Dan “Soupy” Campbell of the Wonder Years takes us track by track through the band’s new album, Suburbia I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing.
“Came Out Swinging”
This functions as kind of a prelude. The rest of the record, for the most part, works in a one-year timeline. This track sets up that timeline. It more or less catches listeners up on our lives between records. We went from being college kids in a band to guys that toured full time. We would come back home intermittently, and for short bursts, and then be back on the road. I guess, in short, this is a snapshot of our lives post-Upsides.
“Woke Up Older”
The record questions where home is. This is the song that sparked that question. Between tours I would live with my now ex-girlfriend, and I chose to stay in Philadelphia primarily to be with her. We broke up. I moved out. Now, the place I was calling home and my reason for calling it that no longer existed. I was free to ask where home is and to answer it any way that I saw fit.
“Local Man Ruins Everything”
When Upsides came out, there was a weird pressure surrounding it. All of a sudden, I was expected to be a shinning beacon of positivity and, I guess ironically enough, the bottom had just fallen out on my life in a lot of ways. This is a song about how a place and an idea that had once made me happy no longer had that power. In fact, I needed to face the fact that being here was having the exact opposite effect on my psyche. It helped me realize a lot, though. I thought that I had kind of beaten my issues, but when you struggle with depression or anxiety or anything else, you never really win. You always carry it with you and the point, I learned, isn't to win. The point is to keep fighting. It turned out that “I'm not sad anymore” wasn't a victory speech. It was a battle cry.
We consider “Suburbia” to be the first “interlude.” The song, along with “I've Given You All” and “And Now I'm Nothing” serve as three movements of the same piece. Below the title in the liner notes, it's denoted as “Setting,” because it doesn't function inside of the timeline. Instead, it's meant as a snapshot of the place we grew up through the fresh eyes of someone who's left and returned. And yeah, John Oates also went to our high school, but I thought it was cooler to bring up Andrew Bryniarski, because, well, look at his Wikipedia profile image.
“My Life as a Pigeon”
For a long time, this band was unwanted. We were a joke to almost everyone (and for part of that time, to ourselves too). Chris from No Sleep was the only dude that cared. We couldn't get other labels or agents or managers to listen, so we said fuck it. We booked our own tours. We took care of our own business. We found our own way. Then, as soon as we had a head of steam, there was all of a sudden a crowd of people telling us we didn't deserve it or that we were sellouts or that we changed. I've spent my whole life with anxiety issues over people not liking me. I wasted so much time worrying about trying to save face for my fuck ups or being nice to people who were dickheads to me. This song is kind of a fuck you to everyone that stands against us. I don't have time for it. Every band wants to be able to go back and play a great hometown show and we finally have that now, but it took years of bullshit to get there. I love our fans. They're awesome people, and we do our best to take the time to hang out with them after every show. It's a big deal for us to have people now that care about us, so we don't take it for granted.
“Summers in PA”
This is just a song about my friends and I making bad choices and having good times. It kind of reminds me of why I loved this town in the first place. We've become close with Four Year Strong over the past year and when we needed a guest vocal spot, it only made sense to ask them. Dan and Alan's parts were recorded on the bus we shared in England on a USB microphone through a pair of panty hose that got thrown on stage while two obnoxious drunks girls pounded on the door demanding to know where Good Charlotte was.
“I Won't Say the Lord's Prayer”
I've noticed that a lot of people, especially in our area, are super adamant about their religion, but when questioned about most aspects of it, don't have any answers. They're content to wear their gold cross and vote with whatever the church says, but outside of that, it's a vacuous void. I think religion like that is dangerous in 2011. I think that anything that willfully stands in the way of progression towards curing diseases or equality for everyone is dangerous. I think that anything that has a mentality that their leader is infallible and, as such, provides a path that you must follow, is dangerous. I'm not telling anyone what to believe, but take some time and do some reading. Don't let yourself get bullied into a belief system. Everyone has the right to their faith if they want it—but that's if they want it.
This is a song about sanctuary. I went to this diner every night in high school and early college. The night-shift waitress has invited us to her house for a pool party. No matter where I go in the world, I know that I can go back here and Patti will know my order, and that's a nice thought.
“I've Given You All”
The second installment in this series, this track recounts more stories and scenes from home. There was a guy who used to ride around here on a bike in a blue raincoat. Everyone knew him. I mean, no one really knew him, but everyone knew who you were talking about if you were talking about him. He appeared to be the town's only homeless man. It turns out (or so I'm told), that he wasn't homeless. He was in Vietnam and now he only liked sleeping outside. So, while he had an apartment, he would often sleep around Memorial Park in the dugouts or on the benches. Right after I graduated high school, they found the guy beaten to death in the park. It's one of those things that goes down in small-town folklore forever. That kind of shit doesn't always happen in the suburbs. I read recently that they re-opened the case and I think the whole town hopes they solve it.
“Don't Let Me Cave In”
Free to live anywhere in the world with no lease or real force tying me here, I thought about a few different places in the Midwest. I spent some time out there on tours or otherwise but it never seemed like it would work out. I've always felt like there was a connection between Philly and Chicago. The two cities just have similar dispositions, in my opinion. In Philly, we used to have a Sears building. It wasn't anywhere near as big as Chicago's Sears Tower, but it was there. At some point, they decided to demolish it via implosion. I remember watching it at my Grandpop's house on TV. One second there was a building. Then, a second later, it collapsed into a dust cloud. Every time I look at the Sears Tower in Chicago, I think about it.
“You Made Me Want to be a Saint”
Our friend passed away last August. We had just spent a few months on tour and had been home all of a day when we got the news. I hadn't seen a lot of people from around here in a long time but news spread fast, and we had rows of tables set up at a diner for everyone to meet at in an hour. I watched people that had become enemies over the years forget it and hug. Mike was a good guy. We were all better people for having known him. I know he would have hated it if we wrote him a ballad as a memorial, so we didn't. We owed him this though for all he's done for us. Even in death he brought back together a lot of people that needed each other. Thanks, Mike. We miss you.
The entire world seems to want to leave. Everywhere I've ever been, when you ask what's cool there, the response is, “Nothing; this place sucks. I can't wait to get out.” But, if everywhere sucks, where are you going, and why? I feel like a lot of people around here are without goals. They don't know where they want to go or what they want to know. They just know they don't want to be here, and they don't want to do this. It's a pointless cycle. I've grown up in this town my whole life. I watched a lot of people die here. I mean, they're still technically alive, but they're practically dead. They don't have anything that they want to be anymore. A lot of people hate a lot of places, but it's not enough to just run away from them. You need to figure out what you love and what you don't, and place yourself in this world according to that, or you're going to end up miserable no matter what city you're in.
“And Now I'm Nothing”
If “Came Out Swinging” brought you up to speed on where we've been since The Upsides, “And Now I'm Nothing” lets you know where we are at the conclusion of our first year as a full-time band and our first real opportunity to decide whether or not this place is home for us. I have my own bedroom now after a year of couch surfing. I'm not afraid of the same things I was last year and I decided to stay around here, at least for now. I like a lot about this place. I like that our manger scene at Christmas is in a park between two cannons and I really like that nobody in our town notices the irony.