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Q&A: The Wonder Years

SAYREVILLE, N.J. – idobi’s Jamie McGrath sat down with the The Wonder Years at Starland Ballroom Saturday evening during their “Ship of Fools” tour with Streetlight Manifesto.

idobi: Please state your names and your role in the band.

Dan “Soupy” Campbell: I sing in the Wonder Years.

Josh Martin: I play bass in the Wonder Years.

Casey Cavaliere: I play guitar in the Wonder Years

Mike Kennedy: I play drums in the Wonder Years.

idobi:  What was the reasoning behind starting this band because it is very obvious that you are very passionate about what you do?

Martin: I am the mastermind behind this organization; we were all in bands in our scene at home and my band was exceptionally bad, so I decided to start a band with my friends so I could be in a band and play music that I wanted to play.  We started a pop-punk band and we could sing about ninjas and dinosaurs and other dumb s***.   And we duped Chris Hanson of No Sleep into liking our band enough and no it’s kind of developed as we’ve developed.   We started this band when most of us were 18, and now I’m 23.   A lot of things happen to you between 18 and 23.

idobi:  A lot of your songs have real, literal lyrics and based around Philly.   How much of your music is influenced by where you come from?

Cavaliere: Well a lot of people say we sound like The Starting Line.

Campbell: Lyrically, obviously, I lived in Philly for the past few years; I don’t anymore, we don’t live anywhere right now, we are a collective homeless group.   Spending everyday in a place is really hard to not let that place influence what you are doing.

idobi:  With bands like The Wonder Years, Fireworks, This Time Next Year and The Swellers, do you think that pop punk is making a come back as a musical genre and force, since there seemed to be a lull in the middle of this decade, back to its prevalence in the early 2000’s with The Starting Line and New Found Glory?

Campbell: Force or not, there are some really awesome bands playing and I don’t if the argument is whether pop punk matters or if it’s a force in music, but what I think is important to note is that there are a ton of great bands playing a ton of great music right now.   The more they get recognized the happier I am.   Obviously you mentioned a couple of them, but off the top of my head — A Loss For Words, Man Overboard, Transit, Title Fight, Tigers Jaw, Living With Lions, All Or Nothing, Save your Breath, Basement…there are a ton of great bands all over the place.

idobi:  I noticed you guys played a few songs that were not on either one of your full lengths, do you guys do that because they are songs you love to play or the fans love to hear?

Campbell: We really like playing those songs, but song on our 7” are some of our most popular songs.   I think kids would be disappointed if we didn’t play “You’re Not Salinger. Get Over It.” A lot of bands try and push their new albums, and we did play a lot of songs off it tonight.   But EPs tend to be in their own place between records but I think Won’t Be Pathetic Forever is a cornerstone release for us.

idobi:  Are there any songs you wish you had not released or written?   Are there some songs that went unreleased that you wish you had?

Martin: The first record.

Campbell: We rushed that record, and a third of it is passable.   But people like it so that’s cool and I appreciate it.   As far as songs we have recorded and haven’t released, those are pretty embarrassing as well.

Martin: There is a reason they weren’t released.

Campbell: There are some things that haven’t been released yet and there’s a b-side to The Upsides that got released on a 7” but only 500 were made, so not a lot of people have heard it, its called “11 past 11:30” and I really like that song.

idobi:    So are those songs the makings of an EP?

Campbell: No, they are going on a deluxe reissue of The Upsides coming out in September, Hopeless is re-releasing the album; all the original tracks, new artwork and 4 bonus tracks.

idobi:  Speaking of, you have recently signed to Hopeless Records, how did the change from No Sleep come about and how do you like the new label?

Martin: Chris at No Sleep has been a good dude; there’s more people that work at Hopeless so more things can get done at one time.   It’s not like we signed to Hopeless and straightened our hair and wear V necks.   There’s some talk on the internet about it’s a bad choice, but I think that’s wrong.   There are a lot of nice people at Hopeless and just because some bands on Hopeless wear V necks doesn’t mean we’re gonna stop being us.   They are nice dudes at the label and I’m still the same dude before we signed the contract.

Campbell:   And judging people by the cut at the top of their t shirt is a ridiculous thing to think.   “All those band wear V necks so they must be terrible”.   He means it, Chris does not sleep; he worked all day and all night, we owe him a million thanks and gratitude and hope No Sleep keeps signing awesome bands.   But that is one guy working tirelessly versus 15 people working tirelessly and it’s a whole new ballgame.   Chris is doing the marketing and PR and making sure its in stores and doing sales stuff.   He is doing it, not just for our record, but for every other record coming out at that time.   There is someone at Hopeless who does every one of those things, and Chris just hired his first two employees, I am very proud of him, he has an office space now; No Sleep is coming up!

idobi:  How did the band get on this tour?

Campbell: Dave Shapiro, same booking agent as Streetlight; he knew they were looking for someone, showed them our stuff and they liked it and they were gracious enough to bring us, we can’t thank them enough, it’s been a great tour already.   The tour is three days old and we go to August 1st.

idobi:  How have the ska-centric crowds been treating your band?

Campbell: Way better than I expected, great reactions; way way unexpected.   (Mike Kennedy, drummer, walks into the room and the band gets distracted and verbally beats him up a little bit — no pertinent information).

idobi:    Do you think that you have enough time in your 20-25 minutes to get your message across?

Campbell: I feel good about it, we go out and we jump around and talk some shit, and hope some people are into it.   People were singing along, it made me feel good.

idobi:  When you guys go across the country and see people singing your songs, is it something you didn’t expect?

Campbell: Some places, there are also places where no one knows us and people give us really hard looks.   (To the band) Remember that show in Idaho where everyone just stood there with their arms crossed, staring at us?

Cavaliere: I saw a few smiles though!

Martin: They may have just been laughing at us, I don’t know.

idobi:  Is it hard to keep up the energy when you have a crowd that is not participating or reacting to your music?

Martin: I think its either way for me, if people are really excited I get excited.   If people don’t get excited, I don’t give a shit, there’s a lot of people who don’t like us so I’m just gonna have fun.

Cavaliere: We just play for ourselves.

Campbell: I don’t think anybody but my mom likes me.

Cavaliere: I don’t think anyone actually likes me.

Dan: We played a show in Germany and everyone was just staring at us; so I was like “well I’m gonna get off the stage and if you’re not come up to me I’m gonna come up to you and sing in your faces.”   If no one knows who we are, then the only way they are going to like us is if we put on a good show so if we sulk about it and play like we’re half asleep then they’re not gonna like it and they’re not gonna like it when we come back.

idobi:  Where are some of your favorite places to play, besides Idaho?

Cavaliere: Idaho is topping the list; we had a great time that night.

Campbell: There were some really nice people at that show, and when we first started playing I was like “Oh.”

Martin: We had a great time that night.

Cavaliere:   In terms of other places that we like to play; Boston, the great state of Massachusetts has always been nice to us, Detroit, the L.A. area — every time we’ve been out there it has been amazing, in the last 6 months especially, Cincinnati.   This summer, the Fourth  of July with be the fifth  birthday of us being a band and we will be celebrating it in Cincinnati with a lot of good friends.   Leeds in the United Kingdom and Dublin, Ireland — they are always really appreciative.   From what we have been told, Ireland does not make it onto a lot of tour routings, at least for our genre but it is a great place to play and we always have fun, the last time I was super sick and still had a fun time.   Those are definitely places that are awesome, and those are just a few of them.   We don’t want to leave any where else out because we have friends everywhere.

idobi:    So do you guys prefer playing shows like this with 1500 people listening and you get 25 minutes or 200-300 people headlining where you get to play however long you do when you headline?

Cavaliere: There are perfect times for both — we still play small shows but when we get physically abused and equipment gets broken then sometimes it is not as fun afterwards.   These kinds of shows are a bit safer.

Campbell:   We played a show in South Carolina with Fireworks and the walls were all concrete and everyone said “don’t worry they can’t break, these are concrete walls,” and the room probably should have fit 20 people but fit 150 people.   They couldn’t break the walls but they did find a way to smash the ceiling.

Martin:   It’s called the House of Hardcore in South Carolina, great house.   We were setting up our stuff and I tripped over this cinderblock in the middle of the room and said “what the hell is this cinder block doing here?”   And someone came up to me and said “oh its for stage dives, don’t worry,” so kids run through the kitchen and down the hallway and jump off this cinderblock and crowd surf on top of the people in the living room.   It was a house that they gave a name because they had so many shows there.

idobi:  A few months ago I saw a petition online about “Save Philly Shows”, which against the law where you have to submit permits 30 days in advance and they can cancel it 10 days in advance for no reason, are you guys aware of this?   What are your thoughts and feelings?

Campbell: I am aware of it, if it goes through its total bullshit because it ruins DIY shows, which are always last minute shows and you can’t have house shows anymore.   But here’s the thing: I don’t think I have ever played a show, up until recently, that is actually legal.   There are so many places in Philly (names several venues), that do shows illegally and have been way over capacity.   These are row homes doing house shows in basements.   I am worried enough about it that I signed the petition and make sure that people knew about it and would sign it but I feel like it is other bullshit legislation that is never gonna get backed up.   It is not geared at punk rock shows, it’s for dance parties were people get shot, that is what that thing was for.   It has to encompass everything and I can see them saying “oh its just a bunch of shitty looking punk dudes at a house, whatever, lets move on, no one got shot here”.   And the Philadelphia police have way bigger fish to fry than us doing a show at a house so I am not sweating it too hard.   If you see the petition, sign it, it takes 30 seconds, why the fuck not?

idobi:  Going forward from this tour, what are the plans for the rest of the year for this band?

Campbell: New Found Glory and Lemuria in August and then we are doing Australia in September and then a fall tour of some sort.   I cannot confirm or deny what it is yet but there will be a fall tour and then we are going to write a record.   If it went really well we will have a record out next summer, a year from now we’d like to have a new record out.

idobi:  Are you guys playing the Stone Pony date of the New Found Glory tour?

Campbell: Not that I know of, I hope so.   We have been asked about it, we have been on the flyers, and we are on the website.   No one asked us to play it, it’s not on the tour — it’s a week before the tour started, an off date.   That is August 2nd, the tour starts the 20th.

Martin: No! There are different openers for some of the shows, the band [New Found Glory] are playing way more shows on this summer side tour that we are not a part of, which is fine, because they d whatever they want.   It bums me out when people get mad at me and us for not playing shows that we didn’t get asked to play.

Campbell: I wish we were playing that, I wish we played on every show New Found Glory has every played, unfortunately nobody asked us to play it, they are one of my favorite bands of all time.

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