The Bronx have a new album out—but you might not realize it. That’s because the Los Angeles band’s third album, like the two that came before it, is titled simply The Bronx. It’s part of the band’s plan to keep things simple—a plan that also includes recording at the group’s own studio and releasing The Bronx on their own label, White Drugs. “We really wanted to make a record that felt homemade—simpler,” explains guitarist and founding member Joby Ford. “We’re just trying not to overthink it.”
Ever since the Bronx elbowed their way into the Los Angeles music scene back in 2002, fans, critics, and, most of all, music snobs have debated which subgenre best describes the band’s energetic, no-nonsense sound. “It’s hilarious to read that stuff,” remarks Ford. “We file things into good and bad, and we just hope people put us in the good category.”
Most Bronx fans are made at the band’s shows, and there are plenty of those. The six members—Ford, vocalist Matt Caughthran, drummer Jorma Vik, guitarist Ken Horne, and bassist Brad Magers—conquered last year’s Warped Tour, only taking breaks from the sun-beaten crowds to shake things up at smaller club dates. “We put out a record and we tour on it. We don’t want to deal with all of the other stuff that comes with being in a band,” says Ford.
Because of their willingness to get in the van and their nonstandard sound, they have found themselves with tour bedfellows of all kinds. From straight-up hardcore and metal bands like Converge and Mastodon to hipper acts like Atreyu, the band has yet to feel awkward on a bill. “When a lot of good bands come up, they don’t sound like anything else,” says Ford. “Individualistic bands tend to seek each other out.”
But no matter who The Bronx are playing with, you can always expect the same insane level of energy that keeps their fans stage-diving and clamoring to scream Caughthran’s lyrics right back in his face. It’s such a spectacle that it usually keeps people from noticing Ford’s self-proclaimed “crappy” tattoos. “I got my first tattoo when I was 17. It’s my initials in flames. I had to bribe an artist to get it,” he remembers. “The rest of the guys have more tattoos, but I have the worst.”
Luckily, Ford has a chance to cover those tattoos with a custom-made mariachi outfit for the band’s side project: El Bronx, an alter ego that features the band playing straight-up mariachi music chock full of trumpet and guitarrón and devoid of anything that could possibly be considered punk. According to Ford, the whole project came about from the band’s refusal to play unplugged. “An L.A. TV show wanted us to play one of our songs acoustic and that always turns out terribly,” he says. “We, as a band, love mariachi music so we did it. It all moved very fast. It’s not a joke. It’s totally serious.” Serious enough that El Bronx’s first record is scheduled to drop in March 2009 with 11 tracks of traditional mariachi. The album’s title? El Bronx. Of course.