Formed by current and former members of some of Northern Virginia’s top bands, UNDERDOG CHAMPS are one of the latest pop punk bands that have “posi-jumped” into the growing scene in the DMV area. Initially, the band began as a solo project of lead vocalist Mark “Blackhawk” Bradley. With support from guitarist and backing vocalist Nick Jones, as well as guitarist Tyler Mazza, bassist Justin Mason, and drummer Josh Bailey, the band has expanded to be something new entirely, combining each band member’s past experiences in indie rock, metalcore, pop punk, and alternative music genres to form one cohesive sound.

Though the band has released only two songs thus far, they are on the verge of releasing their latest material with their current lineup, and they have already started to make a great impression in the local scene. We spoke with Bradley, Mazza, Mason, and Jones to learn more about how they are the underdogs of the local scene and how their self-sufficiency will help them create something the members can be proud of, in addition to how their new musical direction is shaping the concept and identity of the band.

What inspired the creation of this band?

Tyler: As far as the creation, we took a bunch of good friends from the local area, just good musicians, and formed a “super band,” which I guess is a good way to think of it. All of the guys that we play with are some of the best local musicians from the area, and it just gives us something fun to do.

Mark: It’s also the four musicians that I have been booking shows with and me in it also. I write songs, and I hit up Nick to flesh them out a little bit more. We had someone else drum on the initial track, and the band sort of fell into [place] from members that were in and out of bands. Tyler had just gotten out of his band, and he and I were in Harrisonburg. The other three were in [Northern Virginia]. It worked out really well.

In reference to your band name, who are the underdogs?

Mark: We came up with a list of stuff. I had been working under the title of “Rebuilt” for a while, and there was [already] another band called REBUILT. So out of the list of band names, this was the least bad one that [the other band members] found. I have always had an affinity for the underdogs, but I feel like these are the best of the people that haven’t really had a chance to shine and have their taste of success. That, honestly, kind of meant something. Everyone here is an underdog, but they are also really good at what they do.

So far, your band has only released two songs, “When the World Ends” and “Take Me Back.” Can you tell me what these songs are about and if they are part of a larger project?

Mark: “When the World Ends” is about substance abuse and people I know that are close to me. The question in that song was, “Is it that or me?” And “Take Me Back” is a love song gone awry. I got heart broken, and I felt bad [because] I screwed it all up. That’s pretty much it.

When I recorded those two, I didn’t know if I wanted to be in a band or not. Then Nick came on and fixed all the guitar parts, and we had another drummer play. We put it out just because I wanted something online, but honestly, it’s not something that we have been pushing because it is not “us.”

Do you have an album or EP in the works?

Nick: We just tracked a three-song EP. One song is revisited from the stuff that we did before, which wasn’t released. One of them is another song that we redid in a very big, orchestral kind of way, and the third [song], which is my personal favorite, is called “Picked Last.” That was the first song that we wrote as a full band, and personally, I think that seems to be the direction where the band is headed. It’s kind of the sum of all the parts instead of just what Mark had already written for us.

Tyler: Going off of that, I think it’s cool because we all come from different styles. All of the bands that we came from were really different, and this is taking all of that and combining it into one project. We weren’t trying to sound like anyone specific. We were just trying to do “us” and just have fun with it, and it just sort of came to be what it is. So far, we all really like the direction. Not to sound cliché, but it’s not something that has been done before.

Can you please explain in more detail the direction you are taking musically and what makes it unique?

Justin: It definitely has more intricacy to it.

Tyler: Think of melodic pop punk, taking bands like COUNTERPARTS mixed with UNDEROATH, which was kind of the goal that we were going for.

Justin: It was just really cool how everyone got to come together. You can hear parts from Tyler’s genre and Nick’s genre, as well as Mark’s.

Tyler: Another thing that is really cool, apart from everyone coming together musically, we all also contribute in other ways. I actually do photography, and I’m probably going to start doing cinematography. I do all our promos. I do a lot of the stuff when it comes to PR, and Mark does all the promoting. The other guys also do a lot of things behind the scenes. I think it’s really cool that we have that self-sufficiency. We have all of these friends that we can reach out to, but it’s cool that we can still handle everything [on our own] with our other skills other than just bringing it together musically. We are really fortunate to be able to have those advantages, and it’s not something that many bands do.

Will you be releasing another new song before you release the EP?

Mark: We are going to release all three songs at once. [That’s] the goal right now, which is taking a while because we are waiting on mixes and artwork. I really want our music and art to fuse together, and every song on this EP is so different. I want EP artwork for each song and a different video for each song to have a concept to stand out from everything that is out there.

This band isn’t meant to be the biggest, but it is meant to be something that each one of us is going to be super proud of, no matter what. So we want everything we put online to reflect that and be good. That’s why we are taking our time with it.

On April 23, Empire announced that they will be shutting down the venue on May 5. What are your thoughts on this?

Mark: I spent three years working hard there and learning how to be a promoter, and I think that we helped keep the scene alive. No matter what anyone says, a lot of bands started playing in the hopes that they would get to play that room. It’s going to be weird for a while [without it]. But [the Northern Virginia music scene] will go back to the grassroots. It will go back to smaller bars. It will go back to houses. It will be cool, and it will be fun. I’m kind of bummed right now, but everything will keep going.

Is anyone quitting your band after your show April 30 at The Golden Pony in Harrisonburg, Va. with AUDIOSTROBELIGHT?

Mark: No one is quitting (laughs). I have them on life contracts and ankle bracelets. It’s our last Harrisonburg show for a while. I’m graduating, and Tyler might be transferring. But no one is leaving [the band] (laughs).

Can you tell me about the rest of the shows you have coming up?

Mark: The Empire show got moved to Canal Club, so we’re not going to play because we have commitments closer in the area that made us unable to play. We have the April 30 [show], and in the near future, that’s about it. We are working on deciding on a cool way to release the new songs and do video stuff around them. We will be scheduling shows as they become convenient for us.


The website Drinkify.org generates drinks based on different bands, and I noticed that your band doesn’t have one. Therefore, I was wondering what is the signature drink or cocktail for UNDERDOG CHAMPS?

Mark: As everyone else is not 21 and I am 22 — as the band grandpa — I really like Jack and Coke (laughs), with a lime on it to garnish.

For more updates on UNDERDOG CHAMPS, be sure to “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter, and check out “Take Me Back” on Bandcamp.

Joe Fitzpatrick

Joe Fitzpatrick

As editor-in-chief, Joe is very passionate about promoting music and culture in Virginia and DC. A resident of Fairfax, Joe enjoys going to shows, checking out local breweries, and trying new foods with his girlfriend Alex.

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