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Local Man Ruins Everything: An Interview with the Wonder Years

Kiel Hauck
Photo: Dan King

Following the release of one of the most acclaimed alt-punk albums this year, the Wonder Years are enjoying the rest of the Warped Tour doing what any hard-working rock band should do: start up the BBQ ...

Anyone who says that there's no longer a punk presence on Warped Tour needs to look no further than Lansdale, PA act the Wonder Years. The pop punk quintet began catching ears last year with its upbeat and snappy album The Upsides before unleashing one of the most talked about pop-punk albums in recent memory with this summer's Suburbia, I've Given You All and Now I'm Nothing. This darker, more aggressive collection of tracks has gained the band even further notoriety and landed it a full run on this year's Warped Tour.

Fronted by outspoken vocalist Dan "Soupy" Campbell, the Wonder Years are quickly becoming one of the most intriguing bands in the scene with a killer live performance and a penchant for speaking its mind. Suburbia is a journey through a difficult 12-month period for the group following the release of The Upsides and takes a critical and thoughtful look at the ideas and values instilled by suburban America. PopMatters recently caught up with bassist Josh Martin to talk about the band's new record and the pains and joys experienced during its current summer-long trek.

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This is the band's first experience on Warped Tour. What's the experience of a full-run on Warped been like?

It's taxing for sure, but at the same time it's really awesome. We've done big tours in the past as far as being headliners and stuff, but this is just so-next level compared to everything else. Just long days, you're outside all day, but at the end of the day you get to unwind and relax at the infamous Warped Tour barbeque nights. It's good; it's been a lot of fun.

Warped Tour has always offered a platform of sorts for bands to have a voice. Being a band with a guy like Dan, who has a lot of opinions about a lot of different issues, how much does that play into this tour for you guys?

We try to take a stance on a lot of issues in a positive manner, but we try not to be preachy because that's obnoxious and you turn people off that way. We kind of just try to have a mindset and an attitude towards positivity and towards anti-racism, anti-homophobia, and anti-sexism and stuff like that. The people that come to see you start to adopt that mindset too without having to preach it and without having to get on your soapbox and lecture them about wrong and right. If they believe in what you're singing about and talking about then you don't have to do any of that, you can get your message across more efficiently and with more people because you're not preaching about it. Nobody wants to hear anybody preach about anything.

Warped Tour is now in its 17th year and is going stronger than ever. What is it that keeps people coming back year after year?

It's a trip, man. Every day something like a thousand people drive city to city, they build a small city, and there's music, entertainment, food, and anything you want to be a part of. Most of it is positive, which is good. It's just a spectacle. Also, every year there's good bands. People say "Oh, this was a bad year," or "This was a good year blah blah blah," but if you look deep enough, there's good bands that play every year. This year is loaded with good bands and still, people are like, "This is a bad year for Warped Tour and a bad year for pop punk." It's not true. Just because there aren't pop-punk bands on main stage, it doesn't mean we're not here, you know? We might not be as visible, but if you look deep enough you can find a great hip-hop band in Bad Rabbits, you can find a slew of good pop-punk bands like the Menzingers and Veara, and there's good rock and roll bands like Every Avenue and Terrible Things. There's bands everywhere that people should know about, but they're not at the forefront. But if you come and you look you can find good music out here. It's like that every year and it's awesome.

Last year's The Upsides was a very positive, upbeat record while Suburbia is a bit darker and more aggressive. What's the response to the new record been like?

The response has been positive, for sure. We were lucky enough to have a lot of people buy our record and we were fortunate enough to make it into the Billboard Top 100, which is a huge step for us. The people that come out to see us are excited about us playing new songs, which doesn't always happen. We're lucky to have that. We're just thankful that people are giving it an honest listen. We put our best foot forward with this record, I feel like, and hopefully it will pay off.

What are your plans after Warped Tour finishes?

In September, we're traveling to the UK with Such Gold and Valencia who are great friends of ours and we're looking forward to going over there with them. There's a big fall tour that we'll announce as soon as Warped Tour is over and hopefully some other things in the fall. We'll also be doing some holiday shows in December.

What bands are you advising that people check out on this year's Warped Tour?

It's hard because we've made so many friends with so many different kinds of bands, but if you're looking for just a punk band, you're going to want to watch the Menzingers or Veara for sure. If you're looking for a hip-hop band, you're going to want to watch Bad Rabbits. If you're looking for, what is arguably the best band on the tour, you should probably go watch Lucero.

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