Music is carved out of passion. If an artist isn’t driven by something, there’s no art and Philadelphia punk act THE WONDER YEARS reinforce this, displaying it in how they write songs, how they connect with listeners and how they push themselves each and everyday of the year. At VANS WARPED TOUR in Toronto, vocalist Dan “Soupy” Campbell touched on how testing their limits has forced them to pen a classic LP like Suburbia and has almost in a sense become the band’s mission.
On a scale from one to ten, how emotional would you say your music is?
In terms of how emotional I think I can make it? For me, I think try to put as much emotion as I can into a song. They’re not always the saddest songs or the happiest songs and I think that’s because human emotion isn’t linear. You’re not experiencing only one emotion at a time because they lie under each other. Like even if we write a sad song, you’d see there’s little jokes throughout it. There’s always a plethora of emotions happening all at once.
Looking at the group’s releases, it’s hard not to wonder if recording sessions are a bit difficult in terms of the material being written. Is it a challenge?
There are times when it can be difficult but I think all the emotion makes it easier because you get these things out that you wanted and needed to get out. It’s more of a release than a challenge because you’re letting go of something that’s been building up inside of you. Our songs may seem complex but they’re not to me. We write at our emotional peaks and then take it even further when it comes to performing live.
Do you think listeners relate to the band’s lyrical content due to the fact songs represent a release of emotion that’s been built-up inside over time?
I think people relate to the lyrical content because there’s kind of a reason you listen to this kind of music. There’s got to be some sort of reason; you are kind of predisposed to enjoy this type of music and there’s something about it that resonates with you more than a Justin Bieber song. Pop music is pop music for a reason because you’re hard-wired to it. We’ve become comfortable with hearing certain keys and there’s a reason those melodies and tempos resonate with us and the human psyche in general. We don’t play pop music, so why should anyone like it? The reason people do is because they connect with the emotion behind it and relate to it from their own experiences. Like there’s a reason people listen to Black Flag and it’s definitely not the melodies.
“There’s going to be a day where our bodies and our minds say “I’m f*cking done” or like something will happen and I’ll blow out my knee and won’t be able to walk. That’s how hard we want to push ourselves..”
Most find your music to be so personal because it’s blunt, not sugar-coated.
Yeah, I started to realize we just needed to continue to keep thing simple. We did try to put all of the emotions into metaphorical contexts, but when you do that to a certain extent, you tend to lose focus. In our old band, I found myself writing this poetic songs that just ended up being words that flowed nicely together. They do work in a way, but I didn’t want to do that with our new material, I wanted it to be honest. It’s much easier to write that way because you’re writing about a certain feeling you have that’s from the heart.
How has the release of Suburbia changed you as musicians and individuals?
I don’t really think anything’s happened yet. Writing Suburbia changed us as individuals as everyone kind of stretched themselves a bit more and did some things they’ve never done before, but we never really changed. We still had the same vibe in the studio and no one’s personality really changed. We were driven and I think that brought the best out of us.
Whats the reception been like from friends and family?
It’s basically been great so far. There’s some friends that hadn’t really listened to our band and didn’t have any idea of what we do but they came to our record release show and heard a few songs that were about them. The fact those songs were sang back to them by a thousand kids kind of floored them. It also made them excited to see that we were actually a part of something great.
Though there wasn’t much change, did you learn anything new about each other while projecting so much emotion and determination to create?
We know each pretty well as we all went to high school together and have known each other for more than ten years, so we’re pretty well versed in that. It’s funny that you actually ask that though because we had never lived with each other before and we did that while recording. We’ve lived together on tour, but never really in a house where you learn everyone’s habits at home. That was pretty different, but when you compare us to other bands who go through struggles because of friendships, we know each other really well.
How that stands out has connected with listeners the past few months in a way that’s almost nonparallel. How do you build upon that?
We try to do things that other bands aren’t going to do. Instead of just putting ads in magazines or putting ads on websites, we decided as group we would also do other things that would speak out to fans. One way we did that was by having a giant pigeon costume mailed to a bunch of different cities where we would then Twitter hints to people on where to find it. Things like that are a bit personal because they connect with you in a way that other bands don’t really take the time to do. Trying to be creative and developing the relationship between the band and fans is important to us.
Would you say there’s no purpose in creating music if it doesn’t connect?
You create music for yourself and that’s the main purpose. There’s plenty of people who write songs in their bedroom and never record them or send them to anybody but there’s still a purpose to it because they can draw something from it. When you’re writing music you kind of have to please yourself as a musician. There are some songs people say we should play live but if they’re abysmal to us, we won’t play them.
I understand as a fan you have the right to hear certain songs from us, but as a musician I have the right to play certain songs that I enjoy playing and can take something from it. I know a lot of people say this, but the day we stop enjoying performing, we will stop being a band.
What drives the band the most at this very moment?
At this very moment? (Pause) I don’t know. We just want to keep doing it. When I think about that now, I realize the goal is to propel that emotion – we’re going and we’re going hard until we can’t anymore. If you were to write it out, the goal would be – “as far as we can get until we break”.
There’s going to be a day where our bodies and our minds say “I’m f*cking done” or like something will happen and I’ll blow out my knee and won’t be able to walk. That’s how hard we want to push ourselves emotionally and physically because that’s what music is meant to do.
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