State Champs’ Living Proof is a pop-punk masterpiece

New York five-piece State Champs are releasing their brand new studio album this week. 

Formed in 2010 by vocalist Derek DiScanio and guitarist Tyler Szalkowski, the pair began laying the foundation of State Champs in garages and basements throughout their hometown. The band’s lineup would shift a bit, but DiScanio and Szalkowski were always at the helm, crafting the band’s 2013 debut, The Finer Things, along with guitarist Tony “Rival” Diaz and drummer Evan Ambrosio. They’d add bassist Ryan Scott Graham the following year and, in 2015, they’d release Around The World And Back, a record that elevated State Champs to a frontrunner in the genre.

“It was like, let’s take as many swings at it, try as many new things and experiment, until we get to the point where we could start searching through it all and then find the album,” says DiScanio of the writing process. Living Proof was recorded in two different sessions with different teams assisting the band. The first session saw John Feldmann producing, who brought his knack for writing hit records into the fold. But State Champs wouldn’t let their old-school roots die, teaming up with Mike Green and Kyle Black, the pair that shepherded Around The World And Back across the finish line. State Champs also collaborated with some of pop-punk’s heaviest hitters, as the band co-wrote songs with Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low and Mark Hoppus from Blink-182.

Album opener Criminal sets the perfect tone for the record, its catchy pop-punk riffs and anthemic chorus have you hooked right form the start. Frozen follows that up with late 00’s pop-punk melodies that keep those toes tapping away.

Lead single Dead And Gone is one of those songs that will remain stuck in your head for days and end up on all your summer playlists. It has all the pop-punk hit single ingredients: bouncy chorus, lyrics that are not only relatable but also very shout-able, and a killer bridge. Oh and it was co-written by Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus. Here’s a challenge: Try NOT to sing “I want to breathe with ease again, I want to get some fucking sleep again” for the rest of the day after having listened to Dead And Gone. 

On Living Proof you won’t find a single song that shouldn’t have made the album. The record flows from banger to banger, making it the ultimate summer playlist in itself, especially with fresh tracks like Safe Haven or Crystal Ball. 

Ballads are few and far between, but that is not a bad thing. Living Proof is a strong rock record that doesn’t need to follow the usual concept to achieve greatness. It still harbors all the themes you could wish for on a pop-punk record: break-ups, love, loss, independence.

The slow tracks we do get on Living Proof are absolute tear-jerkers and, emotionally, will leave you feeling all the feels. Especially Mark Hoppus co-write Time Machine with its piercing vocals and heartbreaking lyrics. Can you see yourself lying on your bed blasting this out loud and just staring at the ceiling? Because, same.

Living Proof has a lot to do with independence, and finding the independence within you, embracing the mixed emotions that fall in your lap a lot of the time,” said DiScanio, noting that the album’s title is taken from the song Cut Through The Static, where he proclaims, “Let’s cut through the static and be the living proof.”

With Living Proof State Champs have pushed themselves to new heights without ever forgetting where they came from.

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