Melodic pop punk outfit the Wonder Years is pounding the pavement this summer as part of the Vans Warped Tour, which offers them the ideal platform to spread the optimistic message behind new album The Greatest Generation to the younger masses.
“The Greatest Generation is centered around the idea that we all have greatness in us, and that I think that for a long time I had denied that,” singer Dan Campbell said in an interview with MTV. ”I settled for mediocrity. I made excuses; I hid behind my shortcomings, and I was OK with just being OK. I sat in purgatory, scared s***less of trying and failing. I don’t want to live like that anymore. The title speaks to the idea that if we’re able to put all of that aside, all of our internal battles, all of our malcontent with the world around us, that nothing can hold us back from being the greatest generation.”
During their coast-to-coast Warped Tour trek, the Philadelphia sextet rolled through Fender headquarters in Arizona. While Campbell and drummer Mike Kennedy hit the Fender Swag Shop, Fender News caught up with the rest of the guys for this fun, and deeply profound Q&A. See what Casey Cavaliere, Josh Martin, Nick Steinborn and Matt Brasch had to say.
Since your band name is Wonder Years, what was your favorite TV character from the show?
Casey: Well, it wasn’t like we picked our band name as an homage to our favorite television program of all time. It was more just the turn of phrase I guess. We started out as just an afternoon and a stupid song; we never expected to be here years later getting questions about the show.
But, I think we can all safely go on record saying Winnie Cooper was a babe.
Josh: Yeah, she was like a math or science super genius, which is really tight. Definitely, a babe.
What is your guilty pleasure album?
Josh: I don’t know if I feel guilty about it but that Everclear record (So Much for the Afterglow) is like brilliant front to back. That might be a little out of the genre we would be expected to like. I absolutely don’t feel guilty over it though.
Matt: I’m not really feeling that guilty about it either but Sum 41’s All Killer No Filler. A better answer is that one of the first cassette tapes I owned — I ordered it when I was in like third grade when they were having a book fair at my school — was the Lion King soundtrack. Elton John killed it. So good. So good.
Casey: Billy Ray Cyrus, Could’ve Been Me with “Achy Breaky Heart” because it was one of the first cassette tapes that I ever owned. And there, I just dropped some knowledge on the rest of the guys in the band. Also a side note: I actually don’t hate the new Miley Cyrus track either. It does what it’s intended to do.
Nick: I really like Barenaked Ladies — pretty much all of their records. Also, I will continue on to say that one of my favorite records in probably fourth grade was DC Talk’s Jesus Freak. Not because of Jesus, but because it was hip and there was rap. I was into it, even though I have no religious ties. Zero. But my friend was really religious and he got me to listen to them. Of course, then he’d be like, “Yo, come to church with me.” I was like, “No man. Let’s just listen to this cool alt-rock record with rap.”
Who controls the “radio” on the tour van?
Josh: Basically, the driver or front seat passenger controls the radio. A lot of times our drummer rides shotgun with me, and it’s like a team effort. Sometimes I know what I want to listen to, but then other times I’m doing my thing in the zone and I give him this general aesthetic and he handles it.
Matt: There is a playlist that was made by our tour manager John that is six hours long. It’s basically alt rock and radio smash hits from 1989-2004. It is all encompassing, and we listen to it probably once a tour. You can’t watch a movie on your laptop because you’re like, “Oh shit, this song is too good!” It ends up that all of us get super engaged in this six-hour playlist.
What is your favorite song from this playlist?
Josh: Is the Eurhythmics on that? Because we heard it today on 98.7 and it’s been stuck in my head. So that’s mine, “Sweet Dreams.” Wait, is Montell Jordan on that? I take mine back. I’m going with “This is How We Do It.”
Matt: “Flagpole Sitta” by Harvey Danger. Also, “Kissed From a Rose” by Seal
Casey: “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba
Nick: I have to go with “How Bizarre” just because of the one time it was looped for seriously two hours and no one noticed because the song ends and begins exactly the same.
What restaurant is worth taking a detour for while on tour?
Josh: One of my favorites is Wingin It in Denver. They have these buffalo wings and like 30 sauces that are all super tight. It’s south of the so it’s kind of annoying to go, but we go anyways. Also, they deep fry candy bars there. My normal play is 12-15 wings split between two sauces — Spicy Garlic/Spicy Ranch. I also love the deep fried Twix, and I think people should know about this place.
Matt: My favorite restaurant in the entire United States is Pappy’s Smokehouse in St. Louis. They have the best rack of ribs I’ve ever had in my entire life. It’s just a hole in the wall type place, and they make ribs only and whenever they run out of ribs for the day, they are done for the day.
Casey:I’ll go with Melt in Cleveland. As Josh mentioned, Wingin It will deep fry candy bars, but Melt just deep-fries the biggest sandwich you’ve ever seen. Basically it’s just gourmet grilled cheese but it doesn’t stop at the cheese. My favorite is the New Bomb Turkey which has a slice of bread in the middle, and your working with a stuffing situation, mashed potatoes, and then turkey and a lot of it – or for our vegan brethren, also faux turkey. And they give you a delicious cranberry dipping sauce to tie it all together and make it sweet and savory. To top it off, they give you about three pounds of fries, so we basically punish ourselves every time we pass through Ohio.
Nick: I’ll have to say Blue Plate Diner in Salt Lake City. Basically every tour you have to do the drive from Denver to Salt Lake City which is about 9 hours so we just route our vehicle directly to Blue Plate Diner and go in and get breakfast. They make incredible omelets, incredible sandwiches. Vegan-friendly stuff, not-vegan-friendly stuff. All the waitresses there are gorgeous they have full sleeves of tattoos. I can’t help but get the Benedict Omelet, which has to be like a 35 egg omelet. It’s filled with bacon and covered in hollandaise sauce. It’s not healthy, but I really like it, and they also do diced hash browns with peppers and onions.
Casey: If you’ve caught on, we don’t eat the healthiest. The food alone is worth the career I think.
What was the first concert you ever went to? Give us all the details!
Josh: Casey’s dad took us to see Blink 182 and New Found Glory, along with the rest of the guys in our shitty alt rock band. Casey’s dad was so miserable and oppressed the whole time, but he was really cool about taking us. It was at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, N.J. We were in of the last seated row before the lawn. It was actually a trip, because when we played Vans Warped tour in 2011, we got to that venue also. So when I finally got to be on that stage, I knew exactly where I had been sitting for my first concert. It was like coming full circle.
Matt: Sixth grade was my first real concert. I went to see Billy Joel with my whole family. We were a big Billy Joel family. We always had the records bumping all the time. It was at the Spectrum, which no longer exists, but it was in the sports complex area in Philly. It was awesome. Liberty DeVitto was coolest drummer, and I wanted to be him growing up.
Casey: Besides what Josh already said, I do remember the mom of the drummer in our first band once took us all to a Dave Matthews band concert at Veterans Stadium. There was a situation where the guy in front of us was smoking a water pipe and something out of it that was not tobacco. Dan’s mom seemed overly concerned about it, so I remember that being kind of funny.
Nick: My first real big concert experience was actually Warped Tour probably in 2000. Well, I mean I was going to local gigs before that, VFW halls and stuff like that. But somehow one of my friends back then had VIP tickets, and he bailed so he gave them to my friend and me. So we went and sat in the air conditioning booth and ate pizza all day.
Who is the guitarist/bassist who has had the most influence upon you?
Josh: Mine as a bass player would have to be Roger Manganelli from Less Than Jake. He is a shredder bass player who sings incredibly high while shredding super hard. The dude is also really nice.
Matt: I guess one of the guitarists who I take most of my inspiration from is probably Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day. He kind of proved to me that I could just play bar chords and get by and really enjoy and have fun on stage. He holds it down. Green Day sounds huge even though they’re a small band. I mean small as in a three piece; I mean they’re a 4-piece now but they were a three piece. I basically learned how to play Green Day songs growing up, and that’s what got me playing guitar.
Casey: I guess it’s kind of fitting as we are at Fender right now, but I remember playing the “Layla” 45-single by Eric Clapton or of Derek & Dominos at the time so that kind of took me on a Clapton kick for a while. In terms of iconic imagery, Clapton with the Strat is one in the same, so I ended up listening to a lot of Clapton records. It was my entrance into the world of blues guitar and lead guitar stuff, and it’s why I wanted a Strat initially too.
Nick: I would say the first guitarist to really make me want to actually learn how to really play guitar, as opposed to whatever nonsense I was playing before then, was John Petrucci from Dream Theater. He’s like a shredder, and I really liked metal in ninth grade. I was also pretty influenced just by local guitarists in bands that played around town. I would always go bother those guys. I learned how to pinch harmonics by bothering some guy in a crappy band. But, I definitely learned a lot of Dream Theater songs.
What is your all-time favorite piece of Fender gear?
Josh: My first bass was a short-scale Squier Precision Bass, and that is still my favorite piece of Fender gear. I was around 12, and that was the beginning for me. It was the first one and was the one that sent me down the road.
Matt: I’m going to have to say that the guitar I just bought is probably my favorite piece. It’s definitely the most beautiful guitar that I own now and it’s the FSR American Vintage ’72 Tele Thinline. It’s going to be played every day of Warped Tour.
Casey: Like Josh, mine is probably the first one I had, which was an American Standard Series Strat with the natural wood finish. I was also around 12, and I think my dad probably fell in love with it almost as much, if not more than I did. So that was probably why he bought it for me. I probably would have gotten more of a beginner guitar, but I think my dad having been in a band before could not resist buying it. I hope he’s happy because here we are now. I will never give that one up. I don’t play it that much live, but when I record at home, that guitar is never far.
Nick: Design wise, I would have to say the Fender Starcaster. When I first started posting on gear message boards however many years ago, I was introduced to them and I have always loved that guitar so much. They unfortunately cost way too much money on eBay to take a chance on, so hopefully one day Fender puts them out again.