Splendour Interview: Matt Caughthran of The Bronx (USA) talks Trump and a return to Australia in October

One of the groups to make an exclusive appearance at Splendour in the Grass over the weekend were The Bronx, who hit the main stage in support of their latest album, BRVNX (or The Bronx – V). Not long before they hit the stage I briefly sat down with the group’s frontman Matt Caughthran, to talk about touring while Trump is in office, getting political on the latest record, touring without their alter-egos Mariachi El Bronx, their love for Australia and they tease a return in October…

Welcome back to Australia Matt – this is your first time playing Splendour isn’t it?

Yeah, we’ve never done Splendour. It’s kind of one of the last things I don’t think we’ve done here. We’ve done Big Day Out, did Soundwave, did Meredith, did Groovin’ the Moo. So, we’re stoked to be here and playing Splendour because it’s amazing so far.

Do you get to hang for the weekend, or are you pretty much out tomorrow?

Hanging for the weekend. Ready to party.

Is there anyone you’re gonna see? Are you actually going to get amongst it?

Yeah, a couple people. Obviously, we have some friends playing with DZ Deathrays and a couple other bands. One of our old members of Mariachi El Bronx is the music director for Lorde, so going to check Lorde out and see Kendrick and all that stuff… and MGMT, there’s a couple bands I really want to check out.

You must be a bit of a pro at the festival set by now.

No, no, no. No. It’s fun, man. Festivals are a blast, but I try to limit my professionalism… there’s always an opportunity to learn and grow and just be better at what you’re doing, so I’m just stoked to be here, man.

Because I find the older I get, the harder I find these sorts of things.

Yeah, yeah. I don’t know. Everything for me nowadays is just, I’m just happy to be alive, man. There’s so much crazy shit going on in the world, so we’re here to play some music and have some fun.

You just got back from Europe. I saw you play Dunkirk over, was that a festival?

No, it was just a club show. Crazy city, man. Obviously, with the history of the war and all that stuff, but it’s such beautiful city. France is amazing.

How do you find being an American band touring Europe right now? Is it kind of a weird time? Is everyone wanting to talk to you politically and kind of, almost reminds me of being back in the early 2000’s when everyone wanted to talk about Bush.

Yeah, it’s not as bad because it’s like, I mean, obviously Trump is a huge talking point, and that happens and it’s all good, but it’s like, unlike in the Bush era, the whole world’s got problems right now, so it’s like there’s a lot of messed up stuff happening everywhere, Europe included. So it’s not really one of those things where you go over there, and they’re just like “We’re perfect! You guys are so fucked up!” It’s not that. It’s like they got their own problems, and they’re trying to work on it, and I think everyone’s just trying to figure out what the future holds, so it’s a crazy time right now, man, travelling and it’s like everywhere you go people are on edge. It’s kind of weird.

I find it interesting. I’ve been travelling a lot and going to the States a lot since Trump was elected, and just getting, just seeing kind of the different perspectives around the world. It’s actually quite interesting how unifying it seems to have been. I mean, the perspective seems to be pretty static across the world in terms of how things are right now.

I mean, you can rally against all sorts of stuff. You can rally for something positive. You can rally against something. Sometimes, all people need is just a rallying point, just something to kind of bring everyone together. Unfortunately, it sucks when it’s such a bad thing, you know what I mean? Because you always prefer the world rally around something beautiful, but sometimes things get messed up and you got to do what you got to do to change it.

You’re here off the back of Bra-Vonx if I pronounced that correctly. *laughs* Bronx with a V. I mean, a few lines into the first song, you’re talking about fake news, and you’re bringing more politics into the music. Is there sort of like this feeling like it’s almost expected of you to get political at times like this?

Yeah, I suppose it can be like that. But that’s not something that we subscribe to. You know what I mean? It was just more of a kind of a feeling where it just kind of felt right to talk about it in that song, in “…Glue Factory” (which opens the record). That song was just kind of a response to what was going on in the US during that time, with cops just shooting a bunch of people, and it was just a really messed up time, and it still is. But there was a concentrated year where it just real dark. So, one thing we don’t really do in the band is, we’re not fake about anything, and the other thing I try not to do as a writer is to sidestep anything. I felt like it was too important to not talk about.

I don’t mean to suggest it felt disingenuous or anything like that though…

I mean, we’re not really a political band, but I think sometimes you do have to talk about it. It’s an important thing, you know?

And translating that into the live show, you’re, I think the last time I saw you at a festival overseas, you were doing two sets in the days, under two different projects (Mariachi El Bronx), and is it nice just to kind of be the one set and really focus on this new music, and really, really jam out for an hour and delve into your catalogue?

Yeah, man. It’s really nice. It’s really nice, man. It’s cool. It’s like we’re really enjoying just doing the Bronx right now, and having some fun, and we’re playing really good, and it’s just, it’s not easy. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s also just kind of very, it’s very focused and it feels good to just kind of be in the zone, and just playing.

Are there any songs that you’re kind of particularly enjoying looking back on now, kind of some of your older material because I was looking at some of your set lists, and you’re doing a really impressive job of stepping through the catalogue now.

Yeah, yeah. I mean, that’s the fun part. It’s like we try to dust certain songs off, and certain songs we played forever, so we just kind of gave them a break for a year or two, and see what happens next, but that’s the fun part about being in a band, man, is just going through and figuring out what songs you want to play, and knocking them out.

You mentioned DZ before. They’re hitting the stage in a couple of minutes, and you’ve toured with Aussie bands in the past. You, of course, have toured Australia quite a lot. What do you think it’s about Australia that’s always kind of kept you coming back and really engaged you with fans here?

It’s just the overall vibe, man. It’s a laid back place. They’ve got a great love and appreciation for rock and roll, for punk rock music, and it reminds me a lot of home, man. It’s a lot like California. It’s like it’s very just kind of beach and good times oriented, very laid back, and it’s just, it’s a magical place, man.

Yeah, we’re talking about that before… the climates are pretty similar too which is nice.

Yeah, exactly, exactly. The sun’s always shining in LA, but yeah, there’s a lot of similarities. Just since we first came over here, it’s just kind of felt like a second home, and I love coming over here.

It’s also one easy flight from LA!

It’s not that bad of a flight. It ain’t that bad.

Coming from Prague or wherever you just were, that’s a little worse.

Coming from Europe’s a little crazier, but yeah, it’s all good.

So what’s the rest of the year holding for you guys?

More touring, man. It’s like we bounce home for a little bit after this, and then we go back to UK for Reading and Leeds, and then a full US tour with Thrice in September, October, and we’re trying and come back over here in October, do some club shows, and then it’s back to the UK for December for some shows with Flogging Molly, and then that’s it.

That’s a bloody full year, though, isn’t it?

Yup. Yup.

You’re sort of like halfway through the mayhem.

No, yeah, we’re halfway through, but it’s all good. We’re having a good time, man.

Would you have it any other way?

No. No, it’s nice to be busy, and when being busy is travelling and playing music with your friends, I mean, it doesn’t really get much better than that.

It certainly doesn’t. Well, it’s always a pleasure to see you here in Australia. I hope we do see you back here in October because, especially, there’s something about those rooms where the sweat drips off the walls…

Oh, yeah. We’ll be back.

The Bronx (V) is out now. Keep an eye on the band’s official website to await the announcement on their October tour.