Interview by Stian Maritz
Yellowcard is a pop punk band who broke into the scene with their fourth album Ocean Avenue in 2003. Lead vocalist Ryan Key joined the band for the third album onwards, and brought with him a new musical direction a la pop punk as opposed to their more hardcore punk style from the previous albums. The ideals of catchiness perpetuated by the core band, exceptional drumming and unexpected presence of a violinist drew a significant following for them. Since then they have released a further 5 albums; with several lineup changes and exploring other avenues, including their upcoming acoustic album Ocean Avenue Acoustic to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the release of Ocean Avenue. The One Night in Cape Town event on 8th of August will be the first show that they ever play in South Africa and then they are off to OppiKoppi to play main stage on the 10th.
You have been playing since 1997; has your song writing process evolved or do you stick to your guns?
I would like to think our songwriting has evolved immensely since 1997. We try to push ourselves farther as musicians and writers on every record. We have a sound that is our own, but we don’t ever want to write the same album twice.
The use of violin in a rock band is unorthodox; why did you decide to incorporate it?
The band was formed at a high school for the performing arts. It was an extremely creative environment to learn in. I wasn’t in the band until 2000, but was close by during the formation.Yellowcard had an early song that was written at a slower tempo than most of the others. They asked Sean to join them on stage to accompany that particular tune. The crowd just loved it so I think the band decided to incorporate more violin as they wrote songs for the second record. After that it has been a part of everything we do.
What was your motivation to do an Unplugged album? Was it a challenge to adjust to the new format?
Most of the songs we write originate on an acoustic guitar. So really it is taking them back to their roots. We enjoy performing acoustically as well.
Touring is an exciting venture, but the travel time can be boring. What are the items that you can’t go without when you’re on tour?
I have to admit I have become pretty dependent on my iPad. It is a great tool to use around the world to keep in touch with loved ones back home, and pass the time on long flights or bus rides. Also over the last couple years I have had A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin to keep me company.
Do any of you still get nervous, and if so what helps?
I don’t think we get nervous anymore. We have played so many shows that it is just a reflex now.
What’s your favourite perk of playing in your band?
Traveling. I can’t believe how much of the world I have seen. With this trip to South Africa, I will have stepped foot on 6 out of 7 continents. Now I have to figure how to get to Antarctica to finish them all.
Is there a specific band that you have befriended and enjoy touring with?
We have had the chance to tour with All Time Low quite a bit over the last three years since we came back from hiatus. We have made amazing friends and actually owe a lot to them. They really helped us get our feet back on the ground in 2011.
What do you do when you aren’t playing music, touring or recording?
Spend as much time as I can with my beautiful lady, who I can now proudly call my wife.
Name a recent event that has moved you or inspired you in any way.
My wife, well fiancee at the time, is a professional snowboarder and had a tragic accident on April 23rd of this year. She took a fall while training in California and broke her back. She has not been able to feel her legs or walk since then. By some miracle Yellowcard had an immense amount of time off over the last 3 months and I have been able to be by her side the whole time. We were married in the hospital in Reno, NV on May 6th. The whole experience has changed me completely. Seeing how hard she is fighting to get her legs back and staying positive all the way is the most inspiring thing I’ve ever seen.
What new up and coming bands have caught your eye?
I have to give some love to Like Torches. They are a band from Sweden that Ryan Mendez and myself had the pleasure of working with last spring. We produced their latest full length, ‘Keep Your Head High’. It’s such a rad record.
Your music has an element of curiosity to it; do you know what you are you planning on exploring next?
Well lyrically I can imagine I will be focused on this insane journey I am on with my wife. There is a lot to “explore” there for sure.
“Good writers borrow, great writers steal.” True?
Haha. I don’t know about that. I love to take direction from artists that inspire me, but any theft has always been pure accident.
Is there any collaboration or show that you have always wanted to but have never had the time to?
The lost of people I want to write with some day is too long to type. At the top of it, however is Chris Martin of Coldplay. He is, in my opinion, the best songwriter of our generation.
A pet project like an unplugged show or adding a whole orchestra to the mix, perhaps?
I have always dreamed of us playing with a full string orchestra. Maybe someday.
The greatest piece of advice you’ve received with regards to the music business?
A good song will always win.
Name some of the things you would like to see / experience while in South Africa?
I assume this is pretty obvious, but we are looking forward to doing some sort of Safari while we are there. Also I am honestly stoked to meet our fans. It blows my mind that our music has reached people so far from where we started.