Having released their third album to date, State Champs' bassist Ryan Scott Graham caught up with us to talk about how they did things differently for 'Living Proof'.
On the final Vans Warped Tour, and the band's third time on the full tour, Graham spoke about how important it was for them in their formative years, "It was probably one of the first tours, in 2014, when we were on a small stage, it was probably the tour we noticed the most growth on and noticed something happening. So for us it’s always going to be special." Noting that there is a certain amount of sadness this year, "it’s starting to hit me that maybe we won’t be hanging with some of these people, maybe ever again, in this way at least."
Although Warped holds a special place in the history of State Champs, their present is a pretty exciting time for the band. When talking about 'Living Proof', Graham explains that they took things slower this time around, "Honestly I think the biggest difference on this record was the time, we had time. I think that was one thing we were missing on the last ones. For this one we spread it out over the course of like a year and a half. We would do some writing and recording and then sit on it for a couple months and listen back and make edits."
When it came to releasing the album, the band just couldn’t wait to get it out, “We’d been sitting on the record for about six months, and by that time we’d listened to it so many times we needed to hear what other people thought.” People were, as always, quick to voice their opinions, “People are brutally honest,” he laughs, “if they don’t like something, especially on the internet, they say whatever they want because they can hide.“ Luckily for State Champs, there was mostly positive reactions with this album.
Speaking of taking more time with it, he explains that it allowed them to get the best possible content, "To just get into the nitty gritty of every song to just make sure there wasn’t anything we weren’t happy with. Because normally we’d write 11 songs and that’d be all we had so they all went on the record. We wrote probably upwards of 20 songs, and 13 made the record. Some were crappy, some were good but weren’t good enough."
Another change they made was doing more co-writing, "We worked with John Feldman on a couple songs and then we went back to Kyle Black who we worked with on the last record too.” Having just dabbled with co-writing in previous albums, they dove into it more in ’Living Proof’. Graham explains that they saw it as an opportunity to observe other people’s methods, “It is a learning process. You see how other people tackle the same thing you are doing. Which I think is very interesting. Everybody adds a little bit of something, whether it’s your style or not i think it’s important to have that skill and put it in your back-pocket for a time that you might need it. “
That being said, just because they were collaborating with other writers, it doesn’t mean they felt pressure to accept their advice, “There was times on the record where I wasn’t sold on what was presented to us and I think we were able to decide and decipher when it was right and when it wasn’t and I think that was great. It told us a lot about us as songwriters and as a band.” He doesn’t, however, deny that sometimes it could be difficult, “Yeah, sometimes when someone is listening to your music and they’re saying “this isn’t what I would do, this is what i would do’... sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. When I was positive what we were doing was right I would put my foot down but other times… it’s definitely testing new waters.” More than anything they appreciated watching other people work, “It was cool to have people who have been doing this their whole lives and who have had loads of hits.”
One struggle of writing more songs than they needed came when they tried to pick which songs to leave off the album, “When you write a full song and you record it and you spend a lot of time on it, even if it’s not up to par… you’re like, well, we spent a lot of time on it, damn was that a waste?” Despite that, now they’re able to see the benefits of writing surplus songs, “Looking back I think more than anything that was getting out the kinks, getting into the groove to find the sound. I think it was really important to figure out what we wanted to say and the cohesive message. “
Although the hardest part wasn’t choosing which songs to keep, it was more what order to put them in, “For the most part we all knew which were the strongest which were the weakest, there was a few we went back and forth on but for the most part it was like ‘these 14 are clearly the strongest.” Talking about the running order,Graham explains, “I wanted it to flow from the beginning to the end. It was really important to me for this record, so i think we had some different opinions on that. But I was very adamant on saying what I thought the order of the songs.”
The bassist explains that it is particularly important to him what order songs are in, he likes to listen to albums in full, but he understand that that’s not how everyone does it, ”When I was listening to records my favourite ones were the ones I could listen to front to back. There might have been bum ones here and there but it tells a story and it has a cohesive flow throughout the whole thing. Those are the ones that stick with me. I wanted to make it an experience. For some listeners, there’s probably people who don’t care or notice.“ Despite the fact that some people might not care, it wasn't something the band were prepared to sacrifice for their own peace of mind.
Now with their third album successfully released and well-received, 'Living Proof' shows the growth of the band as musicians and artists. The band are about to start their US tour and after that they are headed this side of the Atlantic. State Champs start their European tour in Dublin at The Academy on October 22nd.