In the last five years, State Champs have undeniably carved their own conquering path in the world of pop punk. Responsible for albums that are already considered a classic, some of the most bounce-till-you-drop jams and arm swinging singalongs imaginable, they exuberate a pulsating youthful jubilance.
Fresh off the release of their third album Living Proof, we chatted with frontman Derek DiSciano about writing the album’s writing process, working with Mark Hoppus and the glory of seeing Fall Out Boy at Warped Tour way back in ’05.
DBU: Hey Derek! Thanks for chatting with us, we’re so stoked on Living Proof – how’s your day been?
DEREK: I’m doing pretty well actually. I just linked up with the rest of my bandmates today and we are getting ready to do some acoustic in stores shows throughout this weekend in the North East of the US. We are just starting to rehearse and you know, get back in the groove of everything before the cycle starts for this album. But we are really, really excited to get back on the road and get back in the swing of things here so the new chapter of Champs needless to say.
DBU: It’s been three years since Around The World And Back came out. Since then you guys have travelled the world and you’ve toured with massive artists – were there any pivotal moments during that time that changed you as individuals that helped shape the overall sound and lyrical content of Living Proof?
DEREK: I think after Around the World and Back came out we were so excited about its reception and how well it went over with the fans being our second album, with a bit of pressure having to outdo the first one The Finer Things, so we were really excited to just tour, and that’s what we did. We kind of exhausted ourselves with two and half years of nonstop touring. Seeing all new different paces that we hadn’t been to before and just seeing the gross and seeing it all start to happen, that’s when it really started.
We just used that term it really started to happen during that time, but when I say we like really exhausted ourselves we were so burned out by the end of it and we have just been on the road nonstop we haven’t been thinking about anything besides touring. We joke about the fact that we like made it alive after the two and half years of touring and then when it came time to start writing Living Proof, I guess that’s when it segued into the idea of calling it the Living Proof but then there is a little bit more meaning to it, but that was at least the pivotal moment as to the next chapter. Like how can we call yourself Living Proof and there is some more I guess relatable factors as we went along and we learnt a lot more about ourselves that’s when we went through the writing process as well.
DBU: Listening to Living Proof, the lyrical content definitely sounds like it’s coming from a more mature perspective, musically its incredibly fine-tuned as well. How did you push each other as band mates to delve into new territory you never really explored before and where did you look for inspiration to do so?
DEREK: I think we started pushing ourselves more personally like within the five of us in the band and started like helping each other with each of our instruments so like our jobs in the band let’s just say. I was used to just like secluding myself and writing the albums if the past with The Finer Things and Around the World and Back this time I had a lot more help from Ryan and Tyler like I would show them a top line idea or a chorus idea and then I think they would push me to really like tell the right story I wanted to and maybe like be a little bit more picky with like the way I say things.They would be the guys that say does that really makes sense, or “is that really going to show the right message?” So, we took a lot more time and we had a lot more time with this album too and we spent about two years making it which seems a little crazy but also this time around too we got to have some help from our friends and peers as well.
We brought in a lot of extra producers and brought into some friends to help write this album like Alex Gaskarth from All Time Low who is a good friend and we also brought in Mark Hoppus from blink-182 who we had never met before so that was nerve-racking but also just a cool thing to help us think outside the box and try things in a different way that we had never done before.
DBU: What was it like working with Hoppus and Gaskarth – that would have been such a “pinch me” moment for you guys. You worked with John Feldman as well on this album as well – what was that experience like? Were there any challenges you faced lyrically with telling personal stories while collaborating?
DEREK: Something I was never used to and probably will never be that comfortable with is opening up to other people, it is a big chore enough for just to write lyrics by myself and it takes a lot of time and I kind of stress myself over it. But I learned a lot actually from being with Alex and Mark into the picture this time around because I thought it would be so tough to kind of like you know go deeper like open up and get emotional with those kinds of people but the contrast between someone like Alex and someone like Mark. Alex is already our friend who we knew and we kind of already have chemistry with because they brought out on tour a year before that and we had also worked on some songs with him like briefly in the past like for our deluxe edition of Around the World and Back.
With someone like Mark, we had never met him before and we didn’t even know he was going to be in the studio that day John Feldman was like, “do you guys care if Mark Hoppus comes by the studio” and we were like “yeah sure”. He showed up and he was very nice and he was like joking around of us like making fun of us a little bit he didn’t know much about the band he had immediately brought up our Wikipedia page he was looking googling our past band members stuff like that which is kind of funny and then within 15 minutes of meeting him he was like alright Derek” cool and lets go on a hike and lets start writing lyrics.”
My stomach dropped a little bit, so within 15 minutes of meeting him we were outside talking about life and what kind of stories I want to tell so it really pushed me to kind of think a little bit more open and just kind of like not be afraid to express myself to someone like that.
DBU: The pop punk scene has changed so much over the last 5 years and as fans we’ve noticed so many big changes. What are some of the starkest moments of change that you have noticed and where do you think the scene is heading?
DEREK: It is tough to say really the one thing that I guess was dark and a little threatening to the scene was just the over saturation of how many bands that are popping up from nowhere. I would never not want people to start bands, but record labels signing a lot of smaller bands and then some of them sell some of them do something some of them blow up you never really know that is just by chances being made.
I worry about that being a negative factor to people’s attitude towards the genre like they might think “no oh another pop punk band here we go like we have seen that a million times”. I guess we are a little bit ahead of the game since we are now like 8 years to being a band and maybe I am just like a little bit jaded.
DBU:You guys are Warped tour legends, you have played the tour so many times so what impact do you think that tour ending will have on the scene and what are you excited about for the last tour?
DEREK: It is kind of scary, and like really sad when we first found out of we thought it was a joke like an April fools joke or something like that. But Warped tour has been such a factor without success and we owe a lot to that tour and a lot to shaping me into the person I am and me wanting to do this. I went to my first world tour in 2005 and I was like 12 and my mum had to bring me. I hold true to the fact my opinion that 2005 was the best Warp Tour line ever.
DBU: Who played?
DEREK: Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance, The Starting Line, The Offspring, and Motion City Soundtrack who were my favourite band at the time. I was so stoked and I would even been way more stoked about that now if that was on.
But it is crazy you know, this will be our third Warped Tour, and we are on our third album – I’d like to see how we have grown and how we have learned from each time we have done the tour and compared to how much we have learned about ourselves and what the dos and don’ts of making albums as well.
DBU: What would you say your most proud of with Living Proof?
DEREK: I am proud of the time we took and how much time we spent to make sure it was like diverse but yet cohesive as a big album. It is our biggest album yet with 13 songs on it there is even some bonus songs that will be released in the future I don’t know if that is exclusive, I don’t think we still have told anybody that yet, so maybe you got that first but we are really excited about it. We’re excited that like there is a little something for everybody on there and it doesn’t go too far from what we started as a band.