The Wonder Years have always been an ambitious act—but this time, they've outdone themselves. To celebrate the release of their upcoming album The Greatest Generation, the group are performing four shows in 24-hours on May 10 in Philadelphia, New York City, Chicago, and Anaheim. They'll also have a pop-up shop in Philly during the album's release date that will feature acoustic performances and signings before they spend the rest of the summer on the Vans Warped Tour main stage.
We caught up with the Pennsylvania-based pop-punk act's frontman Dan "Soupy" Campbell to talk about the logistics of playing so many cities in such a brief time period, what the Greatest Generation is about and why he's decided that instead of just being okay, he's aspiring for greatness. The best part of all is that you can too, it just takes a little motivation and a lot of hard work.
You're gearing up to play four shows in four cities in 24-hours. I assume that most people don't realize how much work the band puts into something like this in the sense that you don't have someone set it all up and then just show up.
We get the duality of that. Half the people are like, "Oh yeah, whatever, they'll probably just have a private jet take them" which obviously isn't true. Then some people are like, "How is this physically possible? This shitty, poor punk band can't do this type of stuff." I think that's kind of the case across the board; my girlfriend works for [name redacted] and she'll be talking to people from work and mention what I do and they'll go, "Oh, so he's famous" and she'll say no, and they're like, "Oh, so he's poor and shitty then." [Laughs.] You can do okay, that is an option.
How did the idea for these shows come about?
We went to the Hopeless Records office the day we were going to sign our contract, and there was a poster on the wall because All Time Low had done three shows in 24-hours. We kind of laughed at it and were like, "We could do four."
I thought about it for two years, and I would turn it over and over again in my head—it was just shifting things around, sorting out time zones and figuring out how to do it where there's less chance of flights being canceled, because obviously, we have to fly commercial.
There are 10 people that we have to hire for just the day to make it work, a lot of favors and quite a bit of money for flights and van rentals and all that but hopefully we'll survive.
A lot of bands would be like, "That's a cool idea, but it'll be too difficult to actually pull off." What drove you to make it a reality?
The press is important because there's a certain stigma attached to the kind of music that we play where it's not worth covering. You have bands who are doing way bigger numbers than the acts who get covered by the mainstream music media but still get ignored because of the world that we're in—because it's the Warped Tour community. We wanted to do something where we say, "Hey, fuck you, we're over here and we're doing big things and look at it."
It''s also a personal challenge and more than anything else. It's us saying that we can do anything we set our minds to and we decided we're going to do this and we're going to make it work.
Have you heard anything from All Time Low about these shows yet?
No, we just joked around on Twitter a little bit where they said, "Next time, we're doing five." And I replied, "All right, I'll see you at six." [Laughs.]
Your last album, Suburbia: I've Given You All and Now I'm Nothing, was based around the iconography of your hometown. Would you say The Greatest Generation has a broader point of view?
I feel like it is just as much if not more personal. But I've always felt really strongly that if something is rooted in real emotion, then it becomes broad. People can immediately identify with the nerve of the emotion as soon as they hear what you're saying, so the lyrics are about things they've never experienced but they can feel the emotion behind it and trace that back and apply it to their own life.
These songs are small pieces of a personal puzzle that equate to a cathartic hole—and that hole I feel can be generationally applied so on that small scale it's a really personal record. Lyrically, it's about me. It's about my life, and this idea that I tend to make excuses for fear of failure. I had to make excuses about why I wasn't going to get any better, why I wouldn't do anything bigger, why I was okay with being okay.
How do you think your generation is portrayed in the media?
I think we're often written off as an apathetic, self-centered, narcissistic generation. A lot of that comes from people saying, "Well, you're never going to be as good as these past generations, look at how great they were."
I don't want to take anything away and say they weren't great, but I think it's kind of fucked up saying that's the greatest it can get and we're okay with being who we are and just trying to get by.
When you're a kid and you're growing up, you don't want to be okay, you don't want to work in middle management. You want to be great and I think we lost that somewhere along the way so the realization for me is that I don't want to be okay, I want to be working to be great and every day I want to be doing something that pushes toward greatness.
Speaking of your generation, do you feel a sense of community with the bands that are coming up with you?
I do and I don't think there are often times that you will find a collection of acts that are as much of a community as there is today. It crosses over genres: It's La Dispute and Pianos Become the Teeth and Touche Amore and Make Do And Mend and Code Orange Kids and Defeater.
Then you have bands like us and Fireworks and Hostage Calm and Man Overboard and Transit and the Story So Far—and then stuff like Into it. Over It. or Koji or Laura Stevenson or Alison Weiss. I think it's less about the musical plane and more about a collection of people who feel the same way about the world.
With Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation, there's that level of heroism inherent in acts like serving in the Korean War that doesn't really exist for this generation. It seems as if the technological innovations are going to be our legacy.
Yeah, I mean, it's almost not comparable because we didn't have to go to war at 18. We weren't in Japan or Germany, we weren't storming the beaches of Normandy, we weren't in Korea or Vietnam, so none of that kind of applies to us. There are obviously a couple of wars and we have soldiers all over the world, but they're small scale and they're fought technologically. We're not being drafted and so our generation was expected to go to college and expected to learn and you're finding out a lot more about ourselves because you're afforded these couple of years to figure out who you are and how you want to affect the world. Now it's time to affect it.
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