THE TRASH BAGS
Chuck Bones is the lead singer of New York City band The Trash Bags. He’s also the founder of The Cast, a super-cool clothing line and shop on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. And Chuck is also the father of two beautiful, young girls. You might stumble upon him at a rock show in one of NYC’s downtown underground clubs, perhaps performing onstage or watching a band. Upon first glance, Chuck resembles a Warren Beatty meets Stiv Bators combination – a tall, svelte creature clad in black leather and tattoos. On stage, Chuck’s explosive, dynamic energy makes us think of legendary Cramps frontman Lux Interior, minus the stilettos. Photography Alexander Thompson. Band photos courtesy of Johan Vipper.
PONYBOY: Chuck, tell us about your background. Where were you born and raised?
CHUCK BONES: I was born in Newark, New Jersey. Both sides of my family are Italian-American. Lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins, so it was a fun upbringing, massive family parties, ya know, like 8 courses of Italian food, enough to feed an army. My folks got divorced when I was 7 and my mom raised my brother, sister and I down in this little shore town called Monmouth Beach. My brother Mikey and I were little surf rats, so we traveled a ton and were hooked on that when we were younger. As I got older I eventually lost interest in that scene and ended up on the Lower East Side. I always loved art and music, so it seemed like the place to be.
PONYBOY: We’ve seen you at different shows/parties. When did you start hanging around in the downtown New York City rock’ n ’roll scene?
CHUCK BONES: I used to train it into the city in the 90s for some some shows at Coney Island High. I think my first show here was Blanks 77 and The L.E.S. Stitches. But I was never part of that scene then. I didn’t start really hanging out regularly until I moved to the LES in 2002.
PONYBOY: L.E.S. Stitches! We used to see them a lot back in the days. We’re in awe of the Trash Bags sound and look. Please tell us how the band formed. Who are it’s members?
CHUCK BONES: Thanks man. Moan Elisa, her LA childhood friend Victor Cuevas, and I started messing around in the Summer of 2015. But the first gigs of The Trash Bags weren’t until 2017. The current line-up came together before a gig in Toronto. Both Moan Elisa and Lyla were doing some reunion gigs with Cynthia Ross’ band, ‘B’ Girls. Cynthia asked us to fly up and be on the bill, so this is when Lyla joined. The Trash Bags are Moan Elisa on guitar, Tito Echevarria on bass, Lyla Vander on drums, and me up front.
PONYBOY: Describe the Trash Bags sound to anyone who has not heard your band before.
CHUCK BONES: Swampy gar-bage rock’ n ‘roll coming out of a dark New York alley.
PONYBOY: The Trash Bags debut record was released in late 2019. Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day produced the album. It’s a strong record. What was it like working with him?
CHUCK BONES: Billie is such a legend. He had taken us on tour with his other band, The Longshot, earlier that year, so we had traveled and spent time with him beforehand. He’s been at it, ya know, for over 30 years, so he’s an insanely fun guy to be around. So naturally, in the studio Billie was cool as could be and simply let us be ourselves.
PONYBOY: What was the recording process like? Who wrote the lyrics?
CHUCK BONES: The music’s written by Moan Elisa, and all the lyrics by her and I. Tito wrote a song and Lyla did her part, too. We recorded at Figure 8 in Brooklyn over 2 days. It was a pretty dreamy set up. Like I said, Billie was really fun and easy to work with. If I wasn’t giving it my all on a vocal, he would straight up tell me, “I think that’s good, but you can draw that vocal out more, Chuck. Let’s do that one again.” Audio engineer Chris Dugan was on board, too. He’s worked with Green Day and Iggy Pop. So between Chris and Billie, we were able to capture the “trash” sound we were going for.
PONYBOY: Do you play any instruments? Were you in any other bands before the Trash Bags?
CHUCK BONES: No, I’ve never been in a band before the Trash Bags, nor do I play any instruments. I’m definitely the least musically inclined member in the band. I always wanted to sing in a band though, you know. I always kinda had that itch inside me. I don’t think being a frontman is for just anybody. Ya know, you need to be a little crazy, but not a phony. If you’re gonna be up on stage not playing an instrument, well then you’ve got a job, you better fucking move and put on a show. So that’s my job.
PONYBOY: What bands and musicians have influenced you and your band?
CHUCK BONES: For me, it’s Iggy, Stiv, and Lux. Hands down the best frontmen that ever did it. Nobody can top Iggy though. Iggy’s a genius. He’s my #1, ya know, the last of the Mohicans, the last of the one-and-onlys. I’ve seen Iggy so many times over the years. I’ve even snuck into shows. I’ve seen him in Europe. I even saw him at Bam Margera’s wedding. If Iggy’s playing, I’ll be there.
PONYBOY: You have a clothing company/store based on the Lower East Side in New York City called The Cast, with really fantastic leather jackets, t-shirts, etc. Tell our readers about that.
CHUCK BONES: I started The Cast almost 20 years ago now. I forget how long I’ve been doing it sometimes. At the time we started, there weren’t many brands. It started as a t-shirt line, just a fun side project, but then we got into Barney’s. This was a very long time ago, like 2004. We walked into Barney’s with 6 tees in a black plastic bodega bag, just so fucking young and naive and said “heyyy, you guys wanna buy some shirts?” The retail people thought we were crazy and had a laugh, but asked if we had a look book, which we did, some xeroxed pages stapled together which they kindly handed off to the buyer. We got a call 2 weeks later and they placed an order. I guess they loved the idea of a couple of young kids in the LES screen printing shirts outta their bedroom. They only placed 1 order with us, which sold out in a few weeks, but a ton of Japanese stores followed and ordered from us soon after. The wholesale front of it all was pretty short-lived. We had a very hot period for about 4 years then the 2008 recession in the economy hit and our wholesale biz pretty much went kaput. That’s when I opened my first shop in the basement space on Ludlow Street, that was around 2007-08. I eventually added leather jackets and the brand grew a small cult following over the years. I’ve kept the brand pretty small and manageable for the most part, no investors, zero assholes involved. I think that’s why the brand is still alive today.
PONYBOY: Do you have a background in clothing design?
CHUCK BONES: In the beginning, I didn’t. For screen printing, I was self taught. I think anyone can learn that. As time went on, I began to understand that a brand’s vision was key, but if their design and patterns were crap, you wouldn’t last. I eventually starting taking courses at FIT and learned to properly sew. I knew how important it was to know quality and construction. I worked with a small team of pattern makers and veteran tailors and the brand really began to take shape. Now I have a great custom leather business where we can do made-to-measure build your own jackets.
PONYBOY: Who are some of the celebrities and musicians that have worn pieces from The Cast?
CHUCK BONES: Scarlett Johansson, Iggy Pop, Rod Stewart, Billie Joe Armstrong, Tre Cool, Mike Dirnt, Brody Dalle, Madonna, B Akerlund, Bruno Mars, Matt Sweeney, Frank Ferrer, Jesse Malin, Corey Duffel, Boyd Holbrook, even some WWE wrestlers, Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, Shawn Michaels “The Heartbreak Kid”.
PONYBOY: You have great personal style. Who would you say inspires you, style-wise?
CHUCK BONES: Nobody in particular, but I love everything from mostly the 50s/60s/70s. Bikers, teddy boys, and rock’ n ‘rollers from those eras will be forever timeless.
PONYBOY: Looking at your Instagram we see that you have two young, beautiful girls. What’s that like raising kids in New York City?
CHUCK BONES: Thank you. I feel extremely blessed and you can thank the beautiful Moan Elisa for that. Although her and I are no longer together, I still consider her my best friend. She’s an amazing mother, band mate, and we share custody of our two girls. Raising Johnnie & Mickey in the city is not bad at all. It can be challenging at times, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Like I could have easily moved to the suburbs, but for what? A house with a backyard and a white picket fence. No thanks. I know that may sound selfish but Johnnie & Mickey, although only 5 and 8, are already beginning to learn how rich in culture our city is. They love the parks, the food, the museums. I took my 8 year old Johnnie to the Beacon Theatre last week to go see Jane Birken w/Iggy Pop and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Johnnie got to watch them sing with a full backing orchestra, like how cool is that? She talked everyone’s ear off at school the next day. You know what I was doing at 8 yrs old? Going to the movie theater at the mall to go see Ghostbusters. Hahaha. I don’t think I even went to my first show until I was 12 or 13.
PONYBOY: The Coronavirus has messed up so many aspects of the world we live in now. What were your touring plans before this, and where do you hope to tour in the future?
CHUCK BONES: Yeah, it’s very surreal. The coronavirus came out of nowhere and all our lives have changed so rapidly. We planned on touring Europe but I don’t see that happening with rock’ n ‘roll being canceled. Scheduling will be a mess for quite a while. I can’t wait to even play some local gigs. Hopefully this pandemic ends soon and we can get back some normalcy.
PONYBOY: Have you started writing or recording any new material? When do you anticipate the next Trash Bags record?
CHUCK BONES: Yeah, we’ve already recorded some new demos and we’d love to put some new material out this year!