The State Champs
Getting to know the State Champs
Last Friday (June 17th) at Pizza Luce’ local rockers The State Champs displayed their trophies and some great tunes. Kind of a Cranberries meets punk and heavy metal influenced sound, but it becomes something unique and hip. Luce’ had a sparse crowd as most marathoners had settled in to sleep by 1 am for their early run. This left a few stragglers and nightowls to enjoy some great music. Amy Abts (Lead Vocals/Guitar) wrote in her online journal, “we played Pizza Luce’ the night before the marathon and everyone was expecting downtown to be packed... Alas, downtown was dead.”
I had a chance to catch that show and wanted to get to know The State Champs better. I talked to Amy Abts and Eric Anderson (Bass) about their music, the band, and how a bass player was influenced by Iron Maiden?
Andrew: How long have you all been in the music business?
Amy: I've been playing for about seven years, and have put out 2 self-titled CDs since. I started the The State Champs about 2 years ago with the other guys.
Eric: I have been playing shows since about 1998... but I was never really in a "real" band till I joined The State Champs in 2001.
Andrew: When did you learn to play the guitar?
Amy: I play the piano, guitar, and sing. I took piano lessons growing up so I learned how to read music and theory that way. I taught myself how to play guitar when I was 17. Since then I've had so much theater experience (21 years) and learned how to breathe and sing through my theater training. When I was a kid I used to sing along to the radio obsessively. I would put a Walkman on and sing along to a Madonna tape and record just my voice singing along. Pretty dorky… I also had a fake rock band called The Cobras with the kids in my neighborhood. We used wood cut-out instruments and lip-synched, as well as put on fake shows in our parent's garages. We used to get more people at those than we do at State Champs shows sometimes. Maybe we should change our name to The Cobras.
Andrew: So where is everyone from?
Eric: Greg "Cougar" Conley and I are from Superior, Amy is originally from Rochester, and Zac Bentz is from Proctor.
Andrew: So what kind of music did you guys grow up listening to?
Amy: My parents had a great record collection, so I ended up listening to their records. I remember The Beatles Sergeant Pepper's and The Beach Boys and Harry Nilsson. I love Harry Nilsson. The first tape I bought with my own money was Micheal Jackson's Thriller. My mom was a big folk head so I heard a lot of Baez, Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, and Odetta. Growing up in the 80's I listened to a lot of FM top 40 radio I have to admit.
Eric: Actually I grew up listening to very lame music... and then about 1998 my friend turned me on to electronic music. I started listening to more and more kinds of music once I started working at a college radio station. Now I find myself listening to anything from hardcore experimental noise to synth-pop to basic rock and / or roll.
Andrew: Speaking of musical preferences.. Eric, can you explain what you meant by “Iron Maiden Bass” when I was at your show?
Eric: Hehe, I loves me some Iron Maiden, and the bass stylings of Steve Harris have kind of shown me that you can do more than just play root notes along with the guitars. It's a more percussive style of playing. Anyone can play root notes, and along with the guitars, but if you can add a bit more depth to the song by playing a different note in the same key, or whatever, it makes a difference. There is even a song where I play one note through the entire song, it's not about playing along with the guitar note-for-note, it's more about adding that extra depth to the music.
Andrew: Amy, I read in your bio and other places about your theater experience. How is acting similar/different to having a band?
Amy: Acting is very different because you are playing a role. I'm very genuine when I play music, meaning I don't have a character or anything. I would venture many musicians do, for instance Wierd Al (who is a genius) or Marilyn Manson, ect. ect. Playing in a rock band is similar to acting in some ways like entertaining people and communicating with an audience. As much as I hate to admit it, because I don't like to think of myself as a "ham" or loving attention, I need to perform. I need that back and forth energy one gets from being in front of an audience.
Andrew: So when you write a song, what kinds of things inspire you?
Amy: I have notebooks and notebooks full of stuff. Some days I sit down and write and it's mediocre. Other days it just all comes together and there's a great song. I'm always surprised when things go swimmingly and a song pops out all together with melody and lyrics. Usually i'll get a chord progression first and get words later. We all appreciate the craft of a good song - a great melody, dynamics, a tightly written song. I usually come in with a song written and we pound it out until it finds itself. We aren't too cerebral about it, sometimes over-thinking a song can ruin it. So it's all about the songs.
Andrew: So when can we expect the new album to be coming out?
Amy: The full album will be out by the end of summer. Hopefully before that, but I don't want to jinx it. We would love to self-release it and get distribution, then if it does well see if there are any labels interested. We would also like to do a little tour in the fall to promote it as well - we'll see how my mini-van is driving. We would love for all the lovers of rock to buy it! and come see our shows!
Andrew: Lastly, how can people learn more about State Champs?