The term “pop-punk” has found its way into the same generic wasteland as “indie rock” and “alternative rock.” What does it even mean? To us, pop-punk is the product of post-hardcore, emo, screamo — and, really, any of the “core” bands — mishmashed together with all of the emotions we felt in our late-teens and early 20s.
That’s not to say the genre is specific to that age group by any means. For example, with pop-punk, you’re just as likely to go to a show and see upbeat, party rock followed by some bleeding-heart acoustics, heavy guitar riffs and a stage dive or two. It’s all-encompassing.
Here in the DFW, we have a handful of local bands keeping this scene alive, thriving and its fans begging for more. There are even festivals dedicated to the genre, like Third String Production’s So What?! Music Festival, taking place March 24-26. These are 10 acts you should keep an eye out for.
Forever the Sickest Kids (pictured at top)
FTSK have been dishing out some of the best pop-punk tracks since the mid-2000s. The band has been touring consistently for almost a decade. Since the 2008 release of their debut album Underdog Alma Mater, they’ve teamed up with DFW native Selena Gomez for a duet version of their ’08 single “Whoa Oh! (Me vs. Everyone),” landed themselves on three Punk Goes... compilation albums and played with All Time Low, Good Charlotte and Third Eye Blind.
But according to drummer Kyle Burns, the band have been laying low since playing Warped Tour in 2013. “We were on the road touring for something like eight years straight, about 11 months out of the year, and we were only home, really, for about a month out of the year.” FTSK decided to go on hiatus to pursue other careers and relationships.
But now FTSK is back and ready to perform at this year’s So What?! Music Festival on March 25 at Airbags Stadium in Grand Prairie. And for diehard pop-punk fans, the word on the street is they’ll only be playing tracks from Underdog Alma Mater.
Crown The Empire
Leaning more toward the metalcore side of things is Crown the Empire. The band formed in 2010, when most of the current band members were still attending Colleyville Heritage High School. They’ve quickly made a name for themselves among pop-punk enthusiasts, releasing an EP and three full-length albums. The hype surrounding their first EP, Limitless, helped score the band their first U.S. tour and eventually a contract with Rise Records in March 2012.
The band is currently on tour with Pierce the Veil and Falling in Reverse. And as of their fourth day in, they’ve already had a near-death experience in the form of a Canadian blizzard. But the time frozen in their van has allowed them to reflect on their experience so far.
“When we started out in Dallas, we were just a drop in the metalcore scene, but what I do understand is the need for rock, in general, to come back,” frontman Andy Leo says. “I think with the Trump thing, it seems like the end of the ‘we’re going to stay young forever’ mentality. People have a reason to be upset again, which is great for rock music ... punk doesn’t exist without someone or something to say, ‘fuck it, fuck the system.’”
The Happy Alright
The Happy Alright is just that: happy, alright? No, but seriously, frontman Sterling Gavinski and the rest of the band are rarely seen without big, beaming smiles on their faces. While the band itself has only been around for a handful of years, they promote themselves and tour like industry veterans. In fact, Gavinksi has been known to help book and support other local bands, as well as touring musicians.
“[It’s important to me] that touring bands have a place to stay, that they get paid, that your friends come out and that they have a good time. It’s less about putting on shows than it’s about creating a cohesive, positive music scene. It’s about embracing the organic music community, rather than encouraging the capitalist mecca.”
Lately though, the band has been super busy with writing and working on some upcoming projects, including their slot at this year’s So What?! Music Festival and even getting somewhat political. “The music scene can have a lot of negativity, racism, misogyny — even though punk is supposed to give people a place to be themselves,” Gavinski says. Over the last few months, the band has been taking a stand for civil rights by throwing fundraisers for Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, and joining forces with other organizations that support these groups.
Under Dog House
Under Dog House’s resident jack-of-all-instruments, Cody Walton, sees his band as having a more eclectic stance on the pop-punk genre. “We try to approach things more musically, like we have a French Waltz [track]. [It’s] kind of like Say Anything, with that punk edge.”
Walton describes their sound as more or less all over the place. “The whole thing with us and writing is that we just want it to be very different. Poppy cute is what we aim for instead of angry finger pointing,” he says. “Most pop-punk music has the same lyrical content, in the sense that it’s usually emo, and I feel like we stick to that, we just do it in a very non-traditional manner.”
Last year, Under Dog House released their EP The Dead Years. It was the first time all members of the band had written the songs together. Right now they’re writing new demo material and prepping for their third appearance at So What?! Festival.
Another band toeing the line of pop-punk in DFW is Oh, Weatherly. This quintet’s influences are more along the lines of early-mid 2000s pop-punk bands like Mayday Parade, Cartel and All Time Low. After signing with Triumphant Records, the band was able to put out three music videos and an EP Long Nights And Heavy Hearts, which helped them go on tour and get on the bill for So What?!
This year, they’re focused on writing and finishing up their second EP. “We just came back from recording our second EP with Casey Bates. He produced Skylit Drive, Pierce the Veil and Chiodos from Seattle,” guitarist Angel Bedoy says. There are definitely more shows and more tours on the horizon for this up-and-coming band as soon as their new EP drops.
Above It All
This four-piece pop-punk group has been busy playing local shows; supporting another pop-punk favorite, Cute Is What We Aim For, for their 10-year anniversary tour; and gearing up for the release of their new EP Storylines. The band recorded Storylines with gold record producer Kevin Gates (The Ready Set, Never Shout Never) and it’s slated to be released on March 10. After that, they’ll head out on a quick four-city Texas tour, followed by a more extended tour over the northeast this summer.
As far as influences go, lead singer Reece Clark says the band’s members all come from different musical backgrounds, with influences ranging from Tool to All Time Low and even fellow Dallasite and Grammy winner Maren Morris. And when they’re not tirelessly hustling to get the Above It All name out there, they are busy with other projects.
“Outside of the band, to keep busy I do a lot of freelance photography and church gigs. Josh [Roa-Martinez] and Devin [Uhrig] play at the same church that I do, Revolution Church in McKinney, but Devin works some bar tending gigs, while Josh is a concert promoter,” Clark says. “Not too sure what Caleb does, actually. He’s kind of a quiet kid.”
The News Can Wait
Even though the News Can Wait has been around for about 10 years, guitarist Marcus Lopez’s explanation of that band’s name couldn’t be more perfect for the current times. “It’s just more or less about not feeding into letting the media control your opinions or beliefs about things,” he says. “It’s about the individual. It’s about having your own stance on things and doing the homework to create your belief system.”
Early last year they released their Beige EP and they’ll be releasing a new project this spring. For this new project, they’ve enlisted the mixing help of Mike Watts, who’s worked with Glassjaw and Deerhunter. In March they’ll make their third appearance at So What?! Music Festival, followed by a full U.S. tour.
Veering back toward the traditional definition of pop-punk we find Live Again. Originally comprised of lead singer Johnathan Ballew and drummer Juan Cano, the two just started writing together and it slowly snowballed into the crazy idea to start a band. Shortly thereafter, an opportunity with one of their musical heroes came up and the band was officially set in motion.
“We saw that Devin Oliver from I See Stars was doing recordings for bands, so we tried that and it ended up working,” Ballew says. “That ended up being the Perfect Lies EP — that’s when we gained Jose [Hernandez] and Daniel [Hernandez] along the way.”
While the band’s influences vary from Foo Fighters to Broadside, the music they make is consistently happy, pop-infused rock music that you can tap your feet to. And for Ballew, the music is as much about building and supporting a community. “Everyone in the scene is just unbelievably kind,” he says. “Actually, we have a show coming up on March 15th at Sterling’s [Gavinski] dorm, with Sterling playing drums for us. ... It should be interesting.”
According to the band’s lead singer, Jeff Lowe, all three of the Pseudo Future’s members had been in other bands, but they all broke up around the same time. As Lowe puts it, “the stars aligned” and Pseudo Future was formed.
This three-piece has been around for about three years and has a smoother, more bass-heavy vibe than the rest of the bands on our list. The guitar is fiery and the vocals are unapologetically confident.
So far, Pseudo Future have released two EPs, along with their debut album Time Slips Away. Lowe says that in addition to touring heavily, the band is writing for the next album, which should be out sometime next year.
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Bowling for Soup
Bowling for Soup might be the band most synonymous with DFW pop-punk. Last year they released their 16th and 17th albums, Drunk Dynasty and Acoustic in a Freakin’ English Church. The former was completely crowdfunded and the latter was the band’s first live album.
Since their “Girl All The Bad Guys Want” days, things have gotten, well, interesting. For example, Bowling for Soup wrote and performed the theme song to Disney’s Phineas and Ferb. And frontman Jaret Reddick is also a voice actor who lends his voice to one of the characters on the show, as well as Chuck E. Cheese. Bassist Erik Chandler has already branched off to start his own band, The Erik Chandler Band, which released its debut album last year.
But Bowling for Soup fans don’t have to worry that the members’ other pursuits will put an end to the band anytime soon. In addition to a headlining gig at the Slam Dunk Festival in the UK, their tour dates this year include the Wildflower Festival in Richardson this spring and the Dallas stop of Warped Tour.