Interview: The Wonder Years – “Passing Through a Screen Door” (Song Premiere)

Today we’re excited to bring you the premiere of The Wonder Years’ “Passing Through a Screen Door.”

I’d ask you to state your name and what you do in the band, but we’ve done this a few times before so I know you’re Dan and you sing in The Wonder Years. When did The Greatest Generation start feeling like the end of a trilogy to you?

I’ve been working on lyrics little by little for a while…pretty much since we finished Suburbia. I’m pretty sure the first lyrics I wrote were during Warped Tour in 2011. I’m not talking about full songs, a lot of the time I’ll just write down lines. Like, even just a single line. So I had this massive amount of lines for lyrics, and I knew they were all part of a greater whole, but it was kind of hard to find that whole. I know that might sound weird, because you’d think if you’re the one writing it then you should understand the bigger picture, but that’s not really the way it works. A lot of times your subconscious will give you something and you’re not really sure the way it’ll fit. I guess that’s how a lot of things happen, but if you talk about it enough then you’ll make sense of it yourself. We had been writing for about a week, and then I flew to California to spend some time with my buddy Charlie Saxton. He and I were working on a comedy sketch pilot, and while I was out there I met up with Eric Tobin from Hopeless and I was talking to him about the ideas and the concept, just kind of loose ideas that bound everything together, and that conversation was really helpful. That was the first time I was like, “Oh okay, I see where I was going with this.” Which again, that sounds really funny, like, “Now I see what I was doing,” but that’s kind of just what happened. I guess it was about the second week we were writing the record is when it started to sink in. 

If The Upsides is this young person having internal battles, kind of fighting with themselves in their own head, and Suburbia is an external battle, with this same young person trying to figure out where they belong in their world, what exactly is The Greatest Generation?

I think this record is the realization that the battles weren’t what mattered. In any war, the war isn’t what matters, it’s peacetime that matters. What matters is what you gain from the war. This is the realization that all that time I spent fighting myself and fighting the world, the value in that was what I was able to learn from it and how I was able to grow out of it. This is a record focusing on that realization, that catharsis. Up until now, I’ve spent my life content in mediocrity, afraid of failure and hiding behind things, just saying, “This is the best I can do.” I made excuses based on where I came from and the defects in my bloodstream. I was hiding behind mistakes I had made in the past. I wasn’t fighting for great, I was content in good, and this is the realization that, to be the man I want to be, I have to stop hiding behind those things and move past all of them. I have to start focusing on where I want to be, how I want to be remembered and being more than I was. 

For Suburbia, the Ginsberg poem provided an overarching narrative of sorts. Is there any sort of similar inspiration, although maybe not to the same extent, in the new record?

Not so much inspirationally. The Ginsberg poem actually came in pretty late in the game in developing the concept for Suburbia, and it just happened to line up so nicely that it was able to be woven through the record. I think what you get on this new one are these recurring themes that manifest themselves as images. You’ll see them come up a lot, there are five of them: It’s ghosts, bombs, pill bottles, birds and devils. They each have their own meanings, but I don’t want to really dig too deep into it because I don’t want to rob anyone of the fun of exploring the record and piecing it all together themselves. But you’ll see those five images meandering through the songs and begin to piece together their significance as you listen. Those kind of run parallel to how the Ginsberg poem was inserted into the record. 

You said in my first question that you’ve been writing these lyrics for a while now. Where do they come from? Where were you at physically, mentally when you wrote them? Was there an event or a specific timeframe where a large chunk of the lyricism came out?

This time it was a pretty steady flow of writing. There were a few events, though, that led to almost entire songs falling together. My grandfather had a triple bypass surgery the day before we were flying out to England to go on tour, after a sudden series of heart attacks. That one caused a lot of lyrics to get finished. I went to my great-grandfather’s funeral, and I had actually never met him before, but I went with my dad because he needed someone to help him drive. That trip out to Missouri and his memoirs affected it as well. But a lot of it was a steady stream of lyrics sliding out. I kept a note in my phone with all these lyrics and pieced them together when they were part of the same idea or the same theme. When it came time to write the record, it was mainly a lot of categorizing and that sort of thing. 

Moving onto the first song we’re premiering today, “Passing Through A Screen Door” – you guys chose a song that, based on what I’ve heard, is one of the songs that sounds most likeSuburbia. There’s a natural progression here but it’s less dynamically different than some of the other tracks. Is the idea here to kind of ease people into a new record cycle, maybe give them something a little more familiar to dip their toes into?

That’s definitely part of it. We went back and forth on what song people should hear first for a while and we landed on “Passing Through A Screen Door” for a number of reasons. One is certainly that we felt it’s one of the songs that’s closer to Suburbia. So we’re able to show our fanbase that, you know, we’re still the same band. But I do feel there is noticeable growth in the song both musically and lyrically. I think that people will find themselves relating to it pretty easily. I call the song an atypical love song, because that’s what it is to me. It touches on the idea of societal pressure dictating the way you should live your life. The wife, the kids, the house. I know that those are all things I want, but I don’t know when. And to be honest, I’m terrified of them. There’s so much that can go wrong. When you think about it, there’s so much responsibility. I don’t want to fuck up a kid’s life. Am I balanced enough, stable enough to help guide someone else through the world? Those are big ideas, they’re terrifying. I’m constantly running away from that. 

We get the chance to live this kind of “Peter Pan” life. But at the same time, the world is going to turn with or without us, and we’re going to get older, and it’s impossible to avoid that reality forever. One of the lines in the song, “I was kind of hoping you’d stay,” is the little piece of me that’s saying, “Yeah, I’m afraid, and yeah, maybe I’m not ready yet. But don’t give up on me. Because I know I’m gonna get there at some point.” So that’s a theme that I think our audience can find to be relatable, it’s based on the idea that you’re supposed to do this, and you’re supposed to do that, but maybe it’s not right for you at that time. Maybe you don’t want it ever. You need to move at your own pace, is kind of what I’m saying. 

I think it’s funny, because in the song you literally yell, “Jesus Christ, I’m 26, did I fuck up?” And there’s a specific age mentioned there but like you said, I think there are themes in this song that anyone can relate to. Another line I think is like that is, “The first that I do when I walk in / Is find a way out for when shit gets bad.” 

It’s just this idea that I’m always expecting it to go wrong. In whatever capacity, whatever “it” is, I’m always expecting it to go wrong. And I always want to have a way out of it for when it does, because I don’t want to be there when it explodes. But like I said, a lot of the song comes out of fear. A lot of it is about being afraid about where you’re going to go in life. 

Is that where, “I don’t want my children growing up to be anything like me” comes from?

That speaks to one of the ideas throughout the album that there are just hereditary things in my blood, the depression that runs through my family, and I don’t want to put my kid through that. And these are totally hypothetical people, these are things that don’t exist. I don’t have any children, I don’t have any plans for children in the near future. But even the idea of my hypothetical children, I love enough to not want them to go through that. That feeling of emptiness that they can’t explain or verbalize. You don’t want that. That’s huge, man, that’s just scary. 

And that kind of ties into, “It’s all a lie, what they say about stability.”

Yeah, the thing is like…it’s all projected out for you. It’s projected, like, you go to high school, and then you graduate, and then you go to college, and then you graduate, and then you get a job, and you get married, and by that point you’re stable enough to have kids. By that age, you should be stable enough to have kids, and that’s the way it is. But I look at myself in the mirror like…no I’m not. I’m not there yet. It’s almost like you’re being fed lies your whole life. Like I said, it’s about being willing to move at your own pace.

We don’t get the chance to talk about a single song in this much detail too often, so I’m going to ask one more question about a lyric – the “Me vs. The Highway” reference. 

Damn, dude, are we gonna spoil that right here? 

The song’s going to be streaming!

Oh, I guess you’re right. Well, one of my favorite things to do is always try to head these kind of “Easter eggs” for people to find when they listen. Most of that comes from listening to The Hold Steady, and I love the idea that I can listen to a Hold Steady record for the 115th time and then just go, “Holy shit! I just got that!” Like that’s a reference to another song, they’re referencing this B-side, “Modesto Is Not That Sweet.” So I always like to do that, and we’re talking about “Me vs. The Highway,” which is a song about, basically, “do I stay or do I go?” And that’s a pretty easy concept to understand, and it being a B-side for Suburbiamakes a lot of sense, but you know, the lyric is, “The highway won.” So, the answer is I went. You know? It’s “do you stay or do you go,” and I went. I left. And we’ve spent most of our lives on the road now, so the highway definitely won that battle, it beat me to a certain degree. 

So shifting out to a broader scale here, when you and I have talked about the new record, we talk about how there’s some Blue Album Weezer in it and some Get Up Kids in it and all these older records that shine through a little bit. But when I listen to these songs, to me it’s like you guys are just tinkering with a core sound that you’ve already created for yourselves. And you’ve gotten so comfortable now writing music with each other, do you guys still try to draw upon these older records that influence you, or are you kind of using your own discography as building blocks?

Well, there’s always going to be a little bit of both. Because when you abandon your own discography and start writing songs out of left field based on your other influences, what you’re going to get is a totally different-sounding record in every way. It kind of abandons your fanbase. You want to keep building on what you’ve done in the past, but you always want to make sure you’re allowing influences in and bringing in new influences. The great thing about our band is that there are six of us, and we have pretty vastly varying tastes in music. So, you kind of get these major influences because they’re things that everyone can agree on. Your Get Up Kids, your early Weezer stuff, The Promise Ring, The Anniversary, you’ll see those a little more heavily than other influences because there’s no real push and pull with it. Everyone loves these bands so those influences just make their way in easily into songs. 

At the same time, every member has their own influences, so you start to see bands that are further away from that, just hints and flavors of those bands permeate through the songs. Yuck, Lucero, The Doom Riders, Rocket From the Crypt, the Mountain Goats, Against Me!, Taking Back Sunday, those are all things that are going to permeate into the songs but to different degrees based on who listens to them and who is influenced by them. Like, Nick loves Yuck and so Nick’s guitar parts might be slightly Yuck-influenced, but the song won’t be. So I guess there’s building on your own stuff, and then major influences and then minor influences. And also, our contemporaries, our friends in bands who we spend so much time with and who are so talented, they influence us as well because that’s a lot of what we listen to. 

What was the writing process like this time?

Everyone in our band is, to a degree, a songwriter. No one in our band is the songwriter. So it’s not like Casey writes the songs and then hands us all sheet music. It’s not like I write the songs then orchestrate what people play, no one is that main guy for our band. Everyone is going to bring in songs, and everyone really, really gives a shit. Which is a blessing and a curse, because that means every day we write a record is a fight. Not like a petty fight, it’s not about an ego or anything personal, it’s about everyone wanting the record to be the best that it can be. Everybody has their own idea about what that is, and no one is willing to back down about it. Everyone truly believes, with their whole heart, in the record sounding incredible. So it gets frustrating but by the end, you get a better product and a product that’s truly representative of all six of us. There were times when I was so sure I was right, like – this is the part, this is definitely how it should go, and someone else was so sure I was wrong. So after hours of trying every solution in the book, all of a sudden this new way of doing it appears. And you’re like, “Oh my god, that’s how this should actually sound.” It wasn’t either of us being right, it was a blend of the two of us or sometimes a blend of all six of us. That’s how we end up with a record that’s truly us at its core, that’s why Wonder Years records are always going to have the same root mentality. There are six people blending themselves to make a Wonder Years release. 

You guys have such a rabid fanbase that knows your sound so well, I think they’re going to take anything new as a drastic departure of some sort. There’s a song on the record with a big piano part, there’s a song where it’s you playing an acoustic guitar by yourself. These are still Wonder Years songs, it’s not like you guys took off for a different planet, but it might seem that way to some people. Are you nervous about the way that some of the more dynamically different stuff might be taken by fans?

No. Well, yes. Well, no. I’m nervous on both sides of the coin. I remember when we released the first song from Suburbia, there were two back-to-back comments on AbsolutePunk, literally back-to-back, and one says, “Sounds just like The Upsides, this is The Upsides II,” and then the next one says, “This is totally fucking different, this isn’t the band that I love.” So I understand that everyone is going to hear the songs differently. There’s a lot of talk about the record that you’re “supposed” to make. People say they don’t want you to change and other people say they want you to change so much. You’re never going to please everyone. Our goal is to put out consistently good, consistently passionate Wonder Years records. We want you to feel the urgency, we want you to feel the desperation and the joy, we want you to be a part of that experience. I think bands like Motion City Soundtrack and Bayside got it right. They’re bands that continuously are putting out really high-quality, amazing records that are quintessentially theirs, but they’re always growing. It’s always another step outside. Would I love to make a Weakerthans record? Fuck yeah. And I’d love to make a Rilo Kiley record and I’d love to make 10 other records. But this is The Wonder Years, and we make Wonder Years records. If you want to listen to Rilo Kiley, you go listen to a Rilo Kiley record. You come to The Wonder Years to get a Wonder Years record…but the next Wonder Years record. You don’t want the same one again. 

I’ve said this joke a few times over the last couple weeks, but I think it’s weirdly accurate. You go to Taco Bell because you want Taco Bell. If you show up at Taco Bell and they say, “Hey, fuck you, we only serve burgers now,” chances are you’re going to be bummed. Not necessarily because the burger is bad, but because you wanted Taco Bell. But if you show up there every day and they keep giving you a straight-up hard taco, you’re going to eventually get sick of Taco Bell. And then that’s where the Doritos Locos taco comes in, because it’s still a taco, but it’s even newer and even better. And so, that’s what we’re going for. You come to the Wonder Years because you want a Wonder Years record, and you’re going to get it…except now it’s in a nacho-cheese shell. 

You guys tapped Steve Evetts again but chose to go with Mark Trombino for mixing. Why those guys?

We met with just about everyone under the sun about producing this record – a laundry list of people. We did that because we always want to learn something new every record, and every producer has their own style, their own input. We always want our records to be different from the one before it. And obviously they’re going to stay rooted in a certain area, but we always want them to expand and to grow, and part of that is up to the production. So we met with everybody, because we wanted to know who was going to do the next thing for us. But in the end, Steve gets us and he works us hard as shit. He knows what we want out of the songs and what he wants out of the songs and he gets that out of us. I swear, I know it might not be true, but I swear he was taunting me in the vocal booth to get what he wanted out of my voice. Like, asking me if my headphones were too loud or not loud enough, or if they were on too tight, or he’d just be like, “Hey what’s wrong with you today? You’re just not hitting it.” Until I would get so angry that I’d nail the part just to prove him wrong and he just goes, “Okay, that was the one.” And I’m like, “Are you doing this to fuck with me?” [laughs] But he works you really hard because he wants what’s best for the record, and it can be exhausting and draining and infuriating, but he gets you there, and that’s the important part. So we figured out that we wanted that again, we wanted Steve to drive us, to push us to be better than we are. 

But at the same time, like I said, we want every record to sound sonically different, too. We don’t want them to homogenize into themselves. So we realized that we needed someone different to at least do the mixing. We talked to eight or nine people about that too, but Mark Trombino is the master. Out of my top 10 favorite records, he’s been involved in either mixing or producing five of them. That’s fucking crazy. So with wanting the record to stand out against our others, Steve was the right call to produce again, absolutely, but we didn’t want it to sound too much like Suburbia so we had someone else mix it, and give it that extra little lift. And I love it. It feels really natural and just feels right, like, “Holy shit. This is exactly how these songs are supposed to sound.”

The emotion and honesty of your records is what has drawn kids into your band, and you said when you announced the release of this new record that this one is even more heartfelt and even more personal than the previous two. Not to ask how that’s possible, because I think that would be a weird question, but, like….how is that possible?

Fair enough, man. I think think this is our most personal record, yes. I was listening to this podcast with John Darnielle from the Mountain Goats recently, and he talked about writing the The Sunset Tree, and if you aren’t familiar with The Sunset Tree, it’s one of the more popular, probably the most popular Mountain Goats record. It’s the one where he really opens up, previous to that a lot of Mountain Goats songs were character studies. So it’s about him being abused by his stepfather and the eventual death of his stepfather, and how that impacted him, and it is a startlingly personal record. So he says this really important thing in the podcast, he says that a lot of times when you’re writing a song, you’re just meandering. You’re sitting there with a guitar, you’re playing it and maybe you have this one lyric and you’re just kind of going with it. And you’re seeing what comes to mind, and sometimes it’s nonsense but sometimes you get something very, very real that kind of manifests itself. Sometimes your subconscious breaks through and tells you something that you probably already knew, but you were afraid to admit to yourself. What I’ve learned is that making a personal record involves a lot of that and sometimes it’s scary. For the first time making a Wonder Years record, the lyrics got so personal that I actually had to change the names of the people I was singing about, which has never been an issue before. I realized that personal lyrics aren’t all about references and landmarks and names of people I know – sometimes the most personal things are things that are inside of you but that you weren’t always willing to admit or write about. Sometimes the most personal things are the things that sort of shake you to your core. That’s kind of where we went with this record. A lot of the places that I was afraid to go before, we went there. This is a record full of things that I’ve always known about myself but that I was afraid to admit before, and that’s how it got more personal. 

This is a question I probably wouldn’t normally ask, but I think it’s fitting to ask it at a time where you’re about to release a new album and you’re looking to expand your reach. I think The Wonder Years right now, and I think this phrase is stupid, but you guys are the flag-bearers of the genre a little bit. This is the band that kids look to, this is the band that everyone pays a little attention to whether you like them or not. And your first two records, to a certain extent, sort of define the lives of this specific demographic of people our age. InSuburbia, you offer the line, “I’m not a self-help book, I’m just a fucked up kid,” but spent enough time around you guys enough to know that you know where you stand and the impact you have on people. What do you guys make of that?

We definitely know the responsibility is there, and it’s something that’s hard for me in general…it’s something I actually struggle with a lot. We get so many amazing letters and emails and have so many of these conversations with people telling us how we impacted their life. And a lot of times people say things like, you know, “I don’t know where I would be without you…don’t change.” And you kind of get worried because people change. That’s what happens, everyone grows. And what if I grow in a way that you don’t like? Not musically, not lyrically, just as a person it’s worrisome to me. I have trouble with it pretty often. The only way we can respond to it is to continue doing what we do, which is providing people with candid honesty and with passion, and hoping that people continue to respond to us in the same way. When it comes to writing lyrics, I can’t cater them to anyone else but myself. I can’t write lyrics that are definitely going to help you. But I had this eye-opening experience, where I found out something that I knew but I didn’t know I knew. I was listening to Kendrick Lamar song – and Kendrick Lamar and I live very different lives – but I was listening to this track and even though it’s very different content-wise, at its emotional core and at the nerve of the emotion, we were the same. And if you traced that emotion back all the way down to the root, I could connect with it too. When you’re writing a song, I think it’s important to start at that core, at that nerve of the emotion and then go outwards. And when a lyric is intrinsically tied to a feeling like that, it has abilities that it otherwise would lack. One of them is being easily heard and understood universally. So I’m listening to this Kendrick Lamar song and I’m thinking, “Shit man, I’ve been through this same thing.” I don’t know what it’s like to hold my best friend’s dying little brother in my arms. I don’t know that, that’s never happened to me. But it still strikes a chord with me, that song’s root still strikes with me. I know the nerve, the general idea where the song is coming out of, where it’s erupting from. So even though people might not know about a specific situation, they still experience that emotion and feel the core of that emotion in their own way. 

What that allows me to do is implant these small details, these little details about my own life, that don’t necessarily have anything to do with you but can still evoke a huge emotional response. I think that’s important in writing, because it’s not always about the huge things in life. It’s not always about the memory of the funeral itself – that’s not what kills you. Sometimes it’s the memory of the suit you wore. Sometimes it’s not the heartbreak of an emptiness you can’t place. Sometimes it’s the brand of cigarettes your grandma smoked. And how that traces backwards, what that inspires, to lead you back to an emotional response. 

When we were in Asbury Park, you were showing me some songs from the new album and you told me that you hated Taking Back Sunday’s Where You Want To Be when it came out, even though you actually liked the record. You just hated it because other kids started to like them. So presumably that’s already started to happen to you guys and it’s only going to happen more with this record and in the future. Are you ready for that?

Alright, lemme put it like this. It’s hard. It’s really hard to be okay with it. You get to this certain level and it feels like – I know this is not the reality – but it feels like everyone wants you to fail. I know there’s a lot of people rooting for us, I know they’re excited for the record and I couldn’t appreciate them more. I couldn’t. But at the same time, you know that there are also people out there waiting to tell you that you were fucking nothing all along. And some people shrug that off and don’t let it bother them. That’s not me. I wanna be liked. I want people to like what I put my heart into. Some of the other guys are more easygoing about it but that’s not me. I’m the worst person in the band in that regard by a landslide. It’s scary when you put your whole self into something, you really put yourself out there to get ripped apart. And we kind of touch on that in the record a little bit. It’s kind of ingrained in our culture to rip into and viciously hate people that we’ve never met. Just because you don’t like their interview, you don’t like their movie, you don’t like their album. And it’s like a funny, light-hearted thing when these TV networks dedicate hours of programming to making fun of how “ugly” celebrities are, when they’re all pretty incredible-looking humans, while they’re on the red carpet or at some premiere. And I remember once this girl was interviewing us, and she said, “I fucking hate Jeremy Piven.” I asked her why she fucking hated Jeremy Piven so much. And she hated him because he ate too much sushi and got food poisoning. Like…that’s not a reason to hate someone. Is that a reason to hate someone or do you just want to be the person with the opinion? Jeremy Piven never did anything to you, he didn’t sleep with your girlfriend, he didn’t say anything to offend you, he didn’t beat up your dad, he’s just a guy doing the best he can at what he does. And, you know…he ate a lot of fish. Maybe he’s an asshole, maybe he’s not, that’s not the point. The point is that unless I know Jeremy Piven well enough to call him and tell him to go fuck himself, then I don’t know him well enough to know that’s a thing that I should feel. 

I acted like that when I was younger. I remember writing off Where You Want To Be, I remember not listening to Coming Home when it first came out. I remember hating bands for the most asinine reasons that I made up in my head. I remember making these grand statements about bands and acting like I knew exactly what they were thinking when they wrote a record. I remember once saying, out loud, that I was done with Dashboard Confessional because Chris Carrabba could never write a good record again because he was only good when he was sad and lonely and now that he had some success, he could never feel like that again. Who the fuck was I? You know? I don’t know Chris Carrabba. And now I’m old enough to realize that I didn’t like him because kids I didn’t like started listening to him. And I wanted to be the guy who knew the bands that no one else knew yet. Chris Carrabba, if you read this, I was an asshole and I’m sorry. So I understand where people are coming from when they act like that toward The Wonder Years. I know some people will read this and say, “That’s not me, I’m not that guy,” and I get it. I’m not mad. Because Taking Back Sunday was just fine without me for a couple years and Dashboard Confessional went on to have more success than I could ever hope for. And if five years from now, someone who is tearing us down now realizes that they like our music and want to come out to our shows again like I did with those bands, then we will welcome you back with open arms. It’s hard for me to justify it in my head because I am putting my whole heart into this and I want you to love it and I don’t want you to tear it down, but I get it. 

So this summer you guys are doing Warped Tour. And I know a lot of kids like to talk shit about the Warped Tour but I still like going out there, I still think it’s better than whatever else I’d be doing on whatever given day it is. But like, fuck all that, playing the main stage at Warped Tour, that’s still a pretty iconic point to reach in your career, right?

It’s pretty crazy. And on the topic of people hating the Warped Tour, every week I see the announcement get made and everyone is like, “This sucks. I only care about one band this week.” And I feel like people aren’t getting the fact that, like…

That’s the point?

Yeah. They announce six bands from different genres every week, so you’te probably only going to like one of those bands every week. For me when I was a kid, when I thought about Warped Tour, it was like, I’m paying $35-$40 which is two to three times the cost of any normal show I would go to. So to justify that, I wanna see six to seven bands, if I can see that many bands then it’s worth the price of admission. I think Warped Tour consistently delivers that and more, I think Kevin Lyman does a terrific job of that. But as far as playing the main stage, that’s huge for us, man. Warped Tour was huge for us by itself in 2011, just to be able to say we got to do that. But I think about when I went to Warped Tour and I was standing in the crowd for Alkaline Trio or Taking Back Sunday or Something Corporate or New Found Glory or anyone else, and looking at the main stage and thinking, “That. That’s the pinnacle. That’s as big as you can get doing this, playing on that stage is the mecca.” So, it’s really nerve-wracking because no one ever tells you that you’re ready for something like this. All of a sudden you’re just there. So I don’t know if we’re ready for it, but I know that we’re going to put on the best performance we can every day and try to make it seem as intimate as possible. We’ll do our best to make it the most sincere Wonder Years show we can make it. 

Going back to the album trailer, the last quote is: “People say the greatest generation has come and gone, but they’re wrong. They haven’t seen what we’re capable of.”

Yeah, that quote is meant to be taken broadly, like applying on a generational scale. We’ve been written off as a generation that’s apathetic and self-centered, and I’m not saying some of that stuff isn’t true, but I’m saying that we’re a generation that’s just now…I think it just takes us a little longer to find ourselves. And we were afforded that luxury because we didn’t have to go to war. We didn’t have Vietnam or World War II. We’re the first generation where it’s expected that you go to college for four years to find out who you are. But sometimes you need more time than that. I think now is the time when our generation is going to start realizing its potential and putting aside everything else. You know, we had four years to think about the fact that we’re depressed, we had four years to think about the fact that we didn’t know where our place was in the world. It wasn’t like past generations where you didn’t have the luxury of that time. I think now we’ve dealt with it, and now that we have dealt with it, I think we have incredible, boundless potential. 

What, specifically, are The Wonder Years capable of?

I don’t think that it’s common for bands to be as involved as we are. We do everything we do very meticulously and the work is almost never-ending. Every day for the past two and a half weeks, I’ve had tension headaches about all the things we need to be preparing for the record to come out. But we never want to take a step back from being involved with anything, we want to be in control for every part. I could kind of make a microcosm of this whole thing, and if we just focus on the release of this record…I can’t tell you exactly what we’re doing for the release yet because that’s going to be announced soon. But we don’t want to be the band that says, here’s a song, here’s the preorder, here’s the vinyl and the T-shirt, go for it. Everything is important to us. The artwork for the record, the art for the preorders, when the preorders get announced, how much the packages cost. We’ll go to war over the cost of goods for anything. We’ll try to find the most cost-efficient ways to do certain things. The things that we’re doing around this record release – I wish I could just talk about them – we’re going to be doing some things that we’ve never seen any other bands do, because that’s what we always want to be doing. We want to do something that brings us to the next level. We don’t want to rest on our laurels, we don’t want to coast. There’s no coasting for The Wonder Years. We’re always going to be pushing. We always want to be getting to that next level, we always want to be putting out that product, that hasn’t been done the same way before. I know that we get scoffed at, because we play pop-punk and pop-punk isn’t a cool genre or whatever, it’s not intensive musically or whatever. I remember kids coming up to me and talking about how there are only four chords in a song that there are 16 fucking chords in. That’s just what people have always been told, that pop-punk is too simple and can’t have any deeper meaning. I’d like to prove that idea wrong to a certain degree. Every genre has its own limitations – that’s what makes it that genre. Blues is a very specific thing, country is a very specific thing. You can’t go too far outside of it because then you’re not playing the same music anymore. The Wonder Years are capable of a lot because we’re not afraid of pushing to go further and to work harder.

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