EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE BRONX’ MATT CAUGHTHRAN
Free of the shackles of a major record label, The Bronx frontman Matt Caughthran seemed like a newly reinvigorated man when I spoke to him on the phone this fall. Excited about finally having a team behind the band that actually cares about the band and their awesome new record The Bronx III, Matt told us about how the band’s deal with Island / DefJam went south, what’s it’s like to be in control of everything again, and about the writing and recording of the both the band’s new record and the already-recorded, soon-to-be-released traditional mariachi record they have in the can.
We were supposed to rendezvous at the midtown offices of the band’s publicists but Matt got caught up handling band business at their management’s office, the same firm who handles Fall Out Boy. And that’s where the conversation began.
Hey what’s up man? How are you?
I’m doing alright man. I got a hold up here going on over there at the management company, so I apologize.
Not a problem man. It happens. So I guess that’s an interesting way to kick things off here. It’s sort of like a new chapter for you guys.
How did it come about and how does it feel by being managed by Fall Out Boy’s management?
Well I’ve known Jonathan for a long time, and it’s not that different. Managers have different bands. It’s not really an issue for me. It does feel good however to be out of Island. It feels good to be fully responsible and fully in control of what we’re doing. Jonathan is an amazing guy, and he’s helped us out a lot with his advice. You are very lucky if you get a good manager and an honest manager in this business. He could manage the Backstreet Boys, and I wouldn’t really care.
So I was actually going to ask about the record label situation as well. You had only the one record with Island, and now you guys are on your own. How does that feel?
It’s great man. It’s frustrating and difficult when you work real hard on something like we did on the second record and you have to watch as people screw it up. It’s very difficult and hard to deal with. When everything is in your hands, you can outsource whatever you want. You have people who care about your band and who love your band wanting to work with you. When we were at Island, you are forced to use their publicist, their Internet person, their whatever. All that stuff that record labels have, you have to use theirs. No one at the label knew who we were at all. That was the difficult part. You work your ass off on a record and then hand it to these people who don’t really care about your band. That’s a mistake that I don’t want to make again.
Of course there are probably some up sides to that too as maybe you are starting to find out already with the album pretty close to release. Are you noticing that anything is more difficult this time around?
Not at all. The funny thing is that it feels so much better. It is completely different, man. It’s beautiful. We have all these great people working with us now. You don’t understand, for the last record we were on the big Island/Def Jam, and there was nothing. There were no interviews, no press, absolutely nothing. Now, everything is in full swing. It’s basically our publicist, our management, and us. It feels amazing. It’s a really big accomplishment as far as, not that it’s easy, but more like “is it really this easy and Island/Def Jam didn’t do anything?”
Do you think the problem with Island was that there are a lot of bands that get signed and by the time the record comes out the key staff that understands the band is gone? Was it that kind of thing?
Oh yeah. It was all that major label stuff. You got to worry about when the record comes out, is it going against a band that’s selling a lot of records, a new band that they want to work more. It’s all that stuff that I try not to pay attention to, but you can’t help but figure it all out when something like that happens. That’s the frustrating thing. The music is so awesome now because you don’t have to stick with that situation. You can get out and do things yourself. It’s way more beneficial to the artists in today’s music world to do stuff like that. You just have to side yourself with the right people.
Do you think that the different business circumstances surrounding you guys this time around has affected the music?
Not really. We’ve always been focused on writing and tuned out the business side. I only jump into that pool when I have to. The band is the band. Everything influences the band. There are some lyrics on the new record that have a lot to do with the state of music, but there’s not an Island/Def Jam song or anything like that. I think having a little bit of liberty and all that stuff on this record as well as having our own studio was in a lot of ways the rebirth of the band. It does feel a lot better. It feels like a breath of fresh air. That may have come across on the record.
Tell me a little bit about the new record, musically, what you guys were going for. I understand you actually wrote two records?
Yeah. We wrote the Bronx III record and then we made a traditional mariachi record that kind of flew out of us. It was 100% inspiration. We love that style of music and we did a T.V. show and we didn’t want to do the regular shitty rock guy acoustic music T.V. thing. So we tried a song mariachi style and had some friends join us, and it was just amazing. I would never have thought that The Bronx could have made the record that we made, but that’s been the point of the band. It has always been the whole point of the band to do things different and to never do the same thing over. It’s that way with the rock record too. The record is different than the other two. I try not to sit down and find out what this record is more than the other ones aren’t. Before we write a record we don’t sit down and say, “okay this is what we want to do.” It’s just kind of all dictated by the music. The music eventually chooses its own path. I think the record, like I said earlier, is a lot more relaxed. It’s a lot looser because we were able to have our own studio and bounce off back and forth in between two records. The last record we made was kind of drawn out. The last record is a great record, and I love it, but it’s a little over-thought in my opinion.
So as far as the mariachi element, to do a song like that as you did on that T.V. appearance is one thing, but was it a challenge to do that for an entire album or did it come naturally because of how you guys grew up?
It was a challenge rhythmically doing all of that studying and making sure that we didn’t fuck it up. We wanted to do it right. When you dive into something like that you don’t want to murder it. There’s a beautiful tradition there. That was the part that was challenging. The songs themselves poured out on their own. The songs were completely organic and just amazing the way they came together. Everything just clicked and it was one of those things you read about as a fan of art and music. You read about the records you love, about how everything came together and it was meant to be. When it comes down to the producing, mastering, mixing, writing, lyrics, everything was just clicking and everything had a purpose. That’s the way the record was. We made sure all the rhythms and the guitar stuff were very authentic and original. We worked our asses off making sure we got the strumming patterns right. The music on the record is unbelievable.
Do you feel like the mariachi record will be overlooked, and the rock record is going to be the one more people pay attention to or do you feel like they’re both equally loved children?
As far as us, everything is equal. I’m very proud of both records, but the mariachi record is something that I’m really blown away by just because of the entire entity of it. From conceptually thinking about it to seeing it all the way through to seeing what it is now. It’s hard to say what is going to happen with that record. I want people to know that it is a serious thing and that it’s a great record. Outside of that, it’s out of my control and whatever is going to happen to it is going to happen to it. That’s kind of where the boundary comes up between band and industry and all that stuff. It’s our job to be creative and to make music and that’s what we love to do. We don’t really write records for anybody else. Of course we hope and want our fans to love it, and I think they will. I think they will love both records, but the music comes originally from a place in our hearts. We make it to make ourselves happy.
You mentioned before that this time it was nice to have your own studio. Did you also self-produce this time around?
No, we had Dave Shiffman produce it. It was a mutual thing. We all worked together. On the last one it was an Island thing, but this one was much more of a group effort. Dave is a really amazing guy and really cool to have. He’s kind of like the campfire in a lot of ways, and we all just sat around him and bounced ideas off of him, cooked marshmallows off his back. That was his role, and it was great. It was very hands off in a way. He was there in case we needed to use his brain for something. He’s a great engineer so the record sounds great. That’s how he was. It’s always funny with the world of producers and stuff like that. It’s real interesting for me because there are so many different personalities and ways to do things. Each record is an adventure, and Dave did an awesome job.
As far as touring, I know you guys have a tour schedule starting pretty soon. Are there any plans beyond that as far as whether you are going to bring the mariachi stuff in at some point? And how would you execute that live or is that even possible?
Yeah, we’ve already played it live. It’s definitely possible. We wouldn’t write a record that we couldn’t play. Basically right now what we’re doing is on Sunday we drive down to Detroit, then we play Philly, Boston, then we come back up and play New Jersey and then we’re back up in New York for CMJ. Once that’s over, we jump over to the U.K. and Europe for about a week and a half to two weeks. Then we come back to the States, and we play the East Coast and the middle of America and a little bit of Canada with Every Time I Die. Then we are going to go home for Thanksgiving and stuff our faces. Then it’s off to Australia and surf and have a good time while playing music over there. Then come home for Christmas and stuff our faces and rest up until the beginning of January. Once that’s done, it’s all or nothing. We’re going to go all out for it and tour for the rock record, and then the mariachi one is coming out around March. So once that record comes out we’ll definitely be doing an El Bronx tour as well.
Cool man. Well we’ll see you at CMJ. We’re actually sponsoring the show that you guys are playing.
Oh awesome. Have you heard Trash Talk?
Briefly, just a song or two.
Yeah a lot of people I know have had great things to say. Akimbo is a cool band too.
So cool man. Thanks for taking the time.
[Visit The Bronx on MySpace]