INTERVIEW: Yellowcard (14/06/2015)

Jacksonville, Florida based pop-punk favourites Yellowcard have been quite the success since the return of their brief hiatus back in 2010. Their three studio albums since their reunion, the latest being last year’s ‘Lift A Sail’, have rejuvenated them exponentially, and secured them as one of the genres forerunners, and also a slot headlining the third stage on the Sunday of 2015’s Download Festival.

Whilst at the grounds of the (un)holy Download Festival, we had a little chat with guitarist Ryan Mendez to talk about being invited to perform at the festival for the first time, their latest studio LP ‘Lift A Sail’, their friendship with New Found Glory, and more.

DP!: So, this is your first appearance at Download?
Ryan: Yeah. I’m still a little surprised by it, because the style of this festival would not normally be what I would think that we would be on. Although, myself and Josh, our bassist, are both huge metal fans, like I actually listen to more metal than probably anything else. But, our band not necessarily fits with the line-up, so we’re a little surprised. Great line-up, it’s just that all the bands are way heavier than us. (laughs) I mean, I guess it’ll be interesting to see how it goes. Well, I’m thinking, I guess we’re closing the stage, so all of the people who are into metal and don’t care about us, maybe they’ll leave! I mean, I wouldn’t think that our fans would pay to come to a festival like this to come see us because there really aren’t a whole lot of other bands that are like us.

DP!: What other festivals do you enjoy playing?
R: I mean a bunch of them. This has been a really short trip, about 12 or 13 days, but a bunch of festivals, Rock AM Ring in Germany, which was super awesome, Nova Rock in Austria, which was amazing. We did Rock For People in the Czech Republic, which was also great. We did Greenfield in Switzerland. I’d say that’s it. Then we did a few headlining shows inbetween. Today’s our last day, and we’re going home tomorrow. I mean, for me, I would love to watch all these bands play. I’m actually really bummed that we weren’t on yesterday, ’cause I’ve never seen Muse. I love Muse.

DP!: You’ve announced a tour with New Found Glory. How did that come about?
R: We’ve been friends with those guys forever, and obviously share like a million Warped Tours and festivals and things like that. We actually put records out last year on the same day and we were just talking like “Look, this makes sense and it’ll be really fun”. So far, the response to the tour has been really awesome, so we’re really looking forward to it.

DP!: Howcome the U.S. tour took so long to happen?
R: I don’t know. I think maybe when both fans were climbing on the upswings of things. When you’re doing core headline stuff, it has to make sense in the right way, and I think when you’re trying to grow that’s not necessarily the right time to do it. You might want to get on a bigger tour, or maybe do your own headlining stuff. And, it’s not like we’re not trying to grow now, but I think now we’re in a place in our careers where it makes sense to do something like this. Obviously there’s gonna be a bit of nostalgia with it with fans that have been around for a while, and the fact that it hasn’t happened so far will make it special as well. We’re really looking forward to it.

DP!: How did your relationship start with them? How did you secure such a good friendship?
R: The band are from Florida, and the other guys in Yellowcard are from Florida, and so they’ve known each other from back in the day, and you don’t do Warped Tour together and not form friendships with bands. Just, for whatever reason, it never happened, so we’re stoked that it is now.

DP!: You released your album ‘Lift A Sail’ in October, which has been described as a more rocky album. Was that how you intended the album to be?
R: I think one thing we maybe wanted to do was not make the same record again. Not specifically like our last record, but just in general. We were like “Hey, let’s have some fun and experiment”, and, no matter what, we just didn’t want to make the same stuff over and over again. We wanted to kind of challenge ourselves and think outside of the box a little bit. I don’t think any of us really had a vision for exactly how it would turn out. We just kind of wanted to go in with the idea of having fun and experimenting, and not overthinking in terms of having to fit into one thing. We actually kind of made a lot of choices, like “What would we normally do? Okay, let’s do something different”. It’s boring to do the same thing over and over again, and some people do and that’s fine, but I think maybe that’s not what we wanted to do.

DP!: All Yellowcard albums seem to have a different sound. Do you try to approach all of them?
R: Well, I think when we came back from a hiatus we were on a couple years back, we definitely wanted to be like “Let’s make a classic Yellowcard record”. Just energy and, like, let’s just write riffs that are fun. Let’s just picture crowds going off and really not overthink anything. Let’s just write something that sounds rad and that we would play live and know that would really go off. And then, I think because we had to approach that record coming off the hiatus much differently than we have approaching this record, which is our third new full-length in the last five years, and just non-stop touring, we were just like “Let’s approach this differently”. We’ve been working non-stop, non-stop touring on some records, so let’s try and do something a little different. I think that’s why this one was a little different.

DP!: Did you feel under pressure, following the amazing reviews that ‘Southern Air’ had received?
R: I think a little bit in a sense. I mean, for me, I don’t really care as much about whether one record sounds like this or sounds like that. I think I just wanna write stuff that we, at the end of the day, are proud of and happy with, and we are. And I know that some fans didn’t like ‘Lift A Sail’, but I know that a lot of our really hardcore, die-hard fans absolutely love it. I mean, we’ve seen crazy tattoos, like full sleeves of our artwork and stuff, and so, obviously, it did resonate with some people. And the thing is, I also understand 100% if a lot of our long-term fans don’t quite like it. You know, it doesn’t sound exactly like what the old Yellowcard stuff does. I’m not bothered by that at all. I totally expect that, and I don’t hold it against people if that happens. I think we’ve been around long enough, and done enough records and touring, where I think it’s okay to do that. And if not everyone likes it, then that’s fine. We’re not upset about that at all. But, the thing is, the people that do like it, they really like it and we’re happy with it, and that’s all that we can really ask for.

DP!: With such a strong back catalogue of records, how do you sort out your setlist?
R: It’s tough, especially for shows like this where we have like 45 minutes. I mean, we know that there are some songs that we have to play. I think we’re actually only playing one or two new songs today, just because it’s a show like this with such a short time, and there are some songs that we just absolutely have to play. And I know there are some bands that would just like “You know what? Screw that, we’ll play whatever we want”, and we have to sing this song or that song but, at the end of the day, what we love more than anything is our live shows and how we connect with the fans. So you wanna play the songs that, no matter what, everyone’s gonna know and they’re gonna respond to and there’s gonna be energy for it, because that makes our show more enjoyable. It’s tough to choose, but I think we’ve put something together that’s as good as it can be.

DP!: What can we expect next from Yellowcard?
R: So, we’re going home tomorrow. We’ve got a couple of weeks off and then we’re going to Australia with Mayday Parade, which will be super fun. Australia’s been one of the places in the world, since we’ve come back from the hiatus, that have just been so off the charts for us. I think we do better in Australia than we do anywhere else in the world, and so that’s awesome, and then love the Mayday guys and we’ve been friends with them for a while, and we were talking about doing this since last year. The fact that worked out is great; it’s a great package. After that, we’ve actually got a little bit of time off, we’ve got a couple months off, and then we’re doing the New Found Glory tour in the fall.

The band’s latest album, ‘Lift A Sail’, is available now through Razor & Tie. You can follow Yellowcard online on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Interview by Kieran Harris