In case you haven’t noticed, pop-punk isn’t dead.
But even if you weren’t aware, it’s completely understandable. The mainstream music scene — major labels, Top 40 radio stations, etc. — have a fickle relationship with pop-punk. Its popularity tends to come
and go in spurts, most recently peaking with Fall Out Boy and Paramore’s mid-2000s heyday. These days, even as those forefathers continue to enjoy chart success, lots of major-label A&R scouts and program directors give virtually no attention to the genre’s new entrants. But within pop-punk circles, the genre is alive and well, and its devotees are quietly forging an exciting new scene.
Below, we’ve selected 10 new pop-punk acts from the past several years that deserve more attention. None of these bands are signed to major labels, and frankly, it would be surprising if any did in the near future. They’re signed to veteran scene labels like SideOneDummy, Bridge 9 and Fearless, and relatively new entrants like Top Shelf. None of their vocalists sound like the next Patrick Stump. But these bands are as earnest as they come, and their back-to-basics approach is giving the scene new life. They tour in bulk — often in groups of four or five, or at scene-approved stops like Warped Tour, Skate and Surf Festival, Riot Fest and Gainesville, Fla.’s FEST. And when it comes to those shows, at least the pop-punk merch industry is booming: a veteran act like the Wonder Years can sell scarves, beach balls, towels, sunglasses and flip-flops, while even unsigned bands carry a swath of t-shirt and hoody designs.
Gender norms are also changing. A scene kid’s list of favorite albums in, say, 2005, would have included maybe Paramore and then most likely a bunch of all-dude bands, as there were very, very few women involved in the scene. Luckily, there’s a bit more gender diversity these days. Three of the 10 bands in this list contain female members, and though that’s still not optimal, it’s a step in the right direction.
Whether you’ve heard of all of them or none of them (both extremes are pretty likely), here are 10 new reasons to write lyrics on your Chuck Taylors:
Their name might sound a bit Radio Disney, but rest assured, Candy Hearts have pop-punk cred. They’re a favorite of Paramore’s Hayley Williams and New Found Glory guitarist/scene legend Chad Gilbert, the latter of whom produced their forthcoming album. Frontwoman Mariel Loveland doesn’t have Hayley Williams pipes (few do), but on the upside, her vocals are quite user-friendly for crowd-sourced singalongs. As for Candy Hearts’ sound, imagine what Best Coast would sound like if Bethany Cosentino grew up on Long Island instead of southern California — hooky, major chord jams about twenty-something life, but with less sunshine and more angst.
According to their bio, Brooklyn’s Chumped “like to drink and write songs about feelings.” These very pop-punk activities led to last year’s rip-roaring self-titled EP, which is now on its second pressing. They’re led by frontwoman Anika Pyle, whose vocals sell some delicious hooks and occasional potty-mouthed cries across their six-song body of work.
Los Angeles’ Joyce Manor have been gathering clout in the punk community over the past several years and with a new album on the way this year, could be ready for a breakout. 2010’s self-titled full-length featured a slew of angsty, bite-sized hooks in scuzzy-fuzzy rock songs hovering around two minutes. But as luck would have it, the album’s one three-minute track “Constant Headache” (video above) happens to be its biggest anthem.
How pop-punk are Knuckle Puck? They’re unsigned, yet already have their own beanies, flags, hoodies in their online merch store and proudly announce that they’re not from plain ol’ Chicago, but from its southern suburbs. They’re still a Bandcamp band, but they don’t sound it — their drums boom like fireworks and their driving guitars blare like cars flying down the highway. Though they released a pair of strong EPs on their own, labels are surely taking notice, as they recently recorded a split EP with Neck Deep on their home, Hopeless Records. And yes, their name is a “Mighty Ducks” reference.
Mixtapes — the hook-laden collaboration of Ryan Rockwell and Maura Weaver — formed in 2010 in Cincinnati, and after a year and a half, they’d already put out 48 songs over several releases and haven’t changed their super-prolific ways since. The back catalogue of four full-lengths and many EPs may look intimidating, so start off with their most recent full-length, last year’s “Ordinary Silence.” It’s perhaps the most radio-ready entity profiled in this list, a delicious swirl of energetic guitars and male-female vocal harmonies.
Technically speaking, these Philadelphia kids aren’t exactly pop-punk (they’re more of a lyric-driven brand of scrappy indie rock), but due to their fanbase, touring habits and overall association with the scene, it’s impossible to keep them off this list. Their 2014 album “You’re Gonna Miss It All” marked a huge improvement over their 2012 debut “Sports,” and even managed to debut in the Billboard 200, at No. 97. Singer Brendan Lukens is a current college student (at the Philly-based Drexel University), and his ramblings on twenty-something nonsense should resonate with those who can relate, or at least remember.
Chicago’s Real Friends are a pop-punk band who write lyrics every bit as earnest as their name would suggest. “I’ve got this lonely night and Jimmy Eat World,” goes a line in “Skin Deep,” a great representative of Real Friends’ music (and their scene in general) with its anthemic chorus and yearning for lost teenage years. They’ve recently signed to Fearless Records (known for releasing Plain White T’s, At the Drive-In and all those “Punk Goes…” cover albums) and will appear on the Warped Tour this summer.
If there’s one band on this list major labels should be paying attention to, it’s State Champs, an Albany, NY-based quintet with a knack for hooks. Virtually every up-and-coming pop-punk band admires New Found Glory, though few come as close to matching early-2000s-era NFG catchiness as these dudes. State Champs frontman Derek Discanio is one of the best challengers out there, though his vocals aren’t studio-perfect enough to upset the purists. And guess what? Former NFG guitarist Steve Klein produced their 2013 album “The Finer Things.”
Rochester, NY’s Such Gold is a pop-punk band with heavier hardcore elements mixed into their melodic brew, bringing to mind influences like Lifetime and the Movielife. The quartet’s 2012 debut album “Misadventures” (Razor & Tie) put this on full display, with plenty of mosh-friendly riffs and shout-along vocals. On May 1, they announced that they’ll be heading into the studio to record their sophomore full-length very soon.
You Blew It!
You Blew It! are an intriguing pick, as they combine elements of the so-called “Emo Revival” to go along with pop-punk. This means they’re cleverer with their guitars than your typical punk crew and on this year’s fantastic “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” album, they use the soft-to-loud dynamic for maximum emotional impact. To sweeten the deal, they’re signed to Top Shelf Records, home of recent buzzy emo bands like A Great Big Pile of Leaves and (deep breath) The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die and come from Florida, home state of pop-punk forefathers like New Found Glory and Yellowcard. They also have a song on “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” titled “Strong Island.” It doesn’t get much more pop-punk than that.