In today’s furious race for pop-punk supremacy, the genre currently stands in an interesting place. It certainly doesn’t need defending anymore, that’s for sure. With indie acts starting to move out of VFW halls and basements, bands like The Wonder Years, Man Overboard, The Story So Far and Transit are all making household names for themselves within the alternative music scene and are on the fast track to very big things. However, in order to stand out in a genre commonly pigeonholed into simply power chords and breakup songs, you’ll need to present your music with a new angle or twist in order to stay relevant. Pop-punk these days comes in all shapes and forms – poignant (The Wonder Years), aggressive (Such Gold, Citizen), cutesy (Mixtapes, Candy Hearts) and sincere (Transit) – so the idea of standing out must be thoroughly considered when creating a signature sound. The days of pizza, burritos and standing by your bros are coming to a close.
Enter Albany, NY quintet State Champs‘ latest single “Elevated.” Making a splash back in late 2012 with their Pure Noise Records debut Overslept, the group’s equal parts pop and passion exploded out of the headphones of any angst-ridden teen looking for something to listen to. Mostly thanks to the smooth, high-pitched (yet not at all whiny) vocals of Derek Discanio, the band’s sound was often compared to fellow Pure Noise counterparts The Story So Far and Forever Came Calling. This comparison is exactly what the band needed, as it sets the scene for their upcoming LP The Finer Things.
“Elevated” does an eloquent job of showing where the band is now, and shows that they refuse to become a robotic clone of so many other genre staples. From the second the distortion rings out in a way that makes it sound like a Chariot single (RIP), you know that the song’s going to be just as melodic as anything on Overslept, yet with a new gruff edge that we haven’t yet seen. A lot of this is revealed through the new sound of Discanio’s voice – rough around the edges, yet still poppy as ever. It gets me excited that The Finer Things might explore the possibility of opening up their sound to become for aggressive in nature. Another improvement of sorts is how hard-hitting the lyrics are. The chorus belts out, “So tell me why can’t you see / this is where you need to be? / You know, it’s taken it’s toll on me / but I don’t feel invisible / Tell me why can’t you see / this is where you need to be? / You know, it’s taken it’s toll on me / so I’ll hope for a miracle / Yeah, I’ll hope for a miracle.” Optimistic, yet still in your face, the lyrics are everything a pop-punk song has every right to be.
The single is attached to a video of the band’s only slot on last summer’s Vans Warped Tour, as they slay the local stage in Boston, MA. The video is nothing but stage dives, finger pointing and appearances from fellow Warped Tour besties like The Story So Far and Citizen. What’s also nice is that it isn’t afraid to show the quirky, intimate nature of Warped Tour itself, and the little things that make touring so fun (for example, there are brief shots of a baby wearing massive headphones, attendees selling cigarettes for $1 each and fans ripping off their shirts in the heat of the moment). It’s energetic, well-edited and a ton of fun to watch – everything the video needed to be and a little bit more.
Now, that’s not to say that I’ve completely boarded the State Champs train just yet. Despite the band’s pleasing nature, I feel like they still have a ways to go before they begin to rise to the popularity of bands like The Wonder Years and The Story So Far. Though it only took the latter one massive Pure Noise LP to truly break out of their California hometown, I feel like it may be a little more difficult for State Champs, with the genre hitting its peak as I write these very words. However, the same could potentially happen for these guys, proving me wrong and becoming massively successful. For now, we’ll just have to excitedly wait and listen.