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The Bouncing Souls
w/ The Draft, Paint it Black, The Loved Ones
Fri. Nov. 18
9 p.m.
$10 ($13/under 21)
Cumberland’s
301 King St.
577-9469
www.cumberlands.net

If modern punk rock had a library, the shelves would be thick with the Bouncing Souls. As odd a comparison as it may seem, the New Jersey quartet’s lengthy history is not unlike that of hard-working jam contemporaries O.A.R., Phish, or String Cheese Incident — bands whose success has depended on careful development of their live shows, a commitment to the road, and a soft spot for fan-driven DVDs and live albums.

The Bouncing Souls’ do-it-yourself approach is apparent in this month’s release of their newest live album, Bouncing Souls Live (on their own Chunksaah Records), which spans their 17-year career of well-crafted, melody-driven punk rock. A statement on Chunksaah’s website says, “Through it all, the live show has remained the essence of the Bouncing Souls. We tried to capture that essence with this collection. It is dedicated to everyone who has been there along the way to share it with us.”

For vocalist Greg Attonito, Bouncing Souls Live was not only a chance to give something back to fans, but also to create a solid reflection of the band’s live experience — one that was a bit better than their last foray into live recording.

“We’ve always kind of been a live band; that’s kind of how we’ve evolved musically,” says Attonito. “We kind of wanted to put one out that sounded better [than our last live album] — to show a closer picture to what the real thing was.” During the most recent tour, the Bouncing Souls’ soundman began recording a monstrous heap of live material, which totaled almost 40 shows and 300 songs. “We had a lot to pick from,” Attonito laughs.

In order to develop the kind of vast catalogue that probably kept their soundman awake at night during those months, the Bouncing Souls made an early commitment to constant touring and self-sufficiency. They founded Chunksaah Records early on to promote their own work (including their earliest 7″ records), eventually releasing other artists’ music and passing the day-to-day business reins to friend and über-manager Kate Hiltz.

Since those early days, the Bouncing Souls have recorded on seminal punk labels BYO and Epitaph (all the while keeping active with Chunksaah) and poured an unlimited supply of energy into their music. “It literally just went one step at a time,” says Attonito of the band’s long evolution. “Eventually you quit jobs and went on tour and were broke — it was mostly paying for itself for many years, and now suddenly we’re in our mid-30s and it’s been our career, our living that’s kept us paying our rent and bills. It’s kind of amazing when I think about it.”

Attonito insists that the key to both the band’s longevity and their constant creative renewal is to know when they’ve toured enough, and know when to sit down and focus on the cerebral part of being a musician.

“You have to really love what you’re doing. Having some success and an audience that is really totally enthusiastic and willing to come out all these years has made all the difference, of course, too,” explains Attonito. “The hardest part after a year or so of touring is that it becomes a regular job — and when your passion becomes your regular job, it’s kind of painful. Then it’s a challenge to make it passionate again, to make it creative. It’s a great challenge to have.”

Before they launch this small fall tour, the Bouncing Souls used their downtime to work on a follow-up to 2003’s Anchors Aweigh (Epitaph). “It’s another step in our evolution as people and songwriters; just taking what we know we’re good at and then sticking our toes in places that we haven’t yet — the way it should be,” explains Attonito.

“You have to keep challenging yourself and do things that are a little different. Last night we just spent like five hours trying to make it through this one section of a song — we were all just trying to make this chorus better. You have this whole new creation to be excited about — it gives you a whole new spark of energy.”