For 20 years, New Jersey's Bouncing Souls have been a staple on the punk-rock circuit. In that time, the guys have played seven Warped Tours and logged 300,000 miles on the van they've dubbed the White Castle. Now, to celebrate their anniversary, they're issuing a new single every month and have launched a cross-country tour that brings them to the Grog Shop for a two-night stand. Bassist Bryan Kienlen recently talked about the band's longevity.
You played in a cover band that dates back to 1986. What kind of songs did you play with that band?
Pete [Steinkopf] and I have been playing together since 10th grade. We played covers with a different buddy of ours. We were mostly playing parties in town. We went as far as Scranton, Pennsylvania. We played a couple of college parties and a bar. We were 16 or 17, so we were excited about college girls. We covered the Ramones, the Clash and U2. We did Billy Idol, which is funny because we still play "White Wedding" sometimes. We played punk but not real hardcore shit.
The Bouncing Souls debuted in 1989 at a Knights of Columbus Hall. What do you remember about the show?
That was classic, just getting the money together to rent out a hall for the night. Cops shut it down one or two songs into the set. We rented the place for the night, so we spent the night there. We ended up breaking a table. We had built this thing where we lined up a couple of tables and put these sleeping bags on them. We'd run at it and slide down across the table. We broke a table in half, and I put it in my truck and got rid of the evidence.
You didn't start touring full-time until 1995. What kind of day jobs did you have before that?
Um, everything. I was a janitor for a while right out of high school. Everything was communal. The band would pool our money to do things. Everyone had to chip in a couple of hundred bucks from their paycheck. We were all working this warehouse job and got a good chunk of money at a time. You'd bust your ass doing it, and we had to put it into the band for mailing cards and filled them out and stamped them and sent them out. We had a whole little factory at the house.
You've been on the Warped Tour seven times. How many pairs of Vans did you get out of the deal?
More than I could count, I guess. The thing is, we wear them. We wear them into the ground. If they want to put Vans on our feet, we sure as hell wear them. We never got free Adidas and we fucking mentioned them in a goddamned song. It's a stupid fucking song, "Ole," which we'll never play live. The chorus is awesome, but the verses are a little cheesy. We mention Adidas Samba, which is a great shoe. Same with Doc Martens. We got our name after them. We always joked that they needed to give us free stuff or sue us. Of course, none of the above happened.
Is it true your van the White Castle was an honorary fifth member?
For sure. It's a living breathing thing. We just hit 300,000 miles on her. We just replaced her engine. You feel like you've been through a lot together. It's like you're one of the family. I've had that feeling about motorcycles and my bass guitar.
You're issuing one new song every month this year. What has the fan response been like?
It's been a lot of fun. It's cool — the anticipation and people have no idea what the next song will be like. It's been a lot of fun, and the response has been so positive. It's too new of a thing to throw at the world at large. It's just for the hardcore fans. In a way, it's a sneak preview of a record as we write it. Next year, we'll have a full CD out for normal people to get.
The latest single "Dubs Says True" has a great celebratory feel.
That's our whole point. We sometimes forget that. Everyone does. But if we can't smell the flowers, we need to quit.