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Interview: The Wonder Years

Soupy of The Wonder Years (@ Starlight Ballroom 10.4.10)

Our esteemed contributor, James McGrath recently sat down with Dan “Soupy” Campbell, lead singer of the Wonder Years before their first holiday show at the Heirloom Arts Center in Danbury, CT. Mr. Campbell was nice enough to talk about what the writing process for the group's new record has been like, how they're not so 'stoked' on some of their past releases and the details on the TWY's holiday shows.

The pop-punk group have had quite a year. First they released their 2nd LP (4th release in all) The Upsides, which cracked 4 different Billboard Charts including: Alternative Artist, Top New Artist, Top Internet Album, and Indie Label Album. Then the group toured non-stop (and still is) and in late May the group inked a deal with indie juggernaut Hopeless Records. 

If you haven't yet, be sure to pick up their break-through record The Upsides.


The NJ Underground: Can you please state your name and what you do in the band

The Wonder Years: My name is Dan, you can call me Soupy if you want to, I sing in the Wonder Years


NJU: How did you go about selecting the cities and the venues for these holiday shows?

TWY: It wasn’t about where we wanted to d the shows, as where were allowed to do the shows.  Bureaucratic things, if we hadn’t gotten Warped Tour, which we did and announced today, we would have wanted to get a big spring tour together.  And if we had just played major markets so we wouldn’t get that tour because we would have just been to those markets (on this holiday tour).  In the mind of that headlining band that we wanted to support they would have thought “Well they just played New York [City], Philly and Boston so I’m not gonna bring them on this tour because they won’t draw anybody again.  I told our agent “I wanna do Philly, New York and Boston” and he said “these are the cities around those markets that we’d rather do”.  So we picked what we thought were the strongest cities outside of those markets.


NJU: So is that what happened with the venue change on Long Island?

TWY: The venue is not a venue, it’s a country club that does shows sometimes.  Like a lot of DIY venues, when they have a higher paying client they will just dick you, and I have a feeling that is what happened.  I used to run shows in the Philly suburbs for years and I used to put them on at Fire Halls and VFW halls.  Every once in a while I would show up to a show and they would say “you don’t have a show here tonight” and I would say “yes I do, it’s been in your books for months”…”no we have a Sweet 16 party tonight” and I think “Fuck you, you know that that party is paying you more money and you know I had a show booked and your just dicking me on it”.  I hope this doesn’t reflect poorly on the show promoter because it’s not his fault at all.  We are doing Club Karma, I don’t know what it is but it should be fun, I love playing the Island, I’m gonna have a good time regardless.


NJU: Why did you decide to play The Upsides front to back and not play Get Stoked on It! or just play a bunch of songs?

TWY: Well, I hate Get Stoked On It!, we are writing a new record right now and we are going to record that in about two weeks so this is almost the last hurrah for this album even though the new one won’t be out until June.  We saw a lot of kids post on the internet that they wanted to hear all of the songs from The Upsides, so we figured we would give them what they want.  I wanna do it, they wanna hear it so let’s do it.


NJU: Are they all songs you’ve played live before or are there some songs you wrote thinking they would never get played live?

TWY: We’ve never done “New Years With Carl Weathers” or “It’s Never Sunny in South Philadelphia” live, we’ve never done “Hostels and Brothels” in the U.S. and we have never done “Hey Thanks” with the full band.


NJU: What has the response been like as far as people buying tickets [to these shows] and people on the internet reacting to you guys playing these 5 shows?

TWY: It seems good. I try to keep up with as many message boards as I can so I’m there to answer questions for anybody.  I don’t check them all, but the ones that I do check seem positive, the feedback to our social networking sites has been positive.  Presale numbers are good; this is not a big room.  It presold 150 tickets and I think the room only fits 250 people (note: 257 tickets were sold for the event).  I hope the shows do well, we put on a lot of really strong bands; Veara and A Loss For Words and on top of that, in almost every area we have friends [with strong draw].  Tonight is Hostage Calm, tomorrow is Handguns, Long Island is Day Trader and Nix86, Rhode Island is Lions Lions and Lancaster is Carousel Kings.


NJU: You said you are going to be recording the album in a couple of weeks, how has the writing been?

TWY: I am so happy with it.  We got home from the FYS tour, had two days off, and since then we’ve written six days a week, ten in the morning to 5pm as a band and then I’ll go home with my acoustic guitar and figure out exactly what I want to sing over the part we worked on today and the guys will go home and figure out what exact fills they want to do.  We have a progress board that we’ve been filling out.  The challenge on this record is…I remember being younger and loving a band and its time for their next release and either they would decide “I’m tired of pop punk, I’m making this totally different record” that I hated and didn’t want to hear you play this music, its not a progression it’s a jump.  I didn’t want to hear The Atari’s Welcome The Night, it’s not that it’s a bad record it’s just not an Atari’s record.  It’s not even a natural progression, not trying too hard, just a 180 it wasn’t the same band.  I didn’t want to do that.  But at the same time, you have a band that puts out the same record two times in a row and you just heard that record.  The challenge was to expand without turning on everybody.  I feel like we met the challenge with the songs we were writing.  They are pop punk songs but we are taking influences from all over the map; there are parts influenced by Hope Conspiracy, parts influence by American Football, The Hold Steady, Thursday, Envy and Get Up Kids, Saves the Day kind of stuff still.  We’re not writing those kinds of songs but we are taking things about those bands that we love and infusing pop punk with that.

Lyrically it has also been a challenge, because I remember being young when I would see bands that wrote these really honest records to me and their life changed and it was impossible [to be that honest].  I remember hating the So Impossible EP because I couldn’t have loved The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most more, it was sad alone in my apartment music. Then, dude got mega famous; deservedly so because those were great songs.  But then, you’re not sad and alone in your apartment anymore so how do you write those songs.  I felt like the EP was trying to recreate something that wasn’t there.  Two things that have been in Wonder Years lyrics forever is; they are honest lyrics and they are relatable lyrics.  But I don’t live a relatable life anymore, I’m not living in South Philly anymore I don’t go to school anymore, we just tour all the time.  The challenge became: how do I write something that’s still honest but the kids can relate to.  I have honed in on a concept and I think we’ve written a record that’s still relatable and still honest and totally different from The Upsides.  It deals with a whole new set of things


NJU: So are you guys still going to be releasing that remastered compilation of all your old songs?

TWY: I don’t know when that is going to happen.  It will be sometime next year I think.  I’m not pushing for it too hard because those records are out there.  It’s coming out on No Sleep and they are signing so many amazing bands this year and are just killing it.  With Balance and Composure, Into It. Over It, Stay Ahead of the Weather, Now Now, Aficianado, Touche Amore, Former Thieves; they are just releasing a ton of great music and I don’t want to take the focus away from that.  I know Chris has got to put his efforts into that but at some point that compilation is gonna come out but it’s not a pressing thing for me and I hope it’s not a pressing thing for No Sleep because they have a lot of really strong talent that I hope they would put everything into right now.  The songs are already recorded, and there was one song we recorded for The Upsides but didn’t get finished and we’re trying to go back and finish that one and have that as a little bonus, a tag on the end.


NJU: How did you get on that huge Kerrang! Relentless Energy Tour with Good Charlotte, Four Year Strong and Framing Hanley?

TWY:  Kerrang! Magazine selects the band and the selected us, it’s kind of a honor.  People in the US don’t really get Kerrang!.  It’s a magazine but it’s a big deal, when we are on tour over there I buy it every week.  It’s kind of like the Alt Press tour, it’s an honor to be asked to do it by this major publication.  They asked us to do it, there was no way we would say no, we actually had to cut recording short.


NJU: So will that be your biggest tour to date?

TWY: Yeah those are 3000 cap rooms, so that is going to blow my mind.  We are doing Warped Tour so those are a larger capacity, but yeah.


NJU: So this will be your first time on Warped Tour?

TWY: We have done one date of Warped Tour before.


NJU: Have you not been approached to do it before?

TWY: Never been approached, this is the first time anyone has asked us to do it.  We will be playing our 6th year anniversary on the Warped tour.  But to be fair, several years of that, we had one to three songs and didn’t play any shows so we’ve really been a band for three years.  Officially the band started in summer 2005, in reality the band started summer 2007 [when Get Stoked on It! was released]


NJU: I remember having Get Stoked on It! in my itunes for years and not listening to it.

TWY: Good choice, the record was important at the time.  But we rushed it; we rushed the recording and everything about it.  It was kids who didn’t know what they were doing yet, we had never written a record, we had been in other bands that maybe put together EPs but we thought we could do it in two weeks.  It just didn’t work out, but the remaster sounds much better.  It’s no fault of Matt Buckley, who recorded it, it’s hard to make a full length in 2 weeks. We know how to write songs with each other now; we’ve been doing it for so long.  There are probably 50-60 Wonder Years songs in existence now [that we have written this new record].


I then spoke with Soupy for about 15 more minutes about a favorite band that we share: The Hold Steady.  Be sure to check out my review of the show coming soon and videos here.

Reader Comments (7)

Solid interview. Pumped for their new record!
December 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDan
The Upsides & Soupy rule. <3
December 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarissa
ugh, would have loved to see The Upside start to finish. they better keep that up! but they probably won't :(
December 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSean
also, surprised they are recording a new album so soon. though bands usually tour on a record for two years or so. good news for me I guess.
December 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSean
I feel like Handguns will be the next big thing like TWY so honest so real. Love it.
December 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFred
December 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterM.
great interview. I need new Wonder Years music now!
December 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

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