Exclusive Q&A: The Bronx Bring Mariachi To The Punk Masses

For the past three years, The Bronx have been living a double life as a hardcore punk band and a troupe of mariachi musicians.  After releasing three ferocious punk albums, the band took a decidedly different musical direction.  Their 2009 debut mariachi album proved that The Bronx was equally comfortable playing brain-rattling distorted power chords as well as intricate, authentic mariachi music. With the release of their second album as Mariachi El Bronx this August and a summer tour supporting the Foo Fighters, the band cements their relationship with mariachi not as a one-off gimmick, but as a serious musical passion. We sat down with frontman Matt Caughthran to talk about the personal draw of mariachi music, the band’s dining habits and how we can get our hands on their special brand of cologne.

OS: There’s a lot of old horror movie imagery in your album covers and merch.  If you could record the score for one movie, which would it be?

MC: Oh, wow. I would say Apocalypse Now. It’s my favorite. It’s very much the movie about the journey, you know? I kind of find a parallel with that movie and my own life. I feel sometimes like I’m going up this river to find whoever my Colonel Kurtz is, with all the chaos that happens along the way. It’s always struck a chord with me. It’s such a great story and it’s so easily relatable to anyone that’s ever been down a long, strange road.

OS: Lucha libre is also an influence in The Bronx’s merch and videos.  If you were a luchador, what would your theme song be?

MC: Ooh that’s a good one.  Let’s see here.  It’d probably be “Short Sight of Nothing” by Los Lobos.  That’s my favorite Lobos song.  It’d be a good song to come out to, I think.  “La Pistola y El Corazon,” too.  That’s a great Lobos song.  That would kind of get the crowd going.

OS: While you’re standing up on the turnbuckles and doing your thing?

MC: [Laughs] Yeah, exactly!

OS: You guys have your own cologne: “Barrio Sweat” by Mariachi El Bronx.  Sounds tasty.  What’s your secret ingredients?

MC: The secret ingredients are a secret, but it’s carved from the asphalt of Los Angeles.

OS:  [Laughs] I’m sure that smells great.  Do you guys use it yourselves?

MC: Yeah, yeah I use it all the time! There’s a very limited supply so I use it sparingly ’cause I don’t want to run out. It’s like fine wine. You don’t really want to drink it but every now and then you’ve just got to take it that next level up.

OS: Yeah, I wanted to get some but it was all sold out on the Web site!

MC: Yeah, they went quick man. There’s a couple bottles here and there that are still around, but they were gone quickly.  They might do another pressing, though.  We’ll see.

OS: Now that you guys have dominated mariachi, having recorded two full-length albums, what’s next?  German folk?

MC: I’m not gonna say “no,” but the thing is that the mariachi thing makes a lot of sense to us. I know it doesn’t to a lot of people, but it’s not that far for us being in LA and especially for myself growing up in a Hispanic neighborhood. It just kind of made sense that when we tried to switch gears and do something a little softer that would be the way to go.  We don’t necessarily want to tackle world music one region at the time.  I have no problem with music from all over the world.  I absolutely love it!  It’s just that there’s something special to us about mariachi music.

OS: But you guys could totally rock out on some German folk music¦

MC: What’s crazy is that when we tour on the El Bronx stuff, we always get tripped out by how many people dig it.  We always thought that wherever we went where there was no hint of Hispanic culture that they weren’t going to get it. But you forget how over in Europe, like especially in Germany with polka music and stuff like that, a lot of the foundations, musically, are kind of similar.  And everywhere we go, they dig it: places like England, all through Europe and Australia, and places where you would think “what the fuck is this?” It’s been really inspiring in a lot of ways because there’s been such a good attitude about the music.  A couple of years ago if you wanted to do something like that everyone was so jaded that they would just write it off so quickly.  People, I think, are so excited to hear new ideas and new stuff coming out because the music industry is in the process of reinventing itself. It’s just an exciting time right now. It’s a good time to be creative.

OS: I hear some of you guys are serious foodies.  How do you satisfy your culinary cravings on the road?

MC: We do have some foodies in the group.  Really me and Joby.  We try to balance it out.  We love just eating whatever food is in front of us as well, but what we try to do is when we’re in major cities, or even if we’re just driving through nowhere, we’ll try to stop at a diner instead of a gas station or anything like that.  But when we get into major cities like New York we all try to get together and go out and have a band dinner.  We go out and pick a restaurant or pick a place to go out and just try new things.  It’s cool because it’s such a good break to get out and sit down with your friends and do something different than just play a show.  We’ll get some drinks and a couple courses.  It’s just a really nice environment.

OS: This fall you’re going out in support of those notorious pranksters, The Foo Fighters. Will you retaliate if provoked?

MC: Oh, of course!  Those guys are such great dudes. We’ve gotten to know them here over the last year or so pretty well.  They’re really great, and we’re very similar in how relaxed and kicked back we are.  I’m really looking forward to that tour because it’s going to be hilarious.  It’s going to be one of those tours where there’s not a moment that’s serious.  It’s going to be a very hysterical tour, and it’s going to be a great time.  I’m really looking forward to it.

OS: Who do you like more and why: fans of The Bronx or fans of El Bronx?

MC: They cross-pollinate to a certain extent.  It’s funny sometimes because when we play as both bands we’ll have a mom there with her daughter.  The daughter hates the mariachi group but loves The Bronx, and the mom hates The Bronx and loves the mariachi group.  It’s funny.  The Bronx has been around for almost ten years, and now with the El Bronx thing we have people come to our shows who have absolutely no clue that we play this other style of aggressive punk wildcard music.  They have absolutely no clue!  They think we’re just these sweethearts. It’s really funny.  On the flipside, there’s the respect and the loyalty that we have from fans of The Bronx. That they trust us to do whatever we want and to put out quality music is such a great thing.  It’s something that we don’t take for granted.  There’s The Bronx fans that have been there from day one.  They really get what our band’s about.  There’s a lot of time you spend in the early years as a band that are very important.  You have to mold and you have to stamp and just screw the idea into people heads that you’re not what they think you are, and that you’re going to be able to write whatever music you want to write and you’re not just going to be a band who writes one song.  You’re not going to be the type of band who puts the same record out.  It takes a while for people to get that and to allow that, and I think people get that about our band now and I think they’re cool with it.

OS: Thanks so much, Matt.  It’s been a pleasure!

MC: No problem at all, man. I’ll let you know if we do anymore Barrio Sweat.  I’ll shoot an email your way!

While we here at the OurStage office eagerly await our sampling of Barrio Sweat by Mariachi El Bronx, you should check out The Bronx’s new album Mariachi El Bronx II and catch them on tour with Foo Fighters this fall!