We get the self-deprecating joke, but honestly, there’s not a damn thing that’s frown-inducing about it. This summer brings the maiden voyage of the Sad Summer Festival, a package tour featuring four respected headliners and an undercard of up-and-comers, all converging musically and socially.

AP was lucky enough to get the Maine’s John O’Callaghan, the Wonder Years’ Dan Campbell, Mayday Parade’s Derek Sanders and State Champs’ Derek DiScanio to discuss their intentions, some logistics and proper self-care for people coming out.

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How did Sad Summer come together, and how did all the bands get involved?

DEREK SANDERS: I feel like it was [because of] the Maine. At least the first I heard of it was when we were doing Download Fest in the U.K. together.

JOHN O’CALLAGHAN: Yeah, I think obviously we’ve wanted to do something along these lines for a long time. We’ve known Mayday [Parade] for a long time, and we’ve toured a ton. I guess the fundamental premise behind the idea is how do a couple [of] bands from the Warped Tour scene make it into these larger rooms as a group? I think that was the initial concept. With Warped Tour dismantling and no longer existing, let’s throw our own party and create our own festival. After being able to chew the fat about the idea over the summer on Warped Tour with the guys from Champs and Mayday, it started ironing itself out, and people started getting excited about it. It was just a way to do something unique for all of our bands and not something that’s just not like, “OK, we’re doing a summer headliner.” We’re excited it’s actually coming to fruition.

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DEREK DISCANIO: When we got asked about the idea, we were so, so excited. Agreeing with John, when Warped Tour announced that it wouldn’t be a full-time tour anymore, it left a lot of us in that whole realm wondering what we could do. So I think it was probably the best idea we could have [to] make a mini Warped Tour with all of our best friends and bands that we’ve known. I think it’s going to be a big success, for sure.

SANDERS: It was Download Fest last summer when they sat down with us and brought up the idea. With Warped Tour ending, we all knew something was going to happen, that somebody was going to try to fill the big space left there. We were waiting to see what it was going to be, but it made so much sense. We talked about it, and at first it was like, “Is this really going to happen? Can we do this?” It’s really cool that it’s come as far as it has and that it’s a real thing. We’re all super-pumped about it. 

DAN CAMPBELL: I don’t know how long it had been circulating, but we were brought on pretty late in the process. We got an offer to be part of it, and really, what made it work for us was we were looking for an opportunity to do a little bit of touring because I had a baby on the way who is now almost 6 weeks old, so he’d be a couple [of] months old in July. We wanted to play some shows, but we couldn’t do a whole tour. So when it was offered to us, we asked, “Can we do a chunk of it?” so I could still go home and be a dad.


After Warped Tour announced their last cross-country tour last year, everyone has been waiting for a festival to take its place. Do you feel any added pressure to fill those shoes, or is this an entirely different ballgame?

O’CALLAGHAN: It’s more of a curated vibe, completely. The pressure our band are feeling is, what kind of experience are we delivering? Pat [Kirch, Maine drummer] said it a while ago: When you go to festivals these days—and it’s not a knock; it’s just the way that it is—the lineups generally range from all sorts of styles of music. I think we’re going for something the exact opposite. Not to say our bands don’t differentiate in sound, but I feel like it was very important to keep in mind the audience, the people that are actually going to show up. Maybe they don’t land necessarily at Pitchfork’s festival or Lollapalooza. It’s definitely derived from that Warped Tour crowd. I think the pressure on us is to deliver an experience that feels completely submersive, like you’re going to the festival, and it’s not just a Warped Tour experience.

SANDERS: Warped Tour is amazing, but there’s no way to take in all of it. There’s just so much going on. That’s one of the cool things about this: If you’re there at the beginning of the show, you’ll be able to watch every single band. Hopefully it will feel unique and have its own vibe to it.

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How long will each band play?

SANDERS: I’m not sure. I would guess 30 minutes maybe for the opening acts, then I believe it’s 45 minutes or an hour?

O’CALLAGHAN: I think it’s about 50 minutes? 

DISCANIO: Is it 45?

O’CALLAGHAN: [Laughs.] It’s somewhere in between 45 and 60 minutes for the last four. So you’re going to have to buy your ticket and find out.

DISCANIO: Everyone is getting a full day of rad music.

CAMPBELL: We’ll play as long as they let us.

DISCANIO: Until they kick us off stage.

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What are you hoping fans will take away from Sad Summer?

O’CALLAGHAN: Hopefully, they take away a unique experience. Obviously, the full day of music can be experienced anywhere, but this is not [for] specific people but a specific vibe. This is hopefully a safe place where people can enjoy like-minded individuals. Like Derek was saying, he and I haven’t really heard a ton of the opening bands prior to this whole thing coming together. That was what was so neat to me about being young and going to Warped Tour: the opportunity to be exposed to these new bands and possibly finding your new favorite thing or favorite song. Maybe finding your new best friend.

We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. Obviously, Warped Tour paved the way for all of this and music festivals in general. I think we’re leaning into the idea that [it] no longer exists. We’re trying to provide a new world for that to continue on. I guess it remains to be seen what people actually grab from it, but hopefully we deliver.

SANDERS: I feel like there’s people who need something like this, and that’s what I get the most excited about. Whether they’re outcasts or don’t really fit in [with] everyday normal society. Not to keep making the comparison to Warped Tour, but that was so cool to see at Warped Tour. All of these people coming together and putting aside their differences and just experiencing something together. That’s the vibe here. There’s people that need that day to escape and just enjoy music with a bunch of other folks. It’s a pretty cool thing.

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CAMPBELL: There are people that don’t get the opportunity to go to every show. Maybe they can’t financially handle it. Maybe it’s not coming to their city, or they’re busy with work or school. This is a nice opportunity to see a lot of bands you like in one day, which is cool. 

I also think about what I don’t want them to leave with. I don’t want them to leave with melanoma or a bad case of dehydration. Please use sunscreen, and please drink a lot of water. [That’s] a mistake I made commonly when I was going to festivals. I had headaches for three days and was like, “What’s wrong with me?” Well, you stood in the sun for eight hours, and you didn’t drink a single bottle of water.

O’CALLAGHAN: I’ve already had some skin cancer cut off my back from living in Arizona, so [Laughs.] I can attest. Please wear your sunscreen.

SANDERS: Yeah, take care of yourselves, for sure.

O’CALLAGHAN: And hydrate.

Sad Summer Festival starts Friday! Check out dates and ticket availability here. If you’re looking for more on the festival, this feature appears in AP #371 with cover stars the Driver Era, and you can grab a copy here or below.