Q&A: Yellowcard's Ryan Key on Recharging and Writing About Family
Yellowcard has come a long way from its Jacksonville roots and has the musical success to prove it. New Times spoke with lead vocalist/guitarist Ryan Key to find out what the band has been up to since taking some time off and what to expect from the band's latest album. Coming back in full force, Yellowcard pushes all limitations out the window and reminds you why they belong in your CD player. Touring has begun (and hits locally on Thursday with All Time Low, Hey Monday, and the Summer Set) and When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes came out March 22.
New Times: What part of life is When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes exploring?
Ryan Key: It's really representative of the last couple of years and what we've all been through, and how we've worked our way back to being together again as a band. It was a really challenging time for the band when we decided to go on a break in 2008 and it was a tough decision for us to make, but we all agreed that we felt like it was just time for everyone to take some time away from it. So when it came time to write the record, there definitely was a lot of material, a lot of fuel for the lyrics and the music and working together. It was a really amazing experience. We all had more fun making a record than I remember us having in a long time. It's been awesome so far.
In "For You and Your Denial," I really loved how it opens with the violin. It took me back to Ocean Avenue, and I wanted to know if there was a specific influence for incorporating the violin into this style of music?
You know, Sean's been in the band since the beginning, since high school (1997 or so) when we were first starting up. I wasn't even in the band then. I think the fact that we went to a performing arts magnet high school and it was just a really creative environment (and at the time Yellowcard was way more edgy punk rock), and it doesn't surprise me at all that in that environment a punk rock, punk metal type band would incorporate a violin into their music. There's always that part of it, that part of the songwriting process and we view it as just another instrument in our band. It's not something we're trying to force down people's throats or use as any kind of gimmick or anything. It's just part of what we do every day. So, we're really conscious with the new record of utilizing Sean to the best of our abilities and wanted to kind of make a violin heavy record. A lot of the reason being because we know how much the fans love what Sean does and what he does in our songs. This record was really important for us to make sure that every fan of our band that gets this record is just super excited and moved by it and so I think that's why the violin is so prominent in a lot of places on the new record.
A lot of songs on Ocean Avenue I really related to in high school. Was that an album that maybe pushed you guys into adulthood in a way?
Afterwards, absolutely. I mean everything that came along with that record definitely changed our lives dramatically. We had to learn how to deal with business and being all around the world all the time really, really quickly when that happened. As songwriters and as people, we changed and were forced to grow up pretty quick.
What did going on hiatus do for the band creatively?
I think it mostly recharged the band. You know, we were able to take our time away from all Yellowcard, all the time. That way when we came back to writing music, it felt really new again. That's a rare opportunity when you're in a band that's going as full-steam ahead as we have been in the majority of our career. You get into a routine, and you just do what you do. This really made it exciting and fun again because it was like writing a first record again. It really felt like it had been that long since we worked together and played together. So, it was great.
Does it feel surreal to be sharing your stories and music with so many people who feel the same way?
Yeah, it's ridiculous. When we moved to California in 2000, 2001 collectively our biggest goal as a band was to get on the Warped Tour. That was like our biggest dream. Everything that happened after is just super-surreal. The accomplishments, thinking not just about the United States where we sold a lot of records and were playing huge shows, but taking it out of the States where so much happened so fast, and understand how far across the world it spread. That blows my mind. We're getting on a plane in the morning to go to Japan. And it's my eighth trip to the island of Japan. If you told me when I was a kid growing up that A. I was going to be in a band for a living and B. I'd be playing in Japan and Russia and Finland and all these places we're going, I never would've believed you. And, it's incredible. So, the answer is definitely yes, it's pretty surreal.
Is there a song you've written that you really get emotional over when performing it?
There's one on the new record that is probably going to be tough to get through called "Sing for Me." Haven't had a chance to perform it yet, but just judging by how hard it was to get through the actual writing process of the song, I can only imagine what it's going to feel like to play it live. I wrote it for my aunt Stephanie, my mom's sister. She's been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, and it's been a really tough, really impossible time for our family. Our family is so large and we're all so close, so this is the kind of thing that's a nightmare. It was definitely something I knew I wanted to tackle as a songwriter. This record is close to me, close to my family and even if there was one song right now I could've answered with, this one is gonna trump that one, you know?
So are you excited to be coming back to Florida for the tour?
We're excited to go everywhere. It's been so long. For me, over the last couple of years while we were on break, I was still able to write songs, and I was actually writing a lot of songs, a couple of which ended up on the new Yellowcard record, but I wasn't able to play shows. That's my favorite part of what we do, traveling and being up there in front of the fans, interacting with them and hearing them react to what we're doing. Just trying to make them have the best night of their lives, that's the goal every night. I really miss that, and I'm really looking forward to touring, especially in Florida. You know, my family comes out to all those shows, and I'm bummed we're not playing Jacksonville, our hometown, but this particular tour that we're on with All Time Low, the routing, cities and shows we're playing were chosen by the time we joined on. I'm hoping we can come back to Jacksonville later in the year. It's been awhile since we've had the chance to play a hometown show.
Yellowcard. With All Time Low, Hey Monday, and the Summer Set. 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 31 at Revolution, 200 W. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $22 to $24. Click here.
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