There are plenty of ways to commemorate a successful career: compilation albums, tribute concerts, limited-edition merch…and if you aren’t a musician, probably an office party with ice cream cake. But the Bouncing Souls are one-upping everyone this summer, playing through their entire collection of studio albums in a slew of four-night punk extravaganzas in cities around the world. We sat down with Souls frontman Greg Attonito to talk about why the time was right for this eight-city tour, the ability to stay relevant for more than twenty years and how even in the digital age, the Jersey-based four piece is still repping the DIY lifestyle.
OS: While a lot of bands who have been together as long as the Souls would choose to commemorate their career with a retrospective album, you guys decided to do a tour where you played through all of your albums. What was the inspiration behind that?
GA: We have been talking about playing all our records live for years so it was just a matter of time. This year at our Home for the Holidays shows in Asbury Park, we decided it was time. It was a lot of memory work re-learning a lot of songs we haven’t played in years, but it really paid off. It ended up going over really well for us and for the audience I think. So…Why not take it on the road! So that’s what we decided to do.
OS: You’re playing in just eight cities, but the tour is taking you all over the world. What determined the lucky eight tour destinations— were they places that held some significance to the band?
GA: We chose cities that we have had consistently good shows in over the years. We also wanted to work with promoters that were enthusiastic about the idea. So… those are the Lucky eight cities!
OS: The Souls and Chunksaah have always had a very DIY attitude—you had to be resourceful and creative about touring in the pre-Internet age. What does that DIY attitude translate to in 2011?
GA: In more difficult economic times I think we are forced to become more DIY in all parts of our lives from the food we eat to the music we make. Most of us are working more and earning less so we really have to be more practical than ever…but I think its good for all of us because most of us have been living pretty wasteful lifestyles. So I’m glad we as the BS family have learned how to be as DIY as we can. We need that knowledge and attitude now more than ever.
OS: How do you feel about the industry now? Did you prefer the days when you got the word out about shows through flyers in record store windows, or are you a fan of doing that online through social networking?
GA: It feels like industry is in labor right now about to give birth to a new way of doing things, so it’s a trying time. I don’t want to repeat the past but I do sometimes miss how simple things were when we first started. The challenge is to carry that spirit on! I’m not a fan of social networking but I do have a Facebook page and I appreciate how convenient it is to inform people about new music/live shows etc. I’m not into it enough to Twitter and I’m also not interested in posting my every life movement. Overall though the Internet is a great thing for all of us to communicate quickly and for free!
OS: What about your fan base? It seems like you’ve stayed relevant to fans who span several generations. Why do you think your music is as popular with forty-somethings as it is with pre-teens?
GA: It’s a cliche, but we “strike a chord” that goes beyond age I think. Our music is for the heart, and it helps us all remember we are not alone and we are here in life to enjoy ourselves and live for each other. Why wouldn’t people come back for that? That’s why all of us band members keep coming back.
OS: You guys don’t reinvent yourselves as often as some musicians do, but there have been some significant changes in The Souls’ music over your career. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve gone through over the last two decades?
GA: We have intentionally tinkered with our writing styles over the years by including producers in the process. It has been great in some ways and not so great in some ways but we have learned a lot throughout. All that we have learned we are putting into the new songs we have been writing. The main focus is to enjoy ourselves every step of the way.
Since you mentioned re-inventing ourselves it might be a good time to let you know about my new solo record! Its called Natural Disaster and will be coming out on Chunksaah records this summer. It was fun for me to get completely out of the Bouncing Souls writing dynamic, get a fresh perspective and see what happens. The record sounds great and I have a renewed attitude toward creating new BS music. It will be fun to see how people respond to it because its not like BS music.
OS: Now that you’ve been together more than twenty years, do you have any advice you wish you could give your teenage selves? Anything you wish you did differently?
GA: No. I wouldn’t do anything differently. I would probably tell me teenage self not to be so stressed out, be honest with yourself and take the time to learn how to be comfortable with just being myself…Thats probably it. But my teenage self probably wouldn’t have listened to my forty-year-old self! [Laughs]
Interested in catching the Souls as they play through all their albums this summer? Check out the band’s Web site for a list of the upcoming tour dates.