On March 6th MEB Interviewer Patrick Walford had the opportunity to talk to The Wonder Years Bassist Josh Martin. One of the hardest working bands in Pop-Punk, their 2010 album The Upsides took the scene by storm with its positive message. I talked to Josh about the Kerrang! Tour, recording the band’s third album Suburbia: I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing, and some hockey.
Mind Equals Blown: The start of 2011 has been super busy for The Wonder Years thus far. You went into the studio to record your third album with Steve Evetts. Time was so tight you laid down the last bass note a mere few hours before heading to the UK. You had a few days off between the Kerrang! Tour and this quick east coast run, how has stuff been going?
Josh: It’s been a good year already. It’s been a little hectic and a little busy, but that’s what we signed up for. Trying to be in a band, you need to tour and make records. It’s a part of the job. Like a lot of people who work 9 to 5 office jobs, we are working hard and trying our best.
You’ve been over to the UK a few times now but the Kerrang! Tour with Good Charlotte and Four Year Strong was by far the biggest set of shows you have ever done overseas. What was the overall experience of this tour for the band?
It was very different because we were used to playing bars and smaller clubs. As you mentioned this was the Kerrang tour. It’s the equivalent to the AP Tour in the UK but it only happens once a year. We were honored to be a part of it. There was a learning curve to it. We had to get used to playing these really big venues we weren’t used to playing.
Talking about the recording of the new album Suburbia: I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing, it surprised some fans you were going back into the studio a year after The Upsides was released with how successful it was. What was the decision to go in and record in January/early February?
What a lot of people might not realize is the fact that we recorded The Upsides in August 2009. We started playing songs from that record immediately afterwards on tour. The record (for us) is 18 months old even though it came out last January.
We were excited to write new music. We had a gap between tours that we could write and record this new album. So we decided to do it. If you put out one record once every 3 years people are going to stop seeing your band. We wouldn’t stay relevant if we did that. The best way to stay relevant is writing new music and touring, so that’s what we do.
What can fans expect from your third album Suburbia: I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing? It has already been said that it is a departure from The Upsides. How do the songs on this record compare to those on The Upsides musically and lyrically?
Lyrically…The Upsides was a lot about bettering yourself and inner turmoil. This one, while it still exists, is more about the world around you. Seeing things and trying to make a positive impact. Seeing things that are fucked up and trying your best to improve the situation of the world around you.
Musically, it’s still a Wonder Years record. Nobody needs to worry about it being super weird and crazy. We didn’t write the same record twice. It was never our intention. There’s still fast parts, gang vocals and sing-a-longs. However, some of our slower parts are slower, some of the louder parts are louder, and some of the faster parts are faster. We tried to push the envelope as musicians to write more interesting parts.
As well, we added Nick Steinborn (3rd Guitar, Keys) in the last year. That’s also a part of it. I think it there is a lot of cool stuff going on over the course of the record. First listen, it’s awesome. Every time you listen you will keep hearing new things because of the depth in the writing.
Going into the studio with Steve Evetts (Saves The Day, Lifetime, Kid Dynamite), what was it like to go into the studio with him? What did he bring to the table in the recording process of Suburbia?
Steve is a really, really talented engineer and producer. We were all super excited we had the chance to work with him. It was the first time we had worked with a producer that we weren’t close friends with already. We became friends with Steve and he is an awesome guy….but really, when we went into pre-production we were all so anxious. We all wanted to play our best. It was important. You don’t want to look like an asshole in front of Steve Evetts.
He has done so many incredible records. I think he really pushed all of us to give the best performances we could give. Part of his recording attitude was that he wanted to use all real sounds. Sometimes the drum sounds on records will get sampled. He refused to nudge things a little bit late or a little bit early as well. There is no autotune on the record. Everything that came out of us is on the record. He was really into getting the best performances out of us. It’s a real record. There’s no faking it.
With Steve wanting to bring the best out of you, how much did the songs change from the time you wrote them to the time you were in the studio?
From the time they were first written, a lot. From the time we went into the studio…producers change the songs a little bit. I think he made small changes that made a large impact on the songs. It’s not like he sat there with a guitar and wrote the bridge to any songs. He made some drum changes, some bass changes. It was “try this change,” “try that change.” Sometimes we would go with it and others we would find a common ground. He was helpful in making the record better than we could have made it. That’s his job as producer.
Are there any parts that stick out to you upon hearing some of the first mixes?
The first time I heard the mixes I was just very stoked the way it came out. There are definitely parts on the record that came out way different than i was thinking in my brain, but not for the worse, ever. I was really excited to hear them. I’d tell you but I don’t wanna give away song titles…there are some cool, very big impact moments I’m really excited about. The choruses I’m really into. The whole record I’m just really excited for people to hear.
The band has received countless emails and fan mail about how The Upsides has affected them. Going into writing and recording this record, you mentioned the band wasn’t looking to write the same record again. However, was there pressure within the band to make a record that excelled in inspiring people and making that big of an impact in the way The Upsides did once again?
Oh wow. For this record, it was less of a personal struggle record. It’s more of observing the world around you and trying to figure out which way you wanna move with your life. Which way you wanna approach the world around you and hopefully make it better for yourself.
If people were inspired by The Upsides or if they were moved by it, or took hold of it whatever way they needed to, hopefully they can do the same thing with this record. They can make a change in their community. Or in themselves, or the house they live in. Hopefully this record can do as much for people as The Upsides did as far as some of the interactions we’ve had.
One of the listeners/readers wants to know…with The Wonder Years being a part of the Hopeless Records family, is there more of a chance for the band to tour with bands like All Time Low, There For Tomorrow, We Are The In Crowd, or Silverstein in the future?
Being on Hopeless Records and with the way touring works, just because we are on Hopeless doesn’t mean we are going to tour with those bands. Also, just because we sound different doesn’t mean we aren’t going to tour with them. It’s not like Day 1 Hopeless signed us and said “Hey, you are going on tour with 4 of our other bands. Get to it!” You can see since we’ve signed we haven’t toured with any Hopeless bands. We will be because There For Tomorrow is on all of Warped Tour with us. I look forward to meeting those guys. I’ve only ever heard positive things from all the bands on the Hopeless roster. If we tour with them and the package is right, maybe we will. If we never get the chance to, then we don’t.
As far as I’m concerned I don’t think Hopeless is ever going to call us and say “you have to do this tour with We Are In The Crowd.” If it came up, we would think about if it was right for our band. If it was, we would accept. If it wasn’t, we would respectfully decline.
I also think people need to understand that at this point in time something like that isn’t out of the question. Look at the Australian Tour you’ll be going on with Parkway Drive, You Me At Six, and Bleeding Through.
Yeah. The scene is changing. You see more of these types of tour packages going out. Set Your Goals just finished up a tour with Parkway Drive as well. Parkway Drive, You Me At Six, Bleeding Through, and us. We really don’t have anything in common with any of those bands except we are on the same tour. I hope we are all going to be friends and we hang out. In the end, it’s a way of bringing a lot of different people together and exposing them to new music. I really look forward to playing the tour and playing to people who didn’t come and see us on our headliner in Australia. Plus Australia is awesome.
I know the shows in the UK you just did were pretty big but that tour with Parkway Drive has gotta be on par if not bigger than the Kerrang! Tour.
These will be the largest capacity venues we’ve played to date. I look forward to the challenges of doing it! They are a huge band in Australia and also a pretty big band in North America. I look forward to playing in front of all their fans and our fans. It’s our job to come out and play.
The Australian Music Scene is a bit different as well. Parkway Drive and The Wonder Years fans might be completely different fanbases over here, but down under they don’t get tours the way we do here in North America. The fans are a lot more appreciative and into a ton of different stuff. They’re just stoked to see bands.
Yeah, plus Australia is a hard place to get to since it is on the other side of the world. I’m not saying for sure, but this could be the only time we get there this year. Maybe we’ll go again. In some countries getting the opportunity to see live music is a lot less than it is here. People will be happy to go to that tour because it is different styles blending together. I’m just looking forward to people being excited for music. Not saying that people in North America aren’t, it’s just different.
Any specific bands you wanna catch on Warped from who has been announced thus far?
Lucero, Set Your Goals, The Menzingers, Hellogoodbye, and Veara are a few. There are also a lot of other bands playing I’m pretty unfamiliar with. I’ll make my rounds and go check a bunch out. If I like them I’ll keep watching them. If not, I’ll move on to some other stuff. I’ll probably be trying to interact and move around quite a bit, trying to meet new people. It’s a long tour and you always want to hang out and have a good time.
You are a huge Philadelphia Flyers fan. Gotta ask. Going into the playoffs, how do you feel about the Flyers? I’m thinking it might be a Philly-Boston East Final…
I feel really bad because I haven’t been able to watch a lot of hockey this year. It really bums me out because I’m usually the sports guy with a witty answer. I just hope the Flyers continue to do well. I think there are a lot of contenders that are going to be tough. Boston is going to be tough to beat. The Western Conference I’m completely ignorant of but as long as the Flyers do well and Pittsburgh doesn’t, that’s fine by me.
Crosby has taken forever to come back…. If he comes back in time for the first round, guys are just going to headhunt him for sure.
They absolutely will. I agree. I don’t know if he brought it on himself, but with all the media attention around him it is definitely going to happen. Calling him the next Wayne Gretzky and all that shit will get peoples’ attention. If there are some younger players who are trying to prove themselves, they will try to prove it beating up Sidney Crosby.
Any upcoming tour plans you guys have?
We have the Manscout Jamboree tour with Fireworks, Such Gold, Make Do And Mend, and Living With Lions coming up in April/May followed by an Australian Parkway Drive tour at the end of May. We have a couple weeks off, then Warped Tour the whole summer. We are going to be busy right up until the end of August.
Thanks a lot for the interview today Josh. Something I do with the bands I interview is to get them to pick a song from their catalog, then a song by any band they want readers/listeners to hear.
The Wonder Years-“Melrose Diner”
Josh’s Artist Choice Pick:
Latterman– “If Batman Was Real He Would Have Beaten The Crap Out Of All My Friends”