On any given week, a client comes from somewhere around the country to get tattooed at Anchors Aweigh in Bradley Beach, be it a middle-aged mom from suburbia or a street punk from Philly. “One guy came down on his motorcycle from Toronto, got tattooed, turned around and rode home,” laughs Bryan Kienlen, the shop’s founder and a noted artist.
Kienlen opened Anchors Aweigh nearly four years ago and named it for the 2003 record by his band, New Brunswick punk legends the Bouncing Souls. Many of the tattoos he does are related to the band and punk music.
The Souls formed in the late ’80s at Ridge High School, where Kienlen got his first ink at a time when few high schoolers had tattoos. He learned the basics from a creative friend called Ugly Bill, who lived with the Kienlen family during high school and later became a tattoo artist in Kansas City.
Kienlen started doing simple pieces on his best friends, the band’s front man, Greg Attonito, and guitarist, Pete Steinkopft, who still share the stage with Kienlen 33 years later.
The group moved to Hub City in 1990, not to attend Rutgers, but to grow in the city’s music scene. Living together, playing local shows, and releasing The Good, the Bad, and the Argyle in 1994 endeared them to a community of New Jersey punks and loveable weirdos. Kienlen designed the show flyers and album art while tattooing anyone who came through the band’s punk house on Commercial Avenue.
In the ’90s, he turned his focus to the band. But when the energetic bass player moved to the Lower East Side later that decade and wasn’t on tour, he spent time hanging out at Adorned Tattoo watching guys like Chris Garver (Miami Ink). That period informed his aesthetic as he collected tattoos from renowned artists.
Meanwhile, as a “blue-collar” band, the Souls became a pillar of punk, with 11 studio albums and countless tours. The group has transcended punk to become beloved by generations of New Jerseyans.
“Around the 20-year mark of the Bouncing Souls, we were slowing down from living on the road full-time. I finally had a little time to think about my own life and immediately started tattooing,” Kienlen recalls. He bought a home in Bradley Beach in 2009, and the Souls adopted Asbury Park as their home base. He opened Anchors Aweigh in 2018, a block away from his wife Nicole’s Paws and Anchor pet-care shop.
Today, he is best known for work relating to punk themes with a heavy traditional style. One of his signature tattoos is a Souls logo with the New York City skyline replaced by the waterfront architecture of Asbury Park. “I love doing New Jersey and Asbury tattoos. It’s something I can get behind.”
The last three years have seen the shop garner respect from around the state, with noted artist Rich Cahill running things while Kienlen is on tour. The shop is appointment only and gets booked up months in advance.
Between family life, recording a new album, a full appointment book, playing in a side project called Beach Rats, and an upcoming national tour, life is busy for Kienlen. Catch the Bouncing Souls at their annual Stoked for the Summer show July 16 at the Stone Pony Summer Stage.Click here to leave a comment