The Bouncing Souls are coming home for the holidays, and they're bringing plenty of friends.
For the fourth year, the Jersey punk icons who originally hailed from Basking Ridge before making their name on the New Brunswick punk scene and who now call the Jersey Shore home will preside over Home for the Holidays, the band's year-end blowout of shows which will be held Sunday, Dec. 26, to Wednesday, Dec. 29, at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park.
While the Souls can be counted on to give it their all every night, the deciding factor for fans looking to choose which show to attend is typically what other bands will be on the bill of a given evening; from up-and-coming local acts to classic punk bands, the Souls are always in good company.
Joining the band at the Pony for the closing night of Home for the Holidays will be famed New York City-bred hardcore band H2O, an act whose connection to the Souls goes back nearly two decades.
"I probably met them in like '91, '92, I probably met them when I was a roadie for Sick of it All, if I remember correctly,'' said H2O singer Toby Morse. "So I knew them before I even had my own band.''
Morse said he's excited to be involved with Home for the Holidays this year. "We haven't played with the Souls in many years. We did this Punk-O-Rama tour when we were both with Epitaph in the '90s, we played a couple of shows here and there with them since, like maybe festivals in Europe or something, but I was super-honored, I was super-flattered, I'm psyched to be a part of it,'' he said. "I love playing Jersey, there's so much history in Asbury Park for H2O and for the Souls, that's like the home.''
H2O seems to have had history on its mind lately: the band's latest album, "Nothing to Prove'' (2008) opens with "1995,'' a track looking back at the band's early days.
"It's crazy it's been that long and it's awesome that we're still doing it and people still care, those are two awesome things. You know back then, yeah, we were young, all we cared about was playing music and being on tour, we really had no responsibilities, no wives, no kids,'' said Morse, who is now married and the father of a seven-year-old son, Maximus.
On Tuesday, Dec. 28, Frenchtown-based folk-punk trio Top Soil will join the ranks of up-and-coming local acts - including New Brunswick-bred bands the Gaslight Anthem and Screaming Females - who have supported the Souls at Home for the Holidays.
Discussing how Top Soil got involved with the shows, drummer Rich Cahill said, "I've known (Souls bassist) Bryan Kienlen for quite some now and he started tattooing at the shop that I used to own, called Immortal Ink (in Flemington), and we'd just been hanging out and he saw us play this local little show and he had asked if we'd be into it and I was like, 'Hell yeah, man.'
"I'm really excited about this. I've always been a huge fan of the Bouncing Souls, I used to see them at City Gardens (in Trenton) back in the early '90s and it's really cool, it's like come full circle.''
Cahill and Morse were both asked what other bands could learn from the Souls, who celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2009.
"Man, what I like about those guys is that they're extremely positive, the music is great, they're diverse,'' Cahill said. "Greg (Attonito) can sing, he's not just screaming all the time, because I think that stuff kind of gets dated, it's not as timeless as the Souls are, they have a very timeless sound. And as far as a working band, I mean, they're just always playing and that's the thing, you've got to keep playing. ... That's why I really think that these guys have stuck it out so long, because they're really good friends and they just play
their asses off.''
"Those guys, it's all about longevity man, consistency, staying out there and making good music,'' Morse said, "and those guys are living proof you can do that, be successful, make a life doing it and not have to be on TV or the radio.''
Agreeing that the Souls have become an integral part of the musical life of so many, especially in this area, Morse said, "it's Jersey man, they're like kings over there, it's like them and Bruce Springsteen.''