For over three decades The Bouncing Souls have been one of the most reliably joyful bands in punk rock, fostering an incredibly close kinship with their loyal listeners. Now on Ten Stories High, the band have taken this connection even further, creating an album of songs directly inspired by the stories of their fans.
Ten Stories High finds The Bouncing Souls–vocalist Greg Attonito, guitarist Pete Steinkopf, bassist Bryan Kienlen, and drummer George Rebelo–making the best of the chaotic past couple of years. With touring on pause during the pandemic, the group turned to Patreon connect with their listener community, including a tier where fans could have a custom song written for them.
The process would begin with the band having Zoom conversations with fans. “It was so refreshing to be like ‘Oh cool we’re going to get to know someone’,” Attonito explains.
“We’ve written so many songs from our own experiences but this time we really stepped outside of that.” The Souls would learn about their fans’ lives, and then dive into tightly regimented writing sessions to turn the things they’d heard into the makings of songs.
Eventually the group decamped with Will Yip in Philadelphia to hone their demos, write more, and record Ten Stories High. The result is an album that draws directly from stories of life’s ups and downs, the moments of joy, sadness, and excitement that end up bonding us together. “We’ve been writing songs together for 30 years and that’s been amazing,” Attonito says, “but this felt like something new: a way to tell someone else’s story and have a whole new journey.”
Over the course of their 30-plus-year career, The Bouncing Souls have built and maintained an uncommonly close bond with their listeners. Now on their latest full-length, Ten Stories High, the beloved New Jersey punks have taken that connection even further with an album of songs directly inspired by their fans’ very own stories.
Like most musicians, The Bouncing Souls–vocalist Greg Attonito, guitarist Pete Steinkopf, bassist Bryan Kienlen, and drummer George Rebelo–had their work put on pause in the midst of the pandemic. Looking for a creative outlet and a way to stay in touch with one another and their fans, the group began using the Patreon platform.
“We sort of grumbled about the idea of doing the Patreon at first,” laughs Attonito. “We’re just four old punkers! But we realized that different life situations are what helps and pushes you creatively into doing things you might not normally do.” In addition to a weekly podcast and other content, the group offered a special tier where fans could have a custom song written for them. “The technical side of doing the songwriting was pretty strict,” Attonito continues. “We’d do these 30-to-40-minute Zoom calls with the person and just try to get to know them. They were all massive Souls fans, but they were all so different. We’d just try to have a conversation and I would take notes…something would usually pop out and I could see it as something to focus on in a song, whether it was more literally or even just a kernel that would spin off into something totally different.”
After the initial conversations, the band members would set to work: Kienlen and Steinkopf, the only members living in the same city (The Souls’ longtime homebase of Asbury Park, NJ), would get together at Steinkopf’s studio to cobble together ideas and then send them to Rebelo and Attonito for feedback. “We’d have these very tight 40-minute Zoom meetings where we’d talk about the song ideas and structures. It was really focused, but also fun because we really just love talking to each other and it was a way to hang out during the pandemic.” The Zooms kept coming and the songs kept forming, and what began as a fun exercise soon blossomed unexpectedly into the next Bouncing Souls album.
The band convened with producer/engineer Will Yip at Studio 4 and began honing the tracks, as well as writing two new songs from scratch. “Pete had the idea to write a song that sort of encapsulated the project,” Attonito says, “That was ‘Ten Stories High’ and it came together really quickly in the room together.” That title track kicks off the album with a burst of classic Bouncing Souls energy, blazing by in less than two minutes of crunchy guitars, up-front bass, and soaring vocals that are sure to put a smile on the face of any punk fan. It’s the perfect introduction to an album that draws directly from stories of life’s ups and downs, the moments of joy, sadness, and excitement that end up bonding us together. “It was so refreshing to be like ‘Oh cool we’re going to get to know someone’,” says Attonito. “We’ve written so many songs from our own experiences but this time we really stepped outside of that.”
Songs like “True Believer Radio” or “Magnus Air Organ” take specific personal fan tales and weave them into the kind of universally relatable sentiments that go perfectly with The Bouncing Souls’ driving melodic punk. Elsewhere, tracks like “Shannon’s Song” or “Another Day In Denver” are the result of small details that the band unfolded into different narratives. On “Vin and Casey,” the band pairs one of the record’s most hard-hitting instrumentals with its most poignant story. “We got to talking to this person and they were telling us about their two friends, Vin and Casey, who pretty much introduced them to punk,” Attonito explains. “They took them to their first show, which we were playing, but shortly after that both of them actually passed away. And ever since then they’ve been going to Bouncing Souls shows to sort of keep that connection. It was just this really tragic but also beautiful story.” The song features guest vocals from 7 Seconds vocalist Kevin Seconds–a fitting link to one of the bands most influential to The Bouncing Souls themselves.
Ten Stories High closes with the first song the band wrote for the project, “Higher Ground.” It’s the kind of song that The Bouncing Souls have excelled at for over three decades and still do better than anyone: big choruses and even bigger feelings, all perfect for a night of singalongs and stage dives. It’s music that you make memories to, the kind that you never forget–just like the people with which you share it. “We’ve been writing songs together for 30 years and that’s been amazing,” Attonito says, “but this felt like something new: a way to tell someone else’s story and have a whole new journey.”