State Champs hit the road last week in support of their fourth studio album, Kings of the New Age. This is the band’s biggest headlining tour to date which means larger stages, ramped up production value, and big surprises for fans, including a carefully curated setlist of old hits and new fan favs.
The night before the tour kicked off in Columbus, Ohio, Riot Fest talked to vocalist Derek DiScanio about new acoustic songs that are in the works, a tour bus mishap at Riot Fest 2019, and the band’s return to Concord Hall this Friday, November 18.
Kings Of The New Age
- Here to Stay
- Everybody but You
- Fake It
- Half Empty
- Just Sound
- Act Like That
- Where Were You
- Some Minds Don’t Change
State Champs @ Concord Music Hall
Between You & Me
Nov. 18 // Doors at 5:30 PM
You’ll be back in Chicago with Hunny, Between You and Me, and Young Culture this Friday. Any wild memories from playing past Riot Fests or shows in Chicago?
I don’t think we’ll ever forget a couple years ago when we were woken up while driving into Riot Fest by the roof of our bus getting ripped off at 9 a.m. Our driver drove under a low bridge and the roof of our bus got completely ripped off. We were two minutes away from the fest, so we had to be that band that rolled in for everyone to see that our buses just all jacked up. All the A/C units were gone and it ripped the back wall of the bus off so you could see into our shower. They had to spend the rest of the day ratchet strapping the whole bus back together so we could drive it to get fixed, and then at the same time, we had to focus on the show that day because it was a big one for us.
Another memory from that year is we did a cover of a Fallout Boy song, “Chicago Is So Two Years Ago,” and we released a recorded cover version. We revealed it for the first time at Riot Fest mid-set that day, and I remember the place going nuts, that was so sick. There’s a live music video for the song that was recorded at Riot Fest.
Chicago has always been — if not the number one — at least in the top three markets in the U.S. for us. We always have high expectations for the crowd with some of the rowdiest. We’re playing Concord on this tour, which is a tight knit club, so I think it’s gonna be pretty wild. It’s gonna get nice and hot and sweaty and with our new production and set design that we’ve got going on. I’m excited to get interactive with the crowd and get right in there and have a blast. It’s going to be sick.
Kings of the New Age has been out since May, but you began releasing singles as early as summer 2021. What’s the response been like from fans?
It’s been great. The pandemic obviously threw a wrench into everything, but we were already in the studio writing and producing and creating the album, so the album was done over a year before it came out. We got too antsy and really wanted to start putting out songs, so that’s why singles were coming out super early. We wanted to give people a taste of what was to come so we got some singles out right at the end of the pandemic when we started to be able to do some festivals and overseas touring.
We just put out some acoustic versions, which everyone is always suckers for. They love the acoustic stuff, so we had to lean into that. When we had some free time, we hit the studio in Nashville, did a couple acoustic versions, and we even talked about writing some other new acoustic stuff or doing acoustic covers — we’re working on that as well and they aren’t going to be released for a minute, but there’s more to come.
Now, we’re six months into the release and it’s been awesome. It’s been our highest streamed and best received album. We didn’t have time to put together a headline tour until now, so it’s been a big waiting game but I think it’s all going to be worth it now that the album’s been out and people have been able to study up, learn the lyrics and be as ready as they can be for this headline tour.
What did you set out to accomplish both sonically and lyrically while writing the new album?
If I take you back an album to Living Proof, our third album, we really wanted to become more polished, mature and really push ourselves to the next level. But in reality, we’re a pop punk band. We know what we’re good at. We know what got us here. We know what our influences are and what inspires us, so we took a step backwards as far as maturity and pushing ourselves to the next level. With Kings, we wanted to take ourselves less seriously and realize what got us here, what we still like and just make songs that we want to listen to ourselves that are a little more nostalgic, songs to bring us back to our roots. That was the ultimate goal.
Lyrically, we were writing through the pandemic and I was having some trouble with my voice too — the upkeep and having challenges with getting older and my body not being able to handle the heavy touring and the constant working of my voice. I started to get help from doctors and vocal coaches, and I had to make some lifestyle changes. Some of that plays into the album lyrically, especially second song “Eventually”, that one’s like as deep as I go into how that [situation] affected my mental stability. It’s a scary thing when you do something that’s given you a career for a decade, and it’s kind of just taken away from you. You’re like, what the fuck am I gonna do? Is it all over for me? So taking the necessary steps and getting through that it was definitely a roller coaster, and it shows up lyrically in the album as well.
How have you been preparing for the Kings of the New Age tour — your biggest headlining tour yet?
This is the first time that the four of us in the band have been really, really involved in the creative process as far as production and set design goes. We put in the work to give the fans a show. Rather than just getting up and playing our songs and rocking out like we usually do, we wanted to put on a performance this time, [including] curating the setlist, and adding transitions, medleys and cool little moments that make it a show. We’re upping the production value as far as the stage setup goes, too; it’s our first time doing a whole video wall behind us instead of just a little backdrop, so there’s going to be really cool visuals that we’re excited about. We’ve been very hands-on with everything, so it makes us a little bit more proud of the show and excited to give the fans something different. We’re pumped on it, seeing it all come to life makes us even more excited.
You’ve said these shows are something you’ve been wanting to put on since State Champs began. What specifically are you going to check off your bucket list this tour?
We are a really goal-oriented band. A lot of bands don’t get to put out a second album let alone a third album, let alone a fourth album. Now that our fourth album is out, I think it’s very important to showcase all eras of the band, but it is the Kings of the New Age tour, so it’s obviously a little bit more focused on our newer songs that have been going over super well with the fans. But the goal has always been to keep everybody interested while also making new fans. We have these diehard fans that have led us to be able to do what we’ve been doing for so long, so obviously you have to always listen to them when we ask, ‘what songs do you want to hear?’
But we’re also hearing from all these new fans and it’s their first time coming to see us. If this is anyone’s first time seeing State Champs we always want to make a great first impression so curating to all different types of fans while still being proud of the show ourselves is something that we always set out to do. We keep everything one step ahead of what we’ve done before; there’s no ceiling with our band as far as our career goes, but also as far as our live show goes because we’ve always said that if you’re going to be introduced to State Champs for the first time, we’d rather you be introduced to us by our live show.
Do any extra nerves come with playing these larger shows?
Just the general jitters that we all get before a tour starts, but definitely because it is our biggest [tour yet] and it’s our newest album. We’re just excited to get back on the road, and since we haven’t done it a little bit, the butterflies come into effect. But I think it’s a lot of logistical stuff — we’re waiting to make sure that everything works, that we sound good, that we’re feeling good and the vibes are all good between us and all the people in our crew. But now that we’re out here [rehearsing], it’s starting to feel very, very real and expectations and morale are pretty high. The nerves in those butterflies are going to turn into excitement and adrenaline going into these first shows, and I know once we get on stage for the first show tomorrow in Cleveland, it’ll be pedal to the metal, full speed ahead.
With my body being my instrument, I’ve been taking care of my voice, working with a lot more vocal coaches and doctors. I’m not getting any younger, so I have to make sure that my body and my voice can preserve my career. I’ve done the prep, but I won’t really know until I get out on stage and finish that first show. Are we good? Is my body feeling good, does my voice feel good? It’s always after that first show where I’m like, ‘Thank God, it was all worth it.’
Other than finally getting to take these new songs on the road, what other things are you looking forward to while on tour?
It’s pretty exciting just to be back on the road with the guys and the crew. There’s a lot of cities that we look forward to on days off. We’re big food people, so we have a list of our favorite spots that we want to hit certain cities. On off days, we’re big into Top Golf and or bowling; we’re big game and snack people. Everything else is the spur of the moment as we go.
There’s some bands that we already know pretty well that are on the tour: Between You and Me from Australia is one of the support bands that we had out on a UK tour recently. We had such a good time with them that we had to ask them to come back out on the US run with us and I also love their album and I get to watch them every night, so that’s another thing that I’m stoked on. Young Culture is also one of the support bands for a leg of the tour, and that’s a band that I’ve been developing myself. They’re friends from my hometown in upstate New York and I’ve produced all their albums and written with them, kind of brought them up from square one. They played some hometown shows with us and some festivals, but this is their first time coming on a State Champs tour and I’ve been friends with them for almost a decade.
Anything else you’d like to share before you hit the road tomorrow?
Thanks to anybody that’s made it this far listening, and anyone that’s even heard of the band, bought a shirt, bought a ticket; you guys are the reason that we get to do it. We won’t stop doing this until you guys tell us to stop or if you guys stop caring. Thanks for just letting us do what we do.
You can see State Champs on Friday, November 18 at Concord Music Hall for the all ages show. 2047 N. Milwaukee Ave • Chicago, IL.
Doors open at 5:30 PM.