The Schizophrenic World of Mariachi El Bronx

the BronxThree takes, no do-overs; The Bronx are a bunch of guys from LA who embody the hardcore ideals of community, confrontation and saying fuck you to authority. Like all the best punk bands they also stick a middle finger up at punk dogmatism.

With the band playing two highly anticapted shows in London this week, I chatted to Matt Caughthran about the difference between confronting and inspiring your audience, the thrill of a quick costume change, lazy punk bands, being at the vanguard of UNESCO’s efforts to preserve Jalisco heritage, and calling bullshit on Bono.

Hello, Is this The Bronx?

Hello sir, it certainly is. I’m Matthew David Caughthran. I’m an Aquarius. Born in Bellflower, CA., February 13 1979, son of David and Judy. I feel a kinship with water and dogs.

I guess that’s all part of being an Aquarius..?

It certainly is.

So how are things in Europe?

We’ve been practicing a lot. We’ve been mainly doing the mariachi stuff.

It must be pretty crazy switching between the two all the time?

It can be a problem when we’ve not done one for a while, but when we’re in the zone we can do them back to back. We’ve been doing mariachi for a while,  so it’ll be good to plug in and just let rip.

You’re playing two separate shows in different venues as the Bronx, and El Bronx on 17th December…

It’s going to be insane, if I’m being honest, but we thrive on those sorts of situations. It makes a show special. Getting changed on the underground and shit, if the crowd knows a band has been busting their ass to get across town to put on a show it caps off a great night.

Sounds pretty full on…

We’re not resting on our laurels, we’re looking forward to taking off the mariachi suits for a while (although we’ve loved that). The next record will be The Bronx, the best we’ve made yet.

A lot of people dream of being in one band, you guys are in two…

Yeah, it is a lot of fucking work, but being busy is good, keeps you happy. We want to put all that energy in to our connection with the audience.

Joby [J. Ford – guitarist] has said “Punk hasn’t existed for 20 years, any band who calls themselves punk has no grasp on reality…” so that makes you..?

He’s right to a certain extent. Punk is an idea, not a sonic issue. There are ‘punk bands’ all over the place if by that you mean loud guitars, aggressive drums and angry vocals. You can get that shit in any town, any day of the week.

For us the idea and the attitude is of doing something different in the name of art, and saying fuck you to the status quo. I’m not going to say that doesn’t happen at all, but not a lot. This is a good time for art, creativity and music, but in a lot of people the attitude is lacking.

Is starting a mariachi band the most punk thing a punk band could do?

Well, if you’re in a band you’re given this license to do what you love, and people pay hard-earned money to buy your records and listen to your music. For them to hear the same shit over and over again… it’s a slap in the face!

Most people who buy music are people who’d kill to have the chance to be in your position. And with a lot of bands, to have all these people who are gifted and talented at making music only to sit on their asses and make the same shit over and over again for a paycheck.

Did you really start El Bronx on a whim?

It definitely started on a whim. But we’ve grown in to it and love it.

Does it have any connection to the plight of migrants and the Latino community?

I’m a deeply compassionate man, but I certainly don’t feel anyone’s plight. I don’t imagine myself in the body of a starving child, and I think people who say things like that come across more than a little arrogant.

I’m not Madonna or Bono with their millions of dollars and their false stances, but I have a heart.  I put human decency first as that was how I was raised, I always side with compassion.

UNESCO have declared mariachi an endangered cultural treasure…

Really? We’ve never tried to be ambassadors for mariachi, but we love it and care about it as a beautiful art form. If people get to hear it for the first time via us, then that is a beautiful thing.

It is a bit worrying how few bands there are now-a-days. I mean, it’s gotten to the point where Mariachis in LA are unionising to avoid being ripped off or hustled by bookers or promoters. I’m hoping we’re not going to see the end of a beautiful style of music.

Are you the first guys to take mariachi to Finland and Sweden?

I don’t know, but the crowd’s reactions have been fucking amazing. We’re not selling out arenas or anything like that, but the gerneral attitude has been loads of people excited by music, and that’s what counts!

This post originally appeared on Spoonfed on 14 December 2011

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