the wonder years hysteria

THE WONDER YEARS // “We Don’t Feel Satiated Without Pushing Our Boundaries Musically”

Emerging from Lansdale, Pennsylvania in the mid 2000s, The Wonder Years have actively pushed and shaped the modern musical landscape in their own unique way. 

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Balancing emo, indie rock, post-harcore and classic pop punk tendencies into their one-of-a-kind sonic DNA, The Wonder Years remain creatively ineffable yet instantly recognisable; a fact continued on their brand new seventh full length album The Hum Goes on Forever. Amid letting go of expectations, and embracing anxiety and empathy equally on the new full length, the band have also been exceptionally hard at work behind the scenes creatively and personally, as vocalist Dan “Soupy” Campbell revealed days out from the new album’s release.

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“I am tired. Big time. Fucking tired,” Campbell says, laughing. “There’s just so much going on, I was just talking to Adam from Fireworks a minute ago about it all, I was asking how his wife was doing because she’s pregnant with their second and we had our second kid almost exactly a year ago, he’s just about to turn one. And leading up to this release, I’m like: Okay, I’m parenting, a lot of days in the week I have both kids by myself while my wife’s at work. But there’s also the pop up shop, the documentary, the music videos, the merch lines, the coffee collab, the beer collab, the in-stores, rehearsing, conditioning for the set. And I’m in a master’s program at school. I’m doing like probably 10 hours of interviews a week. As for the record coming out, I’m super excited for two reasons: I really can’t wait for everyone to hear it. And also, I don’t know what a full breath feels like anymore. Cause I have not taken one in months.

“Having said that, everyone is busy, it’s not a virtue to be busy. I’m not proud of it, I’m embarrassed by it,” Campbell smiles.Originally intending to write the new album in the American summer of 2020, the band had also set plans in place to tour in and around the upcoming writing sessions. But while fate had other plans back in 2020, one thing remained a steadfast: The Wonder Years have zero doubts about who they are as a band.

“Nothing happened the way it was supposed to happen,” reveals Campbell. “The entire landscape of everything shifted. I’ve been talking a lot with interviewers about the false binary that exists where you’re either making the same thing over and over again because you’re trying to please somebody else, or you’re making something that is experimentation for the sake of experimentation because you’re trying to please yourself.

“And I just reject that as a reality. I think that we’re capable of writing songs that sound like us because we are us. That doesn’t make it anything other than the fact that we’re six humans creating music. There will be the colour of us in that music, but at the same time, we don’t feel satiated without pushing our boundaries musically a little bit too. 

“On The Hum Goes on Forever, we made a record that sounds like we sound, it sounds like what our band is. If you come to the fucking Wonder Years store for a Wonder Years record and I hand you a Pearl Jam record or something like that…you’re gonna be disappointed. But also, if I hand you the same Wonder Years record you got last time…that’s disappointing as well. So it’s like: Okay, let’s make a record that is new – but still us”.

An album detailing many of the band’s experiences during the pandemic and in their personal lives, including Campbell becoming a father twice since the release of the band’s 2018 album Sister Cities, The Hum Goes on Forever may boast personal anecdotes and intimate insight into The Wonder Years; but it’s equally an album open for interpretation, as Campbell explains.

“I think Nick said it best, we have a documentary coming out and I was watching it recently to make sure that everything was where it was supposed to be. And Nick said: “I hope people take from this whatever it is they need. Whatever it is that you need to take from it is what I hope you take away from it”. And the intention of a song, or not, is irrelevant to me. In a lot of ways, art ceases to be the artist’s. Once it is released to the public, it becomes almost a communal effort, what you take from it, how you respond to it, how you interpret it.

“I mean, there are so many people who will tell me, like: “Hey, dude this song meant this thing to me because of this life event”. And I’m like: “Oh, well, the song’s not about what you think it’s about”. But also I don’t give a shit because it did the thing it was supposed to do, which is be useful to you”.

Ahead of finalising the end product for The Hum Goes On Forever, the cohesion on spectacular display weaving throughout the album between heavier fare and heartfelt moments was itself a result of Campbell painstakingly mapping out each song on a graph to perfect the tracklist order – a fact he initially ruefully grins about when the subject is raised.

I’m a big believer in the ebb and flow of albums and having spaces to rest as a listener.
[ Dan “Soupy” Campbell ]

“I wanted to make sure that the record was balanced,” says Campbell of his XY graph to settle on the album’s final tracklist. “Balance is a big thing for me because I’m determined to make albums that feel like albums. If I give you an album and every song is the same tone, it becomes almost difficult to listen to and difficult to disaggregate from the rest of it.

“I’m a big believer in the ebb and flow of albums and having spaces to rest as a listener. And so I wanted to make sure all of these things were … it’s almost embarrassing,” Campbell laughs softly and trails off for a moment before resuming. “I took every song that we were writing and I gave it two scores from 1 to 10. I gave it the score for what I called “brightness”, which is to say, is this song moody and minor or is it bright and poppy? And then I gave it another score for energy. And that was kind of an average energy across the song because some songs obviously build to crescendo and others start high, stay high, start low, stay low. But I would give it this energy score, and I plotted the energy score on a Y axis and the brightest score on an X axis. To me, what a Wonder Years record looks like is something evenly distributed against this graph. And I looked at the final graph and said: “Okay, yeah, we have all the elements”.

“I tend to be invested in minutia. I kind of have to tinker with every little piece of things like that,” Campbell concludes.

With 12 new songs to add to the Wonder Years repertoire on the new album, a particularly dazzling standout on Hum is its second track Wyatt’s Song (Your Name); a track whose hook was co-written with Campbell by blink-182’s Mark Hoppus, and a song also named for Campbell’s son Wyatt who was born back in 2019. And while the track was itself one of the lead singles for the album released into the world, Wyatt himself was able to be part of the track’s journey, and also find solace in it himself in a difficult moment.

“Wyatt didn’t have a big reveal moment hearing the song for the first time,” says Campbell. “Mostly because he heard me writing it, he heard every little stage of it because we were just hanging out at home. At the time, my wife was working from home during the pandemic, so it’s just me and Wyatt hanging out all day. And I’d just pick up a guitar and start writing while I’m hanging out with him.

“He heard Wyatt’s Song from its inception all the way through. I have a couple of videos of him playing it, playing it along with me where he has a ukulele or his toy guitar. And he’s jumping up and down and kinda yelling along with me. He got to kind of see it from start to finish, but he loves it now. He just started a new school and the administrator told us on the second day of school that he was having a harder day. He was crying. And she came in and put the song on her phone for the class – and he just lit up! And then all the other kids were really excited too, they were all jumping around. It was really cool”. 

An equally memorable moment on The Hum Goes On Forever is undeniably the album’s closing track You’re The Reason I Don’t Want The World To End, bringing insatiable melodics and raucous energy, while seamlessly connecting the entire album into a memorable conclusion. And while it’s a track the band are ceaselessly proud of, the journey to its final form was not without its own hurdles. 

“It took a lot of different forms,” muses Campbell. “In fact, I didn’t know that it was the album closer because I was trying things with different lyrics and I was trying it with different feels. We have a demo of it from really early on where it is a fucking mess. But then the only thing feel-wise or instrumentation-wise that stayed is that third verse, the snare drum stop verse. Everything else from that version of the song ended up cut and re-made. And we were also like: “How long should the chorus be? Where should the chorus be?”. And it wasn’t until it dawned on me to take the verse of the opening track Doors I Painted Shut and make it the bridge of You’re The Reason I Don’t Want The World To End

“From there, the song started to snap into place, that was that piece of it being there and the gravitational pull that the rest of the song needed. It was all these pieces kind of floating in space and then we gave it something for everything else to orbit around, and that’s what snapped everything to where it needed to be”.

And it’s also the album’s opening and closing tracks that hold significant space for Campbell personally, with both Doors I Painted Shut and You’re The Reason I Don’t Want The World To End marking two of his favourites on the album.

Reason is my favourite, for reasons we just spoke about, and Doors is my second favourite,” Campbell reveals. “ What I love about Doors are those really subtle shifts throughout the song, and it’s a very simple song. It’s six verses, no choruses, six verses and an ending. And it’s like: well, how do you make six verses and an ending an interesting song? The fact that it’s so subtle, but you’re always adding a little something and changing the melody a little bit until it twists and pulls its way up to something climactic….I was really proud of that, there’s a lot of nuance involved in that”.

With The Wonder Years relentlessly busy well into 2023, a trip Down Under had been previously on the cards in 2022, with the band previously tapped to play Full Tilt Festival across the east coast earlier this year. Unfortunately, the global climate had other plans, but the band certainly have Australia in their sights in the near future – and not just because they still have leftover flight credits to use.

“We were on Full Tilt and unfortunately it got cancelled. And we were ready for that, we’d bought our flights, we were fucking ready to go!” Campbell says, laughing. “When it got cancelled we were like: man, it’s a bummer! We were really excited! But the promoter promised us, because we’d already bought our flights, we have a standing promise from the promoter of Full Tilt that we are coming back to Australia. We just don’t know when yet. But it can’t be that far away…because those airline credits don’t last forever!

“But we’re fucking impatient, we love Australia. The rest of 2022 is booked up, we’ll be putting the record out and then we’re doing a tour in the States with Firewoks and Macseal, then we’re doing a tour in the UK. And then we’re gonna take the last month of the year off just to decompress, then we’ll be working on some stuff really early next year. After that it becomes totally open-ended, and that’s when we’re gonna be like: Okay, when can we get Australia in? When are we going to Canada? When are we gonna play Mexico City, that’s a place we keep promising we’re gonna play and it just keeps not happening, it’s been cancelled twice.

“If we can’t come to Australia for a festival, we’ll just come and headline again, we love that! We love playing festivals too, but I really like being in control of the situation and doing things our way. At a festival it’s like: “Hey, you get a 35 minute set”. But we wanna play for like 70 minutes or 90 minutes, right?! We’re trying to do it all!”.

The Hum Goes On Forever is out now via Hopeless Records.

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