State Champs – ‘The crowd is singing new songs louder than the old ones!’

Words: Jovana Joksimović

After three EPs and two records, and DVD footage of their tour, State Champs, a pop punk band from Albany, New York, released another album ‘Living Proof’ almost two months ago via Pure Noise Records. We spoke with Ryan Scott Graham, the bassist of the band, about the record, touring with Blink-182, ‘Breakfast with Champs’, and else. Check the interview down below, hope you enjoy it.

Right now, you’re playing the last-ever cross-country run of the legendary Vans Warped Tour. How does it feel playing it, and how do you feel about it being the last one? What’s your favorite Warped Tour you’ve either been to or played at?
Ryan: It’s obviously a massive honor to be a part of the last run of the Warped Tour. Every day brings something new and everyone, no matter how veteran or rookie you are, is on the same playing field. There are no egos. Warped Tour 2014 in general was probably one of my favorite memories because it was the first time we saw real, visible growth in our band. Kevin Lyman took a chance on us and we had to prove that we had what it took to be a band that could last. Now fast forward to 2018 and we’re playing the main stage, closing out the show most nights. It’s been a wild ride.

You just announced a North American tour supporting legendary Blink-182. How do you feel about touring with Blink 182, a band that has so much influence in the pop punk world?
Ryan: The prospect of touring with Blink is absolutely crazy. We’ve been fans of theirs since grade school, so it’s kind of a weird full-circle moment now that we’ll be supporting them on this run. We’re part of the new generation of pop punk and I think it’s amazing that they’re open to exposing their fans to what’s next! I think Evan may piss his pants when he meets Travis Barker for the first time. That’s his idol!

You’ve played at Self Help with A Day To Remember, what was being a part of something like that like, what’s your opinion on the festival itself, how does being away from home affects you and how do you take care of your own mental health?
Ryan: Self Help is an incredible festival that’s on the rise. We played back in 2015 when there was only one location, and now they have 5-6 dates! It’s great to see the growth and what A Day To Remember is doing for the scene. With something like the Vans Warped Tour going away, we’re gonna need festivals like this to fill the hole in our hearts. Being away from home is tough on your mind and body, but also on relationships and other passions. Sometimes you find that dedicating so much time and energy to progressing your dream, that other things can go backwards. You have to find the balance that’s right for you. When things get hard out on the road, I try to dedicate as much time to myself as possible. I love to read, take photos and write. It helps bring me back to reality as well as creates a kind of self-therapy.

Since you’ve been around for a while now, what’s your favorite thing to do while touring? Is there a habit for you guys that hasn’t changed for all these years you’ve been touring? What place would you say is the one you still haven’t gotten a chance to play in, but would still like to?
Ryan: While touring we always love to find the best local food spot. Not all of us agree on everything, but when it comes to food we tend to bond over a good meal. As far as habits that haven’t changed, I’d say we’re all pretty unique and have our own individual hobbies – we never try to force them on each other and everybody is happy doing their own thing. We haven’t been to the majority of Southeast Asia, and I know I’m dying to get there as soon as possible.

How did meeting so many great musicians, touring and playing with them has impacted your own personal growth?
Ryan: Playing with great bands makes you want to become a great band. When I see a live show that’s larger than life, it inspires me to make our live show leave a lasting impact on our fans. It’s important to us that our shows are more of an experience now than anything else and that’s a massive thing I’ve learned by being around professionals and bands who are doing it big.

What bands do you find inspiring nowadays and which ones were the ones that got you into this type of music?
Ryan: Fall Out Boy was a massive pop punk inspiration for me growing up. I remember I used to listen to the ‘Take This To Your Grave’ CD when I would mow the lawn in early high school. Them and Homegrown, most notably their record Kings of Pop,’ were huge for me.

How does meeting your fans make you feel? How does it feels for you knowing that you’re making an impact on someone’s life?
Ryan: Meeting fans and hearing their stories will always be one of the most impactful and important parts of our job. The fact that people meet and become friends, sometimes even end up dating/getting married, at our shows is amazing! Music has always been a safe haven for me and I couldn’t be happier knowing that I am a part of someone else’s journey through that.

How was working on your most recent record with Mark Hoppus and Alex Gaskarth? How satisfied are you with the album and the feedback?
Ryan: Working with Mark and Alex was a great time. Both of them are deep wells of knowledge and experience that we are lucky to tap into. While writing the record they added an interesting outside perspective to our songs, and that was the most exciting part. Maybe we were happy with what we had, but having an extra set of ears sometimes helps your good song turn into a great one. The feedback on ‘Living Proof’ has been overwhelmingly positive. Playing the new songs on Warped Tour has reinforced that thought too. The crowd is singing the new songs louder than the old ones!

In your own opinion, where does ‘Living Proof’ stand in comparison to your previous works?
Ryan: It’s our best record.

Who came up with the idea for your DVD footage of the tour that came out with your ‘Around the World and Back’ album and what was the shooting like? Is there something similar to be expected soon?
Ryan: We always knew we wanted to do a DVD. All of our favorite bands had a behind-the-scenes movie of them hanging out and getting into trouble and we thought it would be a good way to stand out amongst the crowd. Not many bands get to do that in this generation, although I think it will become more popular as the years go by. Shooting the DVD was fun. Our friend and director, Elliott Ingham, was pretty much nonstop shooting for two years while we were touring on the record. As far as a new DVD, we’ve got nothing in the works, but it definitely would be fun.

Recently, you started a new series of Youtube videos ‘Breakfast With Champs’ where you interview other musicians, at the breakfast. How did you get the idea, and can you tell us what other surprises you have in your sleeve?
Ryan: It was an idea I came up with on Warped 2016. We actually filmed four episodes then, but they never got edited and are probably lost by now. It was just a good way to get to know people on the tour and I knew it would be fun content for the fans of State Champs and whatever band we were interviewing. You might as well use Warped Tour to your advantage, with a bunch of bands sitting around looking for something to do! We’ve got a ton of video ideas for the future, so be looking forward to those.

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