The Story So Far is possibly the biggest name in modern pop punk.
Fresh off their latest and highly anticipated album, Proper Dose, the band has just kicked off their first headlining tour since the album’s September 2018 release. A whole three years (and four months) after their last, self-titled, album in 2015, The Story So Far delivered us the most polished, produced and tidy package we’ve seen from them in Proper Dose. Their latest effort is a well-written display of both the band’s evolved musicianship and producer Sam Pura’s abilities in the studio.
Aside from the obvious 3+ year gap between albums, it’s clear listening to the record that they took their time perfecting the details. We received our first taste of new material September 2017 (a whole year before the album’s release) in the form of a single called, “Out of It,” a solid effort, sonically reminiscent of their self-titled release. Ten months later, on July 2018, Proper Dose is finally announced and “Let It Go” is released as the first official single: an airy, mellowed-out hint of what was to come on the album. So what happened between September 2017 and July 2018?
Come September, the album is released and we can piece together the puzzle. The album version of “Out of It” features some notable changes from the one released a year prior, including melody tweaks, a better vocal performance, more vocal layers, and overall stronger production, making the song sound much bigger than the original single version. The band, along with longtime friend and producer, Sam Pura, took their time ironing out kinks and making sure the songs were the best versions they could be.
The album stands out from all of their previous releases, as it displays a much elevated level of writing from the band, and a sophisticated quality of production from Pura. The whole thing is decorated with subtle, yet powerful textures: keys, acoustic guitars, and more harmonies than I ever thought vocalist Parker Cannon was capable of. Even his lyrics are much more mature; he’s clearly healing from his formerly very angry and bitter past. “It’s all love,” he says in two songs, reconciling with the pain we had previously known him to snarl about. Proper Dose marks an entirely new level of artistry in this exciting chapter of The Story So Far.
Not only did The Story So Far release the most highly anticipated album in pop punk this year, but they managed to assemble the most highly anticipated pop punk tour in recent memory to celebrate.
Selecting three of Will Yip’s (renowned producer) top clients as support, The Story So Far and company are selling out 1500-cap rooms across the country. Turnover and Citizen, Run For Cover Records’ darlings who have toured together in the past, along with the rapid-risers in Movements, have all headlined their own respective tours. All of the bands on the tour, I have personally seen at least five times each, including their sets at 2016’s Chain Fest in Southern California where all four bands were featured on the lineup. At the time, I dreamed of a different tour featuring bands on the festival: Title Fight, Basement, Citizen, Movements, but the Proper Dose Tour will do just fine.
Armed with one of the most exciting tour lineups in the alternative scene, possibly ever, and their strongest, most dynamic release yet, The Story So Far’s Proper Dose tour kicked off in my hometown, Portland, Oregon. Every band had the sold-out venue surging with energy and crowd-surfers, even Turnover, the token “soft” band of the package. The most memorable set of the night, however, was easily awarded to the headliners, who delivered the best performance I’d seen from them of the six times I had watched them play. Closing with the very popular, but gentle, “Clairvoyant” as their encore, a song I’d never thought I’d see them play live; it’s clear they’re embracing their artistry and not just their angst.
The band looked refreshed. A normally static Kelen Capener was moving—a lot, even dancing with fancy footwork along to his smooth bass grooves. A Wild Draw Four Uno Card was tucked behind the strings on the headstock of his Fender Jazz Bass; adding even more personality to the performance. Most notably though, was the difference in vocalist Parker Cannon’s composure. Gone was the macho, cool-guy, pop-punk-bro attitude we were used to seeing from him. The first few times I had seen the band, Parker commanded the audience, trampling across the stage, often taking breaks in lines allowing the crowd to fill in for him—his voice not prepared for the amount of strain he was putting it through with his grit and how much he was moving. Then, he started using the mic stand, exerting much less energy, and gaining control of his voice and breathing. Still though, remained an attitude that felt like he didn’t want to be there, or perhaps he was too cool.
This time was different. He was poised, hands often resting in his jacket pockets or placed behind his back, at attention. Singing very well, with obvious attention and training spent on his craft (Maybe the cough syrup has helped too). The most prominent feature of his new persona, however, was the smile on his face. He looked happy. Genuinely thankful to be there, performing in front of an audience that was excited to see his band, as their crowds always are. He is not only shedding his angry presence on the album, but evidently on-stage as well. It is refreshingly delightful to see someone trade a tough-guy demeanor for vulnerable, authentic joy.
It feels fucking good to play new songs. And it’s really good to be back.
It feels like Proper Dose did more for Parker than face-value. On the record, we see a man battling demons and coming to peace with past issues, perhaps through forgiveness, self-reflection, and musical therapy. It seems the creation of these songs allowed much more. Maybe only performing bitter songs had an effect of its own. “Upside Down,” one of the softer songs on Proper Dose, is the centerpiece of the album. It narrates the switch in Parker’s attitude and talks about moving forward as he sees his friends doing so. He’s grown sick of writing and playing the same songs as we hear in the first verse, “This all feels like a chore. I don’t want this as a job.” In the second verse he asks himself, “Am I even having fun?” The chorus, however, is the transformation: “It’s all love now. Upside down.” Concise, yet powerful, these words are vindication for Parker as he comes to peace with himself and his life.
Catch the tour in your city:
11/02 – Portland, OR @ Roseland Theater
11/03 – Seattle, WA @ Showbox Sodo
11/05 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Complex
11/06 – Denver, CO @ Ogden Theatre
11/08 – Chicago, IL @ Metro
11/10 – Mt. Clemens, MI @ Emerald Theatre
11/11 – Cleveland, OH @ Agora Theatre
11/13 – Buffalo, NY @ Town Ballroom
11/14 – New York, NY @ PlayStation Theater
11/15 – Sayreville, NJ @ Starland Ballroom
11/16 – Baltimore, MD @ Rams Head
11/17 – Philadelphia, PA @ Electric Factory
11/18 – Worcester, MA @ Palladium
11/20 – Richmond, VA @ The National
11/21 – Charlotte, NC @ The Fillmore
11/23 – Orlando, FL @ The Plaza
11/24 – Tampa, FL @ The Ritz Ybor
11/25 – Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade
11/27 – Dallas, TX @ Bomb Factory
11/28 – Austin, TX @ Emo’s
11/30 – Tempe, AZ @ Marquee
12/01 – Los Angeles, CA @ Palladium