Over the past few months, State Champs have been putting things in place to get us excited for their forthcoming third record ‘Living Proof’, and in the lead up to its fast-approaching release they’ve reminded us all that they’re one of the biggest growing pop-punk bands at the moment.
With a handful of new singles already out, we caught up with vocalist Derek DiScanio and guitarist Tyler Szalkowski backstage at Slam Dunk Festival to discuss their new album, acquiring new fans, and their plans for the summer.
DP!: So, how’s Slam Dunk been going for you so far?
D: It’s been awesome. I’m kind of sad that it’s the last day though.
T: It’s kind of put me in the mood to go on Warped Tour though. I think this is probably the best thing that we could’ve done in preparation for touring this summer.
D: Yeah, because throughout the year we’ve had so much time off, almost six months off from full-time touring, so to have the year start like this is pretty cool. It’s a great way to kick off the year for sure.
DP!: Is preparing for festival shows different than headline shows?
D: It’s a lot longer, haha.
T: It’s longer days but shorter sets. There’s always the issue that with a headline show it’s your own fans, but at a festival you’re always trying to impress new people. A lot of people get freaked out about that and when there’s always that person on the barricade looking bored, but we get kinda stoked from it.
D: Yeah, it makes us try a lot harder too to engage with them more and win them over. We’re trying to sell our band and music to everyone watching or walking by.
DP!: Yeah, I feel like that’s often the way of how you find new favourite bands.
D: Yeah, and I know that’s going to happen this weekend.
T: Actually that did happen yesterday. I was walking to our guitarist Ryan’s acoustic set (under the moniker of his solo project, Speak Low If You Speak Love), and I asked this guy where the stage was, and he was like “State Champs – you made a fan out of me today.” It’s like, “Oh, hell yeah, brother.” It’s awesome.
DP!: Do you find that there are any differences between US shows and UK shows?
T: I definitely think there’s a difference. I feel like there’s really good energy back home, but over here… maybe here everyone’s just fucking drunk, haha.
D: Haha, yeah. That was the only thing I was going to say, but I didn’t want to be too forward.
DP!: It’s true. We do like our drinks here in England.
T: Yeah, which makes for a really cool experience for us though, because people are always doing whacky shit over here. I think that we’ve played some of the best shows that we’ve ever played out here in the UK.
D: It brings out a good side of us over here too. It’s freeing. We can go a little crazier than usual. It makes us have more fun and not be afraid to express ourselves.
DP!: So, you’ve just released three new tracks off the upcoming record, ‘Living Proof’. Will you be playing any of those today?
D: Yeah, we’re playing two out of the three. The reception is going really well too. It’s a lot better than we expected, and to see them singing it back is amazing.
DP!: Are you ready for the new record to be released?
D: Yeah. We are so ready for it to be released.
T: It’s been a long time coming now.
D: It’s almost two and a half years now since our last album came out, so we are definitely ready. We’re sorry that we had to let all the fans down and make them wait for so long, but it was for good reason. We spent a lot of time on this album and took our time to make sure that it was perfect, and that it was the right step for us.
DP!: Was the process different recording this album as opposed to recording your last one, ‘Around The World And Back’?
D: Yeah, a lot different. We’ve learnt a lot more. We’ve worked with more people. We spread out the recording process and the writing process with multiple producers, which then became a task of making all the tracks sound cohesive on one album. But, it was the right thing, and we wanted to try and do as many new things as we could to get the right songs in there and make an album that says the right things. It was fun to do it that way.
DP!: How do you choose which ones to put on the album?
T: Yeah. I think we had like 18/19 tracks this time around.
D: It’s the first time I think we had more songs than we needed, but it’s not a bad problem to have.
T: It’s not like we are writing bad songs, but there are songs that you listen to and you’re like “This is the one”, whereas other ones you’re like “This is not it.”
D: But then we were still having these arguments of like “No, I like this one. No, I like this one.” These are not bad problems to have, haha.
T: Trying to pick singles is very hard to do, but also not a major problem.
D: Yeah. We’re so used to not having enough songs, so it’s nice for sure.
DP!: How do you choose the singles then? Is it a record label decision or something else?
D: Both. We were arguing about it for a long time between the five of us and with our team too to figure out what the fans wanted to hear as the first song. What should be portrayed as the new single of what our new chapter will unveil?
T: The super cool thing about being with Pure Noise is that we do have a lot of say with what comes out, but sometimes it makes it harder ’cause you’re not only dealing with what the label want and management wants, but also what us five want. Sometimes you just wish you were a label controlled band that would just tell us what to do.
D: Yeah. We have too much control which makes it hard when it comes to decision making, but we want it to be that way. We want it to fair. Ultimately, when it came to down to it, we all decided ‘Dead And Gone’ was the right single.
T: It kind of felt right to usher in this new era. The song is all about distilling toxicity and getting back to you and being okay. That’s all we want to portray on this record, that it’s okay to be silly and to be yourself.
D: ‘Dead And Gone’ also has that undeniably big recording pop-punk chorus which is showing at these shows. When every one of those choruses hits every hand goes in the sky, which is crazy and a great feeling.
DP!: A lot of bands have gone quite political lately, writing songs about the world that we currently live in. Do you guys feel the need or want to do that?
D: I hate politics, haha.
T: Politics is absolutely raging because everybody is just stupid, especially in the States.
D: I don’t know why we’d talk about politics when we can write about the cool stuff, like shitty girlfriends and bettering yourself, haha.
T: I don’t think that we’ll ever write a political song, but we obviously have our views and when asked we know what we stand for and stuff, but yeah, we’re not really the band to put it in a song, but also that shit kind of seems pandering. If you really think about a political song, sure, you’re addressing an issue, but half of the time it’s like, “Why are you doing that?”
D: It would be way too hard for me to try and do that without it seeming like I’m trying too hard.
T: Yeah, exactly. It’s almost as if it’s for the image. You can do stuff off the stage to support your political agenda and things that you believe in, especially with Twitter and social media.
D: If it’s really that personal to some bands and they’re spilling it out, do it. That’s cool, but it’s just not us.
T: I also think it’s different if it’s like a female band talking about reproductive rights, because that’s something that directly affects them, but it almost feels stupid if we were to do it with our privilege. We obviously stand with women and people of colour, but we don’t find it our place to sing about it. We’d rather just amplify their voices for them.
DP!: You guys just announced a UK and European headline tour. Excited?
D: Yes, this is our biggest headline UK tour to date.
T: It’s scary, man. They’re big rooms, but we’re excited.
D: We hope everyone is ready to pile in with us and make it as big as we want it to be.
T: I’ve heard some cool stuff, like yesterday they were handing out flyers at the train station for the tour. They’re probably all over the bin and floor but, oh well.
D: Yeah. Across Slam Dunk we’ve also got some banners promoting the tour and album, which is super cool. Starting to see it all happen again is very exciting.
DP!: Well, before all of that you’ve also got Vans Warped Tour in the summer. It’s the last ever one too.
D: Yeah, man. It’s sad, but at the same time we’re really ready to get back on Warped Tour. It’s a really fun summer and there’s so many friends and bands. It’s a great community. I thought it was a joke when they said that it was over. I think it will remain in some way.
T: Maybe like a festival weekend in one location.
D: Yeah. We’re really going to take this summer in and give it our best.
T: It feels right to be ending it with them.
The band’s third album, ‘Living Proof’, is out on June 15th 2018 through Pure Noise Records.