There’s a few bands out there that transcend the who’s-the-best argument- they simply fucking rock your shit. It’s not up for debate. Los Angeles punk / hardcore juggernaut The Bronx are on that shortlist with a bullet, establishing themselves as powerplayers in no time by doing things their own way from the word ‘Go.’ A&R guys were already swarming after the band’s first two shows in 2002, and they signed to Def Jam / Island shortly thereafter. They put out a record (The Bronx) and toured the world for two solid years, and what started out as a shining gem of 80s punk-rooted potential returned from the marathon of shows as a finely-tuned rock machine. The evidence is clear on their second album (also self-titled), with an exponentially increased sense of dynamics and texture added to their stomping thrash rock sound.
With a brutally addictive assault of rhythmic precision, gorgeous speed-freak riffs and iron-lunged vocals that rank among the very best hardcore has ever seen, The Bronx have become de facto narrators of life in Los Angeles- they are a product of the city, and the imprint is a key component of their sound. And while their unique blend of punk and hardcore has earned them a cult following, the band’s still pushing boundaries, to say the least. They just finished recording two albums- that’s right, two. And one of ’em is a mariachi record. They also kicked Def Jam / Island to the curb, and are putting the albums out themselves on their own label, White Drugs.
We caught up with Bronx guitarist / songwriter Joby Ford on the New Mexico stop of the Vans Warped Tour, which the band is joining for the first time this year, to discuss all things Bronx, including the band’s own Social Club imprint and why they don’t need major labels to conquer the world.
Antiquiet: How’s the tour going so far?
Joby Ford: Hot. Real hot. It’s doing good… This is our first time ever attempting something like this. We play early and it’s hot, but it’s good.
Antiquiet: With a much more limited set time, are you guys exploring a different setlist dynamic?
Joby Ford: We’re doing a couple different things. We played two shows yesterday- a mariachi set in one of the tents, and then we did our regular show on the main stage. We’re trying to air it all out so Bronx fans can see both of the dynamics instead of just one or the other.
Antiquiet: How’d the mariachi set come off?
Joby Ford: It was good- that was hot, ’cause we were wearing the outfits, and man. It’s like a pressure cooker in one of those things. But people went nuts.
Antiquiet: Any new bands you’ve come across in the past couple days?
Joby Ford: Nope. No, I don’t really have time to really go check everybody out, cause I’ve been really busy working. There’s a bunch of bands I’ve never heard of… It’s funny, there’s this one guy, Jeffree Star, this dude I know from LA… he’s way fuckin’ out there man, but I had no idea he was playing music and shit. I saw him the tour and was like “Dude, you have a band?!” So I’m gonna go check him out, I’m sure that’s gonna be incredible.
Antiquiet: Jeffree Star? Oh dear Christ… I’ve heard a bunch of his stuff, unfortunately. You’re in for a… uh, treat.
Joby Ford: Oh yeah? What’s it sound like?
Antiquiet: Jesus… Look at the guy. Songs about plastic surgery and Hollywood glamour and heart-shaped bruises and shit. Prepare yourself for a spectacle.
Joby Ford: Fuckin’ fantastic, man. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.
Antiquiet: Yeah, wear a condom. Anyway, one of the strongest things about your albums is how alive the energy is. There’s no whining and bitching involved, no out of place emo moments of whispered broken heart metaphors and such. That shit is everywhere, and we don’t need any more of it. It’s good to hear with songs like Knifeman that you seem to be staying true to that concept.
Joby Ford: I remember when… fuckin’ like when Sunny Day Real Estate and Jimmy Eat World first hit… That’s where emo started, for me. Those two records. But now it’s really just doubled on itself and gone through such a regression. The sensitive, aggressive emotional music nowadays is fuckin hilarious man. Oh my god.
To me, strapping on a guitar and rockin’ the fuck out… It’s this thing, this feeling of empowerment. I can’t imagine someone strapping on a guitar, and that’s what comes out. You know what I’m saying? Like at what point in these kids lives did they say “Dude, that rocks so much. That’s what I want to do.” I mean, the first concert I ever went to was AC/DC, and I was like Wow, man, fuck yeah! It was exciting rock n’ roll, and I just think to myself, like… these kids go to these shows and they see some pussy crying over fuckin’ spilled milk or something, and they’re like “Yeah! I wanna do that!” It’s like… no, man. You’re missing the point.
Antiquiet: And now you’ve got people getting together to demand a sterile, sensitive rock atmosphere… There was a story going around recently about Josh from Queens Of The Stone Age calling out some kid in the audience who kept throwing shit at him. They guy’s playing hit heart out, sick as a fuckin’ dog, but now Josh is supposed to apologize for calling the kid a pussy and a faggot?
Joby Ford: You know what dude? Josh is one of the nicest dudes I’ve ever met. And how the fuck… I mean somebody threw something at him. You’re at a fucking rock concert and you can’t call someone out on that shit? Let’s make sure we all wear fuckin’ shin-guards and helmets, and maybe afterwards we can have a little bonfire and grill some hot dogs. Cause that’s pretty rock n’ roll. God.
Antiquiet: When it comes to songwriting, what motivates you?
Joby Ford: You know, different things. I think if you allow yourself to be influenced by your surroundings and actually play the music that comes out of you, naturally, without trying to channel it into a different direction, I think everybody will always write good music. It’s pretty hard not to be influenced by your surroundings. There’s a reason country music is big in Nashville. The town has that country feel, you know? And I think with us, being from Los Angeles a lot of different things come into play. Cause it’s a real tough city to exist in. There’s a feeling like anybody here could explode at any moment, like fuck it, I’ve had enough!
Antiquiet: Michael Douglas hit that feeling on the head in Falling Down.
Joby Ford: Yeah, fuck, exactly. A lot of that pent-up frustration at the daily existence… I think we’re pretty effective as a band with our social commentary, shit that we see in our daily lives. I think that stuff’s probably the biggest influence on us. Your surroundings, letting those things come through you, through your hands or your mouth or things like that rather than sitting down and listening to a record and copying it.
Antiquiet: Here in Los Angeles it’s not hard at all to get into the headspace of your music. You guys really seem to accomplish the translation, communicating the soundtrack to the city.
Joby Ford: I completely agree with you. I think if you live in Los Angeles, our music makes a lot more sense. It’s a whole different thing… But everybody thinks it’s so different from what it is. Like “Hey, you live in LA,” and I’m like yeah, man, and it’s a fuckin shithole. It’s not what you see on TV at all. And it’s pretty hard not to be affected by it.
Come back tomorrow for the second half of this interview, In which Joby tells us more about the new Bronx records, and why there’s no point in being on a record label anymore.