Story Of The Year: 'The Magic Happens When You're Not Overthinking'

10 March 2023 | 12:20 pm | Mary Varvaris
Originally Appeared In

It seems like the perfect time for Story Of The Year to release a new album. Luckily, they are today with Tear Me To Pieces.

(Pic by Ryan Phillips)

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It’s fun being a Story Of The Year fan. In the time they’ve been known as Story Of The Year – they were briefly called 67 North in 1995 and Big Blue Monkey in 1998, but have existed with their current band name since 2002 – we’ve seen them find popularity in the mainstream twice, which is more than can be said for most pop-punk and emo bands.

They became a household name in 2003 with their debut album, Page Avenue, and again with the recent resurgence of this type of music in the media, festival line-ups and up-and-coming artists finding themselves in guitar-based, heart-on-your-sleeve music. Story Of The Year got to perform at the inaugural When We Were Young festival alongside Paramore, My Chemical Romance, Taking Back Sunday, The Used, Avril Lavigne and many more.

It seems like the perfect time for Story Of The Year to release a new album. Luckily, they are today with Tear Me To Pieces, a record that mines their emotional rock roots and explores hard rock and electronic instrumentals no matter how introspective the track, all anchored by vocalist Dan Marsala.

The singer is kind, funny and enthusiastic – three personality traits essential to survive and maintain relationships in the music industry. Marsala is in his “little hidden area down here in my basement,” with electric guitars adjacent to his desk and a classic Bad Religion flag situated above them.

Marsala is apprehensive of the pop-punk or emo labels; it’s a bit too simplistic to just slap a genre on a band and then write them off. And besides, the Until The Day I Die singer says that Story Of The Year have been a rock band through it all.

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Recalling the days following the release of 2010’s The Constant, he admits that the band felt lost during that period. “For a lot of years in the middle, we didn't even know what we were doing. We put out a record called The Constant, and then we kind of went away after that,” Marsala says. “Because during the making of that record, which has its moments and it's a good record, we were very lost in [wondering] what kind of music this is, you know, it wasn't called emo in the early days [of the band]. We were like; this is not an emo band. We're just a rock band who does all this different stuff. And, yes, there's emotionally driven lyrics.”

Does emotion equate to a genre of music, and does emotionally-driven rock music deserve the disparagement it received from critics who didn’t take this movement seriously? “We just had a lot of luck. There were years when this kind of music wasn't as cool. I mean, we've always done fine,” he adds. At the end of the day, Story Of The Year are still the same kids who wanted to play music because it was fun - even if that mentality led to them declining their music being used on the Spider-Man 2 soundtrack.

“So, we were never going to stop doing it. I guess that it's just some kind of authenticity that people really gravitate towards,” indeed, that’s precisely why the same fans continue to show up to the band’s shows, buy records, comment on YouTube, and continue to show their support. On whether Story Of The Year and their peers will remain trendy, Marsala isn’t so sure, quipping, “I have no idea what will happen five years from now; who knows? I don't know. But we'll still be a band – I don’t know if anyone will still like us [laughs], but we’ll see!”

People will always like the bands they connected with at a formative time in their lives. Fans grew together with Dan Marsala, Ryan Philips, Josh Wills, and Adam Russell, from Page Avenue (2003), In the Wake of Determination (2005), The Black Swan (2008), The Constant to Wolves (2017). That’s why fans are hanging out for the news about a Page Avenue 20th anniversary tour. The good news? Story Of The Year are working on it. The bad news? You’ll have to wait a while.

“We just announced that we're going out with Yellowcard in the US for their 20th anniversary [of Ocean Avenue], and we were trying to do a co-headline thing, but the money wasn't really right for us both to do it,” Marsala admits. After that tour, Story Of The Year have some plans for later this year in the US.

He continues, “And then we'll probably do more [touring] overseas next year, still celebrating, although it'll be 21 years, technically, we'll probably do more of that everywhere else. We wanted to focus on the new record first. Because the COVID thing pushed everything back – we were trying to get this out last year. But you know, the timing! We were like, ‘okay, 2022 can be about the new record. 2023 can be about the Page Avenue celebration, but things didn't work that way,” but oh well, the band have always been pretty good at rising back up, putting on a smile and moving forward.

Today, Story Of The Year release their new album, Tear Me To Pieces. One of the coolest moments on their new album is the pre-chorus on War, where Marsala sings, “You let me suffer, can't recover/Was it all a lie?/This won’t take your pain away at all/The higher the wall, the harder you fall”. There’s something about the delivery of that line and the crushing guitars arriving in the chorus that’s so reminiscent of third-wave emo music that came out in the early 2000s.

“That song evolved a lot in the studio,” the singer says. And the record producer, Colin Brittain, offered some critical advice: “He's like, ‘what if it just cut out here, and you said a line that made the chorus hit really hard?’ It was a magic moment with the band and Colin in the room, and it just happened. The best stuff happens when you’re not thinking too hard. The magic happens when you're not overthinking."

The other great thing about the new album is its diversity, which has “always been the Story Of The Year theme. Influence-wise, we're all over the place,” Marsala notes. “We always have a little bit more punk rock stuff, a little bit of metal stuff, a little bit of screaming, a few catchy choruses, and then there's always some slower songs; we’ve always been all over the place, so that's pretty natural for us.

“It’s always been fun because that keeps us from getting bored,” he shares. And because of this diversity, Story of The Year get to tour with anyone, from hardcore punk band Knocked Loose to Tonight Alive and Hawthorne Heights.

This month, Story Of The Year are returning to Australia after five long years. They’ll be performing at the inaugural Knotfest Australia alongside Slipknot, Parkway Drive, Megadeth, Spiritbox, the aforementioned Knocked Loose, and more rock and metal legends – the band will also play three side shows in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney (you can buy tickets here).

“It’s Knotfest, which is insane. That line-up is crazy,” Marsala exclaims, most hyped to see Megadeth in the flesh. “We are definitely the oddball kind of band at the show, you know, which is no surprise to anybody. But like I was saying earlier, we kind of go into all the genres and styles of this music that we do.

“We like that challenge of having to win over the metal fans,” Marsala laughs, a metal fan himself. “But Australia is a little different – you can mix genres a little more than people are used to. I don't know if it's still like that, but we've toured there with a lot of different bands that weren't necessarily our genre, so I feel like it's a little more open-minded in that way."

He adds, “But yeah, Knotfest is going to be insane. I mean, I've never played with Slipknot; we've never done anything with them or Megadeth or some of the other huge bands. I'm just going in with an excited mind, and we’re just gonna have fun. We're gonna play our little hearts out.”

Story Of The Year are performing at Knotfest Australia from 24-26 March – the Melbourne and Brisbane dates are sold out, with Sydney up to its final tickets. Tear Me To Pieces is out now; listen to it here.