not like extremely, but a mix of people, so you’ll have a mixed crowd, you know?

As far as people who love The Bouncing Souls who may not go see some other band, [they] are going to see a new band and vice versa with whatever the band’s crowd is coming, so I’ve always loved that environment, and if you can make it work… Sometimes it’s always given-and-take, you know—it doesn’t work as well as others, but that’s the way it goes.

One defining quality I’ve enjoyed the most about past Home For The Holidays shows is the spontaneity that comes from the setlist that you specifically create for each night. What are some of surprises that you have in store for this year’s setlist?

Well, to be totally honest with you, the setlists aren’t written yet, so all we are running with is the karaoke idea (laughs) and we actually had a meeting a couple of days ago and we’re supposed to be doing it this weekend; we’re going to get our heads together and start writing it.

This year you’ll also be adding another aspect to the tradition by playing two New Year’s shows in Denver right after the holiday shows in New Jersey. What was the inspiration for wanting to bring the festivities out west?

For some strange reason—well, there’s a couple of reasons, I guess—we’ve always done really well in Denver. I think part of that reason is there’s a radio station out there that loves us and has supported us from back in the ’90s, pretty steadily all the way since then. Especially, we even had a pretty good-sized hit in Denver with “Lean On Sheena” [single off of the 2009 studio album, The Gold Record] when it came out.

So, we have a really strong following there, and we’ve always had great shows there and we were offered to do these New Year’s shows. So, we considered it and said, “Okay, maybe let’s try this,” and do something different, while we’re busy during the season—ready and all rehearsed up playing from the Home For The Holidays, and go out and do this New Year’s thing and see how it goes.

Now, is this the first time The Souls will be playing a show around New Year’s for the most part?

Yeah, I mean, I know for a fact we’ve haven’t played a New Year’s show for at least eight years. Because I know after Home For The Holidays, we’re always kind of fried. So we haven’t agreed to do any New Year’s shows for probably at least 10 years…maybe more. So yeah, let’s see how it goes.

Since this will be your first time playing these shows out west during the holidays, what will it be like to be far away from home in Jersey when the ball drops this year? I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a big party either way.

Yeah… We haven’t gotten that far yet—we still gotta write the setlist for Home For The Holidays—but we’ll do something fun. I’m looking forward to it.

Now that we’re getting close to the end of 2014, what does the future hold for The Souls for the upcoming year?

Well, we have done some songwriting. We don’t have any “real hard” plans or “hard scheduling” for a new release, but the next thing that we’re talking about is just continuing doing maybe a festival or two here and there in the springtime and we’ll continue to get together and work on some new songs.

But we’re not giving ourselves a ton of pressure to make a deadline and get a release out because we just want to do it for fun at this point and make the music really enjoyable, you know? We’ve done nine studio records at the point (laughs) so it’s like, if it’s not just fun and there’s pressure, there’s kind of no point in doing it.

Since a lot of members of the band are also in different projects like Smalltalk and Play Date, will there be a lot more activity from these groups for the upcoming year as well?

Yeah absolutely, we’ve done great. The Play Date record [Imagination] came out a couple of years ago and we’ve been steadily doing shows with that. We have a new record, which we had actually recorded with [guitarist] Pete Steinkopf. Pete helped us produce and engineer it, and it sounds great and it’s coming out next year.

So we’ll being doing more of those shows and that’s a blast because it’s like, so many Bouncing Souls fans have young kids now. So they’re like, beside themselves when they can bring their kids out and get a show experience for them—like, their “first live music experience,” and it’s been a lot of fun.

Nice, that’s sound like a pretty cool time. Now, since there isn’t a lot of pressure to put out any studio release anytime soon, how do you and the rest of band keep up with juggling new projects as well as fully committing to The Bouncing Souls still?

It’s kind of a constant adjustment. You know, [bassist] Bryan Kienlen is doing tattoos in Jersey; he’s almost got a full-time job, but it’s flexible. And Pete’s producing and engineering. I’m doing Play Date and also visual art. And somehow, we make it work, you know? We’ll arrange to do a couple of shows on the East Coast and in that time, we’ll use that time to do some writing. And we just kind of make it work; I don’t exactly know how it works, but it does.

Wrapping up, since we are quite close to the holidays, do any of you have any New Year’s resolutions in mind yet?

I haven’t… I try to make it, you know, “Live in the moment as best as I can every day,” whether it’s New Year’s, or last year, or next year. That’s what I am trying to do every day.

The Bouncing Souls will play their eighth annual Home For The Holidays at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park on Dec. 26, 27 and 28. For more information, go to