Too Pop for the Punk Kids

This article is part of In Defense of the Genre, a series of critical and personal essays in praise of pop punk. Previously, Say Anything’s final album, Oliver Appropriate, and its position in the marvellous history of challenging, transgressive, vulgar queer art.

I found The Summer Set the same way everyone found their favorite band in 2007: on MySpace. Coincidentally, it was also MySpace that would lead to the formation of The Summer Set.

Formed in Scottsdale, Arizona, The Summer Set was born from remnants of Last Call for Camden. After releasing one album, Last Call for Camden disbanded and drummer Jess Bowen, bassist Stephen Gomez, and guitarist John Gomez put an ad on MySpace for a lead singer. Enter Brian Dales. Together with guitarist Josh Montgomery, they formed the lineup of The Summer Set from 2007 to when they took a hiatus in 2017.

Most of the time when talking about the heavy hitters of pop punk, The Summer Set aren’t included in the conversation. They have spent their entire career trying to bridge the gap between the two worlds. Sure they were staples on Warped Tour for a few years, but they were also crowned the winner of Macy’s iHeartRadio Rising Star Award. It was a combination that didn’t make much sense. One day, they’d be sharing a stage with Sleeping With Sirens or All Time Low and the next, they’d be opening for The Backstreet Boys.

They were both pop punk, but they summed it up best in “Figure Me Out” with the opening lines: “I’m a bit too pop for the punk kids / but I’m too punk for the pop kids / I don’t know just where I fit in / ‘cause when I open my mouth / I know nobody’s listening / to the words of a prophet / who still can’t turn a profit.”

It’s frustrating to be in that position of not fully existing in either world. Part of this conflicting pop punk personality comes from their plethora of musical inspirations. They would list off New Found Glory, Blink 182, Jay-Z, Bruce Springsteen, The Last Five Years Broadway musical, Sarah Bareilles, Bright Eyes, Green Day, A Goofy Movie soundtrack, Something Corporate, Taylor Swift…and somehow all of that came together into their ultimate style of ‘80s-twinged arena anthems with pop punk energy. As someone who grew up loving ‘80s power ballads and pop punk, The Summer Set felt they were made especially for me.

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