When you think "pop punk," what comes to mind? I usually think of teen angst, minor chords and leather wristbands from Hot Topic (or anything from Hot Topic, really). But the truth is pop punk is actually a lot more than moody lyrics. Times Like These is a Long Island-based pop punk outfit that's out to prove that the genre is something to be respected. I sat down with Mike Acampora, the band's lead singer, and we talked about the state of the genre.
Derek Sherry: First of all, tell everyone who may not know about the band.
Mike Acampora: Well, I'm Mike! I play rhythm guitar and I sing for the band, Eddie Giuffo plays lead guitar and Zach Dyer plays bass and does backing vocals. At the moment we do not have a drummer so in the studio, I fill in on the drums! All together were called Times Like These and you can find our singles on iTunes, YouTube and Spotify. You can also find us on Facebook.
DS: Are you coming out with, or do you plan on coming out with, anything new?
MA: Yes! Our debut EP, "Follow Your Stupid Dreams," is coming out in the next few months. We're in the process of recording the final two songs off of it and then it will be ready to release. Our two singles, "Wild Minds" and "Touch Called Remedy," are from that EP.
DS: "Follow Your Stupid Dreams" is a really interesting name. How did you come up with it?
MA: Thank you! It's funny you should ask that. So here it is. Everybody has a job that they want to do. No matter what, at some point in your life you will figure out what you want to do. It may not be now, it may not be tomorrow, but it will definitely happen. Some people want to be teachers; some people want to be astronauts. Some people want to be doctors; some people want to be musicians. When you set a high goal for yourself, people will either support you or remind you of all the other people that tried. People dont take it seriously, and it truly is sad. So I think "follow your stupid dreams" is as blunt as it sounds. Don't be normal and always get lost in what you want to do!
DS: Let me back up for a second. What got you all into making music?
MA: Well that's different for all of us; I think a lot of it for me had to do with growing up always around music. I don't mean people in my family played music; I mean I always listened to it. It was always what I went through when I needed an escape. I know that for Zack, it was the fact that he wanted to play guitar, but he said he sucked at chords, so he decided to play bass, and Eddie decided he wanted to be a musician after hearing "Popping Champagne," by All Time Low.
DS: So it's safe to say that All Time Low is an influence for you guys. What else influences the band?
MA: Such as bands?
DS: Yeah, or anything, really.
MA: Well Zach doesn't listen to pop punk as much as Eddie and I, but we all definitely enjoy the music we play. Eddie and I share more of the same musical influences (Blink-182, All Time Low, State Champs, Neck Deep) and Zach likes heavier bands ( Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails). But outside of music, we all really enjoy wrestling. We love watching it. We all actually hung out all night for the Royal Rumble last month, and we all were our favorite wrestlers for Halloween.
DS: So how did all of you meet, and what made you decide to name the band Times Like These?
MA: We all originally went to school together. Zach was kind of a part of my first real show, because my band didn't have a bass player, and he filled in. That was in eighth grade, so that was a long time ago. I met Eddie back in middle school, but we became friends in high school, and we jammed a few times. Nothing really serious happened until we ran into each other at work, and we discussed starting a band; that was really when all the puzzle pieces fell into place.
As for Times Like These, we originally started as a five-piece band called Easy Target, which went well for a few months. But the timing wasn't right, and our guitar player was leaving for college, so we just decided to break it off. But from that day forward, Zach, Eddie and I were still writing and jamming, and we realized the three of us had a good connection, and we all felt that time was right to get the ball rolling.
DS: When you're writing a song, what do you tend to look for, in terms of design? Do you touch on certain themes, or do you just write what you're feeling?
MA: I think feelings correspond with themes, because when you write about your feelings, it follows a certain theme. We don't pick a topic and then write about it. I think we feel a certain way and we write about that because it makes it more personal, and that's how you're gonna get your best song.
DS: What direction are you hoping to take the band?
MA: We're all just hoping for the best. We know it's a hard industry to get into, but we're having a lot of fun and making some awesome friends along the way.
DS: What do you think of the state of pop punk today? Is the genre as good or better than it was 20 years ago, or is it slowing down?
MA: Whoa, that's a tough one (laughs). I tend to think that pop punk has stood its ground through all these years. I think we all tend to glorify older pop punk, like Blink-182 and Green Day and New Found Glory because that was from when we were younger, and we all link those bands to better, simpler times because that's how things were for most people when they were young. For the most part, I think it's just as good now as it was then, and I think the genre has made a name for itself; it isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
DS: If you weren't doing pop punk, what genre would you be playing instead?
MA: I like to think it would be something similar. We all recently discussed what we would probably sound like; I know Zach has his own solo project he's been doing for a long time, and it sounds nothing like pop punk, and I don't know where Eddie would go. I tend to think he'd either be playing a little heavier music or something on the other end, like Twenty One Pilots. But I think I would probably be doing something related to pop punk, maybe something similar to a Panic! at the Disco sound.
DS: What advice do you give to someone who wants to learn to play music or start a band of their own?
MA: Don't give up! No matter how tough things get, or no matter how many times it takes you to get it right, don't give up. All the bumps you hit shape you into the person you'll become, and that's not a bad thing. If it's something you are truly passionate about, then stick with it no matter what.
Times Like These's new album, "Follow Your Stupid Dreams," is coming out soon.