There’s no denying that pop punk as a genre is having a moment.
Articles proclaiming “Pop punk’s not dead,” are popping up online and in viral tiktoks, while acts like Machine Gun Kelly, YUNGBLUD, Willow and Travis Barker are bringing the genre back onto mainstream radio.
We sat down with Randy Frobel, frontman of We Were Sharks— a band that’s been cranking out killer songs in the scene for over a decade and is still going strong in pop punk today with new album New Lows, which will be released Friday.
The album showcases the Ottawa band’s signature brutally honest and fiercely catchy lyrics that shed light onto its humor and goofy, yet defiant personality.
Even the band’s name does that right off the bat—the group was formerly known as Sharks until a legal issue developed surrounding the rights of the name, to which the band responded by simply and hilariously rebranding to We Were Sharks.
The album’s debut single, “Over This” is out now and the accompanying music video paints the picture of a love story gone awry. However, the actual inspiration behind the song details a different kind of heartbreak.
The song bloomed from a conversation Frobel had with co-writer (and Silverstein guitarist) Paul Marc Rousseau.
The pair were chatting about how touring can look like one big party, but as Frobel puts it, “I see more truck stops than parties on tour.”
Unless one has a particular affinity for sweaty mystery meat from a roller grill and $30 tee shirts of wolves howling at the moon, we think it’s safe to say touring may not be the glamourous experience some perceive it to be.
The conversation lead to a discussion about loving something like being in a band so much, but also navigating how to deal with feeling burnt out.
That’s exactly where the inspiration for the song came from—a moment of being done with the stress and compromise of touring.
“It was a thing of: I’m over this right now at this very moment. That sounds like super silly to say but you get those moments whether you love your job or not, you’re like, I’m over this.”
Although the lyrics came from that place of fleeting frustration and were very specific to how Frobel felt in the moment, he realized that the emotion behind it was universally relatable.
“That’s kind of where I was coming from for myself. But it also could be used as a breakup, it could also be used as ending things, but for me it was just like being in the band at that very moment, and needing that timeout.”
Expressing those feelings and venting a little bit is expected to continue to do a job that takes a lot of grit, determination and passion. Not to mention the hurdles faced releasing music and generally just existing as a band through a pandemic.
Whether it’s getting through the pandemic, going through rough times or struggling with things others don’t seem to understand, Frobel offers some advice:
“Things always get better. When you feel you cannot go anymore, you know that’s when things are starting to change. Honestly, I’m older, I’ve been through quite a bit. We’ve all been through quite a bit,” he says, “what I’ve learned from my friends going through stuff and my family going through stuff, it’s when you’re at your lowest things will get better, you just got to hold on and you got to work and that’s going to make you a better person.”
That’s the theme that underlies New Low. Through smooth guitar riffs and crystal clear vocals, the overarching message is akin to the famous Winston Churchill quote: “if you’re going through hell, keep going.”
“Going through that is going to make you a better person, and it’s going to be make you into the person you want to be. So keep your head up, you know, and roll with the punches,” says Frobel.
In fact, rolling with the punches is how We Were Sharks rose to success.
The band’s 2015 single, “Bridge Burner” was one of the first songs written for their album Not A Chance.
It’s the song that put the band on the map—and it almost didn’t happen.
“Before that album came out, I was talking to the guys about maybe not doing it at all, like, at that point in time, because we weren’t signing,” says Frobel, “we were touring so much and we were always gone and I’m like, I can’t make a living, we’re getting fired from every job we take because we’re gone. I was like well maybe this could be my last album at that point because we had some members leave as well.”
The struggle was definitely real, but alas, the song got made and hit Spotify hard.
“It’s a funny story that that song took off and it got us signed, we got management and got all that because of one song that got added to a playlist that people seem to enjoy.”
Indeed, they do. “Bridge Burner” is now at over four million streams and counting.
The new We Were Sharks album carries the same energy behind “Bridge Burner,” but the musical inspiration is a little different today.
While New Low definitely has some nuances that are unique to the new album, the unapologetic and in-your-face attitude that’s at the heart of We Were Sharks is still present.
“We’re just trying to play music that we like, but on this album, there was a couple times we were like, hey, we’ve never done that. Let’s do it. It feels good, and, if it feels good, we’re just gonna do it.”
Frobel says, “we just like playing music so if it’s something that makes us all smile, we’re just gonna go for it. I think, on this album, there was a couple of things that maybe We Were Sharks wouldn’t do before, but we were just like, hey, man, this is the album to do it and this is the time to do it. We feel good about this. Let’s do it. So, it is a little different, but it’s still We Were Sharks.”
What really keeps Frobel going, he says, are people who come out to shows and talk baseball and country music afterwards.
“We don’t have fans, we have friends. Anybody that I’ve ever met from a Sharks show has been absolutely incredible and without that we wouldn’t be doing this,” he says. “I think we have the best group of people listening to our music.”
Wanna be a new friend of the band? Stream We Were Sharks at the link below and catch New Low out May 21.