An interview with Josh McKelvie, Jeremy Champlin, Zach Boyer & Steve Gendall of Waiver Wire

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Recently, we had the pleasure of speaking with the members of Pop Punk outfit, Waiver Wire. Among other things, we touch on what they’ve been up to during the lockdown, their newest music, the band’s history, and a whole lot more.

If you would like to learn more about the work of Waiver Wire, head over to the band’s Facebook page, and dig in. Once you’ve done that, check out this interview with Waiver Wire. Cheers.

Anthony:
Guys, how have these past couple of years been for you? It looks like you’ve been busy with some new music.

Josh:
The past two years have been a roller coaster, as it has been for us all. We dropped Hold Your Applause, in February of 2020, booked a bunch of shows in spring/summer to promote it, then had everything canceled by COVID. We hibernated for a year or so like everyone else, before getting back at it this past spring. Since the summer, we’ve done a ton of gigging, and it’s been nothing short of amazing to be back playing live. And in late summer, we finally managed to re-enter the studio and record our first new music post-pandemic.

Anthony:
Where are you guys from? Where did the four of you meet?

Josh:
We’re based out of Worcester, MA, which is smack dab in the middle of the state. In reality, we are scattered all over central, and eastern Massachusetts, but we practice out of Worcester, and consider ourselves a “Worcester Band.” As Jeremy mentions, the band was formed via Craigslist. He and I have used Craigslist to network with musicians for many years. It’s the best resource available if you don’t already know someone.

The lineup is as follows: Josh McKelvie on lead vocals/rhythm guitar, Jeremy Champlin on bass, Zach Boyer on lead guitar, and Steve Gendall on drums.

Jeremy:
We met where all the classic bands meet like Queen and Led Zeppelin…Craigslist. [Laughs].

Anthony:
Where did it all begin for you guys? What got you into playing Pop Punk?

Josh:
I first fell in love with music the first time I heard KISS. The music, costumes, and stagemanship made a huge impression on me as a kid and set me on the path to becoming who I am. A few years later, Blink-182’s Enema Of The State came out and completely changed my life. I cannot overstate the impact that album had on me. I fell head over heels in love with Pop Punk and discovered bands like Fall Out Boy, Panic! At the Disco, Sum 41, and more. I started my first Pop Punk band at age eighteen, and I have played some variety of Punk ever since.

Jeremy:
Josh and I have played in many bands with different genres, but with this project, we wanted to get back to basics and considering we know our three R’s, we decided to hone in on Pop Punk.

Zach:
I got into music because of Elvis when I was five, and I wanted to start playing music after hearing Blink-182 when I was ten but decided to be a musician when I heard Jimi Hendrix at fifteen.  I play and enjoy a lot of different styles of music but always come back to Pop Punk in some capacity just because it was, and is such a foundational aspect of how I experienced and learned music. Playing in Waiver Wire has been exciting for me because it has been about fifteen years since I’ve played in a Pop Punk band. Being away for so long and a bit older now, I cherish what all those bands mean to me, and what they mean to other people.

Steve:
I’ve always been a fan of the genre ever since discovering Green Day and The Offspring. Then in middle school, the classic Blink-182 albums came out. As the drummer, Travis Barker takes the genre to a whole nother level.  

Anthony:
Where did the name Waiver Wire come from?

Josh:
As Jeremy says, “The name was simply the best option presented when we needed one, and it has grown on us quite a lot.” The term is derived from sports. The list of available free agent players is referred to as “the waiver wire.” Being a huge sports fan myself, I love that connection, especially since it is relatively esoteric.

Jeremy:
Naming a band is the hardest thing a band can possibly do (except maybe choose cover songs). After hundreds of suggestions, a former bandmate suggested it, and it was the only name that someone in the band didn’t hate. It has certainly grown on me over time. I am a sucker for alliteration.

Anthony:
As a band, who are some of your greatest influences from the band? Usually, it’s easy for me to pin down some sounds, but you guys truly sound unique. Maybe some Spanish Love Songs or You, Me, And Everyone We Know
?

Josh:
I always love hearing what people think we sound like. It tends to vary a lot, which is interesting. I’ve never heard Spanish Love Songs, but I have always been a fan of YMAEWK’s So Young, So Insane EP. My influences range all over the spectrum, from Pop Punk, to Jazz to, Hip-Hop, and beyond. I’m a huge Blink-182 fan, and they definitely influence the sound, but for this project, I tend to take a lot of influence from the more modern Pop Punk bands like Neck Deep, The Story So Far, Real Friends, State Champs, etc. I’m also very into the Emp-Trap stuff from people like Lil Peep, and Post Malone.

Jeremy:
Of course, everything is influenced by something. This band is the only exception to that rule.

Zach:
Being someone that is into a whole mess of bands and artists, I typically make a conscious effort to be very deliberate in my influences when writing my parts for the band. I feel like Josh typically comes from more of a Pop-influenced sound, and has that aspect covered, so, I think of my job as bringing that classic Punk and Rock sound to the fold. I generally look to bands like Bad Religion, The Menzingers, Dead To Me, and I Am The Avalanche. I think one of the interesting things about Pop Punk, in general, is the ability to present songs in a number of different ways. Whether that song is more of a fast Punk ripper, a slower jam with all the feels, or just a catchy sing-along song, Pop Punk can be all those things and more. 

Anthony:
Let’s talk a bit about your songwriting process. Your new single, “Battery Health,” seems to be about being lonely in the digital age where we’re isolated from the human connection in a sense. 

Josh:
That’s definitely a great description of the subject matter of the song. I was inspired to write something about our ever-growing obsession with devices, and technology, something I am as guilty of as anyone else. The song began life before the pandemic; it was the first thing we wrote after recording the EP. It then gathered dust for over a year, before we dusted it off earlier this year, and polished it up. It is immensely satisfying to finally be releasing it after so long.

Jeremy:
That one has been kicking around for a while, and we finally put it down on tape. You nailed it thematically. It’s like you read the lyrics, and it resonated with you.

Anthony:
Is it safe to say that the EP and the new single are a product of the pandemic?

Josh:
The EP was released just before everything went nuts last year, so, I would consider it more of a record of who we were before the world went crazy. The single, however, is definitely a product of the pandemic, both in how long it took us to get from conception to final product, and the subject matter, which only became more relevant once we were all locked away with only the internet to connect us.

Jeremy:
Isn’t everything a product of the pandemic? The new single, “oui,’ but the ep “non.”

Anthony:
Let’s talk about the production side of things, how did Alan Day from Four Year Strong become involved?

Josh:
Four Year Strong is possibly the biggest band to come out of Worcester (save for maybe J. Geils), so, they are something of a local legend. Alan still lives locally and works as a producer when not touring with FYS, so, knowing we had a resource like that right in our backyard, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

For the new single, we went with another local boy, Marcus Simonini, of Rhode Island Pop Punk group, Another One Down. Marcus is immensely talented and really allowed us to flourish on this track. We loved working with him, and we’re already due back at his studio in a couple of weeks to cut our next track.

Jeremy:
That was a huge get for us. He is local and Josh reached out to him, and he said, “Yes.” Also, the money probably didn’t hurt. [Laughs].

Anthony:
What equipment do you work with? Does it differ from recording and when playing live?

Josh:
I play a Paul Reed Smith Santana model guitar through an Orange Crush Pro 120 combo amp. I am absolutely in love with the Orange tone, and I’m planning to upgrade my rig to a Rockerverb as soon as possible. For the new single, I played my PRS through an Orange TH30 that Marcus had in the studio, which sounded incredible.

Jeremy:
I love the sound of a nice Ampeg Amp for bass, but I’m too old to be carrying an 8×10 cab, and a tube head. I just recently switched to a digital amp sim setup, which includes a Headrush Gigboard, and a Headrush FRFR 1×12 speaker. It sounds remarkably close to an Ampeg but doesn’t have the same feel. You can’t have it all but it is great being able to walk in the venue with everything in one trip. I try to use the same setup in the studio that I use live but producers can be difficult, because ya know it’s just bass.

Zach: 
For both live and recording, I play a Gibson Les Paul into my 100 watt Marshall Silver Jubilee head going into a Marshall 2X12 cab. I run an Electro Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb and MXR Carbon Copy delay into the effects loop of the amp. I realized a while ago that all my favorite guitar players and sounds were for the most part very simple rigs, so, I adopted that approach of getting all the sounds I needed with the least amount of gear 

Steve:
I play DW Drums at practice and use my old Pearl Export as a gigging kit. It’s nice having a smaller 20″ bass drum to transport. Lighter, and fits in the car better.

Anthony:
How has been for the band trying to get its music out in a seemingly endless sea of other artists?

Josh:
It’s definitely a struggle that can get disheartening at times. I handle all of the administrative tasks for the band, so, I feel it a bit more acutely than the other guys. When you spend the better part of two years crafting a single song, you want everyone in the world to hear it, but cutting through the cacophony of music, and other entertainment being released daily is incredibly difficult. Ultimately, you just have to be grateful for those who you do manage to reach, and just continue on the grind day-by-day. Listeners and fans are converted one at a time, so, it’s definitely a long game.

Jeremy:
You have to love the game. Always have the goal in my mind but do not focus on the numbers. If you focus on the number of likes or CD/merch sales, you’ll be disappointed. A lot of great bands never get signed or become famous. We play with those types of bands on a weekly basis. I just want us to be a great band, and fate will have to work everything else out.

Zach:
Speaking only for myself, I try not to ruminate about that sort of thing. I find that I function my best when focusing on the present situation of the band, like writing the best songs we can, and playing our best at every show. While the saturation of bands and artists in the music community might dissuade some people, I find it to be exciting as there are a ton of bands out there to draw inspiration from, and hopefully, work with someday.

Anthony:
Who are some of your favorite bands and artists that you dream of touring with?

Josh:
There are way too many bands to list that I would love to play with. In the shorter term, I would love to simply be local support for a decent size band coming through Boston or Worcester. Eventually, hopefully, they’ll be opening for us.

Jeremy:
I’ll play/tour with anyone. Adele, call me. [Laughs].

Zach:
I would love to share a bill with I Am the Avalanche, Saves The Day, or PUP, for sure

Steve:
Of course, Blink-182, The Offspring, and Green Day. Then, I got into the Metal, Emo, and Indie scene in high school. Metallica, Saves the Day, The New Pornographers. Since then, I’ve been exploring Classic and Progressive Rock. The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, King Crimson, and Genesis.

Anthony:
Do you collect any physical forms of music, or are you mostly digital?

Josh:
I have a small collection of vinyl, but Steve’s absolutely puts mine to shame. I mostly consume music digitally these days, which is a double-edged sword.

Jeremy:
I have a huge record, cassette tape, and CD collection, but they say this new streaming thing is the future.

Zach:
I’ve been solely listening to music digitally or in-person for a while now. I’m not a “collector-type” personality, but I absolutely love reading or watching interviews, or documentaries about music-related topics.

Steve:
I have a huge digital, and vinyl record collection, and some CDs from way back when.  

Anthony:
What does the future of Waiver Wire look like? I see you have an upcoming show this month, do you plan on doing an East Coast tour soon? Is there a full album in the works later on down the road?

Josh:
The future of Waiver Wire looks pretty bright. Our schedule in early 2022 is packed with local shows, with more being added all the time. We’re due back in the studio soon to record our next single, and hopefully, by springtime, we’ll be able to start putting together some weekend tours on the east coast. As for a full length, one of these days we definitely will make one. But these days, you really need to be releasing content as often as humanly possible, so, in the short term, we intend to keep dropping singles, perhaps another EP next year. 

Jeremy:
Hopefully more tours in the future as they are a blast, but it is a lot of work for our management to set them up. Albums…who does albums? Singles are the future. Just look at Lil Peep, he isn’t releasing albums anymore…oh wait. [Laughs]. 

Steve:
Our plan at the moment is to keep writing, and getting tighter as a band, and to play as many shows as possible.

Anthony:
Where can our readers find your music?

Josh:
Everywhere! Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, or wherever you prefer to stream, we’re there. We’re also on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. Look us up!

Anthony:
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us that we didn’t get to go over?

Josh:
Just to please check out “Battery Health” when it drops everywhere on December 17. We’re also shooting a music video for the song this weekend, so, please be on the lookout for that.

Interested in learning more about the music of Waiver Wire? Check out the link below:

Dig this? Check out the full archives of A.M. Radio, by Anthony Montalbano, here: https://vwmusicrocks.com/a-m-radio-archives/

About Post Author

Anthony Montalbano

Anthony Montalbano grew up in New York and North Carolina. Anthony is a baker by day and a contributor to the Vinyl Writer cause by night. With a passion for podcasts, Pop Punk, video games, and more, Anthony brings a unique and fresh perspective to the team. Anthony's column is a catch-all for the things he loves most, and he wouldn't have it any other way.
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