The evolution of pop-punk as a genre has been one of the most interesting to watch over the years. It’s gone through so much flux and change from the snot-nosed founding fathers of the ’90s (Green Day, Blink-182) to the emo era of the early 2000s (Fall Out Boy, the Get Up Kids), the melodic golden age of the mid-2000s (Motion City Soundtrack, All Time Low) and today’s highly emotional, highly aggressive art form.
With change, there are those who look to the past. Now we welcome State Champs, one of today’s most talented young pop-punk bands. The Albany quintet (vocalist Derek DiScanio, guitarists Tyler Szalkowski and Tony Diaz, bassist Ryan Scott Graham and drummer Evan Ambrosio) has an extremely upbeat sound that harkens back to that golden age where melody was king, and it does so with great flair and panache all around. The band’s debut album, “The Finer Things,” drew praise from critics and listeners alike because of that very sound. State Champs is gearing up for a show that’s sure to draw a crowd on Sunday at Waiting Room. Szalkowski talked recently about the band’s outlier status, as well as exciting new happenings with recording.
Question: You just finished up after a lot of time in the studio working on your new album. Are there any specific ideas you’re bringing to the table that you wanted to explore?
Answer: We had a lot more time with this record. There are some freaky parts we never would have done on the last record. We were trying different things, and a lot of stuff was out of the box for us. We wanted to just really make a record that seemed like a natural progression after our last record (“The Finer Things”). It’s really a lot of different effects and things of that nature, but nothing overly drastic.
Q: “The Finer Things” had a lot of critical acclaim when it came out. How do you guys feel about the reaction to the album now that you have time to look back on it?
A: It’s amazing that people backed it as hard as it did. When we put it out, we couldn’t even pay our bills. Then after a while and all that happened, we were stoked. We didn’t put it out thinking that people were going to love it. It was more like, “Hey, we really like this, we hope everyone out there likes it, too.”
Q: In terms of sound, you guys definitely take a more classic approach to the genre, whereas the tendency now is for a lot of pop-punk bands to be more aggressive as opposed to focusing on melody. How do you keep yourselves anchored with all the changes?
A: I think some people start bands because they like other aggressive bands. We like Fall Out Boy and Allister. We for sure pull from that early era. As far as aggressive stuff goes, it’s just not for us. Our singer, Derek (DiScanio) is a super melodic guy and without him, who knows how things would have turned out. We didn’t start this band to be reblogged on Tumblr. A lot of these new bands … Their lyrics feel fake. It almost seems like a contest for who can write the saddest lyrics.
Q: What are the most important elements that young pop-punk bands need these days in order to survive in the current scene?
A: At the end of the day, you have to answer to yourself. If you’re not proud of what you’ve made, why are you making it? But you can’t be too hard headed either, and you have to evolve and push the limits and try different things. You also have to be prepared to handle yourself in a public forum like social media. But if the talent isn’t there, that stuff isn’t going to matter. You can fake it, but you won’t necessarily make it.
Q: All your songs are really well-crafted to the point of almost passing as pop songs. With bands like 5 Seconds of Summer becoming mainstream and playing on the radio, do you think there’s a future for bands like yours to have Top 40 presence?
A: It’s something I would love to see happen. It might happen. It did happen back in the early 2000s, and things are cyclical in life. Bands like 5 Seconds of Summer, who are rebranding the “punk rock” image, are getting songs on the radio. I think there is a future for it, but it’s a matter of whether major labels can see if there’s money in it.
What: State Champs with Hit the Lights, Tiny Moving Parts, Let it Happen, Northbound
When: 6 p.m. Sunday
Where: Waiting Room