Ahead of their second ever performance at Download Festival, Rock Sins caught up with frontman Derek DiScanio and lead guitarist Tyler Szalkowski from the American Pop Punk band, State Champs to talk anniversaries, adapting to the changing music industry and that one time Tyler chugged a bottle of Lucozade Sport at airport security!
How are you finding the UK – apart from the weather!?
Derek: Oh, I mean we love it here, we always know how it goes so it’s okay!
This is State Champs’ second time playing Download – how does it feel to move up to the second stage this time around?
Derek: Oh it’s really cool!
Tyler: It feels good!
Derek: Last time when we played on the Avalanche stage it was packed and crazy and much more than we could ever have expected. It’s cool to jump up to a bigger stage. We’ll see how it goes! We just hope it doesn’t rain.
Is it intimidating for you as a band coming to a place like Donington which has a predominantly metal history with bands like Black Sabbath etc.?
Derek: Yeah, right!
Tyler: I don’t think so. Mostly because I think that people like music and that’s why they’re here. I think it’s not an issue at all.
Derek: If anything, it makes us stand out in a good way. You know, we are the sing-y band, the happy band, come on over! We still have energy and we can still bring the ruckus so you know come on over.
Tyler: That’s what I’m saying. We’re not afraid! We’re not scared.
Your most recent album, Living Proof, turns a year old this weekend. How has the last year been for you since the release of the album and how do you feel about the album a year on?
Tyler: It’s great!
Derek: It has been a crazy year. I don’t know if I would have expected that we would have put three albums out and toured as much as we have if you had told me that when we had first started. And being a band for almost ten years now? It’s crazy! And the amount of times we’ve gotten to travel and come over here to the UK. It’s really, really cool. It’s a proud moment for us.
Tyler: It’s super special. Very special.
Derek: And now we’re just excited to see what happens next.
Tyler: Yeah, we didn’t think we’d get this far, what’s next?
Derek: Yeah, we just have to keep riding that wave.
This leads me to the next question. Have you started to think about the next album yet or is it too soon to think about the follow-up right now?
Derek: No, I think we’re always thinking, at least in the back of our heads, what we want to do next. Since now it’s been a year since Living Proof’s come out, we’re definitely thinking okay it’s time to step into the studio soon. We have one more US Tour right after this that we’re going to jump into and then around the fall of this year is when we’re going to get into the studio. There are a couple of ideas we have. We want to make some more acoustic music I think because the last time we did an acoustic album it when over really well. But that was about five years ago. The fans have been asking for it and I think they’re going to get it.
Do you think you would do any acoustic shows following that?
Derek: Maybe. We’ve been talking about that too. Maybe an acoustic tour of some sort if the fans would be into that. And I know they’re all listening – so let us know!
Tyler: Yeah, tweet us, let us know!
We have to say; we do love the acoustic album!
Tyler: That’s what everyone says! It’s almost like maybe we should just start making an acoustic album
Derek: Yeah maybe just be acoustic band! No, we don’t that – I promise you!
What is the typical songwriting process for State Champs going into a new album? Are you writing on the road or do you have to set aside some time to find your creative muses?
Derek: We like to set aside time that’s like now we’re all going to going to get together and clear our heads and do writing time. It’s still spread out over a good number of months. But we’re not the kind of band that’s like let’s write a song every single day while we’re on the road. We like to have our touring time and then we like to have our writing time.
That’s a good way to look at it! Next year is the 10th anniversary of State Champs. Are you thinking about what you might do to celebrate that with any special shows or maybe any albums played in full?
Derek: We gotta do something cool.
Tyler: Yeah, we gotta do something! We haven’t really thought about it though right now.
Derek: Yeah, I know. It’s kind of crazy to think it’s been ten years. We’ll either throw a big old party or we’ll have a big old show and play all the albums or something like that. I think that would be kind of cool. Something like that where we can have a lot of our friends, friend bands, maybe even throw our own festival – that’s something we’ve always wanted to do – throw our own festival.
Tyler: Yeah, absolutely.
Who do you think you would put on the line-up of your dream festival then?
Derek: Well do we have to headline our own festival?
Tyler: No, we don’t!
Derek: No? (Laughs)
Tyler: No, I don’t want to!
Derek: We’ll ask Slipknot, see if they want to play!
Tyler: Yeah, why not!
The music industry has changed so much over the last ten years with the rise of streaming and things like social media. How do you find that impacts on the band? Do you find it more difficult as a band these days or do you embrace it and see how it goes?
Tyler: You’ve got to embrace it. The game is changing and if you want to play the game you have to stay relevant and you have to do that shit. Like you don’t get to pick the trends in music. You don’t get to pick that people use social media. You just have to exist in the world where it’s prominent so yeah, we fuck with that, why not?
Derek: Yeah, I think we’re pretty good with adapting with the way that things change and the trends and what not. But at the same time too, it’s important to not really think too much about that and kind of just make your music and engage the way that you want to engage and present yourself in the way where it’s not weird or fake because I feel like that’s easily noticed these days.
Tyler: Oh yeah, that shit is so transparent. When you see these kids are like “I care about you, you matter!” and it’s like what the hell! People take these weird stances that they don’t even actually believe in an attempt to gain some sort of following and it’s all bullshit.
Derek: Yeah, we have a message that is real and that we know our fans know is genuine and we’re going to stick to that from now until it’s over.
What was your first encounter with punk and pop-punk music in general? Did have friends that introduced you or maybe parents who were really cool and into it?
Tyler: My older brother. He was a skateboarder and he showed me Authority Zero.
Tyler: Yeah, super throw guy. I was like ten years old.
Derek: Yeah, an older friend of mine, who was actually one of the original guitarists in the band too, put me onto Fall Out Boy, put me onto New Found Glory, Four Year Strong, Set Your Goals and stuff at a very young age. Warped Tour was a big contributor to that too. Going to my first Warped Tour which was in 2005 and I was 12 years old.
Tyler: We found out we were at the same one (Warped Tour) but we weren’t friends yet! It was my first one as well!
Derek: And what do you know and then we went on to play it three years in a row!
We saw someone in the band tweeted about a souvenir they nearly brought their mom in Austria just the other day – a magnet featuring a woman with a massive glass of beer between her boobs but had second thoughts it in the end….
Tyler: It was Ryan for sure… wait was it!?
Derek: I don’t know. What was it?
Tyler: Yeah it was Ryan. Ryan wanted to buy a magnet but the conversion made it too expensive!
Derek: Oh, he’s the cheap one in the band!
Tyler: I think the currency exchange made it like a 15-dollar magnet. He was like I don’t want it!
Yeah, that is a bit over the top for a magnet!
Tyler: Is it though?
Derek: He’s quite stingy!
Tyler: He’s a bit stingy! (Laughs)
What’s the weirdest souvenir you’ve brought back from tour?
Derek: Errr… maybe a Waffle! (Laughs)
Tyler: Yeah, I think like specific food items! I tried to bring… I tried but I was not successful in bringing back a Lucozade sport orange! I had it in my backpack and was like SHIT I meant to put this in my checked in bag because you can’t bring liquids through security and I was like FUCK!
Derek: So he had to chug it at security!
Tyler: I don’t even go sport top I go fully-fledged and just rip the top off and chug it at security.
Tyler: Usually food items though because it’s like you’re coming back from Australia you’re bringing back packs of Tim-Tams.
Derek: I also collect shot glasses from every country that we’ve been to. So, I have a good cupboard at home that’s got at least 50 of them now so it’s growing!
Do you have one from Download yet?
Derek: Yes. Well, I have a UK one. I don’t know if they make Download shot glasses – I’ve got to go and see if they do!
Last one from us today… our website is called Rock Sins. We’re asking all bands we’re speaking to this weekend to tell us what their biggest rock sin is… so what’s yours?
Derek: Sin? We’re all a bunch of sinners in the rock community!
Tyler: Ahh my biggest rock sin? Fuck I don’t know.
Derek: My biggest rock sin is not wearing deodorant!
Tyler: I think my biggest rock sin – very specific – I use digital effects for my guitar.
Derek: (Laughs) And that’s a sin in rock music!
Tyler: (Puts on elitist metal guy voice) It’s a sin. It’s not rock and roll. It’s not real pedals on my board.
Derek: But we talk about how times are changing and you’ve got to adapt.
Tyler: And we’ve adapted!
State Champs are on tour in Europe for the rest of June. They finish a run of UK shows with Yours Truly tomorrow (19th June) and then head to mainland Europe. Ticket info for all shows can be found at the official State Champs website. Stay tuned for further State Champs updates right here at Rock Sins!