Pop-Punk Act State Champs to Headline Snowed In 7 Next Week at the Agora


  • Courtesy of the Agora
Ten years into playing with the pop-punk band State Champs, guitarist Tyler Szalkowski still gets excited about working on a new album.

The group’s currently in the midst of finalizing an album due out in 2020. It will come on the heels of the New York band’s fourth record, 2018’s Living Proof.

“It’s such a fun time for us to start a new cycle and make a new record,” says Szalkowski. On Friday, Dec. 20, the band headlines Snowed in 7 at the Agora Theatre. “We get to pick the new vibe, the new colors, the new music — everything that feels fresh and exciting.”

With the upcoming full-length, the Warped Tour veterans hope to mix it up with some new sounds. The band already has a fairly sonically diverse catalog that includes The Acoustic Things, 2014’s acoustic revamp of The Finer Things, but Szalkowski isn’t satisfied yet.

“On the last record, we took a lot of chances,” he says. “Going into Living Proof, we were just like, ‘Nothing is off limits.’”

Szalkowski hopes to expand upon this experience, but nix some of the co-writers this time. We have a lot more knowledge now of what we like and what we don’t like, what works and what doesn’t work,” says Szalkowski, who lives in Columbus. “We’re going to continue to experiment, but I think it’ll be a little more with ourselves.”

Szalkowski says that he has always wanted to try a piano ballad and would love to incorporate some other instruments as well. As lead guitarist, Szalkowski writes many of the band’s defining chord progressions and riffs.

“Yeah, the melody means a lot, and the lyrics mean a lot, but what is the unsung hero for me when it comes to writing is that I get to express my emotions through sound,” says Szalkowski. “I get to build up the feeling of the song and the emotion surrounding it.”

“Dead and Gone,” the lead single on Living Proof, is also Szalkowski’s favorite to play live because it isn’t as difficult as some of the other tracks, chord-wise, so he can focus more on rocking out and getting down to the grit of the emotion behind the song.

“We were feeling really burnt out. We were just over it. We didn’t care about being in a band. We had been touring for like seven years straight, beating the shit out of ourselves,” says Szalkowski of “Dead and Gone.” “What was a dream was turning into a nightmare. We were at each other’s throats. We were getting aggravated by little things that didn’t matter in the grand scheme.”

The angsty, upbeat, bass-heavy sing-along tells the tale of craving some time at home in upstate New York, some sleep and a reminder of why they fell in love with music in the first place.

“That song is just about exhaling all the toxic shit in our bodies,” he says. “Bleeding it out. Letting go of what people expect from you. It was a mixture of everything. We’re just five guys. We’re by no means super heroes. Half of us aren’t even of sound mind. There’s a lot of mental illness in our group. There’s a lot of things that we don’t really talk about.”

It’s easier to write about what you’re dealing with than it is to speak about it for many artists. For Szalkowski, good writing is all about taking the leap just to see if you can make it.

“Life at its core is all about risk,” he says. “If you gamble and lose then you lose, but if you gamble and win, then you’re the smartest person in the room.”

The key for Szalkowski is pushing the envelope without straying too far off brand. Every State Champs record will have typical pop-punk songs, but Szalkowski doesn’t want any sort of limitations or expectations to define State Champs as a band. He expresses irritation with listeners who write off a record because of one song that they don’t like.

“The song that you don’t like, maybe someone else likes, and maybe that song that someone else likes was their gateway to the group,” says Szalkowsi.

Without trying something new and challenging itself, the band would never be able to reach new audiences. Szalkowski refuses to put a cap on the band’s creativity.

“Music is made to be listened to, and the elitism surrounding what people think your record should sound like versus what you as an artist think your record should sound like should be done away with,” says Szalkowski. “I don’t really think it has a place in this scene. If you want us to stay in this box, we can do that, but we’re not gonna do it for you.”

In the midst of the negativity, however, Szalkowski makes sure not to let the triumphant moments get buried. His favorite moment of his career thus far was selling out the 2,300-seat London Forum.

“It was this gorgeous venue. It was somewhere that we had supported New Found Glory,” says Szalkowski. “And I think in that moment I felt validated in all my efforts. I felt like, ‘Damn, we’re really doing this.’”

Snowed In 7 Featuring State Champs, Grayscale, Hot Mulligan, Belmont, Sleep On It, Jetty Bones, Envoi, Better Off, Bad Luck, the Stolen, Boys Of Fall, ’90s Kids and Elbow Room, 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20, Agora Theatre, 5000 Euclid Ave., 216-881-2221. Tickets: $36.95 ADV, $41.95 DOS, agoracleveland.com

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