Photo courtesy of Caitlyn Willard

Photo courtesy of Caitlyn Willard

The Weekend Classic is putting Indiana on the pop-punk map

Words by Maggie Dickman

Guitarist Ryan Wells probably never imagined that being in a band would involve cuddling. But that’s  what happened the first time the Weekend Classic hit the road. “We slept in the van a lot,” Wells said. “Our first tour, we didn’t have a trailer. All our gear was in the van, and then we’d sleep in the van. Like five people deep.”

Now, touring—and the accompanying band snuggles—is second nature for the group of pop punkers. The Indiana-based quartet started out with weekend runs to Louisville, Cincinnati and Indianapolis. Now the group has branched out, booking more expansive Midwestern and East Coast tours.

“Anymore, it’s not even, ‘Okay, how long are we going on tour for?’ It’s, ‘Okay, how long am I home for?’” said bassist Matt White. “It changed my perspective completely.”

The tour life is something that stemmed naturally from their year of successful EPs. After releasing Forever Is Irrelevant in March, the group  toured and toured and then toured some more. But their September release, When You Had Nothing, propelled the group forward with a sharper sound that’s distinctly their own. The Weekend Classic didn’t simply want to have a cliche pop-punk” sound. When You Had Nothing sets out to prove the band is something more.

And you can hear it in the music. Deep, snarling guitar riffs. Rhythms that hit as hard as a car crash. Hooks big enough to catch a whale. The group name-drops Mayday Parade and All Time Low as early influencers, and their riff-heavy anthems and ardent vocals are an emo concoction of the Wonder Years and Taking Back Sunday.

Part of the credit for that mash-up of sounds goes to Seth Henderson. A producer at the Indiana-based Always Be Genius Recording Studio, Henderson was a major part of the Weekend Classic’s game-changing step forward. Henderson has worked with some of the biggest influencers in the hardcore and pop-punk genres today, including the Devil Wears Prada, Rarity, and Real Friends, to name a few. The entire process, from writing to recording, helped solidify the group’s sound.

“You learn a lot working with a real producer and having that third opinion,” drummer Christian Richards said. “I think that definitely taught us a lot about how to write a song.”

You can hear that influence on the EP. “Tethered” succeeds instrumentally, sporting tight guitars balanced with singer Chris Webster’s vocals and Richards’ rhythms. “Monachopsis” dominates in vocal dynamism and pacing. The last EP was missing that feeling of connectedness. Now it feels complete—finer tuned.

And people are noticing. Example: the Weekend Classic claimed the Ernie Ball: PLAY Warped title, beating out over 11,000 other bands who vied for the prize. The group submitted their application by chance, not expecting to win the Indianapolis date. But they did. And they nailed it. Taking the Warped Tour main stage in Indy, the group was electric. People vibed with their tunes, and as soon as Knuckle Puck’s Joe Taylor appeared on stage to help sing the quartet’s track “Tethered,” the crowd went wild. The band took in everything. They talked to everyone they could meet. It’s not every day they get to speed-network in their home state.

Clearly, their networking paid off. They found out in September that they were named Ernie Ball champs by New Found Glory guitarist Chad Gilbert. As winners, they get to record a three-song EP with Gilbert, receive $50,000 in gear, including an Ernie Ball Music Man instrument endorsement and a $10,000 Guitar Center gift card. Oh, and plenty of national recognition.

My parents know nothing about [Warped Tour], so when they found out about it, they were like, ‘So you’re famous now?” White said. “And I had to tell them like nope, not yet. I had to calm them down. They were freaking out.”

Sure, they might not be exactly famous yet, but the Weekend Classic is gaining momentum. And with more recording and touring—cramped van regardless—on tap for the end of the year, the group is excited for what might be next. “I feel like we’re all mostly in our element when we’re touring,” Wells said. “We’re different versions of ourselves. There’s tour us, then there’s home us.”

And that “tour us” proves that they’ve got something. The Weekend Classic are just getting started.