Pennsylvania pop punkers The Wonder Years are touring across Australia in May 2016 for headline dates. We caught up with vocalist Dan “Soupy” Campbell ahead of the tour to talk about their newest album No Closer To Heaven and his excitement to be back down under.

SCENEzine
How’s 2016 been going for The Wonder Years so far?

Dan Campbell
Well easy so far. We had January off then went to England now we are touring America with Letlive.

SCENEzine
Your newest album No Closer To Heaven is one of our favourite to come out of 2015. Start to finish it’s a really solid album.
Looking back is that one of your albums you’re most proud of?

Dan Campbell
Absolutely especially from a song writing perspective. Actually from a lot of perspectives. I love the artwork. I love the songs, the lyrics and I love the reception it’s our highest selling album.
It did the best in the first week. There’s a lot to be proud of on this one. But the real point of pride comes from playing the songs live. We’ve been seeing really great reactions to all of the new songs. We’ve yet to play one that doesn’t get a good reaction. Between this tour and last tour we’ve played 11 of the 13 tracks now.

SCENEzine
The album title itself No Closer To Heaven is quite a huge statement. What does that statement represent to you?

Dan Campbell
It comes across in the last song. The metaphor that I always use for it might be a little hard to understand. Actually easier for someone from Australia to understand than from somewhere like England because of the size of the country. But you guys don’t do a lot of cross country Australian drives. Like I don’t imagine you’ve driven from Sydney to Perth recently.

So when you’re driving across America we have this huge section called the great plains. Basically a glacier came through sometime in the late ice age and smashed it all really fucking flat. So there’s these massive parts of the country that are incomprehensibly flat and so because they are so flat you can see really, really far. So I have this thought in my head it’s like you’re travelling on the great plain and you see the light of a city out in the distance and you know where you want to go. That’s where you want to be you want to get to that city but every couple of steps you start to realise how far that city actually is. Because of how flat it is it’s so much further than you originally anticipated and the realisation starts to set in that I may never get there and make it to the goal.

So then you are faced with a question. Do you setup and make camp in the darkness and stay there forever or do you keep progressing with the realisation that you still may never reach the final end goal. Do you keep walking forward with the knowledge that you may never make it. That kind of metaphor extends throughout the whole thing. There are these things that we want to understand in life and about other people. These larger social constructs, inner personal constructs these interpersonal constructs.

We may never get there. We may never have a full understanding of it. We may never solve the problem but the decision that I have made is to keep walking regardless. To not say well if I’m never going to make it then why bother trying. I feel like we should always be moving forward and so while I’m no closer to heaven I am going to keep walking.

SCENEzine
That’s a huge sentiment. There’s so much throw away pop music out there but we find ourselves drawn to bands like yours with real passion and meaning behind them.

Dan Campbell
Well we try really hard. Just like with the concept of the record we may not have done it perfectly and we may have flaws and that’s ok. You can make wrong turns. You can get turned around and go the wrong direction for a while but the point is to not give up. You need to keep working towards the ultimate goal. It gets a little bit meter when you’re talking about the record in that way.

SCENEzine
You recently released a video for “Stained Glass Ceilings” featuring Jason of Letlive. What that fun to make?

Dan Campbell
No (laughs) it was really hard. It was February which for us is the dead of winter in Philadelphia which is the place that gets colder than anywhere in Australia I’m pretty sure. It was in a warehouse in the bad part of the city with no heat and no insulation it was very cold is what I’m getting at. We are dressed really warmly in the video people think that’s for some sort of aesthetic reason it’s not it’s for a very practical reason. We were all shivering even after we would shoot we would put on more layers a bunch of coats because it was so freezing cold in there. It was like a marathon. Call time for it was 9am and we wrapped just after midnight so it was a really long 15 plus hour shoot in the fricking cold.

SCENEzine
How did it come about getting Jason to sing on the track?

Dan Campbell
The first time we really ever talked about it we were at Reading and Leeds festival. We were talking about these greater social issues and we were like man we should do something musically with that. When we started writing the song I was like well this is for Jason. If you listen to the song he is the more important voice on the song and the song in a lot of ways is our attempt to amplify Jason’s voice to get the things that he’s saying to our audience. Saying that in this particular conversation his voice has more weight than mine.

SCENEzine
You also released a quite confronting video for “Cardinals”. Was it hard executing your vision to the screen?

Dan Campbell
That video I have to give it up the vision was not mine it was all Kevin Slack’s. He called and said I have an idea for the song since he’s a director. It was all his idea. But just like with “stained glass ceilings” video it was incredibly difficult to shoot. The total opposite of a good time. The shot needed to be timed out flawlessly. What you see in the shot is me running in slow motion with 140 pound human in my arms. What you don’t see is the 8 or so people with a monitor and focus and someone timing it and someone yelling directions.

Then someone is watching the monitor and everyone has to run with us. A whole crew of people carrying heavy equipment. They are all running with us backwards and as the camera rotates they all have to rotate out of the shot simultaneously. So the littlest slip up if the monitor guy wasn’t fast enough and got in the shot means the whole take is ruined go back and do it again. Or if any of the background actors who are mostly band members like if Matt dribbled the basketball at the wrong time the shot would be ruined. Or the ambulance driver who’s on a radio and we say take off start driving and he doesn’t hear it right away. They say it three times and he takes off to late the shot is ruined do it again. So all in all that day I ran over a mile in like 200 metre sprints carrying a human. It was really, really hard to pull off.

SCENEzine
Well the final product definitely turned out well though.

Dan Campbell
It’s great because you can see the real agony on my face.

SCENEzine
Growing up were you a fan of just pop punk?

Dan Campbell
The first things that you listen to are what your parents listen to. My dad was into punk rock and alternative rock. So a lot of growing up I was listening to The Ramones and The Replacements and really heavy doses of Nirvana and Beck and Weezer. Then also some hip hop he really loved A Tribe Called Quest. Green Day was one of the first things that he listened to that I really latched onto as well. Then when it started to become my music choices that weren’t influenced by my parents as much I got really into R n B for a while.

Boyz 2 Men was my favourite for a really long time. Then there was a period of time where I’d listen to some hip hop and some rock but I hadn’t really found my music yet.
Until you know you hear Blink when your 13 and then Blink let you know Saves The Day exists and then you find The Get Up Kids and MXPX. Then it kind of spirals more into the subgenre stuff for me around that age. It kind of for me has always been guitar driven music or RnB hip hop stuff. A little later my dad got into Alt Country which I like too. I like a lot of music though.

SCENEzine
This may be a cliché question but are you excited to tour Australian in May?

Dan Campbell
Yeah of course. I am not so much looking forward to the flight because recently they’ve been messing with my sinuses. I have been having really, really bad headaches for days when I get off the plane. But it’s a small price to play to get down there and play music. We have really great fans in Australia they’ve been awesome. They’ve dealt with a lot of bullshit from us not being able to come sometimes and long gaps where we can’t find someone to bring us down there. We’ve been coming to Australia since 2010 but it hasn’t been as consistent as it should of been and our fans have been really understanding. So we are excited to get down there and play music.

SCENEzine
Do you have a particular favourite Australian memory?

Dan Campbell
One singular favourite moment in Australia might of been our last Soundwave on an off day we were with Fireworks who are our best friends. We took a ferry out to Manly and we went snorkelling at the beach and that was really cool. That is probably my favourite singular time because it wasn’t just us it was the Fireworks guys as well. That makes it a lot more fun because it’s like here’s me and 11 of my best friends in the world hanging out a secluded cove beach.

SCENEzine
We’ve managed to catch you live many times over the years from small club shows with Tonight Alive to big festivals like Soundwave and Riot Fest. Do you prefer your own club shows or playing festivals?

Dan Campbell
I think they both have their place I don’t know if I have a preference. I like going back and forth a lot. I like to have the opportunity to play these huge shows that are so overwhelming kind of the thing you’ve always dreamed about when you started playing music. But the intimacy and the energy of a really small club show has its place too. I really like doing both of them.

SCENEzine
Going way back in time our favourite song of yours is “My Last Semester” can you share your memories from the writing process of that song?

Dan Campbell
That was kind of a little bit of a group thing. We were all going to college separately and decently far away from each other in some aspects. With pretty drastic different college experiences.

Some of us went to school in the city and others way out in the countryside. We all commiserated on this idea of we don’t necessarily belong amongst these people or we haven’t found a lot of people that we fit in with the way that we fit in with one another. So it kind of got written over these almost complaining sessions where we’d be like oh my god this fucking happened at my school. Like a had to deal with is homophobic asshole or this small town mentality. Or watch these drunken frat guys do this terrible thing. Just our frustration with that so we were like at least when we are together we feel like we fit in.

SCENEzine
Whenever I wear your merch the usual response is people saying I love that band. But every now and then people who’ve never heard of you guys will say I loved that TV show.
Do you find it funny that all over the world people might be seeing your band shirts thinking its promoting the show?

Dan Campbell
The best crossover antic dote that I have is we played a show in Missouri which if you look at a map is right smack in the middle of America. If you read off the cities in it you probably wouldn’t recognise them it’s not a big cultural centre for the thing that we do. So when we would do shows there they we would be good we really liked playing there but the general public had no idea that we exist. You’d have to really be a part of the subculture to know about The Wonder Years in a place like that. It’s not necessarily famous for punk rock.

So we got to the show and this guy showed up and was demanding a refund because he thought somehow at this little punk rock dive bar venue that the cast of the wonder years was going to be doing some sort of panel where they talked about the show. Because he saw a poster that said The Wonder Years and decided he wanted to come.

SCENEzine
That’s crazy.

Dan Campbell
It’s super weird like why would you think that. At no point did it say featuring Fred Savage or like the cast discusses their memories. It said The Wonder Years on tour with other bands.

SCENEzine
Can you leave us with a last message for your Australian fans?

Dan Campbell
For us the biggest thing is we are going to be able to play No Closer To Heaven songs. We are going to span the whole discography and play all your favourite songs. But we are really excited to get the opportunity to play these new songs that feel so cathartic for us in front of our fans in Australia.

(interview by Christian Ross)

 

Wonder Years knuckle puck Tour

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