Punk rock legends The Bouncing Souls will be on hand at the Dr. Martens lounge at Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas to sign stuff for fans, but we couldn’t wait until then to ask them all our fan-kid questions. Luckily, we were able to catch-up with the band’s bassist, Bryan Kienlen. The Bouncing Souls are closing in on 30 years of non-stop shows, albums, and songs that inspire fans and burgeoning punk bands alike. For Bryan, it’s also been nearly three decades of creating artwork for album covers, flyers, posters, and more – yes, that Bouncing Souls tee you’ve had since high school, that’s Bryan’s artwork. Read on to find out the secret to the band’s success and where you can find Bryan for a tattoo to match your tee…
How did you all come up with the name ‘The Bouncing Souls’?
Ha ha, yes it’s true, the name is taken from the tag on the back of your boots which reads “with bouncing soles”. I was wearing my 10-hole steel toes while we were all having a conversation trying to come up with a band name. I read the tag and thought, yeah, and we can change it to “souls” and everyone dug it. The rest as they say, is history!
Do you remember your first pair of Doc’s?
It was almost a kind of ‘rite of passage’ getting my first pair. I was crazy about Oi! music and bands like Warzone, AF, etc. In the 80s, there was a lot attached to a pair of Doc’s and getting my first pair was a huge deal. I still have one very well-worn pair of oxblood steel toes, worn paper thin.
The Bouncing Souls are coming up on 30 years together, what’s the key to keeping a band together and continuously putting out new music for such a long time?
For the most part, staying together has been a no-brainer. I mean if someone told you in high school ‘Hey, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want; you can just keep hanging out with your best friends and make music forever!’ wouldn’t you be stoked? For us, that stoke was so high we’re still riding it. One of the luckiest moments in my life was when we made the decision and commitment together. There has been insane amount of work put into this, but as they say, many hands makes light work. I feel so blessed to still have My Souls family.
Do you still tour in The White Castle van? Any particularly memorable moments in that van?
White Castle R.I.P. 1996-2014. More memories were made inside that truck than I could ever do justice. If only my memory was better I could write a book just about that truck. It was a 14″ box truck which we converted into a sort of mobile home compete with 8 bunks and a ‘lounge’. Did about 300,000 miles on the first motor and then another couple hundred thousand on the second.
Some say The Bouncing Souls are like unofficial New Jersey Ambassadors. What do you love about The Garden State?
The four seasons, the beach, and the pace. People here a more direct and real. I love a lot of places but NJ is home and will always be for me.
There is a huge collection of your illustrations, paintings, and tattoo work, on your website and even more on your Instagram. What do you get creatively from drawing and painting that you don’t get from music?
I’ve always been a visual artist first and foremost. I see the world in colors and shapes, dimensions and relationships of positive and negative space. Luckily, I had lots of album covers and shirt designs to keep that side of myself flowing and developing through all those touring years. To me, songwriting and drawing are two sides of the same coin, both are perfect soul food. My website serves as more of an archive of the years of band images I’ve created and some tattoo pics, but my Instagram is the best way to keep up with the latest tattoos (you can keep up-to-date here).
Which came first for you: music or drawing?
In high school, music was who I was, art was what I was doing. I had actually been accepted to some great art schools but just blew it off in favor of the band. I did however take all the art courses at the local county college where I learned a lot.
How did you start tattooing? Where can people find you for tattoo work?
Back around the time we started the band, I was really into tattoos and built my first machine and began tattooing my friends but dropped it when the band got busy. I picked it right back up around 2009 once we slowed down on touring so much. I did my formal apprenticeship at Immortal Ink in Flemington and then eventually landed at Neptune Tattooville near my house, where I’ve been for 6 years and counting. I love tattooing and I love my family at Neptune. People can contact me via Instagram or Facebook or better yet, come into the shop and make an appointment.
Can you talk us through your song ‘Battleground’ and the inspiration behind it?
The situation at Standing Rock was so rotten we felt we needed to do and at least say something about it. But in a broader sense, we feel like pure love and kindness needed to be spoken up for.
What bands are you listening to right now?
Avail, The Bronx, Sick of It All, the English Beat, the Damned, Toots and the Maytals, Nina Simone, Municipal Waste, Madball, in all over the map. Hah!
Any shows you’re particularly looking forward to on this tour?
We’re touring with Dropkick Murphys and Rancid in July, I’m stoked for the reunion factor there. We’ve done a lot with both bands and it just makes sense to finally tour all together.