Woke Up New is an up-and-coming Tucson emo band who headlined Solar Culture back in September. Before the show, KAMP general manager Annika and I had listened to and very much enjoyed the band’s single “Choke”, a fun and melodic pop-punk track, so we made our way downtown to check out their set. In between openers’ sets, Annika and I spoke with singer and guitarist Jake, drummer Jason, and bassist Christian about their creative process and influences.
We first asked the band about their artistic inspirations and the music they enjoy listening to. The band cites circa 2005 emo music, like The Early November and Alkaline Trio, as a major inspiration, which makes sense given their moody sound. They also mentioned Taking Back Sunday, which stood out to me since TBS is one of my personal favorite bands of that era. Currently, the band members enjoy artists like Nothing nowhere and KennyHoopla, though these bands have not necessarily influenced Woke Up New’s sound since they are more recent discoveries by the songwriters.
Woke Up New is a new project, but not the first time most of the members have worked together. Jake, Jason, and their second guitarist (not named in this interview) used to be in a band called Hussie. When their singer moved to Nashville, the remaining members regrouped, pushing through hardships brought on by the pandemic to create the sound of Woke Up new. Christian joined when the band’s former bassist sold all of his worldly possessions to tour the country in a Honda element. The name “Woke Up New” comes form the lyrics of a Wonder Years song that references a Mountain Goats song. Jason jokes that when people look up the band’s name they often find the Mountain Goats and not the Tucson punk group. “you have to scroll past the results and click ‘artist’” Jake says.
When we asked the band if there are any major themes or messages they hope to convey in their songs, they explained that they are still figuring out what they want to say with their music. Single culture has made it hard for the band to portray overarching messages, as it compels both the band and their listeners to focus on one song at a time and neglect the connections between tracks. However, they seem certain that whatever they have to say will not be particularly happy. The band reflected on their recent songs and realized that they tend to reflect the sadness and anger that comes with living in this difficult era. “Choke” is about a specific person in Jason’s life and the struggles in their relationship. But despite the negative nature of many of their lyrics and their angsty influences, they hope that eventually their music can encourage people to overcome their troubles and “wake up new”.
We progressed from our discussion of lyrical themes to something many artists (including myself) struggle with: imposter syndrome. We talked about how it is easy to assume great songwriters were born with their skills, and how it can feel fruitless to work on creating music if it doesn’t immediately sound perfect. But the band also discussed the fun and rewarding aspect of songwriting, and the incredible music that can be created when different people bring new and interesting sounds to the process. Jake explained that he often starts his songwriting by coming up with something cool on guitar and building off that, crafting a melody that compliments the guitar. “I’ll write a song because I want to show off and then we have to come up with meaningful lyrics,” he says.
The band members proceeded to debate the importance of truly meaningful lyrics, citing Dance Gavin Dance’s songwriter Johnny Craig as an example. Woke Up New recently played a show with Craig, though they later had mixed feelings about being booked alongside him after hearing about the recent allegations against Craig. Many of the bands’ friends name Craig as one of their favorite songwriters, and rave about how profound his lyrics are. However, by watching a documentary about Dance Gavin Dance the members of Woke Up New learned that Craig’s songwriting process often involved improvising words while under the influence of heroin and letting his bandmates build songs around him. According to Woke Up New, many of the lyrics that fans treasure so much were heavily edited by Craig’s bandmates. This led the Tucson band, and myself was well, to question what truly makes a great lyricist.
It was wonderful to meet the guys in Woke Up New; they had some great insights about the songwriting process and were really fun to talk with. As a fan of early-mid 2000s emo I am personally quite excited to hear what they write in the future. If you like emo or pop-punk music or just love to see local shows, check out Woke Up New next time they perform! You can listen to their single “Choke” on Spotify, Apple music, and most other music platforms. You can visit their website wokeupnew.com, follow them on Instagram @wokeupnewaz, or find them on Facebook @azwokeupnew.