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The Unorthodox Punk Odyssey of Matt Caughthran

The Unorthodox Punk Odyssey of Matt Caughthran
Lisa Johnson

After five years fronting hardcore band The Bronx, cherubic Angeleno native Matt Caughthran and his band did something bizarre, risky and potentially brilliant. They formed a mariachi group.

Mariachi El Bronx would go on to open gigs for Foo Fighters and The Killers; quite a successful 180. They've since returned to their punk roots with their fourth eponymously titled full-length album The Bronx (IV), which will be released by White Drugs/ATO Records on Tuesday. We caught up with Caughthran before their record release show at Los Globos on Saturday.

Did you ever think that El Bronx would catch on?

Fuck no dude! No way, we thought we were gonna get killed. We're a bunch of white guys that are gonna try and play mariachi music and I'll bet that people are gonna fucking hate us. But it's something we want to do, so let's approach it as seriously as possible and be respectful to the genre. It ended up coming across authentic, which is what we wanted it to be. We didn't want people to think we were taking a shit on the genre or the culture so when it actually worked out I couldn't believe it.

That's gotta be a bit of a confidence booster...

When we didn't get assassinated and actually started getting tours I was like, I can't believe this, it's amazing. It restored so much faith in music industry and the creative side of life. Seven or eight years years ago people were so jaded. No one wanted to hear anything new, everyone was just bitching about every band on the planet. I think nowadays people are excited about music again. It's a kind of renaissance of the music right now.

Yeah, there seems to be a ton of older punk bands getting back together lately as well, what's your take on that?

See also: Black Flag Are Back Together

Honestly, I think it's an inspiring time in music and I think it's making people who haven't played in awhile miss it and wake up. I think it's coming from a genuine excitement of music and that's why I think the shows are so good...you get bands like Quicksand back together and they're fucking pumped and crowds are pumped too.

So you're a born and bred L.A. native, in what ways do you think Los Angeles has influenced your music?

Mariachi music itself was really regionally distinct throughout Mexico when it started. You got different sounds from different places and on a bigger scale I think that's the same for us. If we were from New York would we have made a mariachi record? Probably not. If we were from fucking Canada would we have made one? Definitely not. Los Angeles has a lot to do with both bands with The Bronx and El Bronx.

Considering the success you guys have had with El Bronx, what made you want to get back into punk?

It felt like the time was right. Bronx needed to breath a little bit, needed some recharging. We all feel good, we all feel inspired and we've been wanting to make this Bronx record for a long time. None of us really expected El Bronx to be something that people would actually like. Doing the El Bronx thing is amazing and it continues to be an inspiring project but our hearts are always with The Bronx.

How did you approach the new record after such a long break?

My favorite band of all time is The Ramones. I love simple chords and a strong melody and that's what we kinda wanted to do with our new record. That was really the only guideline. The one thing we wanted to do on this record was not overcomplicate the songs with too many parts. We wanted to strip down our sound and just make a very straightforward record. We're stoked on the record we're stoked to play the songs live.

Mariachi music...hardcore punk, how is it possible to balance the two out?

It's all about the ying and yang of life, you know? You want to play hot shitty punk shows,you want to play fucking mariachi gigs in East LA, you want to open up for the Foo Fighters. I want to play as much music as I can, anywhere anytime. Variety keeps you on the edge, it keeps you sharp and keeps you inspired. As long as there's electricity we'll be there and with El Bronx we don't even need electricity.

And lastly...it's gotta feel good to lose the outfits and get nuts on stage again...

It's funny with El Bronx I had to use a mic stand and it's a really whole different vibe. It feels great to be able to let loose again and have people stage diving, have beers flying in the air and be screaming my guts out. It just feels so good to get back to it, to be playing loud as shit again.

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