Video Credit: YellowcardVEVO Official YouTube Channel
Go big or go home seems to be the motto of the rebirthed Yellowcard.
The band, which had their genesis in Jacksonville, Florida in 1997, has come a long way in 17 years. They have experienced the influence of 13 different members – all at different times, created 11 studio albums, and performed literally thousands of shows.
Their first record Midget Tossing (1997) was an exhibition of the inspiration various bands in the hardcore punk scene. When We Stand (1999) brought with it a change in lineup and an inevitable change of sound for the group. Because of the drastic shift in the direction of the group, they also lost a lot of their initial fan base, and following this record were essentially forced to start from the ground up. Then in 2001, the group released One For The Kids their third studio album, which built on the sound of their previous release with more experimentation into lyrics and melody.
But the group that started out as something fun among friends in the ‘90s, rose to stardom seemingly overnight with the release of their fourth studio album – and their first record after signing with Capitol records – Ocean Avenue in 2004.
Now, exactly 10 years later, as they sit on a tourbus heading to their mainstage performance at Warped Tour, the band realizes how lucky they are to have come so far, and still be doing what they love after all these years. They started this year paying homage to their Ocean Avenue roots by playing round two of the 10 year anniversary tour.
“The tour that we did to do the ten year anniversary thing was super successful and a lot of fun,” says lead guitarist Ryan Mendez. “We made an acoustic version of the record [Ocean Avenue] we rerecorded the entire thing acoustic front to back. Then on the tour, we played the whole thing, – acoustic – front to back.”
But that’s not all. The guys have also been busy writing and recording a new record, which is due out later this year. Set to be called Lift a Sail, has a proposed release date of October 7th, and Ryan says that it sounds epic. Humbly, he says, if he had to describe it, he would call it ‘anthemic Coldplay’ – which in reality in no small comparison. But he adds that it is noticeably different from previous releases, or what people may expect from the band.
“We said, if we want to do it lets just do it no matter what it sounds like,” Ryan says. “So the end result is something that I think is drastically bigger sounding than anything the band has ever done. The whole thing is much bigger. I’ve been telling people – it sounds weird – but it is simultaneously the heaviest and most mellow record the band has ever made. WE tuned down lower for this record…we just wanted to have fun and write stuff that was big and energetic.”
Big and energetic seems to be a major theme for the band since their hiatus a few years back. In 2008, after 10 years of playing together, the band took a break from the road and the group to focus on personal lives, side projects and family. They called it an “indefinite hiatus” at the time, but it only lasted two years before the guys got back together.
When they announced their reunion in 2010, old fans rejoiced, but the guys knew they had their work cut out for them.
Since their return, Ryan says, they really haven’t stopped.
In 2011, they spent 10 months on the road touring 30 different countries. They also released an album, headlined a European and American tours, began writing for a new release.
Between 2012 and 2013, they toured, wrote and recorded, without really coming up for air.
“We’ve just been everywhere,” says Ryan. “Because there’s so much music, there’s so many bands, you just have to do it to be recognized. And maybe if we hadn’t taken a break we wouldn’t have to do that, but we are basically starting over.”
But the guys have taken it in stride. In the past four years alone, they will have recorded five (yes five!) studio, full-length albums: When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes (2001), an acoustic version of that album, Southern Air (2012), an acoustic version of Ocean Avenue, and Lift a Sail.
After so much creative work, and making albums that fit into the expected sound of the group, it makes sense that Yellowcard were ready to get out of the box.
Ryan says that when they started the song writing process for their forthcoming album, they did not hold back. They were thinking, “Lets explore the studio space a little bit,” he says. “The stuff that really interests us musically. Its time for us to just go full-force, and just do what we want to do. And that’s basically what we did.”
What resulted was an album that has big guitars with bigger drums and sits at the low-end of the registar, says Ryan. He says that it should be exciting for both new fans and people that have stuck with the band through its many changes, because it feels and sounds so big, but still has some of the string elements that make Yellowcard, Yellowcard.
As for how the band feels about the record – well, the guys are pleased, to say the least. The sound is something different, and they expect that fans will be surprised by how it sounds. “Honestly I’m excited for them to hear the record,” he says. “I think that its different enough that people are going to be taken aback by it.”
If the label’s reaction is any indication, fans are in for a treat. Ryan says that the record execs that work with the band have been having trouble choosing a song to release as the album’s single, which the guys are taking as a good sign that there are just too many contenders to choose from.
Over the years, the band has kept upping the ante for what their listeners should expect from their albums. Ryan says that it is the diversity – but also the consistency – that keeps old fans coming back, and new fans finding the group. The evolution of sound that is evident from record to record, and the quality of each song on each album makes Yellowcard one group that people keep returning to.
He says that now, the guys will look out into the crowd at their shows and see that kids that were listening to their music back in the early 2000s are mostly all grown up. But they are still at their shows alongside new faces of young teens who are just discovering the band for the first time. Knowing that their music is reaching a wide demographic lets them know that they are doing something right, he says.
In most sports, a yellow-card is a penalty card shown after a foul or infraction. It can also be a serious warning or indication of something bad. In high school, the guys had adopted the phrase as a joke at parties in high school for a “party foul.”
Although it has its own negative connotations, the name – and the band – has provided a good life for the band members. While the band has evolved into something that none of the guys could have predicted, the longevity and continued popularity of Yellowcard indicates that the future is bright for the band.
For now though, Ryan says that the guys are focused on performing amazing shows at this year’s Warped Tour, then releasing this ‘epic’ new album and taking a much needed break. But don’t be alarmed, its really just a two-month rest from constant touring and recording so the guys can relax and reflect on the past few years, and grow the Yellowcard family with the new addition of Baby Mackin later this month.
The guys plan to get back to work in the new year, so expect to see Yellowcard headlining more tours, writing and recording and surprising with the evolution of their sound. With the proven track record of this band, there is truly no telling where the next decade will bring this group. But one thing is for certain: it is bound to be big.
**A version of this story was published by Naked Magazine in September 2014