Pop punk perfectionists State Champs
By Tim Anderl
Albany, N.Y.’s State Champs are perhaps one of the best and brightest up-and-comers from the latest generation of suburban kids churning out punk inspired pop music. But their sound is bigger and more refined than your average mall punks, because they’re “killing it” every second they’re in the studio or on stage. At least that’s what State Champs’ guitarist Tyler Szalkowski told Dayton City Paper between mentions of their Pure Noise Records debut EP, Overslept, and his opinions on cover songs and complaints about not receiving pictures of fans in their skivvies. Here’s what else he had to say …
How did the music scene in Albany shape who you are as a musician?
When I was 14, the scene was dominated by metal and hardcore. I actually started out playing bass in a metalcore band. But that scene always had strong hardcore and punk ethics too. The scene nowadays is moving in a more pop punk direction. Whenever we play as a local headliner at home, it seems like we’re meeting more and more kids that we’ve never met before that just found out about us. It is cool that it is growing in that kids from neighboring towns will come out and tell us, “Hey I just found out about you guys.” It seems like the kids are having fun again and that’s cool. – Tyler Szalkowski
I noticed that when I attended Warped Tour this year that the new and up-and-coming bands, including those you’ve been touring with, are really reinvigorating that pop punk sound.
Oh yeah, Man Overboard, Transit, Hostage Calm – all those bands that are absolutely killing it right now are doing so much for that scene and genre. A lot of people consider the early 2000s, when pop punk was huge on the coattails of Blink-182 and New Found Glory who were on TRL and MTV regularly, the glory days. But I definitely believe that everything is cyclical and that pop punk is becoming really cool again.
Pop punk has always been my true love. But when I got into the scene, pop punk was losing steam and metalcore bands like As I Lay Dying were growing in popularity, so I was looking up to and playing in bands like that. It is cool to finally be able to do what I always wanted to do and hopefully have kids like it. -TS
Was the Overslept EP you did with Jay Maas (of Defeater) the first time you’d seen the inside of a proper studio?
He was definitely the first person we’d ever worked with who told us, “That’s not good enough. Redo that snare roll. You can hit that better, nail that harder.” Stuff like that. He was more than an engineer. He’s not going to lie to you, because his name is going to be on this thing, too. He was really honest and focused on bringing out the best in us.-TS
It is interesting to hear a band doing dueling vocal work, but doing it really well. Did you spend a lot of time on that in the studio?
Thank you. We spent about a day on vocals. Derek (Discanio) is a master of melodies and harmonies. He spent 8 to 10 hours singing and killed it every time. He sings with such emotion and just packs a punch. There’s definitely no bullshit going on in the vocal booth. He just makes it his. But all of us treat our music that way. We’re here to kill it, and if you aren’t, then you are doing everyone a huge injustice. -TS
I can hear some similarities to Fall Out Boy and Through Being Cool-era Saves the Day in the EP. Are those legitimate influences for you?
Absolutely. Fall Out Boy are one of my top five favorite bands. We all love Saves The Day, The Get Up Kids, all of that earlier ‘90s and 2000s stuff. The Goo Goo Dolls are really my favorite band. I’m definitely a ‘90s alt-kid. I like all that stuff like Third Eye Blind and shit. -TS
Do you guys do any covers in the live set?
Every tour we do there is always a band who covers “Sugar We’re Going Down” by Fall Out Boy and there is always a Brand New cover. At least five or six shows of every tour we do. You can hear those songs from miles away, and you’re like, “Oh no. This is happening again.” (laughter) Covers are sweet if you are off tour and you’re at home and bored and want to post something on Tumblr, but I feel like bands should play their own music. -TS
Speaking of Tumblr, I noticed that you guys have posted some band-inspired fan art up there. Has anyone written any sexy State Champs fan fiction?
There hasn’t been any fan fiction, but we’ve gotten a few pictures of girls wearing State Champs shirts in their underwear. It is always posted with #Derek, not #Statechamps. -TS
Well shit, I guess not. (laughter) I definitely love anything anyone posts on Tumblr about one or all of us, even if it is underwear shirt pics. -TS
State Champs will perform on Friday, Dec. 21 at RockStar Pro Arena, 1106 E. Third St. Also on the bill are Hit The Lights, A Loss For Words and With The Punches. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/statechampsny.
Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Anderl at TimAnderl@daytoncitypaper.com