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Interview: The Wonder Years

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The Wonder Years are currently pop punk’s hottest property. The Pennsylvania six-piece have exceeded all expectations in 2013, with a string of their biggest ever shows following the release of their stunning fourth album.

 The Wonder YearsThe National Student sat down with drummer Mike Kennedy ahead of a busy summer for the band.

For Kennedy, the reaction to their new album, The Greatest Generation, is a complete surprise: "In the states it debuted in number 20 in the Billboard charts, which is a surreal thing for us. We never thought we’d have a record that would do so well.’ However he acknowledges that not all fans were impressed by the bands latest effort: I’ve heard some people say they dislike it, but the overwhelming reaction from fans has been positive, and most importantly we love it."

Even before the album came out, he feels there was a sense that the songs translated well to a live show. "We’ve been opening our set with Passing Through The Screen Door, which was the first song from the record we released, and even from the first time we played it live the reaction has been insane."
 

 

Yet a lot of this can be put down to the slick marketing set out by the band themselves. Prior to the release of The Greatest Generation, the band started streaming individual songs to give fans a sense of what was to come. ‘It was nerve racking at times, ‘ says Kennedy.

"But I think it really worked out. We as the organisation that is The Wonder Years have a specific idea of how we want people to view us, so we take a hands on approach."

The band were equally as proactive in discouraging fans from pirating the album. A week before the albums release the band released a passionate statement encouraging fans to buy their album instead of illegally downloading it.

"We think some people saw where we were coming from,’ says Kennedy. "The people that like our band are really awesome and supportive, and a lot of them bought the record which has really helped us out."

The numbers certainly seem to support his view: "We sold over 19,000 records in the US in the first week, which is funny to think of as a success. If a band sold that many 10 years ago they would have been kicked off their label and would have to break up, but now it’s great."

When compared to The Wonder Years’ previous work, The Greatest Generation appears to be a progression in the bands sound.

When it is put to Kennedy that the album can be considered more than simply a pop punk record he smiles. "See that’s an interesting thing. We talk about that a lot amongst a lot of the pop punk bands. While we all grew up on pop punk, I still love it and it’s still in what we do. But we’re not too attached to it and we’ve tried to expand our sound."

Lyrically, the album covers familiar territory, with front-man Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell’s visceral writing style giving the songs an angsty, anthemic quality.

Yet some critics have suggested Campbell’s lyrics are a lot angrier. Kennedy however disagrees: "I’m sure if you popped a lyric out of context you could use it to say the record was either sparklingly happy or super negative, but in the context of the record things are a lot more balanced. The end point of this record is hope. It’s acknowledging that shit is fucked, but that’s ok and life is what you make of it."

 


Looking at this year’s Slam Dunk line-up, the success of American pop punk is evident. The line-up is packed with some of the genre’s most exciting acts across the many stages.

"Walking around here I feel like I know half the guys playing!’ Says Kennedy. ‘We’ve been full time touring now since we’re pretty young, so bands like Man Overboard, Fireworks and Four Year Strong have become my friendship group, so it’s great to see everyone doing so well."

Now that The Greatest Generation is out, Kennedy happily reveals the next stage of The Wonder Years’ plan: "We tour on the greatest generation forever! We’re playing main stage Warped Tour, which is really nerve racking for us. Then we’ll start touring and see how well the record actually did."

Although they are only just starting to make an appearance in mainstream music, The Greatest Generation has put The Wonder Years at the top of the pop-punk pile. Critics and fans alike have rated the album as one of the band, and indeed the genre’s finest records. It is rare that a pop-punk band can gain popularity outside of the genre, but there’s no reason why The Wonder Years cannot push on and become the next success story. 

The Wonder Years return to the UK in November to play the UK leg of The Warped tour.Tickets are on sale now  




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