INTERVIEW: Derek DiScanio from State Champs: “I like the second album-pressure, it fuels my fire”

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New York-based band State Champs have officially left the new kids-area in the rock scene and are stepping their game up. The second album Around The World And Back is released October 16, and has to make sure that the energetic five-piece will be here to stay. LLUID chatted with frontman Derek DiScanio in Amsterdam, about travelling the world, working with Ansley Newman and dealing with the second album-syndrome.

You’re on the road with Knuckle Puck an ROAM right now, how is that tour going so far?
“It’s our second time in Europe now. We did a few shows here a year and a half ago, when our first album The Finer Things came out. We were supporting The Wonder Years then. So this time it’s more like a headline tour. It’s exciting for us, a lot of shows are sold out including tonight.”

Your second album Around The World And Back is a couple of weeks away. Did you experience some ‘second album syndrome’ in the process?
“You gotta step your game up, there’s defenitely some pressure. People are expecting things and it’s gonna be anticipated. I like the pressure, it fuels my fire and gets me working harder. We learned a lot from the process of The Finer Things and we knew what we wanted to take from that. We were anxious to get back in there. It’s still the same sound, but there is just so much more and a lot of cool surprises. We got to experiment with more production this time. From the first track ‘till the end, it takes you on a journey. There is a dynamic level of energy throughout the album, it picks up and slows down and then it has it’s chill moments and punchy moments. We’re really excited about it.”

In what way did the world influence the record?
“It’s almost two years ago since The Finer Things came out, and until that point we had never even left the US. So once that hit, we got all these tour offers. We went into the world and saw all these places and made all these new friends. At the same time we were writing songs for this record, so we literally wrote this album around the world. I did a lot of writing on long drives in Australia, Japan and the UK. We would sit in the back of the van with an acoustic guitar, just riffing. We went to a lot of different places, so the title really fits. We recorded the titletrack in the studio as one of the last, but we still didn’t have an album title at that point. After that, we listened to the songs and tried to decide on a name, when that song came up. It opened with the line ‘been around the world an back this year’ which was kinda perfect, it made so much sense.”

What is the story behind that title track, Around The World And Back with Ansley Newman?
“We defenitely knew we wanted to do at least one acoustic track on the album. It started out with just me and an acoustic guitar in my room. Just, like, a very mellow song, that i thought had a very different sound. It’s the most low-key song, but I still think its very powerful. We added a lot production on there, like synths, keyboards and timpani drums. And when I was working on it, I thought that it would make a good duet song. We had never made a song with a female singer before. It was really cool to work with Ansley and I think her voice is amazing too. We couldn’t record it together, so I send her all these notes, like, she should sing this harmony here, and that one there. When we got it back, it sounded so perfect. It sounded like we were actually side by side recording it. Around The World And Back is one of my favourites on the record.”

Listen to Around The World And Back Ft. Ansley Newman here:

Playing acoustic is something you do often, you even released an acoustic version of your debut album The Finer Things.
“Yeah, people really dug the acoustic versions, it showed a whole other laid-back, unplugged side to us. I think a lot of people were expecting at least one acoustic track on this album, and we gave it to them. The reception has been really well. Maybe we’ll do an Around The Acoustic World And Back thing too, who knows, haha. But if we get bored and wanna do it, sure! There are even fans who ask if we could play acoustic versions of our songs live. Unfortunately, we didn’t brought an acoustic guitar on this tour, so some people are disappointed with that. Especially since the song Around The World And Back came out some days ago they really wanna hear us play that song. But then I don’t think I would sing that song without Ansley, because she needs to be there. Maybe we’ll be able to play it live together sometime, but that would be something exclusive.”

You guys did a cover of Zedd & Hayley Williams’ Stay The Night. Could State Champs ever create a pop song of their own?

“I won’t name ourselves a pop band, but I’m really into new music and are a big top40-listener. It was cool to do the song for Punk Goes Pop, it’s something I grew up listening to. We were really excited about it, but when we were asked to do that, we were in between tours, so we had one week to record the cover. But given how rushed it was, we still had a lot of fun with it. We tried to make it as State Champs as possible, without staying to close to the original. We really made the song ours, it went really well. It’s one of our top played songs on Spotify, haha.”

State Champs second album Around The World And Back comes out October 16 on Pure Noise Records

Photo: Bas Koppe

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