Arts & Entertainment, The Muse

Big Macs and The Bronx

‘Yeah, I’m that scumbag who drinks Heineken in McDonald’s,’ laughs The Bronx frontman Matt Caughthran as he whips out a half-empty can of beer from inside his jacket. After taking a swig and settling into the fuchsia-colored plastic chairs in the Central Square fast food establishment, Caughthran is ready to continue the conversation he’d started with The Muse at The Middle East, where his band will be forming a few hours later, before the staff asked us to vacate the coveted last empty table in the restaurant.
‘I listen to all kinds of music, but punk was the first music I discovered on my own,’ he says. ‘My sister was actually in a Bon Jovi video.’
Despite his exposure to ’80s hair bands, Caughthran and his bandmates have managed to build a name for The Bronx as some of Los Angeles’ finest hard-rocking, light-hearted hardcore heroes. Having just wrapped up a tour with punk veterans Bad Religion, the quintet is gearing up to release their third album, The Bronx III, next month. The album will be the first recorded on their own label, White Drugs, before heading out on a two-month tour through the U.K. and U.S. Thankfully, Caughthran made some time to sit down with The Muse and chat about starting the record label, portraying American hardcore pioneers Black Flag on film and playing mariachi.
When The Bronx recorded its last album, The Bronx II, in 2006, it was frustrated with the limitations enforced by the band’s label.
‘The goal of The Bronx is not to make the same record,’ he says. ‘And that’s part of what got so frustrating about the label thing.’
Though they managed to hammer out a worthy follow-up to their successful first album, The Bronx, the guys decided that the third time around, they’d do it all on their own. After building a studio from scratch in Caughthran’s Van Nuys, Calif., home ‘-‘- which was a definite step up in comfort from the converted methadone clinic where they recorded The Bronx II ‘-‘- the band went straight to work writing and recording. Caughthran explained that the more relaxed atmosphere enabled The Bronx to take a ‘trial by fire’ approach to The Bronx III. The result was an album packed with a punky vibe, more groove and less screaming.
‘For me, the song dictates where the vocals should go,’ he explains. ‘I don’t like when bands scream for the sake of screaming.’
This screw-you attitude and attention to detail landed the band an offer to appear as American hardcore legends Black Flag in Rodger Grossman’s biopic, What We Do is Secret, about another ’80s punk band, The Germs.
‘It was weird because no one in the band resembles anyone in Black Flag,’ Caughthran laughs.
‘ The Bronx vocalist played the role of former Black Flag frontman-turned-IFC-talkshow-personality Henry Rollins. Caughthran said shooting the film was a cool and eye-opening experience for the band. After reveling in the memory of playing with Black Flag bassist Kira Roessler during filming, Caughthran explains that despite the film being shot in an area of Hollywood that’s still brimming with goths and punks, he was surprised to learn that the studio hired ‘card-carrying SAG’ actors caked in makeup to portray the ’80s rockers and groupies.
While Hollywood might not be taking advantage of the local culture, Caughthran explains that The Bronx has whole-heartedly embraced the Latin American culture the members grew up in by starting a mariachi band, aptly called El Bronx.
‘We figured that that’s the most L.A. you can get,’ he explains. ‘I mean, I grew up in a Mexican neighborhood, so that culture has always surrounded me.’
The band simultaneously recorded its first mariachi record along with The Bronx III over the last couple of years. YouTube videos of The Bronx decked out in full mariachi regalia, which Caughthran assures that the band had custom made and brought with them on tour, are proof that El Bronx is the real deal.
‘Don’t shut yourselves down because people expect you to be a certain kind of band,’ Caughthran concludes. ‘I love bands that can do whatever the [explicative] they want.’

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