Firstly, Sister Cities, the sixth studio album from The Wonder Years, is like a great big hug. The Pennsylvania band wraps you in its pop punk embrace and simultaneously says ‘Hey, it’s all okay’ and ‘Hey let’s have a good time’ – but it also carries a heavy message. With this latest addition to their 13-year catalogue, lead vocalist Dan “Soupy” Campbell agrees The Wonder Years have accomplished their mission statement, setting out with this release to show how our perceived distance and difference, may not be so wide after all.
“Every album has its own thesis,” Soupy says. “For Sister Cities the thesis statement revolved around empathy across different cultures. Obviously there’s a terrible movement in America that feels very nationalist – it’s a record saying hey, listen, maybe you are not getting to go all the places we go, but we get to go all around the world, meet people all over the place, and some of the people that are being vilified in your life, people you’re talking to or politicians you’re hearing from, that they hate you and you’re enemy, we go to those places and we can tell you, everybody’s really cool.”
A strong and honest statement from Soupy, who in a roundabout and reassuring way, explains that in spreading a message of acceptance and equality and encouraging everyone that what they hear in the media isn’t the full picture, might help bridge a gap. “Most people are nice, most people are kind, and care for themselves and their families and aren’t thinking about you at all – they don’t hate you.
“They’re not all that different either. The way you process information is not so different information – just because it may different to communicate with them, there may be a language barrier, does not mean they’re an alien race, an alien culture. Everyone is much more alike than you are seeing and hearing about. “It’s an irrefutable message – ‘Hey, people are cool. Maybe you should go meet them before you judge them.’
“That’s the most basic explanation of the whole record. Obviously there’s way more nuance to it than that, but that’s my elevator pitch on it.”
Hearing Soupy’s perspective, it now seems like The Wonder Years go out and do what they do and return ambassadors of the human condition in its true state. “That’s a thing we’re very lucky to have the opportunity to say. Like if someone says, ‘I can’t believe you’re touring South America, it’s so dangerous there, so many drugs, so much murder’, and you go there and it’s just warm, nice people. It’s just like anywhere else – this has been mischaracterised.”
What better way to tell the stories of our similarities than through music, which as we all know, is a universal language. “It’s my favourite medium to get things across,” says Soupy, and it’s no wonder. Sister Cities has catapulted the band into better things and, you might even say, good things. In amongst their extensive schedule of touring for the year is an appearance at the inaugural Good Things Festival this December. The Wonder Years will bring everything they have for their Aussie fans, though that’s their goal every day. “It doesn’t matter if it’s in a basement or outside, doesn’t matter if it’s 75 people in Lima, Peru or 15,000 at Riot Fest [Chicago], it doesn’t matter, you’re gonna get everything we have that day.”
When & Where: Good Things Festival @ Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne – December 7.
Tickets on sale via www.oztix.com.au
Written by Anna Rose