State Champs is a band that has truly made their name on Warped Tour.
From playing the local stages in 2012 and 2013, to touring in a van on the smallest stage, and now headlining to thousands of fans every night, State Champs is proof that Warped Tour can be what makes a band.
With the tour coming to a close, it’s a mystery to fans and bands alike what may come to fill that spot. What stages will smaller bands dream of playing one day?
We sat down with Tyler Szalkowski of State Champs to ponder the future of alternative music post-Warped and find out what’s in store for the Albany natives:
How’s your day been so far?
It’s been great!
And Warped Tour? How has that been as a whole do you think?
It’s been awesome. It’s been really, really great. I’m glad we get to send it off this way. It’s the last one, which makes it kind of bittersweet because it’s been absolutely amazing, but I want to end it on a high note.
State Champs has really grown up with the tour, it’s been around your whole career as a band…
Yea, even before our career as a band, Derek and I have been coming since 2005. Our earliest memory is in Northhampton Mass., seeing MCR, and Fall Out Boy, and Senses Fail, all that shit. Fast forward to the first time playing the local stage with State Champs in 2012 and 2013, then we did the full tour in 2014, 2016, and now 2018…we have a long history with this tour. It’s going to be weird to see it go. It’s something that, whether you’re playing or not, it’s always there for you every summer. When you were in high school it was always there, when you were out of school and you’re friends lived across town, and you’re parents worked during the day so you couldn’t get over there, it was always there for you. And now it’s going away, and I don’t know how to feel about it.
It’s a lot of bittersweet feelings. What do you think is next for this scene without Warped Tour in it? A lot of smaller bands have this mentality of “I want to play Warped one day,” what do you think can fill that space?
For smaller bands, I don’t really know! We really grew our band on this tour. We came out in 2014 as nobodies on the Kevin Says stage, playing the smallest stage on the tour for a couple hundred bucks a show, in a van, and here we are now headlining. And that’s all because Warped Tour is the kind of tour that, with the work you put in, you’ll get it back ten times. If you work your ass off selling CDs, meeting people, taking photos, whatever. If you put yourself out there, it’s going to work out for you. With that not being here for younger bands, I don’t really know what the move is. I think we’ll see the return of summer club tours, because right now if you’re on Warped Tour you’re on Warped Tour, and if you’re not you just don’t tour because it’s like, what’s the point. No one will come because everyone is at Warped Tour. So maybe we’ll see the return of that, or A Day To Remember does Self Help really well — maybe they’ll start touring that or something. It’s really hard to say, but something will take its place. It must.
How do you think it’s changed over the past few years? Obviously you’ve grown a lot since you’re first Warped, how do you think the tour has evolved since then?
I think, as our scene and the music industry gets more woke and progressive, I’ve noticed this tour doing it too. This year they have opioid awareness, a lot of non profits about saying no to drugs. Each year new non profits are popping up spreading messages that maybe you weren’t so sure about before. I think this tour has evolved into being this hub for new ideas, alternative ideas, and it’s really great. You have the Krishna’s outside selling self realization books, and you come inside and you can learn about Peta or can learn about drugs or can learn about mental health or whatever you want. It’s truly such a resource and I think that’s what it really has become, is a resource to a lot of people. I think it started out as just punk rock, but it kind of turned into a home. You can come here and get the help you need.
It’s turned into a movement in a way. I’d love to talk about your music now — you guys have a new album out that you’ve been touring with, how’s the response been to that?
It’s been awesome! We’re playing four new songs live, and the response has been really good for all of them. We were a little unsure, we were thinking ‘oh, the record is coming out a week before Warped Tour, who knows if people will be acquainted with it or whatever,’ but the fans really dove in. I think we made them wait so long that they were just like ‘FINALLY!!!’ It’s like when Christmas finally comes and you rip open all the packages. It’s been awesome, and everyone really digs the stuff. We really couldn’t ask for anything else. Sales are good and whatnot, but who cares about that. We only care how it goes over live.
Absolutely, and people seem really into it, which is what matters.
That’s like the true test. People will tweet at you and tell you everything you do is awesome, but if they come to the show and don’t know the words to the new songs, it’s because they don’t like them. So when everyone knows the words and is rockin’ out, it’s good.
You guys wrote with Mark Hoppus, and you just announced a tour coming up with Blink 182. How did that come about, and what was that like for you as a band?
The Mark thing came about through John Feldman. We went to him on a Monday or something, and he was like ‘Hey, my friend Mark is gonna stop by tomorrow.’ We said okay, not really thinking who it was. He asked if we minded and we said no. In the back of our minds we were maybe thinking, ‘wait does he mean Mark Hoppus?’ but we figure, come what may. I’m not going to get myself hyped up for nothing. And we get there the next day, and Mark Hoppus’ Tesla is in the driveway. And we get inside and Mark Hoppus is there. And we were like, wow, okay. And we just dove into writing, and he was a really great guy. He was really funny. He was on his iPad, and he’ll pull up our Wikipedia and be asking about past members like ‘ooooh what happened to this guy?’ Just being a total troll. But the tour stuff felt like it came out of nowhere, for me at least. We weren’t expecting them to offer us any sort of touring, just from working with him for a day or two. You meet somebody once, you don’t expect them to do anything for you. But we get an email asking ‘Does State Champs want to support Blink 182?’ and we said yes. 1000x yes. No matter where it is, what it is, we’ll make it happen. We’re just so grateful for the opportunity.
Do you have any other surprises in store? Anything else fans can expect in the future?
Nothing too crazy! The record is out, but we’re just gonna be doing a lot of touring. We’re going to be doing a lot of cool production on these tours. We’re really investing ourselves into our live set. I think the people who like our band know that we’re a good live band, but we want to add a visual element to that performance as well. As far as surprises go, we have some cool stuff planned for these tours coming up. Not so much with Blink 182 and Fall Out Boy, but we’ll be headlining next year and doing things we’ve always dreamed of doing.