Last year was difficult for the members of the legendary punk rock band Yellowcard. They faced a myriad of personal and professional issues that threatened to overcome them. But Sean Mackin (violin/vocals), Ryan Key (vocals/guitar/keyboards), Josh Portman (bass), and Ryan Mendez (guitar/vocals) never considered giving up. Instead, they wrote Lift A Sail with reflective themes and a promise of seeing the future by looking through the past. Yellowcard has overcome every obstacle life has tossed their way and emerged with the innovative, trend-setting music we have come to love.
The violin is a voice. As a musician, Mackin brought punk music to a whole new level by adding a violin. Mackin explains, “Most parts of songs take a backseat to the vocals, the lyrical melody. We only use that as a template, ninety percent of the time, because the violin was created, way back when, to mimic a voice. And because the range on the violin and the voice are pretty close, Ryan is a high tenor and I rarely play super high in the stratosphere of the violin, is the reason. It’s not an afterthought, just the way to construct a song.” Sometimes a song is developed around a particular part that has already been written, like “Believe” or the string arrangement for “The Waiting Game” and “MSK”. The music is not written specifically with a violin in mind, but rather layered, like a sandwich, with other instruments and vocals. A master at adding non-traditional elements to punk rock, Mackin has more surprises in store. He is the proud owner of an octave mandolin, a perfect accompaniment to acoustic guitar and violin, and he spoke at length about restoring his vintage piano to its former glory.
Home is where you are. Yellowcard is on the road touring for a good part of every year. Down time is spent writing new songs, recording music, and attending to the endless business obligations of a successful band. Yet, home is never far away. From the song “Transmission Home,” the lyrics reflect a longing for familiarity in the words, “I will send a transmission home/To say that I’ve been out here too long alone/And I wanna come down now.” While it is impossible, at times, to travel back home, each person can bring a sense of belonging with him. You do not have to be there physically to feel the comfort of home.
It’s all about the fans. Many artists expound on the importance of fans, but the collective opinion in Yellowcard is gratitude for the fans they have. It is personal for them. At the live show in Cleveland, Key stopped to say, “I want to thank each and every one of you so much for spending the night with us.” It is not about buying the new record or t-shirts, but looking out over a crowd of familiar faces and seeing generations of Yellowcard fans, spanning more than a decade. There is a prevailing mutual respect and admiration between Yellowcard and their fans. Although, Mackin’s personal struggles have been an inspiration to many people, he is inspired by the life he leads. Surrounded by beautiful music is a gift and he never forgets the part Yellowcard followers play. During our interview, Mackin expressed sincere appreciation for the fans and his desire to acknowledge how much their support means to Yellowcard.
Not done yet. More than a decade of making music for us does not mean that Yellowcard is finished. They have just introduced “Yellowcard Impossible”, a video game app that is sweeping the nation. It has become a thrilling and entertaining way to connect with Yellowcard, and I am told that it is best to use two hands when playing to get higher scores. Recently, Yellowcard released a music video for their song “One Bedroom” that is dedicated to the plight of those suffering violence in Central Africa. The band teamed up with Invisible Children to bring awareness and further the efforts of a cause they believe in. Fans can find out how to help by using the links at the end of the video.
The live show is guaranteed to do two things. Key told the audience that the Yellowcard mission is to make sure each person “has the most fun of their entire life” and “that each person would lose their voice”. He added that if someone did not know the words to the new songs (which every person did) that it was okay to make them up, to just sing whatever is in your heart. The show was interactive, with the crowd singing louder than the musicians on stage. There were call and response segments, and no prompts were needed to get the audience jumping, clapping, and crowd surfing. It was, hands down, one of the most fun concerts I have attended. Last year may have been tough, but things are looking up as Yellowcard looks forward to more touring while they work on new music for the fans they adore.