Hardcore Til Death
Reclaiming the Warped Tour with Bryan Kienlen
Words by Alex Napoliello
After nearly 20-years since the punk rock band, The Bouncing Souls, emerged out of the local New Jersey scene, they are still going strong, releasing one track every month off their new album, the 20th Anniversary Series. The Waster caught up with bassist Bryan Kienlen during a 40-hour drive from Kansas City to Boise while on-board the Warped Tour bandwagon.
“The basic idea was to do something different for the 20th Anniversary — keep things exciting and fresh. More than anything, it’s been fun. The response has been very good. Our fans have had fun waiting and anticipating”, says Kienlen.
He adds, “We have eight [tracks] out so far, four more to go. I’m very excited about some of the upcoming songs. I can’t wait for the rest of the year. There is a song called ‘Bad Ass’ – it’s totally bad ass.”
The February release, ‘We All Sing Along’, is upbeat and plays on the notion that people stray from various upbringings, yet we’re all playing the same game of life. ‘Airport Security’, the March release, is a bit slower and deals with the redundancy in life. For any New Jersey resident, the song ‘Ghosts on the Boardwalk’ hits close to home. It, too, is a slower track about a lonely soul who seeks comfort in the peaceful sounds of a desolate boardwalk.
“We’ve been having a lot of fun with the ones that are out. We’ve been playing them on the Warped tour. ‘Gasoline’ from January has been going over great. We just started playing the song ‘Mental Bits’ (the June release) with Angelo Moore from Fishbone on saxophone”, says Kienlen.
The Souls ever-growing popularity stems from the raw and familiar emotions behind their lyrics. Anyone can put on a Souls’ track and identify with the message the band is delivering, which is a rarity these days. “Our surroundings, the people we know, the places we live at, and the things we do are our inspiration to our lyrics and vibes of our songs”, Kienlen explains.
I let out a long sigh of relief when I heard that a band who helped build the punk rock scene in the 90’s is still loyal to its ‘Do It Yourself’ roots and has not fallen into the hell and despair of the rotten mainstream.
“There will always be mainstream. There always has been. There is always a minority of real music and the majority is pure shit.” Kienlen adds, “you got to have faith. It’s truly underground where you’re going to find real music. That’s just how it is.”
Although the Warped Tour used to be a safe-haven for those punk rockers looking to escape the mainstream, it is now a symbol of it.
“It (Warped Tour) has changed totally,” says Kienlen, in a concerned manner. “We’ve been trying to get a handle on it. Back in the early 90’s we played Warped tour with Pennywise, Social Distortion, bands that played some form of rock n’ roll. [Now] There are bands that sing through auto tuners and lip-sync.”
“There are a lot of choreographed moves,” he adds. “A lot of theatre, ya’ know. Then you have this kind of metal, but it’s not metal. It’s totally theatrical. And then there is some really fucking overdrawn pop. I feel like there is a minority of us on the Warped Tour and we’re scratching our heads — The Architects, Bad Religion, Shooter Jennings, NOFX, and a couple others. I look around at what is really drawing the big crowds and I don’t get it.”
“There’s like some fucking Disney movie theme song shit and that’s what they’re (pop bands) writing and they’re writing it on purpose. They are trying to sell it to 11 or 13-year-old girls who are the major demographic. That’s the market they are aiming for. It’s all a business.”
– Bryan Kienlen of The Bouncing Souls
With 20-years in the making, the Bouncing Souls managed to stay clear from the major mainstream movements. They have outlived the rise of grunge and hip-hop in the 90’s, the emo take over in the early 00’s, and now they have to battle what Kienlen refers to as the ‘fake metal shit’.
“I’ll tell you what, I have nothing to do with it and it’s got nothing to do with me. We’re on the Warped Tour because Kevin Lyman (the founder of Warped Tour) still believes in punk rock as well and he always likes to put real punk bands on there (the bill). But he has to put these fucking bands on there because they are bringing thousands of fans”, demands Kienlen.
“It’s kind of heartbreaking when you’re playing and the kids who don’t want to hear it are just waiting for the next band. There’s nothing we can do about it. All we can do is what we do: play songs, be ourselves, be honest, and put our heart out there and the people who like us are the people who have a need for it in their lives and are receptive to it.”
It’s truly the fans that have made The Bouncing Souls what they are today and they are well aware of it. When speaking about their supporters, Kienlen states, “We have true family. The people who do understand really feel it on a real level. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Their family is the motor that keeps the engine going despite the mainstream roadblocks that have popped up along the way. Over the years, the loyal fan base has grown larger and larger which has caught the eye of major labels looking to exploit and market the punk rock image.
When asked if the band has ever been faced with the decision of ‘selling out’ or signing to a major label, Kienlen responded:
“We’ve had a couple crossroads, where that kind of thing was dangled in front of us. It’s hard to know what the best decisions are for the band. Whenever we encountered those kinds of decisions, we went with our heart and that’s lead us here. We’re not saying it’s right for everybody, it’s just what is comfortable with us. We sleep better at night doing things the way we feel is best. We’re not the type of characters that could be ‘rock stars’. We just aren’t those people, so we’re not.”
Not only have The Souls kept in-touch with their personal image throughout their career, but they have also stayed close with the bands they played with since the beginning. After the Warped Tour, the New Brunswick natives will play two shows at Webster Hall in New York, a couple in Philadelphia, and then they’re off to take on the world.
“For the August shows on the ride home we’ve got 7 seconds and Lifetime. We did that on purpose. It’s sort of like a 20th anniversary hometown show. We’ve stayed friends and family with people like that, who we’ve been through a lot with”, explains Kienlen.
As far as the future goes after the tour, he offers, “The end of the year we’re going to put them (20th anniversary releases) on a CD for people who want that format. Then we’re going to chill, get out of the spotlight for half of 2010. Second half, I don’t know what we’re going to do, who knows.”
I do know one thing is certain. The Bouncing Souls are going to continue creating fresh, original and real punk rock music despite what attracts the largest amount of fans. “We did it when Ska was big. We did it when Emo was big. We’re there to live our message. No matter how retarded the mainstream shit is, that’s never stopped us and it never will.”
TheWaster.com | 20 Years