meta-scriptRyley Walker Finally Gets To Interview Switchfoot About New Album 'Interrobang': "I Want To Say For The Record That I'm A Huge Head" |
Ryley Walker & Switchfoot

Ryley Walker & Switchfoot

Photos (L-R): Jordi Vidal/Redferns via Getty Images, Erik Frost


Ryley Walker Finally Gets To Interview Switchfoot About New Album 'Interrobang': "I Want To Say For The Record That I'm A Huge Head"

Ryley Walker makes experimental singer/songwriter music for the flannel-clad; Switchfoot makes worshipful hits for the airwaves. Despite their vast differences, Walker is a self-proclaimed "Foothead"—and nobody can interview them like him

GRAMMYs/Sep 9, 2021 - 09:59 pm

Ryley Walker is a singer/songwriter and label owner with a bizarre, hilarious Twitter account and a cult following in the "indie jam" scene. This week, he's in Vermont making music he describes as "bald-ponytail spirituals" for an audience of "Wookiees"—his term for "somebody who wears a Shure microphone shirt." This is not a conventional consumer of mid-2000s Christian radio-rock.

Switchfoot are a wildly successful, GRAMMY-winning rock band nominally in that market, whose songs were inescapable if you went to youth group in the George W. Bush years. In those days, their introspective singles "Dare You to Move" and "Meant to Live" dominated the airwaves. Their polished hits are as far from fried Drag City-style noise jams as you can get.

But upon joining a Zoom call between Walker and Switchfoot's founding brothers Jon and Tim Foreman, the three are instantly all smiles, as if Walker is their long-lost sibling. Walker's very public love for Switchfoot isn't ironic or provocative: He genuinely loves them from the hits to the deep cuts—far more than even some foundational figures like Leonard Cohen and Townes Van Zandt.

The Foremans get a huge kick out of his lowbrow humor, business savvy and encylopedic knowledge of music. They don't flinch when Walker—who's "three years clean and serene" recounts a tale about listening to Nothing Is Sound "30 times in a row" while smoking crack. "I was in a bad state of mind at the time, but that record f***ing lifted me out of some weird stuff," Walker tells them.

He's also here to celebrate their new album, interrobang, which was released on August 20. After carefully studying its tunes, like "fluorescent, "i need you (to be wrong)" and "backwards in time" from beneath the roar of a weed-whacker, he comes loaded with thoughtful questions for the band.

Though no journalist, Walker is perhaps more accredited for this task than anyone with a staff job—if only because no one else would ask Switchfoot if they're "John Fahey heads" or advise them to monitor their digestion on the road if they tend to "put the hurt on the cheese" backstage.

"I've never stopped enjoying them," Walker expresses to afterward. "Obviously, they're a big part of Christian youth groups and stuff, and that's how I got to know them. But my filter for what's cool or what's not cool has never been switched on. I've always proudly enjoyed the things I enjoy."

To mark the release of interrobang, moderated an interview between Ryley Walker and Switchfoot about Mexican food, open tunings, cheese platters and the book of Ecclesiastes—a meeting of the minds the singer/songwriter genuinely calls "a dream come true."

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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Ryley Walker: I want to say for the record that I'm a huge head. I came to your music like most other people. When I was a kid growing up, I heard it on the radio and everything. But for years and years, maybe I didn't keep up with you guys. But about seven years ago, I got way into your record Nothing Is Sound. It's one of the most far-out experiences I've ever had.

OK, this is a funny story. I was on a crack binge with this dude. I'm three years clean and serene, by the way. I'm smoking crack with this dude and we're like, "This is one of the most sick anti-war records! It's, like, so anti-war!" We listened to it 30 times in a row. I was in a bad state of mind at the time, but that record f***ing lifted me out of some weird stuff. I really celebrate that record a lot.

And I was wondering: Do you still play those songs live? I haven't seen you guys in a long time.

Jon Foreman: That's a wild story, man! Beautiful! I love that!

Ryley: Don't smoke crack, by the way.

Jon: Hey, Ryley. Say hi to Chad. This is our drummer.

Ryley: Really nice to meet you! Hi!

Jon: Chad's just been feasting on the cheese platter that we talked about earlier.

Ryley: Yeah, you putting the hurt on the cheese? It's gonna make you need to take a poop. You've got to do it twice a day on tour in order to keep your sanity. That's what I've learned.

Jon: You've got to.

Nothing Is Sound was a really dark season for me, which is ironic because as far as numbers are concerned, we were playing for more people and selling more things than we had ever done before. And yet I was really dissatisfied. My marriage was in a bad spot. I think Tim and I were fighting all the time. Tim's my brother, so…

Tim Foreman: We're good at fighting each other.

Jon: We've done it for a long time, but this was a dark season of that. So, when I listen to that album or songs from that period, I definitely feel like there's this desperation and longing and yearning. Hope is a yearning of sorts, but there's a darkness in that album that kind of pervades the music to me when I think back on that season.

Ryley: I really like your voice and lyrics on that record. It's such a different path. I'm not trying to live in the past with you guys, because I really like your new record too, a whole lot. Everything you've done since then. 

But was that record kind of an F-you to people who wanted to hear the big singles and stuff? There's nothing wrong with that; that's amazing that people connected with those big, big songs you had on the radio 15, 16 years ago or whatever. But it seemed like that record was kind of in defiance of that. It's way darker and way weirder.

Jon: Yeah. I mean, it wasn't done to piss people off, but it was almost the other side of the teeter-totter. The yin-yang element where we were like, "OK, we've really hit this drum hard. We also need to make sure that we're telling the full truth of the human experience."

There's this book, Ecclesiastes, that says "Meaningless, meaningless, everything's meaningless." That, to me, feels like what Nothing Is Sound is attempting to speak into and sing into. "What is the worth any of this?" is where my head was at.

Ryley: Yeah, yeah. That record just rips so hard. I listen to it pretty much three times a week. I covered that song "The Shadow Proves the Sunshine" for this compilation thing.

Tim: [Genuinely surprised.] Wow!

Ryley: That's your headiest tune, I think. That's the most deep, deep, heady [one]. I love your lyrics on there so much and where you guys were going.

Anyways, I listened to your new record interrobang a bunch while I was weed-whacking. It's like a weed-whacking-in-Vermont anthem.

Jon: That's it! People wonder why we made the album and that was what we were thinking of!

Tim: That's the target demo, yeah.

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Ryley: People like me who weed-whack in Vermont in the high days of summer. We buy records, man.

So, I wanted to ask: I'm sure you get a lot of questions, like, [Self-serious affectation] "Did you make it in COVID? What was it like recording in COVID?" It's kind of a bummer because people ask me all the time, "What was it like to lay low in COVID as a musician?" But are you guys feeling good staying at home because you've been on the road for a bajillion years?

Tim: You know, I think it would have been a little easier to feel good about staying at home if it was on our terms, you know? We did that once three years ago. We had a hiatus where we took a year off of touring. That felt a little less scary because it was our idea. At any moment, we could be like, "But now we can go on tour again!" 

I think it's just the unknown of "Are we going to be able to provide for our families and keep everyone employed?" Just those small-business-owner headaches, and not feeling like you know what's at the other end of it all, there's that kind of underlying stress that was driving a lot of the thought at the time. I think that kind of stress did drive us to a different sort of creative headspace.

Jon: We just wanted to meet the moment, you know? A lot of people were coming up to me in my neighborhood and saying "We just need happy music to pull us out of this season." I was like, "OK! Maybe we need that! Or maybe we need songs that speak to this uncertainty in the moment that we're all feeling."

That's kind of what drove us into the studio. It just felt like there's this really important moment happening that is filled with uncertainty and unknown, and I think that's great fodder for asking questions in songs, which is, I think, what we do best.

Ryley: That's a really wonderful answer. Did you just stay hunkered down in San Diego the whole time while you were there?

Jon: Oddly enough, no.

Ryley: Where were you?

Tim: I think because we were home for the last year straight, hunkering down outside of San Diego was actually a possibility. So, we went up to L.A. at Sound City…

Ryley: SoCal! Salt life, baby!

[Jon and Tim laugh long and hard.]

Ryley: Dude, I mean, sick, congratulations, that's amazing. I'm from the Midwest. You said you were in Boston for a minute there. Was your locker outside in high school? I remember watching Disney movies when I was a kid and they'd be based in Southern California, and I'm like, "Holy s***! Their locker is outside and they're rollerblading to class!

Tim: Everything is outside. There's no indoor hallways. It's all outside.

Ryley: [Astonished.] You ate lunch outside?

Jon: OK, so here's the weirdest one. I moved from the East Coast to the West Coast freshman year. This will tell you everything. It starts raining and all the kids are freaking out. They ask the teacher, "Hey, can we go outside and watch the rain?" And she's like [Relenting voice] "Alright, sure. Go outside."

Ryley: It was a big, special day!

Jon: I remember being like, "This place is a little different than the East Coast! We're going outside to watch the rain! OK!"

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Ryley: Man, it's so much cooler than where I grew up! I'm so upset! Do you ever go to the Casbah in downtown San Diego?

Jon and Tim: Yes!

Ryley: That's where I play the most. You see the airplanes landing the whole time. I'm a San Diego head. I like it more than L.A. It's super far-out. There's the really nice, beautiful beaches, obviously, and there's a fast-food place that's vegan that I always get out there. I'm sure you've been by there. I can't remember the name. The Casbah is so sick! 

Jon: There's another flight every five minutes!

Ryley: Yeah, you're looking at a budget Southwest flight from Kansas City or something. I've played Soda Bar and Casbah. Those are the only two spots I've played. The little dinky clubs over there. 

Actually, the first time I ever played San Diego—I'm 32 now, I must have been 19 years old—I was in a terrible noise rock band. We went nowhere. We had nowhere to sleep, so we just slept on the beach, man. That was the first time I'd ever been to California. And then we woke up and got fish tacos and I was like, "OK. We saw San Diego." We were homeless on the beach and got their local cuisine.

Jon: That's it. That's the dream right there.

Ryley: No, it's really not. It was actually one of the lowest points of my life.

[Jon and Tim sputter a response.]

Ryley: I'm just kidding, dude! It's all good! Dude, beyond that, I just wanted to say thank you for indulging me in some weird, fried conversation.

Switchfoot. Photo: Erik Frost

Jon: I love it, man. Next time you're in San Diego, let's go surfing.

Ryley: I can't surf for my life. You guys are going to have to save me.

Jon: We'll teach you.

Ryley: That would be great. I'll hold your hand the whole time. Have a really good gig tonight. Please don't eat too much cheese. I hope you guys can have a really nice non-cheese-blocked dump every day on tour. Ryley, did you have any questions about the new record?

Ryley: Oh! For the GRAMMY readers. 

OK, real quick. Tony Berg produced a bunch of weird, fried records from back in the day, like Public Image Ltd. stuff. I don't know how that somehow through the years ends up with him producing Phoebe Bridgers and Switchfoot. This guy's got some weird, far-out… I remember him working with Keith Lavene and Jah Wobble from Public Image or whatever. So, what made you work with Tony Berg?

Jon: We had pretty much an entire album that felt close to being ready, and then when everything happened in 2020, it felt like it didn't fit any of what we were feeling. We just scrapped it and wanted someone who would actually push us. Tony was the only name that really came to the list. We felt like this guy, in many different ways, has this musical lexicon that can take us places we'd never been.

Tim: We were big fans of the Phoebe record, obviously, but actually… do you remember that band Phantom Planet?

Ryley: I do. Hell yeah. Big fan.

Tim: They came out with a record in early 2020. I love it; it's really great.

Ryley: And he produced that?

Tim: Yeah. We read an interview with them where they were talking about Tony being the only guy who could have made that record. That's kind of what started us down that path. We've been doing this a long time, so it's amazing to work with someone who's been doing this almost twice as long as us.

Jon: And bigger than that, someone who's been in it that long and is still passionate. Exuberantly passionate about music.

Read More: Molly Tuttle & Producer Tony Berg Discuss the Cross-Country Making Of Her New Covers Album

Tim: We'll play songs for each other and have tears in our eyes and love it, right? But you rarely meet people who have that type of passion. His favorite thing to do is to sit in the studio and play songs—old Beach Boys songs, whatever—and he'll turn around. It's a song I know he's listened to 50 or 6500 times and he'll have tears in his eyes playing these songs. I love seeing that kind of passion because you rarely find that.

Jon: So, we basically just spent two months playing songs for each other and arguing about politics and religion and an election year. It started out really awkward and tense and then it turned into this beautiful friendship. I love Tony. I'm sure he feels the same way. We're almost living proof that different people with different ideologies, different understandings of the world, can actually come together and create something beautiful, which gives me hope for America at large.

Ryley: Whoa. That's pretty heady.

I can't listen to my own vocals in the studio. Are you a comp-head or do you just rage through vocals in one take? I have to comp vocals so hard. I'm such a liar and a faker. I have imposter syndrome when I do vocals. But you're a much more talented singer than me, so I'm sure you crush it.

Jon: No, no. It's upending the space-time continuum when you're listening to your own voice singing back to you, so you're not alone in feeling like it's awkward. It is! It's weird, in and of itself! Vocals are strange. You want to present your soul in ones and zeroes on a compact disc or on Spotify or something.

Tim: We didn't do a lot of comping of his voice on this record. The whole approach for this record was that we wanted it to sound as transparent as possible—that it's just five guys in a room. We did a lot of pre-production, and when do bands do pre-production nowadays? That doesn't happen. We did a full month of pre-production, so when we went into the studio, we played the songs two or three times and were like, "OK. That's the take."

I think there's this beautiful, rough-around-the-edges imperfection that flows throughout the album.

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Ryley: Right. And the last question I have that sort of goes to your whole career is that I'm a big open-tuning head and you use a lot of cool open tunings in your music. I'm wondering where that sort of influence came into your guitar playing.

I don't know if you guys are super far-out with the open tunings, but are you, like, a Sonic Youth head? A John Fahey head? A Joni Mitchell head? Where did you learn to enjoy playing like that? 

Jon: That's a great question. I love Joni Mitchell, but I think the funny thing is that I'm not the type of guy who learns other peoples' songs. I don't know what people are doing. Even Kaki King or someone like that, I know it's got to be open tuning—there's slide involved sometimes—but I just kind of enjoy it and think "How can I reappropriate some feeling that I got there?"

Tim: Jeremy Enigk did a lot of open tuning on [1996's Return ofThe Frog Queen. That's when you started doing a lot of that, when you were into that record.

Jon: A friend of mine, she kind of showed me, "Hey, that same guitar you have—if you tune the keys open, then suddenly you've got a new instrument." It was actually around Nothing Is Sound. I think "Daisy" is the first song we ever did that was open tuning. It's a beautiful thing.

I think another feeling that I had on this record was "Here's an instrument I've had for my whole life and, suddenly, it sounds completely different." Have you tried rubber-bridge guitars?

Ryley: I've never tried a rubber-bridge guitar.

Jon: They're so fun.

Tim: You'll fall in love. It's incredible.

Ryley: It sounds like a hillbilly manifestation. Like a comedown off some weird prescription drug.

Jon: It might be that as well.

Tim: There's no sustain. It's like the most dead guitar you've ever played.

Jon: On this new album, "i need you (to be wrong)" and "the bones of us" have what sounds like a broken acoustic guitar.

Tim: It sounds like a kalimba, almost.

Ryley Walker in 2016. Photo: Jordi Vidal/Redferns via Getty Images

Ryley: Right on. And you put the record out yourself.

Jon: Yeah, we partnered up with Concord.

Ryley: Dude! Hell yeah! Independent for life! That's what I'm saying, dude! Dude, get that money! Don't split that 50 percent! Get paid! Yeah, dude! The kids gotta hear, man! 

Nah, there's good people at the labels, but sending out records on your own is one of the great joys of this biz. I think it's more important than ever to keep your art close to you. Too many cooks in the kitchen can be a bummer sometimes.

Jon: Yeah, that's one of the things that COVID actually helped with. No one was allowed in the studio. Band, producer, done.

Ryley: In your big, big major-label days, did you have 30 people running around the studio working the faders?

Tim: We had a couple of goofy moments for sure.

Jon: The main thing that was the weirdest was when people wanted to do co-writes. We were like, "We'll let you in the studio—you can give opinions and all that—but we're going to write the songs. Let us do that. Let us play the instruments and write the songs and you can twist all the knobs you want later."

Ryley: Yeah, man. All of us Footheads know it comes from the heart. Anybody else messing with that recipe is just going to mess it up.

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Aaron Cole
Aaron Cole

Photo: Cedrick Jones


Positive Vibes Only: Watch Aaron Cole Declare The Glory Of God With A Live Performance Of “SBTN”

Christian rapper Aaron Cole delivers a premiere performance of “SBTN,” a new track from his album, ‘SORRY, I CHANGED.’

GRAMMYs/Apr 29, 2024 - 04:56 pm

Aaron Cole may be uncertain about having enough money for the week, or if the people in his life will recover from their illnesses. But deep down, he believes that God will always have their backs, because "there's somethin' about the name Jesus."

In this episode of Positive Vibes Only, Cole delivers a live performance of the song "SBTN," which originally features Kirk Franklin and arrives on Cole's newest album, SORRY, I CHANGED, out April 26 via Provident Label Group. The project also sees appearances from fellow gospel singer DOE.

"I'ma give You Praise/ Your mercy follow me all of my days/ Always gon' love me, despite my ways," the Christian rapper sings. "And I know that/ That I'm blessed/ And I'm highly favored/ Why would I worry?"

"[This album] is not just music, but it's a movement of people that have been through it all, not perfect by any means," Cole said in an Instagram post. "Through it all, you're still standing and molding into the person God is calling you to be."

Press play on the video above to watch Aaron Cole's comforting performance of "SBTN," and check back to every Monday for more new episodes of Positive Vibes Only.

The musical group Selah stands posed together (L-R): Amy Perry, Todd Smith, and Allan Hall

Photo: Courtesy of Selah


Positive Vibes Only: Watch Selah Praise The “Higher Name” In Encouraging Performance Of New Single

Contemporary Christian trio Selah share the power of glorifying God in this live performance of their latest release, “Higher Name.”

GRAMMYs/Apr 15, 2024 - 03:39 pm

Contemporary Christian trio Selah has found liberation from their anxieties thanks to the power of their newest song, "Higher Name" released on March 22.

Despite grappling with sorrow, pain, and doubt, they have found a path that consistently offers them freedom and security. In this installment of Positive Vibes Only, Selah delivers a stripped-down performance of "Higher Name," with Allan Hall playing the keyboard while Amy Perry and Todd Smith sing on the track. 

"No higher name/ That's worthy of praise/ That can free us from our chains," Selah declares in the chorus. "Author of faith/ Your kingdom reigns/ Jesus, The Name above all names/ You're the one that we proclaim/ The eternal God who saves."

Beginning April 19, Selah will perform a string of live shows, including the Singing in the Sun Festival in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and appearances at the 40 Days and Nights of Gospel Music at the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky.

According to their artist biography, Hall says, "From the beginning, our words have been comfort and encouragement, and I don't think that has ever changed as a part of our mission... God has let us take the gift of music and share it and do something that could help someone.

Press play on the video above to hear Selah's motivational performance of "Higher Name," and check back to every Monday for more new episodes of Positive Vibes Only.

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Pop-Punk Roundtable Hero
(Clockwise, from top left): John Feldmann, T.J. Petracca and Morgan Freed of Emo Nite, Edith Victoria of Meet Me @ the Altar, Jon Foreman of Switchfoot, Josh Roberts of Magnolia Park, Ryan Key and Sean Mackin of Yellowcard.

Photos (Clockwise, from left): Joe Scarnici/Getty Images, Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Coachella, Scott Legato/Getty Images, Daniel Knighton/Getty Images, Rick Kern/Getty Images, Suzi Pratt/WireImage


The State Of Pop-Punk: A Roundtable Unpacks The Genre's Past, Present And Future

With a slew of promising, diverse rising acts and major returns from big players, pop-punk is as alive as ever. Artists and industry players sound off on what a booming 2023 means for the future of the subgenre.

GRAMMYs/Dec 20, 2023 - 06:31 pm

Back in the early aughts, pop-punk was largely homogenous: a sea of predominantly white men who took over the stages of Warped Tour in their black Converse, lamenting their ex-girlfriend or small-town existence with few exceptions. But 20 years later, the genre has shape-shifted and redefined itself — and it may be more omnipresent than ever. 

While pop-punk isn't necessarily at the forefront of mainstream music the way it was in the mid-2000s, it's undoubtedly permeating culture. Two of the biggest artists in 2023 — Olivia Rodrigo and SZA — incorporated the pop-punk playbook into their songs; Travis Barker has become a go-to collaborator for a slew of rising acts blurring genre lines; pop-punk stalwarts like blink-182, Fall Out Boy and Sum 41 are returning to the genre with massive albums and tours; and When We Were Young Fest continued leaning into the nostalgia of it all, while celebrating both legendary acts and newcomers. 

One of the most remarkable aspects of the new wave of pop-punk popularity is that it's no longer defined by white cisgender males. The genre has become a more inclusive place than ever, with some of the most interesting and impressive music coming from women or people of color. Bands like Meet Me @ The Altar, Magnolia Park and Pinkshift have been pivotal to making the scene more inclusive.

As pop-punk continues to evolve, what will it look like? How will it continue to take steps toward diversity and inclusion? invited several leaders and luminaries of the industry to discuss its current state, how it infiltrated the mainstream, and the genre's ever-growing community. 

Quotes from these interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity.

What has 2023 meant for pop-punk?

Ada Juarez, Meet Me @ The Altar drummer: 2023 has been a great discovery year for pop-punk. Lots of pop-punk bands have been touring and playing festivals and getting their names put out there for new people to hear!

Sean Mackin, Yellowcard violinist: 2023 is maybe the biggest year for the genre. There are new bands that are inspiring and changing what music means to them – and it was strong enough to bring Yellowcard back from the afterlife, so for me personally it means a lot!

Joe Horsham, Magnolia Park drummer: 2023 is a pretty good year for pop-punk because it's officially getting mainstream recognition, and I keep seeing more and more pop-punk bands getting on rock festivals. So the demand is high.

Louis Posen, Hopeless Records founder: Pop-punk continues to be an important sub-genre in our community. In the 2000s, the community broke into the mainstream which expanded the community to a level where you can see now, in the most full circle way, the impact it had on fans then.

Morgan Freed, Emo Nite co-founder: Who would have thought that 2023 meant anything for pop-punk 10 years ago? The fact that it's alive and well, growing and thriving with younger artists who've turned what their version of pop-punk is into their own, as well as bands we've loved forever either making a comeback, reuniting or throwing together new tours with newer artists, is remarkable and meaningful. It says a lot about where we are as a country, as a community and as people that are going through their teens now or have been alive long enough to see its return.

Ben Barlow, Neck Deep singer: 2023 was a great year to revitalize the genre and give it a platform for even more in 2024. We saw the return of blink-182, Green Day and Sum 41 releasing new music, as well as a whole bunch of smaller, up-and-coming artists doing good things, too.

Jon Foreman, Switchfoot singer: [It] feels like every decade or so a younger generation discovers the beautifully dissonant energy that we all loved when we were young — and pop-punk returns from the grave like a phoenix reborn. 2023 has felt like the crest of that wave, with guitars and drums finally ringing out loud and proud once again. 

In 2023 pop-punk seemed to reach an even more ubiquitous level. How have you seen the genre regain relevance in recent years?

Juarez: Pop-punk has been a genre that tends to come and go in mainstream society. These past few years I've seen pop-punk get really popular once again — especially with blink-182 having their comeback and festivals like Adjacent Fest, Riot Fest, and When We Were Young having such pop-punk-filled lineups. Not only that, but trailblazers like Travis Barker collaborating with artists outside of the pop-punk realm and introducing their listeners to a whole new sound bring a whole new generation of pop-punkers.

Tristan Torres, Magnolia Park guitarist: Pop-punk has been bubbling since 2020, especially because of Travis Barker collaborating with new artists like KennyHoopla. But now pop-punk is pretty much synonymous with rock/alternative. It seems to be the go-to move for even pop artists when they do a rock song, such as Demi Lovato.

Mackin: 2023 is really a culmination of listeners showcasing their passion and love for music. I think it's a time of celebration and healing after a couple of sheltered and dark years.

Johnny Minardi, Head of Fueled By Ramen: Bands are having fun again and I think that's contagious. The tours are selling more tickets than ever even without gigantic mainstream hits.

Fefe Dobson, singer/songwriter: I saw that pop-punk was being championed and celebrated much more. It wasn't only musically through charting, but through fashion and culture.

John Feldmann, singer/songwriter and producer: Hearing Fall Out Boy on Sirius[XM] Hits 1, selling out the When We Were Young Festival, watching the Punk Rock Museum blow up, seeing both blink-182, and Green Day have bigger live numbers than ever. it's undeniable!

Dayna Ghiraldi-Travers, Big Picture Media founder: For me personally, it never went away. I have been working with New Found Glory since 2014's Resurrection and with Neck Deep since 2012's Rain in July EP, and haven't stopped since. I do think the return of Tom [DeLonge] in blink-182 did a lot for the genre, but overall the genre has held its ground quite nicely over the last decade.

Barlow: Nostalgia and youthful exuberance will always be a part of pop-punk. It's a broad spectrum in terms of the sound, the message and the subject matter, and so it appeals to people on a number of levels. [It] also maybe [has] something to do with rap, pop and electronic music taking inspiration from the genre allowing it to slowly filter into the mainstream. 

Why do you think this music — whether old or new — is resonating so strongly again?

Juarez: Old pop-punk never truly "died" or "got old." We hear the iconic pop-punk songs we all loved growing up constantly in today's day and age! Personally, I spend a lot of my time listening to older pop-punk, such as blink-182, Green Day, and Simple Plan; even newer than those, like The Story So Far, Knuckle Puck, and Neck Deep. It never fails to send me through a whirlwind of emotions, happiness, angst, nostalgia. It's a great genre to feel different emotions, and that's why it'll never truly get old.

Mackin: Music does go through cycles, and we are in a really refreshing time where the energy and the angsty sort of nature just collide, and it feels new again.

KennyHoopla, musician: History always repeats itself. On top of that, the world is going through a lot right now and pop-punk/emo music has resembled that. People are naturally in an emotional state right now.

Dobson: For myself, I crave songs that I can sing at the top of my lungs and let all my emotions hang out unapologetically. I think we just needed that release, and pop-punk has that rebellious and raw, honest quality to it.  

Vince Ernst, Magnolia Park keyboardist: I think this style of music is pretty relevant because it just has a youthful energy. The messages of those songs such as heartbreak, feeling like you don't fit in and wanting to be your own person will always resonate with the younger generations. Also, the classic songs of the past like "Misery Business," "Sugar, We're Going Down" and "All The Small Things" are just great songs. And great music will always stand the test of time.

Minardi: Lyrically, the genre has always been relatable for any mood. I don't think other genres do that as much, especially for younger fan bases.

Foreman: Sometimes it's helpful to step back and look at the broad strokes of adolescent development or even to associate a Jungian archetype to a specific age demographic. Post-pubescent humans are challengers, dreamers: questioning the established rules, pushing back on boundaries and societal norms. Punk music provides a perfect venue for these doubts and questions. Punk thrives when society is riddled with hypocrisy, greed and injustice. Punk rock is an organism that feeds on the dark, ugly, shameful parts of our culture, exposing these social ills to the light. Punk rock asks questions and challenges the status quo. Fortunately for punk-rock, (and unfortunately for humans) these dark times provide ample fodder for punk songs. 

Freed: I think we're going through a time where the world is so f—ed, and the information we receive is so quick and vile that we yearn for something like nostalgia (I wish there was a better term). There are also always going to be teenagers, and teenagers need something to listen to that speaks to them in a way they can understand and relate to. They're smart and see through manufactured, overly-produced s—. And that time is now. The teens have discovered emo and pop-punk, and that rocks. 

Ghiraldi-Travers: I think this music brings an energy that other genres do not. After a worldwide pandemic and the political climate, we need that high-energy and politically charged anti-establishment inspiration that we get out of pop-punk to keep pushing us along. 

Barlow: There's a realness and an honesty to pop-punk, as well as energy. Something undeniably fun and catchy, the soundtrack to your best times and the arm round the shoulder in your worst times. 

Feldmann: I think people want to have fun again at shows, and now that the pandemic is over people are actually going out and living their lives! I think the indie bedroom thing, (i.e. music to do homework to) is still super relevant, but people want to see live instruments being played and actually have an experience.

Posen: Pop-punk has a very close connection between artist and fan. They're almost one and the same and they are in it together. That makes for an incredibly connected community that wants to help and promote each other.

How can pop-punk make more space for marginalized artists?

Dobson: When my first album came out, I remember feeling like I didn't quite fit in, which I was already kind of used to growing up. I didn't really know where my space was at first but I did find a sense of community in the genre with a few other artists. I think it was because we celebrated each other's individuality. We shopped from similar stores, we enjoyed similar influences and we just wanted to be truly seen and heard — some of us for the first time ever.

Foreman: If punk rock is the definition of anti-establishment, then the genre has an obligation to be leading the way forward in making room for the marginalized and championing the causes of the ones who don't fit in.

Juarez: Pop-punk can always make more space for marginalized artists by just being open-minded with show lineups, festivals and even with communities! The more we talk about the bands around us, the more those bands get opportunities, too. Many people and artists from various walks of life listen to and/or play pop-punk — we all deserve these opportunities.

KennyHoopla: By doing it in the places that really matter. Helping local bands and giving your support to local scenes.  I've seen fundraisers for dying venues, free shows, collaboration within the scene [help].

Josh Roberts, Magnolia Park singer: Pop-punk, as we all know, has been dominated by mostly white guys, so it's been a little difficult for marginalized artists to have a space. For example, we get a lot of racist comments. But I think we can make the space safer by just taking the time to educate ourselves and being open to the messages that these artists bring to the table, even if it makes you uncomfortable. 

Barlow: With pop-punk being part of the alternative scene, it's very inclusive and welcoming. Everyone is bound by the shared love of something that often feels like more than music. However, it's historically been pretty white and we can always do better, so, no matter who you are, who you love, the color of your skin, welcome, you'll love it here. Start a band, get involved in your local scene in whatever way you can [and] know that this is a world where everyone can thrive and have a voice. 

Posen: We can be more aware of artists and fans who share the same passions, interests and values but find themselves outside the community. If we raise awareness, both those in the community would reach out and those outside would feel more welcome. At Hopeless, we make it part of all our conversations about signings, hiring and other decisions to make sure we aren't unconsciously leaving anyone out. One of the results is a current artist roster where front people are more than 50% female or non-binary identifying artists.

Ghiraldi-Travers: If the most established artists take younger bands out on the road with them, it is the best way for the marginalized bands to gain new fans. It would also be great for the more popular artists to give a space for features on songs they are releasing that connect directly to that new band's Spotify account. 

Freed: I feel lucky that this scene is the most accepting community I've ever encountered. My wish is that as new generations of artists emerge into the scene and create new spaces within the pop-punk community, [so] inclusivity will be so ingrained into the scene that it won't even be a question.

How has When We Were Young helped give pop-punk a more mainstream boost?

Juarez: A festival as exclusive and influential as When We Were Young was a huge boost for pop-punk in the mainstream — it's a great opportunity for such a community of people to come together and listen to their favorite artists in the same place and create memories. Everyone talks about it, everyone posts about it, people who missed out wish they were able to be there.

Posen: The When We Were Young Festival has played a significant role in the rise in popularity and excitement around iconic artists from our community and the connection they have to the newer generation of artists.

Mackin: Yellowcard grew up dreaming to one day be on the Vans Warped Tour, and in our career we were included in their lineup nine separate times. So playing WWWYF really felt nostalgic, and getting to share the stage with so many of our friends in one place, I think it showed other people and listeners (who may not have already been familiar with the scene) how many people love this sub-culture of music. 

Minardi: Beyond the 85,000 [people] in attendance each day, the social media presence that goes viral with announcements covers a lot of ground that standard roll out plans for music don't always hit.

Feldmann: When my band Goldfinger played When We Were Young, we had close to 50,000 people watching us. I would say 80% of them had never seen our band. I think it was a great place for young people to see some of the legacy acts and also see some of the new current pop-punk bands. That festival was huge.

Foreman: I love to see a lot of my friends on the bill, bands that haven't really toured for years are getting back together to play the festival. And I love that the world is getting to hear their songs again. 

Ghiraldi-Travers I was lucky enough to attend When We Were Young in 2022 and was hired to run the press room at the 2023 festival and the energy of this festival is palpable. You walk the grounds and see ages of fans who are small enough to be on their parents shoulders and fans in their sixties. It has brought together all types of music lovers and is incredible to witness a sea of emo/pop-punk/rock fans flood the streets of Las Vegas. 

Freed: I think When We Were Young took all the best bands and brought them back into the spotlight. I hope that people who have been hooked back into the scene by WWWY's nostalgia focus are also able to check out the passionate and heartfelt work that other artists/creatives are doing to push the needle forward on emo.

Which artists do you believe are bringing pop-punk into the future and why?

Juarez: There are many artists out there bringing the genre into the future and some of them are us, Olivia Rodrigo, Anxious, Willow Smith, KennyHoopla, Daisy Grenade, Pool Kids, Pollyanna, and Citizen! The list goes on and on. All these artists are bringing something new to the table, whether it be a new sound or merging pop-punk with other genres. It's refreshing and new — as it should be.

KennyHoopla: Neck Deep, Hot Mulligan, Magnolia Park, Knuckle Puck are taking pop-punk into the future.

Freddie Criales, Magnolia Park guitarist: TX2 is someone who is bringing pop-punk to the future. Not only is his music good, but he also makes it a point to make his shows a safe space for marginalized groups. He speaks out against a lot of the injustices that are put on people in the LGBTQIA+ community, and I think that's pretty important. Stand Atlantic is another band that comes to mind. They are really good at infusing a lot of futuristic sounds into their music, and I think that's important because that keeps the music modern, fresh and inspiring to the next gen.

Minardi: Games We Play, jxdn, Meet Me @ The Altar, Hot Mulligan and Anxious are all doing it in their own authentic way and kicking ass.

Feldmann: Turnstile, Hot Mulligan, Heart Attack Man, KennyHoopla, Alexsucks, 408...there's too many to mention here!

Ghiraldi-Travers: I see incredible potential in House Parties, NOAHFINNCE, Greyson Zane, Hot Mulligan, Felicity, Action/Adventure, Magnolia Park, Spanish Love Songs, and of course, Meet Me @ The Altar. 

Dobson: I think Avril [Lavigne] continues to bring the genre into the future. I love that she's always been herself and stuck to her vision, which is something that isn't always easy to do in this industry.

Freed: Title Fight, Meet Me @ The Altar, Noelle Sucks, Pile of Love, Captain Jazz, Home is Where, charmer, Egbert the nerd, Petey, awake but still in bed, Heart Attack Man, Alien Boy, Carly Cosgrove, Dogleg, Hot Mulligan and tons of already popular artists switching their styles to pop-punk/emo.

Barlow: I think KennyHoopla, for sure. To see a Black-fronted pop-punk band — shout-out Magnolia Park — is hugely inspiring and nothing but a good thing for the scene. [Josh Roberts] has insane energy and a captivating stage presence. He writes from the heart and takes little drops from other genres which will absolutely push the genre forward. 

Posen: From the Hopeless roster, artists like Scene Queen, NOAHFINNCE, TX2, LOLO, Pinkshift, phem, and others are leading us into the new chapter of our scene. They are not stuck on sounding a certain way, looking a certain way or saying a specific thing. They represent how young people feel today.

Where do you think the genre is headed in 2024 and beyond?

Dobson: Pop-punk, though [it] wasn't in the spotlight or "mainstream" for a minute, never really went anywhere. It's always been there. 

KennyHoopla: It's either going to blow up, or show that it was truly just a just a moment that paired well with the world's events. Only time can tell, but there will always be a space for those who grew up listening to pop-punk and just never grew out of it.

Juarez: I think pop-punk will continue to mold itself into a genre that many different people want to be a part of. It's more than a genre — it's also a community. The pop-punk community is vast and should be accepting and open-minded.

Minardi: Hopefully it's headed to a place that can help launch the next batch of great artists versus only supporting the legacy.

Roberts: I think pop-punk will be something that people use to infuse into their sound — like a hyper-pop artist who uses a pop-punk vocal cadence. Or, a pop artist using a pop-punk guitar riff. At this point, artists aren't really making one type of genre. They infuse a bunch of different genres together to make something new. So I think pop-punk will be more of an integration than a standalone genre. But of course, there's still gonna be a few artists just doing the classic sound.

Posen: The newer pop-punk and other related genres in our community are becoming more diverse with less boundaries [in terms of] sounds, look, historical culture and other differences. It's so cool to see the melting pot of people, sounds and ideas create music and a scene with far less limitations creatively and otherwise.

Ghiraldi-Travers: The genre is more solidified than ever and is only going to continue to grow. The established talent is cranking out some of the best albums of their career which is only going to inspire up-and-coming musicians to keep playing and keep growing. They see longevity, and it is inspiring. 

Barlow: The current crop of bands are the best they've ever been, and the heavy hitters are still very active which makes for a healthy scene. The scene is strong enough right now to keep making waves and growing, old fans rediscovering and new fans being made. Plus, it's only a matter of time before the next blink-182 are found in the mountains of California, farting and laughing at dick jokes. 

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Kendrick Lamar GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic


GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016

Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.

A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.

This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system. 

"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."

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He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.

"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

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