The Wonder Years are by far are one of the better and biggest pop-punks bands going, and with ‘No Closer To Heaven’, the only way up from here is, well, up. As the new album has just dropped from above to us below, Killyourstereo.com had an enlightening chat with singer Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell about the new release.
Hey Soupy, Alex here from Killyourstereo, how are you doing?
I’m good Alex, thank you for asking. How are you?
I’m doing well thanks. Spring just started over here in Australia, so the weather’s great. What are you up to, I know you guys are all in the van travelling at the moment.
Yeah we are, it’s about 10pm now and we are heading to a hotel right now. We’re playing a string of in-store shows at the moment. We’ve got about an hour or so to go.
Sick, this should help pass the time a bit for you. So, I personally found that the subject matter of ‘No Closer To Heaven’ deals very heavily with death, and thus do you think that music is perhaps one of the better ways to address loss such as this?
You know, there’s only really one song that deals with that. I think a lot of people seem to think that it’s all about the one person, which isn’t actually the case.
Ah-huh, so do you think that my own perception of the record mainly comes from the visuals and lyrics of the two music videos, the album’s title and the songs names, like ‘A Song For Ernest Hemingway’ for instance?
Oh for sure, and I love this about our fans – they all want to understand everything and how each song ties so closely to us. There’s a dilemma with that because do I let everyone interpret the songs how they want or do I tell them what everything means? I’ve been trying to be more relaxed, but as you directly asked me, I had to tell you at least what it’s about. There are at least three songs that relate to three people who passed away, and Cardinals actually isn’t one of them.
With not letting on too much to the fans, has it been interesting for you to see what some fans have come up with about the song meanings?
I think it also makes it more interesting, as fans can develop their own ideas and it can drive discussion. I think that a lot of this record is hoping for a dialogue and the longer people have the album, they’ll realise how these songs connect to other songs of ours and music at large.
Right on man, I’ve always dug the interconnected nature of the band’s albums and songs. With the cover and the lyrics, there’s no mention of the band’s “Mascot”, Hank The Pigeon, I’m curious as to whether the pigeon symbol will remain the band’s logo and if that character will one day return?
I think that the pigeon costume really only existed as a mascot for the cover of Suburbia and that album cycle, and the bird logo has been our merch since 2008. That’s still in full-swing and it will still be used on everything of ours.
Cool, that symbol is basically synonymous with the band now too. The reference to the ‘dead bird’ in ‘A Song For Ernest Hemingway’ made me think you guys were killing it off, so to speak.
I can totally see how you came to that conclusion, which I think is really interesting. I still don’t want to comment too much on the lyrics, so you and others can draw your own conclusions, which is hard for me. I’m usually pretty full on but I’m making the effort to not be for this record.
All good man, no worries at all. I can understand the secrecy. With ‘Stained Glass Ceilings’, which of course has Jason from letlive. on it, I believe that’s one of the first times you’ve had a really notable guest on a song? Plus, he doesn’t do a whole lot of guest appearances.
Jason and I actually started talking about that at Reading & Leeds last year. America has always had a large problem with racism and there have been a series of high-profile cases where police officers have killed our own citizens. Jason and I talked about it following the death of a young man named Michael Brown, and we felt it would be a strong message to address in a song. When we started working on the lyrics for that song, I knew that I wanted Jason on it and he was honoured to be on it. He came in once we tracked everything else, and we spent all day on it, as he had complete control over his own parts. I think he did some truly incredible parts on it.
He really does, plus his vocals really complement your own. It’s easily one of my favourite tracks off the album right now.
Thank you man, we all really love that song. I was surprisingly really happy with how my voice sat next to his. He’s such a phenomenal vocalist, and that back and forth on the song works really well I think.
With the topic of the song, you’ve been out to Australia a number of times now, so have you yourself noticed the issues of racism here in our own country?
Absolutely man. It’s a lot like America, where the punk rock scene is much less racist than the society at large. We haven’t noticed it at shows, but throughout our times there, we’ve noticed some really strong racism towards indigenous people as well as towards South Asian people.
Yeah, it’s sad to see. There’s also a lot of hostility towards Middle-Eastern people as well here. Which is a shame, as I love how multi-cultural my country is.
When we were there for Soundwave, I was in the hotel gym and it was just this older Australian man and I. He was talking to me about how he saw on the news that a young Islamic man was jumped and beaten and that that wasn’t racist, that a Middle-Eastern man called him names once, and why that’s not on the news instead. He and I ended up arguing, and he started saying some very racist things and I just left the gym in anger in the end.
Oh yeah, some people are very bitter and very, very hostile towards other cultures. With that grim topic out of the way, has Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties impacted any of your work and time with The Wonder Years?
So far, it hasn’t impacted anything at all. The Wonder Years comes first, Aaron West second. I always wait to find out the schedule for The Wonder Years and book and work on Aaron West around that. I took on the task of playing both sets this Summer on Warped Tour, and that got really taxing on me towards the end. Playing twice each day for fifty days was tough. I am working on some new material for it and it should be out next year.
Good to hear Soupy. Do you find that with Aaron West, you can just relax and chill out a bit on stage as the set and music isn’t as demanding as your main band?
Absolutely. It’s relaxing and fun in a very different way, as I do each Aaron West set in character. I’m more Aaron West than Dan Campbell. I don’t have to ask anyone about anything, I can just do it. I can write songs for it whenever they come to me.
Nice man, well that’s all I have for you today Soupy, thanks for your time, it was really enlightening to speak with you about the album. I’ll be re-listening to it a lot after this.
Thank you very much man, I’m really happy that you got so much out of the album.