Ahead of their appearance at Sonisphere this weekend, we look back at The Bronx's chaotic debut album in our Hall Of Fame feature. 'The Bronx' was inducted into the Rock Sound Hall Of Fame in Issue 173.
RELEASED: August 26, 2003
LABEL: Ferret / White Drugs
PRODUCER: Gilby Clarke
PERSONNEL: Matt Caughthran (vocals), Joby J Ford (guitar), James Tweedy (bass), Jorma Vik (drums).
ARTWORK: Joby J Ford
LA: the early 2000s. In this most chaotic of melting pots, four relative strangers were about to start a band. They were The Bronx, and they did not give a fuck. What followed would change punk rock forever... but they’d be lucky to survive the journey.
Matt Caughthran (vocals): “When I listen back to that album, there’s a lot of emotion. Everyone was still learning at that point, but I really didn’t know what I was doing!.”
Jorma Vik (drums): “It was literally as simple as Joby [J. Ford, guitar] calling me and saying, ‘Hey, let’s start a band, it’s called The Bronx’. He was working at a label and I knew him through my other band, so we started jamming out some stuff.”
Joby J Ford (guitar): “When we’d come up with a few songs, we started looking for a singer. We’d go to all the underground clubs to try and cherry-pick some dude. Matt and I were in another band called The Drips, and I thought he’d be really good for it.”
Matt Caughthran: “It was super raw, that’s for certain. I didn’t even really know the guys – there was a lot to figure out.”
Jorma Vik: “When me and Joby brought Matt into the rehearsal room to try out some vocals, we couldn’t even hear what we sounded like properly because our PA was so fucked. It was only when we recorded a few songs with our friend Beau Burchell that we actually heard the band for the first time.”
Gilby Clarke (producer / ex-Guns N' Roses): “The band’s manager at the time played me their three song demo. There was something very different about them: the word that kept coming up was ‘honest’. They had the same vibe as those great, early LA punk bands like X.”
Joby J Ford: “It was a very interesting time in music, and we had fun with it. We used to just fuck with people, for no other reason than sheer entertainment. People would write us emails and we’d write back in Morse code, we took band photos and scratched out our faces, we didn’t attach our names to anything. We had this whole idea of being this band who didn’t really exist.”
Matt Caughthran: “We hadn’t even done most of the record and we hadn’t played a show, but every fucking label was trying to sign us. Our manager was creating this mystique around us like, ‘Oh yeah, they’re hot shit in LA’! It was very Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle.”
Joby J Ford: “I’d been playing clubs for so long with no one turning up – Jorma’s band had fans, but none of mine and Matt’s bands had fans! All of a sudden we were getting flown to New York, and none of us had even been to New York before. It was the classic shit, getting wined and dined, strip clubs...”
As the word began to spread, the four-piece hooked up with Gilby Clarke to lay down their debut album. The hype was building, and Matt in particular was feeling the pressure to deliver. It was time to sink or swim.
Matt Caughthran: “There was a real race to the finish when we dug in with Gilby. You know that feeling you get when you don’t know whether you have the talent to do what you have to do? It was that, all the time. “
Gilby Clarke: “I wanted to capture that first-record magic; a band in a room together, looking at each other, playing for each other. Coming into my studio, all the instruments are nice, the guitars are in tune, the amps work. These guys were street guys, they had guitars with knobs missing and cracked cymbals. It must have been pretty strange for them.”
Joby J Ford: “We probably spent a total of a week recording that record, over a couple of sessions. In the early years there was a lot of emotional turmoil. You’re uprooted from your life and put into something really alien. You go through this phase of acting like the person you think you’re supposed to be, rather than who you really are. There are some instances that I look back with regret on, but those are the kinds of things that make you who you are, learning from your mistakes. It’s good to fuck up when you’re a kid.”
Matt Caughthran: “That feeling when [we were] driving up into the hills to record, and Gilby Clarke’s cool as shit... it was so surreal.”
Jorma Vik: “Some really weird shit happened too, though. We saw a dude get shot right in the middle of recording.”
Joby J Ford: “Three Clubs was an amazing club where we had our first show, and we’d go there every fuckin’ night. We were just there hanging and a dude got blasted, a cop shoved his gun in my face. He was like, ‘Are you a suspect?’ All of us were in questioning until seven in the morning. The cops were like, ‘They’re three Mexicans with shaved heads and moustaches.’ It could have been anyone. That really shook me up.”
Jorma Vik: “At the same time Matt kept breaking everything, fucking up all the time. We had no insurance, so we had to take him to the hospital and tell them that he’d got jumped and didn’t have his wallet.”
Matt Caughthran: “I’d wake up with a different hospital bracelet every day, ‘Arnold Johnson’ or whatever. We did a gig at the Troubadour and my cast started to come off, so I was like a mummy running around the stage!”
Joby J Ford: “I think I’m the only one who didn’t get a really bad injury in the early days. Matt had broken hands and feet, James Tweedy [former bassist] punched a garbage can, and Jorma broke his arm jumping over a trailer. It was wild.”
With their album released to a mass of acclaim, the band looked to take their appetite for destruction on the road. It’d take more than decent sales and a few good tour slots to put their bad luck behind them, however. In fact, things were only set to get crazier....
Matt Caughthran: “The record harnessed the sound of the band... we wrangled it into a corner and captured it. But live, it was fucking anything goes! We weren’t that great.”
Joby J Ford: “At some of our first shows, we were hardly even a band. We were just guys up there trying to kill stuff!”
Jorma Vik: “I broke my fucking elbow after our first show in the UK, so we had to cancel the London show and then fly in this drummer who knew maybe half a song. I was planning to tag along and sell merch or whatever, but there was no room for me. I got stuck in London for nearly three weeks, with no money. The bus just took off and I was there in the street; like, ‘Holy fuck’. I got taken in by these dudes in a punk squat, who kept me high on ketamine for two weeks. I lived in their makeshift band room, it was so fucked.”
Matt Caughthran: “At one point a drunk driver launched off an embankment and smashed down right in the middle of our van. We had to hire out a U-Haul truck. It was pitch black in the back, and would get so cold there’d be ice on the inside of the box truck. We were sat there doing coke in the back of a U-Haul! I don’t know if that’s a low point or a high point!”
Jorma Vik: “We had a black cloud over us for a long time. We used to call it ‘Bronx luck’. We were broke as shit, living on fucking couches.”
Matt Caughthran: “We tried to get people to take us in. We had a sign at the merch table that said, ‘Yo ladies, what’s up with your couch?!’ One time I got lost in Jersey City, wasted, looking for a McDonald’s, and ended up sleeping curled around a trashcan. The cool part of that entire time was that it was very much learning. You can’t unlearn, you can’t go back, there’s a very specific time in your life when that stuff happens. You look back on it, and it was just so much fun.”
The Bronx will appear at Sonisphere this Sunday at 5.50pm on the Bohemia stage. For all the stage times, head over to this link.