Asbury Park-based The Bouncing Souls, from left to right, are drummer George Rebelo, vocalist Greg Attonito, guitarist Pete Steinkopf and bassist Bryan Kienlen. March 16 at White Eagle Hall in Jersey City kicks off a world tour in support of an EP and book both entitled “Crucial Moments” that celebrate the Asbury Park-based band’s 30th anniversary. Photo by Danny Clinch
The Bouncing Souls are celebrating their 30th anniversary with the release of the six-song Crucial Moments EP on Rise Records and accompanying book on Pirate Press, a video for the EP’s title track, and a year-long national and European tour that also will feature Jersey City-based Crazy & the Brains, The Bronx, Strike Anywhere, Off With Their Heads, and The Casualties.
The tour kicked off March 16 at White Eagle Hall in Jersey City, featured a sold-out acoustic show at Crossroads in Garwood, and will make a stop on July 13 at the Stone Pony Summerstage in the band’s base of Asbury Park for their annual Stoked for Summer festival. The book contains photos, memorabilia, and stories from friends and fans that trace the band’s career and their impact.
A decade before The Bouncing Souls moved to their base of Asbury Park in 2001, their first-ever interview was in 1991 for Makin Waves in front of the Pizza Hut that is now Due Mari in New Brunswick. They were in the process of helping to develop the Hub City basement and house show scene that would influence the nation and parts of Europe. In the following chat, the three original Souls – vocalist Greg Attonito, guitarist Pete Steinkopf and bassist Bryan Kienlen – talk about those early days and with drummer George Rebelo, share their enthusiasm for what’s right around the corner and further down the road.
When you were kids skateboarding, BMXing, listening to punk rock and playing in punk bands in Basking Ridge was the goal to be a band for 30 years?
Greg: No. Our goals were really small and attainable at first. We wanted to have a band to be creative, drink beer, be buds and impress the girls if we could manage that. Creating a band was empowering, and I think deep down, we all knew that but couldn’t have articulated it at the time. We saw enough shows to realize those bands were harnessing some part of themselves to forge a path ... their OWN path with their own special frontiers to conquer. I think we knew that and wanted that then, but mostly, we were interested in beer and girls.
How and why is the EP a celebration of your 30th anniversary, particularly the title track and its video, which brings the accompanying book to life?
Greg: I think the title Crucial Moments is perfect to acknowledge our 30 years. We have been on a journey to create crucial moments with each other and the shared music experience from the beginning. The song was sparked by an idea Pete had after a good friend of ours suddenly passed. I think him passing made him think about all those ‘crucial moments’ they had shared and how much they mean now that he is gone. When the group worked on the song together, we saw how the title really encompassed the bigger picture of our 30-year relationship with each other and all the people who have been a part of our shared journey. The song covers that ground. It’s about those moments that we can’t extract from our lives ... the ones we have shared that bond us in a way that made us who we are.
A collage of photos of The Bouncing Souls featured in their new book, Crucial Moments. Photo courtesy of Rise Records.
The book seems awesome. What is your favorite part of it and why?
Greg: It really is awesome! I love the stories. The photos are great, but I have seen most of them throughout the years, so collecting the stories over this past year was my favorite part of it and like a treasure hunt for me. It’s really special to see how many ways, big and small, our music has been a part of people’s lives.
The tour kicks off in Jersey City at White Eagle Hall, and then you'll play Crossroads, a small room in Garwood. You've played Crossroads before, and it sells out instantly. Why do you like to play there?
Greg: It’s a good little space that does consistent shows, and we have a good relationship with the promoter. We have been trying to create/tweak an acoustic set for the past year or two, so it’s a great little space for that also. We play Jersey a lot in the same venues, so we like to play the odd small show now and then.
You're going to tour the world in support of the book and the EP. Where are you looking forward to going most and why?
Greg: It will be fun to go back to Europe. I go mostly for the bread and the fine mustards … a joke but not really. It’s cool to experience how it’s changed since we first started going there in the ’90s, but the old world is still right there too. It’s also cool to catch up with our old friends there.
How do each of the other bands on the tour relate to The Bouncing Souls?
Pete: We try to always put a fun show together with bands that we love and want to spend a few weeks hanging out with. I guess they relate to us in that way. Great music and people we want to hang with.
Pete: Yeah, I really love those guys. They’re unique and totally fun. They’re one of bands that every time I see them play, people in the crowd walk out going, ‘Who was that band? Those guys were awesome!’
Pete, you've produced a lot of great Jersey bands. Is there one in particular that you enjoyed working with most? If so, why?
Pete: There are so many great bands from New Jersey on so many different levels. I couldn’t pick one. What I like the most is that there’s such a great music scene in New Jersey. I’m always hearing about a new band or a new scene that I didn’t know existed.
Pete, what do you enjoy most about working with local bands?
Pete: It’s kind of the same answer (laughs). I think what’s cool about Asbury Park is that it’s always been such a music town. I have bands come to record from all over the country and think part of that is that they love being here. It’s always been a town that bands come to play, and whenever we are out on tour, we get people asking us questions about Asbury Park. It has its own life and vibe that people want to be a part of.
Bryan, you recently opened your own tattoo shop, Anchors Aweigh in Bradley Beach and named after the band's 2003 LP on Epitaph. How is business going, and what do you like most and least about owning your own shop?
Bryan: This whole experience has proven to be such a huge breath of energy for my creativity. Just inventing my own space to work in was a fun art project for me, and the creative juices have been flowing hard there ever since. That little extra sense of pride has been pushing me to keep outdoing myself and never stop growing. Gotta represent!
Greg, are you still living in Idaho and do you still have the children's music act PlayDate with your wife? If so, how are both going, and do you miss Jersey at all?
Greg: Yes, I am still living in Idaho, and I love it. My wife Shanti and I had our first baby, a son, in November ’17. His name is Ever! We have decided to take a brief hiatus from the children’s music project for the next couple of years because the Souls are going to be extra busy too. Interest in it has not waned though. The offers just keep coming so that’s pretty cool. I don’t really get a chance to miss Jersey too much because I’m always coming back to work.
The Bouncing Souls, from left to right, are guitarist Pete Steinkopf, bassist Bryan Kienlen, vocalist Greg Attonito and drummer George Rebelo. Photo by Danny Clinch
How do the band get together to rehearse, where and how often?
Greg: We rehearse at Little Eden Studio, the space in Asbury Park that started out as our practice space and evolved into Pete’s recording studio. Next month, we will be writing and rehearsing for the ’30-Year Anniversary Set’ and rehearsing for our acoustic set. It should take a couple of days to write that and play it through a few times, then we are kind of set for the year for rehearsals. The tours are all pretty close together so we can just drop in anywhere and rock.
George, you've been with The Bouncing Souls for nearly six of their 30 years. What have you enjoyed most about being in the band and why?
George: Well, that’s pretty presumptuous of you to think I enjoy any of this. If I had to say one thing, it would be the cash! They give me a mason jar of crinkled up one dollar bills every six months.
In all seriousness, I would have to say that I really enjoy the writing process with these amazing individuals. Each one of them brings so much to the table after all these years of collaborating together. They truly do listen to each other’s ideas and compromise to get the best out of each song … whether or not the fans agree. They have taken me in as a member of this well-established institution and have accepted me as one of their own. It could be the silliest of ideas that get made fun of to the point where we are hunched over in hysterics. Eventually, it leads to something we all consider to be on par with this great catalog of songs they have created through the decades.
The fans and the live shows aren’t too shabby either. I feel blessed to be a part of this family and be a Soul!
Do you guys keep in touch with original member Shal Khichi, who was with the band until 2000, and his replacement Michael McDermott? If so, what are they doing now and will they be involved in the 30th anniversary celebration?
Bryan: I run into Shal’s brother often and hear Shal’s doing well. I used to keep up with him via email but haven’t in a while. McD is rocking drums with Joan Jett, and he’s having a blast. We’re always stoked when we run into each other.
I learned of The Bouncing Souls nearly 30 years ago when you sent me a demo at East Coast Rocker. You had recently moved to New Brunswick and soon after helped solidify and codify the city’s basement/house concert/DIY scene with shows at your house at 174 Commercial Ave. and with your label, Chunksaah Records. How and why did the shows, the label and the band help to strengthen the New Brunswick music scene?
Greg: Bob, I have to take this opportunity to let you know ... that first interview with you was such a big effing deal for us. I don’t know if we have ever been so excited for an interview since! (laughs)
As far as the New Brunswick scene back then: I think it was a case of the right time and place for us. Whatever cool scene that sparked up for a minute in the ’80s was pretty much gone when we arrived in the spring of ’89, so I think the town was in need of some youthful enthusiasm. We weren’t the best band, but we were loaded with stoked energy. I think that was contagious. People see and feel that and realize they can be stoked too. It’s a choice we make. I think we helped spark the wave of cool stuff that happened in NB through the ’90s. We steamrolled all of that into the label, then into the first few national tours that followed.
What from those New Brunswick days sticks with you the most today?
Greg: If I have to pick one thing I’d say the backyard shows were pretty memorable, but I also have to mention it was our general lifestyle that was probably most special and significant to me. We lived in a time and place where people would just come to hang and stuff would just happen. I really value living like that in my 20s. It was free and spontaneous, and I have kept it with me always. I think the trick to becoming an ‘adult’ is to be responsible to your life and your people but always have that spirit on hand. Keep it in place where you never lose it.
What do you think of today's New Brunswick music scene?
Greg: I really have no idea what’s going on there.
Do you think you'll ever play New Brunswick again?
When did you move to Asbury Park, how has the city and its music scene changed since then, and how is that for the better and for the worse?
Pete: I moved there in 2006, but Asbury Park has pretty much been our home base since 2001 when Kate Is Great bought her house that became Little Eden, and we took over the basement as our practice space. There wasn’t much to do back then but walk down to the Lanes and hang with the few people in town you knew. This town has changed drastically, but Asbury Park has had so many changes for the last 100 or so years, and it will just keep on changing. Who knows if it’s good or bad. Only time will tell.
How is '4th Avenue Sunrise' a nod to Asbury, and is it a nod to Asbury Lanes, which I believe was the first venue that George played with you?
Pete: I lived on 4th Ave. in Asbury Park and Neptune City, and I’ve seen a lot of sunrises with my old lifestyle (laughs). Many of them involved Asbury Lanes. It’s really just a cool line I thought of. There’s no real one particular meaning or story. It’s just that feeling of seeing the ocean after being up all night and pondering life and stuff. It’s like when the Warriors finally got to the beach in Coney Island, and they were home.
Will you release a second video for 'Crucial Moments?'
Bryan: I’d like to make one for ‘1989,’ but I’m not sure if we will.
Do you still work with Kate or is Good Fight mainly managing you these days?
Greg: Good Fight has taken over all the management stuff, which means Kate can be our full time bud (laughs), which is great after all these years of ups and downs we have been through together. We are so happy for her because she has fulfilled her lifetime dream of starting a restaurant. It’s called The Tasty. It’s a vegan diner in Philly, and it’s rad.
Bob Makin is the reporter for MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. And like Makin Waves at www.facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.