Interview: State Champs

State Champs have been touring almost non-stop for the past two years. Read on to find out what they have planned next, how they cope with being away from home, and more.

Faultless Sounds: If you had to trade bodies with someone in the band, who would you choose?

Tyler Szalkowski: That’s a tough one. Derek is too thin. Probably Evan, he has a great body.

Tony Diaz: Same, unanimously.

Tyler: He’s strong and defined, he looks nice with his shirt off…

Tony: He’s a drummer, so he has good cardio, he doesn’t get tired easily. I’ve got bad knees, bad ankles… That’s why I gave up on drums; I used to play drums.

Tyler: Basically, no one would want our bodies. Everyone wants Evan’s body.

Today is the last day of your European festival tour. What’s been the best thing about it so far?

Tyler: For me, it’s been checking out some new cities. We got to go to Sweden, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Hungary for the first time.

Tony: We really enjoyed just walking around each city. With a tour this big, we don’t have a lot of responsibilities, so we had a lot of time to go out and explore all these new places.

Tyler: The highlight is actually getting to enjoy it. Last time we were here, we were headlining, there was VIP and sound check and all that. So now we get to be tourists and that’s nice.

Does that mean you prefer being a smaller band on the lineup instead of the headliner?

Tyler: We’ve been headlining for the first four months of this year, so we’re good. Headlining means you get to play to all your fans; they’re there for you, and sometimes those shows are more fun, but when you’re supporting, you play to an impressive amount of new people. They both have their perks.

How would you describe the music you play in one word?

Tony: I would say “positive”. Derek’s lyrical message is very uplifting.

Tyler: Our songs tend to be very resolved. And if you are bummed out, usually by the bridge, you get the resolution. So “positive” is a good word. I feel as though for some people our music is “nostalgic”, in a way. It makes you want to drive with your windows down, in the summer time… It’s always some feel-good, sugar-rushed pop-punk. It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s friendly.

Is that why you enjoy writing and playing pop-punk?

Tyler: We grew up on it. Tony is a couple years older than me. I grew up in the era of Good Charlotte, Simple Plan, The Starting Line, New Found Glory etc. and when we decided we wanted to make music, we wanted to write stuff that we liked.

You’ve started working on new music already. Will there be any collaborations on the new album?

Tyler: Maybe. Hopefully. We have to see who wants to collab with us first.

So, nothing planned yet?

Tyler: We have some stuff planned, but no collabs as of right now.

Tony: The door is always open. We keep a pretty open-minded look on our music; we don’t want to pigeon-hole ourselves into one thing, we won’t say that we’ll only do a collab if it’s this one person. We haven’t gotten around to it yet, but we’re open to any opportunity.

Tyler: We’re always looking to grow and adapt; can’t keep making the same record over and over. You have to evolve, too.

You said it would be a ‘new chapter’ for State Champs…

Tyler: Yeah, Kerrang! said that. That sounds really dramatic, and it’s not going to be that dramatic. It’s still going to sound like us.

Tony: We’re not going to put out a record where you’re like “what happened? who is this band?”.

Tyler: But there are going to be a couple tracks that go in different directions, but we do that already anyway. We always like to make a record with a core of songs that stay true to who we are and a couple on the outskirts that let us push in different directions and try new things.

You’ve been ‘around the world and back’. What has been your favorite day off?

Tyler: Mine was in Australia. There was this cove with a 20 or 30 ft. cliff, so we went swimming, cliff jumping, we played football… it was a really nice day with us and Neck Deep just hanging out.

Tony: We usually make the most out of a lot of our off-days, especially internationally. There’s not really any that outweigh the others. I liked any time that we spent off in Japan. It’s a really wild place.

Tyler: It’s a completely different world. It feels very futuristic.

Tony: There’s this one restaurant we went to: You pick your food and pay at a machine, and then you go in and you lay down your receipt and the only human interaction is when they hand you your food.

Tyler: That was great, it erased the language barrier. We don’t speak Japanese, you know, it’s very challenging.

You’ve been touring almost non-stop lately, which can take its toll on your mind and body. What do you do to clear your mind?

Tyler: Every one of us does different things. I go out and party a lot, I drink and have fun.

Tony: I just seclude myself and play video games or call home. I’ll face-time friends or family, that kind of stuff. We live with twenty-two other people on this bus; it’s us and Issues, and you’re around people all the time. Personally, I do value alone-time a lot, so it’s good for me to get away for a while and mentally reset.

Tyler: I’m very extroverted; I take comfort in other people. I go out and lose myself there.

What’s been your favorite music release so far this year?

Tyler: The Maine and Paramore are pretty high up for me. And I’ve heard the new Lorde record is very good.

Tony: I’m ready for the new Carly Rae Jepsen. I’m really into pop music. Paramore is my number one right now, though.

Tyler: I’ll also stick with Paramore.

Lastly, what is your personal faultless sound?

Tyler: My favorite sound is waves on a beach. Like a super relaxing, calming white noise. I love that shit. I’ll fall asleep to it; I’ll do anything to it.

Tony: What fires me up the most is like the “load screen” music from a video game or something, it just hits a weird, nostalgic note in me.

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Interview: Decade

Three years after their debut album “Good Luck”, UK band Decade have recently released the follow-up, “Pleasantries”, which proves that they’re ready to leave their pop-punk past behind. Read on to find out what the present and, possibly, the future has in store for them.

Faultless Sounds: If you had to trade bodies with someone in the band, who would you choose?

Alex Sears: Probably Dan, our drummer. He’s small, but deceivingly strong.

Connor Fathers: I’d swap with Alex; he’s got a secret tail. He’s got a little monkey tail, he’s the missing link in the evolution of humans. He never tells anyone about it, though; he’s probably really angry I mentioned it. I’d just like to see what I can do with it.

Alex: You can’t do much with it.

Connor: I feel like if I had your body, I’d be able to do something with it. Maybe dip it in some paint and paint something.

Alex: I was going in low, but you hit the bar!

You’re touring with Counterfeit and Tigress, which is really cool. What would be your dream line-up?

Connor: Weezer would be awesome. Old Weezer.

Alex: Weezer, if they only played the first two albums.

Connor: Queens of the Stone Age would be pretty cool; we wouldn’t fit on that line-up, but I’d love to play with them. I mean, tonight’s line-up is kind of varied, too, and I think those are the best kind. Maybe Madonna, if we’re talking something completely different.

Alex: Or James Brown opening for us, if he could.

Staying on the topic of diverse musical influences, what are some that have had an impact on you?

Connor: We really like Oasis.

Alex: That’s not even a joke.

Connor: Yeah, Oasis and beer. That’s not a musical influence, but I think every great album was written under the influence of beer.

Alex: Dynamically, I would say bands like Nirvana, Radiohead, the White Stripes… When we wrote the first album, we wanted to sound like a pop-punk band, but we took more of our personal influences into account when writing the second album. So rather than choosing bands we wanted to sound like, we would just write music that sounded like the bands we actually enjoyed listening to.

Connor: Right. If you write music that you think will be successful, it might not necessarily be the music that you really like. And I think that resulted in kind of a strange sound because the five of us listen to so many different things. Our influences come from all over the place. Mainly beer.

As you already said, there was a gap of several years between your last two albums. Did you have any difficulties finding out what direction you wanted to go in?

Alex: It was more of a natural thing. We wrote the first album wanting to sound like a pop-punk band, then we toured it for a good while. And, naturally, our taste in music just changed. We were a lot younger when we released that first album.

Connor: The gap between the two albums was not so much because of a creative struggle; we were always writing; it was more because of contractual problems with our label that took some time to resolve and get a team behind the new album. We wrote about an album’s worth of material between the two albums that never got released, but we didn’t have the right team to release it at that moment, so now there’s a hidden album somewhere out there. Maybe we’ll release it one day.

Alex: It’s on my laptop, just sayin’.

How would you describe the sound of your new album “Pleasantries”?

Alex: The underlying genre would just be “rock”. Most songs have quite a poppy structure. We tend to write big choruses, but quiet verses.

Connor: What we really want is to just be a rock band, because I think the whole genre-thing, dividing everything into little subcategories, like pop-this and punk-that, post-something, all these little boxes you have to fit in.

Alex: As soon as you say you’re a pop-punk band that’s all you’ll ever be to people. Even now, we get people saying “pop-punk band Decade releases new album”, like, have you even listened to it? It’s not a pop-punk record because they associate the name with it.

Connor: After you put out your first bit of music, most people stick that label on you and that’s what you’ll always be to them. But rock bands, thirty, forty years ago, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the like, they would have entire albums without distorted guitars and heavy drums. They were really quiet songs, barely any guitar at all, some keys or some weird bongos, but they were still a rock band and they played rock music. Rock has always been that all-encompassing term. That’s what we want to be. We want to be able to do a bit of grunge, a bit of punk, a bit of pop, some soft ballad stuff… We want to be able to move around freely, without having to worry about “is this pop-punk or what is it?”. We’ve got instruments that make noise. Let’s play with them and see where they go. Some people have woken up and realized that we’re not a pop-punk band anymore, so now they call us alt-rock, but if we are alternative rock, then what is rock? I’m not complaining, I just don’t quite understand. I’m happier to be called alt-rock than pop-punk for sure.

So you really hate pop-punk now, huh?

Alex: I still listen to plenty of pop-punk bands, and I’d never say it is bad, just a mislabel for our band. But if we’d never been a pop-punk band, we’d never be where we are now.

Connor: People who don’t like pop-punk will sometimes just not give the music a chance, whereas if you say you’re a rock band that’s different. Everyone likes a bit of rock, even the people who just listen to hip-hop. Everyone likes at least one rock track. Everyone sings along to Smells Like Teen Spirit. Everyone knows… that’s grunge, not rock, what a fake.

Alex: Don’t call my favorite band rock!

While writing “Pleasantries”, did you focus on what you wanted to evoke in the listener or did you just write for yourselves?

Alex: The main themes of the album are life and death and the way people fill the void between the two things. It’s about how people interact with each other, and also about how people contradict themselves; all the little things that we do that make us human. So I would say that could pretty much evoke emotion in anyone; I’m not saying it’s for everyone, but everyone is a human; everyone has those moments where they just don’t know what they’re doing and where their place is in the world and what they should do with their life. So I think it’s quite universal, in that it could evoke feelings in a broad spectrum of people. But we did write it for ourselves, really, going back to the fact that we wanted to write something that we would enjoy listening to. I guess it was a bit of both.

Connor: I think there’s only one part on the album that we did think about a lot, production-wise, not necessarily lyrically, on the closer song, “Capsules”. Over half of the song is really quiet, just one guitar and Alex singing. I always had it in my mind that someone might be listening to that with their headphones in as they’re in bed, last thing at night. I like listening to music when I’m in bed. And I had the idea that it would get to this slow, quiet song and you might doze off to sleep, and at the very end it slams in, full band, really loud, and it just jumps. And in my mind, I wanted it to be like a lullaby. I wanted the listener to have been put to sleep by some really sweet music, and then get woken up by this amazing moment at the end. It was the same with “Peach Milk”, it starts off slow, and you think “is this a Coldplay song?” and then, out of nowhere, this almighty riff comes in. For moments like this, we definitely considered the surprise element to the listener, and it’s fun to think of it that way. That’s the thing with albums that you don’t have with singles: How much can radically change in a 3-minute song? Especially on the radio, they don’t like massive changes, they want the same thing, so you can listen to it every day and sing along in your car on the way to work. When you have an entire album, you can do almost everything, and that’s a nice surprise for the listener.

Do you prefer playing the old songs or the new ones live?

Alex: Definitely the new ones. We toured the old album for so long and we just got so fed up with it, so now that the new album is out, we’ve got the flexibility to play that stuff and people actually know it to some degree.

Connor: There are quite high-energy songs from the first album; they’re all very pacey and fast, and that’s great, especially when you’re in a certain kind of mood, it’s great to have that sort of energy. But as you said earlier, it’s been so long since the first album came out, so it’s nice to have some more dynamic songs that slow down. You’re not constantly out of breath and jumping around, going mad. In a lot of ways, it’s more of a challenge to play songs that are loud and fast and then all of a sudden it drops down and it’s very intricate and quiet. There’s no hiding when you’ve got quiet moments; they need to be done right. Whereas with the high energy songs from the first album with distortion turned all the way up, you can be scrappy, you can make mistakes, and it’s just punk rock. And then after those high energy shows you come off stage and think, “we played terribly, but it was really fun”.

Alex: You have a good time, but as a musician, you feel less accomplished.

Some songs on “Pleasantries” are very poppy and idyllic, almost too good to be. How did that come together?

Connor: With “Pleasantries”, at least I wanted to make something that I could show to my parents and grandparents, as well as my most alternative friends, and they would all enjoy listening to it. Like Oasis’ “Wonderwall”.

I saw that your social media bios say “loud quiet happy sad”. Which of those do you personally identify most with?

Alex: I’m quiet sad.

Connor: I feel like the whole of that is one thing in a way, because in the space of three minutes you can be loud, quiet, happy and sad, or all at one time.

Alex: “Pleasantries” is quite manic, in the sense of loud and quiet, but lyrically, it also goes from one extreme to the other in terms of emotion. So I think “loud quiet happy sad” would be the best way to describe the album, because most of the songs sound happy, but lyrically, they’re pretty miserable.

Connor: Yeah, even our happiest-sounding songs have some dark lyrical content. I couldn’t identify as one of those things…

…because life is a permanent rollercoaster?

Connor: Exactly. And that’s what “Pleasantries” is about; that it’s okay to be that way. You know, when someone describes a person and says “oh, that guy is always really smiley and happy”; I don’t think anyone is always really happy. So I think those four words sum up the album in its entirety.

Leaving aside your own album, which release are you most looking forward to this year (or were, if it’s already out)?

Connor: Manchester Orchestra have been in the studio for quite a while, I think they’re releasing an album this year and I’m really excited for that.

Alex: Our friends in a band called Wallflower, who we just toured with in the UK, are releasing a new EP. We’ve already heard it and it’s great, but I can’t wait to see how people receive it.

To wrap things up: What decade do you wish you were born in?

Alex: I wish I was born in the sixties.

Connor: I wish I was born in the fifties. My dad was born in 1950 and he told me a lot about growing up at that time; it must’ve been amazing to live through humans landing on the moon, and everything that happened around the Vietnam War and the Cold War era. I’m obviously not interested in the war side of it, but the hippie movement that came out of it, and the explosion of music in the fifties, sixties, seventies… I know I listed three decades there, but that’s why I would have liked to be born in the fifties, so that I could have lived through those decades.

Alex: I also think I would’ve liked to have been born earlier in the eighties, so I could have seen Oasis and Nirvana play.

Connor: What would you choose? Would you go back to, like, dinosaurs?

Alex: What use would that be? You couldn’t even post it on Instagram, so you would be like “I’ve just seen a dinosaur, but I can’t prove it!”

No, I would probably choose the seventies or eighties, too.

Alex: I was actually born in the eighties, I lived about six months in the eighties, so I can’t really claim to be an eighties’ kid. I would have been, like, five or six years old, when Nirvana were at their prime.

 

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