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A Day Away With Yellowcard

(Interview With Ryan, Sean, Ben, Pete and LP Taken From Black Velvet 41 - Aug 2004)

By Shari Black Velvet

It's not every day that you get to hang out with Yellowcard. It's not every day you get the opportunity to take Yellowcard out to wherever you want to take them. But when the UK tour with Less Than Jake was announced and Black Velvet decided the band were so good they deserved another feature right after the last one, and not only that but a cover to go with it, we were told we could spend a day with them.

Do 'something different', their press officer prompted. He suggested going snowboarding, or even to Warwick Castle. We can't snowboard… what if we break our legs!? Warwick Castle was a possibility but was an hour's drive away. We pondered, we searched the net for cool places to go, we pondered some more. We even looked in the Yellow pages (no pun intended).




Yellowcard on the cover of Black Velvet 41. This issue is now sold out at Black Velvet HQ - although www.vags.net, and www.waterfrontrecords.com have copies available



We made a list. Tobogganing, Bingo in Redditch, Ragley Hall, the afore-mentioned Warwick Castle, paintballing, Lazer Quest, bowling, Go-karting… you name it we thought of it. We weren't sure though. They were either crap (ie. Bingo), too far away (tobogganing), too expensive (Go-karting) or you had to be there for full or half days (paintballing). In the end we plumped for Cadbury World. It is after all a local landmark that Birmingham is famous for, not too far away and not too lengthy. And they'd get free chocolate! Let's get Yellowcard sampling some of our local trademark delights, we thought.

So that was it. The decision was made. All we needed now was the band!

So on the day of the Wolverhampton show, we made our way to the Civic Hall to meet up with the Yellowcard camp (that's Ryan Key on vocals, Sean Mackin on violin, Ben Harper on guitar, Pete Mosely on bass and Longineu Parsons on drums) and then we all trundled off to Cadbury World in Birmingham to see how chocolate is made. Good thing the band eat chocolate… 'cause being vegan we don't!

While in the cab on the way there, Black Velvet found out what a typical day on the road for Yellowcard is actually like.

Ryan jokes that the band get up at 5am each day. "No way!" gasps Ben. "At least 9am". "I get up at noon pretty much every day," Ryan then truthfully reveals. Turns out that they're sleeping on the tour bus, although occasionally when there's a day off they have a hotel room. The day before Wolverhampton was a day off that saw the band wandering around the capital. Ryan says that he and Pete "walked around London for about two hours trying to find a place to play football, and there were no fields with any goals, so we went back to the hotel. Then we went out and had really good Italian food and went to see a movie."
He says that they watch a lot of movies when they can. "When we have days off that's usually what we do. We go check out movies because we get really behind in movies as we don't have time to go ever."
While on the recent US tour, Ryan watched the Godfather box set.
"I like movies, I just never have the patience to sit down and watch a whole movie," Ben contrastingly reveals. "He's always got something else to do!" laughs Ryan.
Ben indeed is busy with his own independent record label in the States, Takeover Records. In March they reissued 'Where We Stand', an earlier Yellowcard album that was previously hard to find.
Sean speaks up for Ben. "Ben wanted to give to the kids where Yellowcard came from. The recording isn't very good. I think the performances aren't superb, there are other singers, but it's more for the really devoted fans that wanted to see where we had come from and give them an opportunity to go back in time and find out those years prior to where Ryan came from. It's nothing more than that. We won't be performing any of the songs. It's just a really good start to jump-start Ben's record label and to show the fans. It's more of a novelty thing I think. I don't know if it has distribution over here but I know that it's available at takeoverrecords.com."

Takeover Records has quite a few bands under its belt already including Stole Your Money whose new album 'In Your Box' features Ryan, Ben and Sean. Sean tells us he also just sang on an Over It song on a three-way split that the label put out. "Us as musicians are kind of like a community. It's always been like that. Our old friends in Pete's old band Instruction 12 would always do that. They'd have friends come out and sing. I've played on Inspection 12 records before as well. It's kind of us giving a helping hand, giving Travis and the Stole Your Woman guys other avenues to expand their musical horizons as well. It was a fun thing to do."

Talking about the band's own music, Sean says of 'Ocean Avenue' a year or so after it's US release, "I think it's surpassed all we ever thought it was going to do. It's a really great introduction of us to not just the scene but the whole music industry. The fact that we've had all this exposure, it's very exciting. I think we're very happy with where it's taking us."
More recently the band have written a song for the Spiderman 2 soundtrack, entitled 'Gifts And Curses'.
"I arranged it with a really big string section," says Sean. Looking to future recordings he continues, "We're really experimenting with our own songwriting and all of our influences. I think we're still testing the boundaries. The music's still changing so I don't really know where we're going to go or how to put it into words but it's already growing, already changing a little bit. It's all part of growing up and the evolution of music."
"We wanna sound like The Beatles," pipes up LP.

Pete Mosely on bass rejoined the band after Yellowcard's first headline UK tour. Pete had written and recorded 'Ocean Avenue' with Ryan, Sean, Ben and LP but then quit before Alex Lewis took his place. Pete says he originally left for personal reasons.
"When I first came out to play with them I wasn't as ready as I thought I was to leave home and go out on the road and I just had a lot of personal stuff go down when I was out, and I just thought it was worth it to give it up and go home and see what I could make amends with."
He says he knew that the band was destined for success. "When I left I knew the record that we'd just made was really good and I was proud to be a part of it. It was cool to be at home and watch them have their first video on MTV and perform on the late night shows and whatnot. I still felt that I was part of what was happening. I just wasn't directly involved in it."
During the ensuing year Pete missed the traveling and playing shows with his friends though.
"It's a great thing to be able to get up and play every night. I love traveling and seeing all the different places, meeting all the people."
Now that he's back in the band (Alex Lewis was thus dismissed), he says it's been wonderful. "It was about a year since I was gone and when I came back into it, it was like no time had passed at all. I hadn't played with the guys since we did the record. That was in March of 2003 and I came back in March of this year and it seemed like I'd had maybe a month off and that was it. I slid back into it really well."
So it's not weird at being at a different success level?
"No, I take things pretty light-heartedly. Yellowcard are definitely on this whole new level, the sizes of shows that we're playing, the amount of exposure that we're getting and I usually just let that all pass by me. It's definitely cool though, all the opportunities and experiences that we've had. It's a lot of fun."

Getting back to a day in the life of Yellowcard, we talk about food and riders. A rider is what the band actually request each day on tour. Ryan says that they have a pretty normal rider. "I think the most special request we have is Hot Pockets."
Hot Pockets?
Ryan tries to explain what they are for us UK folk that aren't accustomed to them. "Almost like pastry/bread on the outside but ham and cheese on the inside or pepperoni pizza on the inside. It really fills you up and they're really easy to make. They're really big but they're really easy to cook. They're good to have at three in the morning on the bus when there's nowhere to stop and eat. But we don't have anything weird or crazy on our rider. No bowls of only green M&Ms or anything."
The band also eat out at restaurants. They frequent steakhouses. "We only have one vegetarian in the band and he's just become one."
That member is Pete, which means he wins Black Velvet points. We do love our fellow veggies/vegans, although later he tells us he eats fish - which means he isn't really vegetarian after all. But at least he's not eating 'other' meat… and that's something.

The guys try and hang out with the other bands they're touring with when time allows, although with hectic schedules it's not always possible.
"The bigger tours are a lot harder because the drives are longer and you have to leave earlier at night so you don't get so much time to spend like back in the day when there were four bands following each other around the country and you'd show up at whatever bar you were playing and hang out there all day. We don't have that luxury anymore."
Ryan says the band don't get much time to go out into town to sightsee or shop on the day of a show either.
"It's pretty much 'wake up, start press' right away."
"We try and find some time to eat," says Ben.
"Try!" repeats Ryan. "Eating is not on the schedule. We don't get to eat."
It seems that they have more time at festivals where they have a shorter set.
Talking about the hectic Warped tour, which saw them go from town to town with barely a day off, Sean says, "The best part of it is the amazing amount of people you encounter over the summer. It is hard but you're surrounded by your friends. It's probably the greatest experience ever. There are all the bands that you grew up listening to. It's just a really cool thing to be a part of. You get to hang out for the whole day. We meet a lot of fans but also get to hang out with a lot of bands that you don't ever get to tour with. It's everybody together. It's like a giant circus. It's a lot of fun."

Ben tell us he did a radio interview with The Storm earlier. We find out there are a couple of fanzine interviews that a couple of bandmembers have to do upon returning from Cadbury World.
They tell us they find out in advance what press they have to do.
Ryan says, "It's all on our day sheet. So when you get up you know what you've gotta do for the day. It's a pretty regimented schedule."

Following or preceding press (depending on the day) comes soundcheck. This is something the band take very seriously.
"We don't get one on this tour which is a bummer," says Ryan. "We got one in Glasgow and it actually made a rad show but we didn't get one in Leeds which was kind of a bastard. Most of the time when you don't have one something bad happens. We're so used to how we do it in the States now. We have really good monitor systems and really good this and that as opposed to when we used to have nothing and would just plug our amps in and go. Now we've become accustomed with being able to hear ourselves play better so when you come back into an environment where you don't get a chance to dial all of that in it's really hard to play."

Before the band go onstage you'll find them loosening up in the dressing room. Ben says they all do stretching exercises since they "jump around like monkeys". Ryan does vocal warm-ups… scales… to set his voice into action. He also jokes that Ben likes to have ten cocktails. He follows it up by joking that to warm down they have ten more cocktails!
Once in a while they'll go out to clubs. Ryan and Ben have been hanging out a lot lately since the other guys have girlfriends.

They obviously all love touring but have had the odd not-so-nice experience also. In Manchester on their headline tour earlier in the year, someone in the audience threw a shoe at Ryan which narrowly missed hitting him in the face.
Ben says the kid was "throwing stuff on stage all night. And Sean plays the violin - he can watch. A lot of times he's not playing the violin. He caught the kid that was throwing stuff and right as he threw it…"
"He pelted it right at my face and Sean's hand came and caught it at the last second," continues Ryan. "I had my eyes closed, I was singing. I remember opening my eyes right before it was gonna hit me and Sean caught it. And he threw the shoe down and jumped off stage and ran out into the audience and just started punching the kid in the stomach. We all threw out instruments down and ran out off the stage."
"It was really crazy," says Ben. "We were all amped up from being onstage."
"One night kids were throwing pizza at us, calling us 'dirty smelly yanks' and shit," also recalls Ryan. "They were not very American-friendly."

Black Velvet however are very American-friendly and are enjoying our day with them. After a 45 minute taxi journey we arrive at Cadbury World just in the nick of time. Last entry is 3pm and it's 2.55. We get our tickets and are promptly handed free Cadburys Curly Wurlys and milk chocolate bars (I think I need to tell the place they should make a vegan range) and follow the Cadbury Land trail which sees the boys happy to pose for pix in the old history section, sampling more chocolate in the Cadbury kitchen, watching short videos on how the chocolate is actually made and wrapped up, and riding the magical Cadabra which sees us all have our pic taken in our 'beanmobiles' on the way through! Oh and we're given more chocolate. Sean comes to the conclusion that everyone who works at Cadbury World is happy! We also, trivia fans, find out on the way out that Coldplay and Gwyneth Paltrow were there fairly recently also.
It's a fun day out. Hopefully it was a day that Yellowcard enjoyed as much as we did. It was definitely different, that's for sure. And they got to eat!

Visit www.yellowcardrock.com for more info




There's Something About Yellowcard

(Interview With Sean Mackin Taken From Black Velvet 40 - May 2004)

By Shari Black Velvet

There's something about YELLOWCARD... something very special about Yellowcard You see, they're a little bit different to your average rock band. While it's a bit unfair on the rest of the band to pick out one particular member, Yellowcard have something - or rather someone - that a lot of bands don't - and this has helped the band win recognition and achieve success. What or who is that? A violinist. A backflipping violinist actually. And yes, while there are other bands out there that do have violinists, Yellowcard actually play amazingly good music at the same time.


Sean Mackin, the violinist in question, is out shopping in London with his fellow bandmates. Their first UK tour has just been completed and they're spending a day or two to check out the city. Turns out that not only can Sean sing and play the violin at the same time, but he can also shop and talk to Black Velvet at the same time. What a talented guy! So read on to find out what he has to say…

"We're actually sneakers freaks… trainers you call them," Sean informs us. "We're looking for some shoes," he says, explaining the shopping trip. "I actually just found a really nice pair of Adidas and Ryan's in the Doc Martin store as we speak."
They've earned a day of shopping. In the last week they, that's Ryan Keys (vocals/guitar), Ben Harper (guitar), Alex Lewis (bassist who has since been replaced by former Yellowcard man Pete Mosely), Longineu Parsons (AKA LP, drums) and Sean, have headlined shows in Leeds, London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow, putting on outstanding performances that left you feeling refreshed and excited at witnessing a great, new band that you just know are going to be huge.
"It was very exciting. Everything was interesting, the kids were different. To play for new kids we'd never played for before was kinda nerve-racking but it definitely keeps the excitement in it and keeps us on our toes."
Although Yellowcard have a whole pile of releases under their belt, this is their first time in the UK. And although they've picked up heaps of fans in the US, they've not had chance to crack our own country yet. And we stress that word 'yet'.

Since the band picked up their first record deal with the independent Lobster Records, Yellowcard have been out on the road almost non-stop. When they're not on the road they're usually in the studio. Apparently in 2001 the band played 160 shows, in 2002 they did 280 shows and in 2003 they played a whopping 300 shows. They're taking it all in their stride though.
"We're still young which is fortunate. It's starting to take more of a toll on us as we're getting a little older, but also I think that the flying out that we're starting to do right now is a little more difficult 'cause the sleep is less but we're very fortunate to be as lucky as we are."
They're well-accustomed to life on the road in the US.
"Now the shows are bigger and we're in a bus so we're able to sleep more. So it's a little more comfortable. But the flying stuff and the time changes are difficult. I'm not going to say it's better but it definitely is much more exciting than flipping burgers or whatever."
Sean tells us he loves the feeling of performing in front of an audience, and all the travelling and any other downside of being in a band is made worthwhile by the one hour or so that they have onstage.
"When we're onstage it's just us and the kids, but it's also a show to us. Our fans put as much into it as we do. We're really lucky. We're almost in a trance after we get offstage. We've played so many shows that we get into autopilot but there are definitely nights where you get offstage and you go "wow, that was amazing". I give it everything I have onstage so it's a little bit exhausting but it's definitely a wonderful feeling."

Yellowcard are back in the UK as support to Less Than Jake in May. You may actually have seen them before getting a hold of this zine and interview. The two bands are good friends. Not only have they toured the States together a couple of times but drummer of fellow Florida band, Less Than Jake, Vinnie, released Yellowcard's 'The Underdog EP' on his independent Fueled By Ramen record label.
Sean remembers their tours fondly.
"I think JR said once "the only band that can party on the road and drink and hang and bring ladies in is Yellowcard". But every night is a different story. I remember this one time we played with them in Portland and we were at the bar in this loft area and I think that was the craziest show I've ever seen. It looked like a sea of people. I think it was the end of 2002 and there were four moshpits and everything else just looked like this crazy wave of people crowdsurfing. It was chaotic. It was pretty cool."
Another band that Yellowcard are good friends with are The Starting Line. As a show of their friendship they even wrote a song for them, entitled 'Finish Line'. Sean says it's important to be friends with other bands.
"Before this band was ever a band we were a circle of friends, so our friendships, our friends and our band are like brothers. It's very much a part of us. Not so many other bands are like we are, but The Starting Line we're really close with. They have that close bond within the band and we all got along together; it was great. Two young, hard-working bands coming up. We hadn't heard of them and they hadn't heard of us. It was just a really good time for both of our bands."
The band are also known for being very fan-friendly. During the UK tour, Sean, Ryan and Ben all posted messages for fans on their official site message board.
"They take care of us and we take care of them. We're a very personable band," confirms Sean.
The band's merchandise man, Joe, also has his own site that fans have used to become closer to the band. "Joe, our merchandise guy, one of the team, one of the brothers, actually started a website, ycmerchguy.com, and through that website we've become more familiar with fans across the States and across the country and we definitely have more people that we're close to and more personal with, just like a 'hi, how are you? Thanks for coming out' kind of a thing. We're very fortunate to have Joe with our band and we're very lucky to have kids that support us as much as they do."

Going back to the beginning, Yellowcard actually formed in Florida before shifting coasts and landing in California. The original outline of the band joined forces back in 1997-2009. Sean tells us what his initial impressions of his (current) fellow bandmembers were.
"Ryan wasn't in our band and he always hung out with an older crowd. I remember always thinking of him as lucky but also mildly arrogant, 'cause I didn't really hang out with that crowd. It wasn't until college that we got really close.

"And then he joined the band. Ben, I remember him being an amazing soccer/football player. I met him when I moved to Florida. I've actually known Ben for the longest for about 14 years. He played soccer on my younger brother's soccer team. And then we ended up going to high school together. It was totally random. I just remember when I first met Ben he was an amazing soccer player."
"When I met LP all I could think about was drums. He reeks of talent. That kid is by far the most talented musician I've ever played with."
There's a slight pause. At the time of this interview Alex Lewis was still seen as a member of the band. It was announced a week later that he'd been replaced by former bassist Pete Mosely. And Alex? I ask not knowing of him forthcoming departure.
"Alex was always quiet. I remember Alex being super-quiet. We met him in California. He was always quiet. Then when we rooted ourselves in California we became more and more familiar with him. I remember him being quiet and everyone was like 'no, he's cool,' and then once you get to know him and once he has a drink he tends to loosen up and he's really quite a funny guy. We laugh for hours. It's pretty fun."
Once the band line-up had been cemented, they decided to move to Ventura, CA to seek out a record deal and musical success.
"Florida was just like a security blanket; a very comfortable home. I don't think it would have pushed us to drive. It was always there but I think because we were entrenched in the industry and the business and the music I think it made it much easier. It just drove us to strive to be as good as we could be."
Once in Ventura the band have hardly looked back. They're now are signed to Capitol Records, have CDs out, are touring the world and picking up new fans every day.
"That's what we're trying to do - reach out to new people - and some people like it, some people don't. I wake up everyday and I'm like 'I'm not supposed to be here!' I'm not supposed to be in London. I'm not supposed to be playing an electrical violin. I thought I was going to be a music teacher playing at the back of some second rate school somewhere, so every day is kind of a treat to me. It definitely has not lost its sparkle."
The band work so hard that Sean has been known to even do an interview just prior to boarding a flight. That alongside how he's shopping and being interviewed by Black Velvet, poses the question - has he been interviewed in any other bizarre places?
"I think that the fact that I'm doing an interview in London is bizarre. Most of our interviews are in buildings or at the venue. I did an interview at my brother's house in Tallahassee in Florida in his apartment, which was pretty random. It was right before our Christmas break and I was seeing my brother's apartment and hanging out so that was pretty random but nothing too bizarre like a men's room or anything crazy like that!"

Sean's been playing the violin from a very young age. He says that when he was younger kids used to pick on him.
"It's not a very masculine instrument, so to speak, but as I get older it's more appreciated. As a younger musician it was definitely harder for people to accept. I guess I was just an easy target."
He says he usually plays with the same violin at shows, from start to end, unlike most guitarists who will switch their instrument a few times during the set.
"I have a black one that I'm rather fond of. But I just got a red one by a company called Zaida. I have a classic one which is a family heirloom, it's about 100 years old. And I have the first Fender electric violin which I bought."

Sean's also known for doing backflips during concerts. And now that he's been doing them for a while he feels obliged to do one - or two - at every show - if possible.
"If there's room I have to do them. Kids gets mad. They know it's coming. I usually do it in the same spot. We're gonna try and change that, it's just hard because I play on some stuff. We're going to try and do something different of course but if I don't do it kids are like "ohh, what are you doing?" and sometimes there are shows when there's not room onstage or the ceiling's too low and I just can't do it, and kids are like "Why didn't you do it? Do one now!" and I'm like "No, it's ok."
The backflips are always at the end of the show. At the Birmingham gig, Sean did one right at the end of the main set and then another in the encore. I suggest running onstage at the start of a show and opening a show with a backflip instead for a change.
He says, "We played a show in Jacksonville, opened with one of our old songs; it's called 'Trembling', and I stood up on and we played a little guitar intro and right at the end of it we were supposed to come in but we waited and made a crescendo of guitars and cymbals and I did a backflip as the song came in. It was pretty exciting but we haven't played that song in a long time.
"And there's a couple of others where I get chance to put my violins down. I think as we get older and violins aren't so expensive I might be able to experiment and try and do one with a violin in my hand so I don't lose that feeling of not playing towards the end of songs - but they're expensive! I don't want to hurt 'em!"

Sean sees the band playing music for a long time. One of his goals is for the members to stay focused and excited with the music they're producing and performing.
"I'd like to see us keep the same kind of drive and the same kind of gleam in our eye, so to speak."
One way to help him keep that gleam in his eye is, as he says, to check out Yellowcard music if you haven't already. If you have, then yay for you, but if you haven't, then you should. Sean hopes you'll give the band a shot and maybe even before buying the record, go and catch one of their live shows.
"Try and listen to it with an open mind." He says about the band's 'Ocean Avenue' album. "We definitely put our hearts and our souls into it and even if you don't like the songs then perhaps you'll like the show that we entertain you with. And thank you for giving us a shot."
Visit www.yellowcardrock.com for more info and get the Capitol Records release, 'Ocean Avenue', out now.


Copyright: Black Velvet Magazine. All Rights Reserved.

Please note that all articles, photos and other items on this Black Velvet website are owned and copyrighted by Shari Black Velvet/Black Velvet Magazine unless otherwise stated and must not be used elsewhere under any circumstance. Articles in Black Velvet Magazine should not be put online without the express permission of the editor.


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