After their latest album “Around The World And Back” and a crazy touring schedule living up to that title, it had gotten rather quiet around State Champs for a while. But now the boys are back, stronger than ever, with their new album “Living Proof” coming out this Friday (June 15), and plans to take things even further.
So what is there to know about the new record? What else do they have in the works beyond that? Which three emojis best describe the band’s new tracks? We had a little sit-down with bassist Ryan Scott Graham and drummer Evan Ambrosio to talk about just that, and more!
You have a new record coming out, “Living Proof“, congratulations on that. Without giving away too much, what can you tell us about it?
Ryan: It’s our most cohesive record. It kind of tells a story. It’s not a concept record by any means, but when we were writing it we were kind of trying to write it as a full record rather than just writ-ing songs. I’m really excited about that aspect, I think the way people consume music is different now. You just go on YouTube or Spotify, or however you consume music, and you just want to hear the songs, but we want you to listen to it as a full piece.
Evan: We think that it’s better that way. It’s a good record to sit and listen straight through.
Ryan: You can expect a lot of “Finer Things” moments, you can expect a lot of moments from “Around The World And Back”, but just better songwriting, I think.
Evan: And there’s stuff that’s going to catch some people off guard, too. We kind of went outside the box for certain songs, and we just had a lot of time writing this record. We started writing it like a year and a half ago, so this is the most time we’ve spent writing songs, which was also really cool.
If you want people to listen to the record as a whole, why not just release the album out of the blue without announcing it or releasing any singles beforehand?
Ryan: I don’t think our fans are ready for that.
Evan: I think singles get people hyped for the record, give them something new. We haven’t put anything out in a while so we’re letting people know we’re still there.
Ryan: It’s just the most simplistic way to approach releasing a record, getting that promo out there, and making sure people have enough time to be interested in it. Because I think sometimes when you just drop a record out of the blue, if you’re not some majorly established act, some people will be like ‘what?’. So for a band like us, who’s still growing, I think that was the only real approach, but I think it’s going to be interesting to see what people think.
How would you describe “Living Proof” using only three emojis?
Evan: I’m going to pick my favourite one, which is the rock hand, because this album rocks.
Ryan: That’s a good answer. I’m going to put the sunglasses emoji, because I think it’s cool. There’s a lot of cool songs on it.
Evan: And what about fire, for the heaters? Should we get more involved with the emojis?
Ryan: What about the devil... yeah, because we’ve got some f-words. Your parents might not be happy with this record... We’ll see.
You have already had the chance to play a couple of your new singles live. What was that like, how did everyone react?
Evan: It’s always special to play a new song. It’s kind of challenging to find your groove in it, but it’s definitely special, and it’s cool to see people sing back the words or just engaging with the song.
Ryan: First times are always kind of shaky. The first time we played it was in Zürich. That was the first time we played either of the new singles. We did a little rehearsal before the tour started and we thought we kind of had a good grip on it. But when you play it live, it just feels different. So you’ve got to feel your groove, and figure out how to move with the song. Because you don’t want to just be standing there making sure you’re not messing up. It’s been fun to see people singing back and I mean, with “Dead And Gone”, since we’ve been playing it, everybody’s known the words. They know the big Oh’s in the beginning, which is kind of what we were going for when we were in the studio like “let’s make this an experience, and bring it to the show”.
If you had to pick a favourite track off “Living Proof” that you’re most excited to release or play live, which one would you choose? Do you have anything special planned for a certain track?
Evan: Is ours going to be the same?
Ryan: I don’t know what you’re going to say.
Evan: My favourite one off our new record, and I don’t know how it’s going to be to play live, but I think it’s going to be sick, is “Frozen”. I thought that might be Ryan’s favourite because that’s one we kind of wrote together.
Ryan: I thought you were going to say “Criminal”.
Evan: Yeah, “Criminal” is going to be fun, but “Frozen”, man.
Ryan: “Criminal” is the record opener, and it’s just a big fast song, and I think people are going to really get down with that. It’s different though, it’s not exactly what you would expect from State Champs, but it still is very quintessentially State Champs. I’m excited to play that one, it’s got a lot of fun musical parts. Sometimes those are the most fun ones, or sometimes the ones that are very simple are fun to play live, because then you can just go crazy and don’t have to worry about it.
Evan: We probably won’t play it for a little bit, but I’m also excited for “The Fixup”. That’s also one of my favourites off the record, and I feel like that’s going to translate pretty well.
Ryan: Yeah. It’s a big ballad. That one is going to be fun. But when we wrote the record, right off the bat, I always said “Crystal Ball” was one of my favourites. It’s been fun playing it live.
Last time you guys were here, we spoke to Derek about the previous era and the video for “Losing Myself”, an amazing video. The video for “Dead And Gone” is quite interesting as well. Are there more similarly creative and refreshing music videos to come with this cycle?
Ryan: Yeah! We’ve already filmed another music video for “Our Time To Go”, so that one’s already filmed. It’s not going to come out for a while, until that song drops. But yeah, I think a lot of people have questions about the “Dead And Gone” video, because it’s kind of weird, like why are there monkey masks chasing this person around? I think we’re going to continue that storyline, and we’re going to shed some more information onto what’s going on. But I don’t want to give away anything yet.
You guys have been growing very rapidly as a band. Is there anything in particular you guys are hoping to accomplish with this album cycle that you haven’t been able to previously?
Evan: For me, it’s just growing the band as best we can. I don’t think I have any specific goals.
Ryan: Playing everywhere. I mean, we’re going to South America with this next record, and I’m really excited about that. There’s just so many more countries that I still want to hit. Indonesia, I want to go back to the Philippines…
Evan: Yeah, just travelling, getting to see the world and play music in front of people is always the goal, and, you know, if we can get into bigger rooms, that’s always a big goal, too. But yeah, like Ryan said, just getting to see the world, going to South America, coming here…
Ryan: That was never anything that any of us foresaw happening, just being able to kind of globe-trot a little bit doing this, but once it happened, it was like “oh, this is really as fulfilling as playing music for people, too, just a different experience for us, coming from a small hometown and writing some of these songs in our rooms and garages and stuff”. I mean, we’ve accomplished so much as it is, and on this new record cycle it’s just kind of like “let’s do what we’ve been doing, but more”. I think that’s it.
The pop punk scene is massive in the UK at the moment. How have you been doing over there lately? Have you been growing a lot there as well?
Evan: Yeah, absolutely. That’s where I can tell the biggest growth. Shows in the UK are always abso-lutely crazy and getting bigger. The last show we played in the UK with Don Broco at the Ally Pally was massive, so that was fun.
Ryan: The UK is just always really hospitable to us, and we’ve got some plans for the UK coming up at the end of the year.
Ryan, you have been involved not only with State Champs, but also your own project Speak Low If You Speak Love. How do you distinguish between the two?
Ryan: It’s definitely difficult to balance, but you know, I was writing for my record and I can kind of do that whenever, since it’s just me. But when State Champs gets together, we’ve got a certain amount of days, so we’ve got to really come prepared and have some stuff. The writing processes are just completely different. This is more of a collaborative effort between all of us, whereas Speak Low is just like “oh, that’s an interesting idea, let’s see if I can bring that to life”. But yeah, it’s been a pretty crazy year releasing my record in January and then this one coming out, so I’m look-ing forward to everything that comes from it, but Speak Low is kind of taking a backseat a little bit while this record is going to heat up. Whenever I get the chance to play, I play, and when not, I’m doing this.
Do you guys tend to write more songs on the road or at home?
Ryan: For “Around The World And Back”, we pretty much wrote at venues around the world and back, just because we didn’t have time set aside to work on that record. This time, it was a little different.
Evan: This time, we went with people who helped us write songs, we rented my old house back in New York, and we wrote a bunch of songs ourselves. It was a way different experience this time, because we had way more time at home to do it ourselves.
Ryan: More preparation went into this record, just because we had the time. Unlike last time, where we were just on a two and a half year long touring cycle. When we stopped, we were like “okay, this is when we’re recording the record, but when are we going to write it?” and they were like “you’re going to have to write it on the road.” So that’s what we did. This time around, we had some time off, specifically to write, which was cool. Both approaches are good.
Evan: Both approaches are cool, I just think it’s kind of hard to put yourself in the mood to write when you’re on the road, because there’s so many things going on all at once that when you dedi-cate a certain amount of time to write, it sometimes feels forced. So I liked being at home, because it felt a little more natural. (Ryan: Agreed.) But I still loved how we wrote “Around The World And Back”. It’s just different.
So, are you going to tour as massively as last time, going literally around the world and back?
Evan: That’s the dream.
Ryan: Yeah, we’ve got stuff already in the works. Starting now, I mean we’re on tour now and the record is not even out yet, and we pretty much have the rest of the year booked up.
Evan: We’re excited, because we’ve had the last seven months off, so I feel refreshed, I’m ready to go. Let’s do it!
Ryan: We’re all ready.
If you were to get a State Champs related tattoo, what would you get?
Ryan: Honestly, I would probably just get the globe, just the logo. Everybody kind of knows it at this point. For me, that just seems like the easiest thing to do.
Evan: Yeah, I would say the globe, too. I don’t have any tattoos yet, so that might be the easiest one for me.
Ryan: His first tattoo!
"Living Proof" is coming out this Friday, June 15. You can stream one of the new State Champs singles, "Dead And Gone", below!
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