Nearly half a decade removed from the start of the pop-punk revival of the late-2000’s, it’s reached the point in which bands coming up in today’s scene are primarily influenced by, and a direct result of artists not much older than themselves, and in most capacities still active. This is in stark contrast to the bands responsible for this wave, who predominantly found inspiration in groups of earlier decades, only a handful of which were able to make careers out of their craft. Today, groups inspired by the likes of I Am The Avalanche, Set Your Goals, Caleb Lionheart and countless others, have been able to make huge headway in their local communities and regional touring scenes. Upstate New York’s State Champs, in particular, take cues from the light and juvenile style of Fireworks, while harkening back to earlier groups like New Found Glory. On Overslept, the band’s latest entry in their growing discography, we find the group moving past the awkward Demo EPs and entering a place where they seem more comfortable in developing the pop aspects of their music.
Thirty second instrumental opener “Tonsil Hockey” kicks off the EP with a vigorous burst of energy — a simple but vibrant chord progression — before segueing into “Critical,” an equally busy and expanded track that seesaws between double and half times, leading to the song’s large and bellowing chorus. Singer Derek Discanio’s incredible vocal range is on full display as he sings, “You’re crying/ I’m not trying/ I won’t let this life get so critical;” an amalgamation of Alex Gaskarth’s (All Time Low) smooth and youthful delivery and Dan Campbell’s (The Wonder Years) constrained grit.
“We Are The Brave” follows with a drum intro that slightly mellows the tempo established on “Critical,” while retaining the fast-paced and aggressive nature at the center of the EP. Although it never quite picks up the pace, the track is an extremely involved song with verses that effortlessly build upon each other, leading into a hyper melodic chorus filled with syncopation from the guitars and rhythm section, and Discanio’s commanding vocal melodies.
Like most bands of similar tendencies, the lyrical content on Overslept revolves around themes suburbanite males – the overwhelming majority in these circles of music – will have no problem relating to: frustrations with the opposite sex, indecision and self-worth. “Remedy” perfectly embodies these ruminative topics with lines like, “You started talking about how lately the weather compliments my mood/Because when the sun doesn’t shine, it rains in my mind/Like I’ve got nothing left to prove,” and “We played through the seems, called it a remedy/ You can take care of me, but you know nothing about me.” This subject matter, combined with the always upbeat blend of bright power chords and crunchy guitar leads, makes “Remedy” one of the EP’s stand-out tracks and a true personification of this polished and perfected compilation of songs.
Undoubtedly contributing to this new-found gloss and refinement is the focus on the pop aspects of the genre, abandoning the noticeable hardcore influences that guided their 2011 EP, Apparently I’m Nothing. It’s a shift that should serve the group well considering the reliance on gang vocals and pseudo-breakdowns that has invaded the pop-punk milieu is a trend that will eventually pass. Instead, on Overslept, State Champs put their best foot forward, producing fun songs with larger than life hooks, that are above all, memorable.
Sound Quality: From the opening strums to its final hits, Overslept is an album with crystal clear sound and quality production. In their present form, State Champs is a band that benefits from this style of recording and the way it comes off on vinyl is how this band and genre were meant to be listened to.
Packaging: With most 7-inch releases from Pure Noise Records, you can expect packaging in the form of a horizontally folded two panel jacket within a plastic sleeve. The same is true on this release and it makes for a fine package. It’s most likely for this reason that Pure Noise has been able to keep the cost of this format at $5, while most labels have brought their prices up. As always, lyrics and album credits are contained inside and a digital download code is also included.
Extras: Pure Noise offers three different variations of the record, including coke bottle green vinyl (limited to 500), white vinyl (limited to 300) and half clear, half blue vinyl (limited to 200). They also offered a few different pre-order packages (no longer available).
Summary: In the cluttered and often homogenized pop-punk landscape, State Champs are a band surging ahead with talent and well calculated skill. Armed with catchy songs about relationships gone sour, delivered in a much more matured tone than often found in this variety of music, State Champs are quickly setting the stage for the inevitable full-length album that will cement their place beside the artists they’ve emulated for years.
Make Sure To Spin: “Critical,” “Remedy” & “We Are The Brave.”
You can still pick up the 7″ over at Pure Noise.