State Champs
State Champs' Tyler Szalkowski | Credit: Timothy Norris/Getty Images

State Champs’ Tyler Szalkowski: “We Have a New Generation of Fans Now”

Our listening habits have changed over the last few years. Some of us seek solace and escapism in music, while some of us have retreated to records that remind us of a more innocent time. For some, new music has become less appealing; for others, it’s the only thing that gets them through the day.

With the release of their fourth studio album, Kings Of The New Age, Upstate New York outfit State Champs reminded fans of the sense of joy and community that comes attached to pop punk music. Particularly in hard times, this type of music is an outlet for escape and emotional connection.

State Champs – ‘Everybody But You’

Australian fans were able to reconnect in person when State Champs toured the country this September, returning to Australia for the first time since the 2019 UNIFY Gathering. The energy at these shows was unique, as lyrics from the new record were emphatically shouted back at the band and pent-up frustration made way for a satisfying reunion.

While in the country, Music Feeds sat down with State Champs lead guitarist Tyler Szalkowski to discuss the new album, the band members’ listening habits and the effect music has on listeners and artists alike.

Music Feeds: Musicians are in an interesting position as both creators of music and fans of it. Has working as a musician affected your relationship with music?

Tyler Szalkowski: I still obviously enjoy music, but ever since we started doing this a little more professionally, I do analyse everything I listen to. It leads to me not having that youthful joy; I’m examining, rather than listening. Even as I’m saying this out loud, I’m realising that I need to be cognisant of that, and try to get out of musician brain and into fan brain.

I’m not speaking for the whole band. I know that every Friday, Derek [DiScanio, lead vocals] is on New Music Friday listening to everything. He still consumes loads of music. Evan [Ambrosio, drums] has his bands that he loves and Ryan [Scott Graham, bass] has been diving through all of the old stuff he could possibly find.

This man is pulling out bands from the ‘90s that I’ve never even heard of or knew existed. He’s finding bands that have just catalogues of music and is falling in love with it. I’m the odd one out – I don’t consume it as much as I used to and I look at it too critically.

MF: What music inspires you?

Tyler: In 2015 and onward from there, I started listening to a lot of pop country music. I’m a pretty big fan of festival indie rock. Music that is outside of my space, music where I can be like, “Ooh, how do they do that?”, it triggers the interest in the music again for me. I want to know how they make those songs. I can make my songs all day, but when it comes to something I don’t know how to do, I want to dive into that world.

State Champs – ‘Elevated’

MF: The fans at your Melbourne show were completely immersed in the performance and particularly responded to the stuff from the new album. Was this album made for playing in rooms full of people?

Tyler: The guy that we did the record with, Drew Fulk, that was his one main point and the biggest selling point that we had [when it came] to working with him. He very much cared about the emotions conveyed.

What you saw was just a genuine appreciation for where we are. We’re energised by the crowd. It has been our fourth or fifth time to come out to Australia and it’s felt good to play bigger venues.

MF: Do you think you’ve gained a lot of new fans with Kings Of The New Age?

Tyler: I remember at the first show in Brisbane, there were these two girls on the barricade. They weren’t singing the words to ‘Elevated’ and I was like, “This is our first hit, everyone knows this song.” Then we played one of our new songs and they knew every word. We have a new generation of fans now.

We’ve had a lot of fans say to us, “We’re so sorry, we only found out about you guys last year,” and we’re like, “That’s so fine!” We don’t care when you got here, we’re just happy that you’re here.


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MF: Are you thinking about your next album yet?

Tyler: We tend to set aside time to be creative. I think everyone, internally, is mulling things over and the gears are always turning. There’s not an active effort though.

We’ve toured with bands who write on tour and it’s always one band member mega stressed out in a closet somewhere. It doesn’t help morale. We try to set aside time for it and we try to just enjoy where we are. It’s better to spend time with each other or do whatever you do that keeps you going on tour, if that means going thrifting, or finding coffee.

  • Kings of the New Age is out now.

Further Reading

Slipknot’s Jay Weinberg: “We’ve Become a Better Band and Better Band Mates”

Parkway Drive: “Our Abilities Have Finally Caught Up to Our Imaginations”

I Prevail: Five Things You Might Not Know About ‘True Power’

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