“Cleaning my room is really fucking this interview up, I’m sorry,” laughs Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell, singer of Philadelphia pop-punk band the Wonder Years. It’s a week away from the release of TWY’s fourth album, and he’s in full multi-task mode: finalizing the band’s hometown pop-up shop, making tour plans, getting his car’s oil changed, doing interviews during chores—the usual.
It’s a mindset far from the one that produced The Greatest Generation, the latest in an accidental trilogy of sprawling conceptual odes to, basically, growing up. If 2009’s The Upsides and 2011’s particularly excellent Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing were real-time snapshots of the right then and there, The Greatest Generation looks back with some perspective.
“Our songs are super derivative of the place we’re from,” Soupy, 27, says. “When you’re growing up, you pretty much hate where you’re from. But the older you get, the more value you see in it. You also see flaws you didn’t see before. Philadelphia is a lower-middle-class, hard-working city. It produces that kind of people, also. That’s spoken to on the new record.”
The Wonder Years didn’t set out to make one, never mind three, concept albums. The Greatest Generation started, as ever, with a modest intent of writing “a really good record that’s honest, and personal, and passionate.” Every single member had to approve every single part of every single song before it was considered finished, and, as Soupy says, it’s not as though the six of them have the same idea of how a song should sound. It’s a slow process, but one that results in songs belonging unmistakably to The Wonder Years. Lead single “Dismantling Summer,” written after Soupy’s grandfather suffered a heart attack, is a slow build that stares mortality in the face, while “Passing Through A Screen Door” and its crushing bridge, which looks at everyone else’s lives and asks if maybe you’ve totally fucked yours up, may be one of the best things the band has written.
“If you’re writing incredibly personal songs, there’s a thought that they’re harder to relate to,” says Soupy. “I found the exact opposite is true. These really personal songs are rooted in nerves of the base emotions. Everyone has felt what it feels like to hit that nerve.”
Of course something not many people can relate to is being in an adored punk band—including Soupy’s dad. Becoming a father in his early 20s derailed plans of pursuing his dream of becoming an artist, a frontman for a rock and roll band, or a professional skateboarder. “I kind of robbed him of those things by being born,” Soupy laughs, before fondly listing all the ways in which their families support the band. “He gets to live it vicariously through us, getting super involved and excited about everything we do. He Googles everything about us, and comes out to every show. He has a blast with it.”
This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of AUX Magazine. Download and subscribe for free in Google Play and the App Store here.