By Gareth Jones
CALGARY – Philadelphia’s The Wonder Years have yearned for ages to leave their hometown. Following an extensive itinerary of tour dates in support of 2015’s No Closer to Heaven, the band took to the studio to reflect upon their time on the road, culminating in Sister Cities, released at the beginning of April.
Working with producers Joe Chiccarelli and Carlos de la Garza, the alt-rock band pulled inspiration from landmarks and those contemplative moments spent observing the human condition.
To the Twitterverse, the band described the album as“the sum total of 2 years of travel across 5 continents documented in songs, photos, journals, poems, paintings & artifacts, 2 years witnessing the ways humanity towers above all else.”
An accurate summary as Sister Cities sees the band straying further from their pop punk roots in favour of a darker, more mature style. This is evident on “Raining in Kyoto,” the album’s exhilarating opening track. Lyrically, the song is as introspective and wistful as fans have come to expect, but instrumentally, The Wonder Years has never sounded more cathartic.
“We try to take a step forward every time we write a record,” explains bassist Josh Martin. Guitarists Casey Cavaliere, Matt Brasch and Nick Steinborn, drummer Mike Kennedy and vocalist Dan “Soupy” Campbell join him.
“We want to challenge ourselves as songwriters and players… While writing this record, we were focusing on restraint.”
Since their inception, The Wonders Years has banked heavily on the talents of Campbell, who uses his emotional palate to paint pictures through song. Small-town diners thousands of miles away feel like home and lines about the despair of growing older feel intimate and relatable. Campbell is older now, and on Sister Cities, sings of helplessness, regret, and distance, thus projecting a more refined sense of introspection.
The track “Flowers Where Your Face Should Be” is ostensibly a love song, but Campbell recollects watching a sobbing man’s wife remain stoic to console him, drawing a parallel with a situation shortly after his grandfather had passed. Campbell observes that, despite different culture and lived experience, this couple experiences love and sadness in the same way he does.
“At the core it’s a record about connectivity and shared experience. In a time where many leaders and people push a divisive world view, it is important to remember that no matter where you were born or where you live, you suffer loss like others that suffer loss and experience love like others experience love,” explains Martin.
Sometimes, Campbell sings of moments in time; nuances, where he realizes that human beings are interconnected in more ways than not. Now, The Wonder Years have toured the globe and with that wisdom comes a new worldview.
“I think this record really tells the story about how the world isn’t as big as a lot of people think. Or, for that matter how big they want you to think it is. We speak different languages and cook different foods but we can connect over our common experiences,” says Martin.
“It’s been a privilege getting to travel the world to share our music with other people.”
The Wonder Years play May 28 at the MacEwan Ballroom (Calgary) and May 26 at the Vogue Theatre (Vancouver)MacEwan Ballroom, The Wonder Years, Vogue Theatre