Podcast: Talking Warped Tour with Derek Sanders of Mayday Parade

As Warped Tour makes its final run, perhaps no band epitomizes the opportunity the tour has provided to up-and-coming bands over the years like Mayday Parade. Kiel Hauck sat down backstage with lead vocalist Derek Sanders to discuss how the band got its start following the tour in 2006 and what it means to play on Warped’s final run. Sanders also discusses the creation of the band’s latest release, Sunnyland, and what he’s learned in over 10 years of being on the road in Mayday Parade. Listen in!

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Posted by Kiel Hauck

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Review: Mayday Parade – Sunnyland

Almost everyone who went through a major emo phase loved Mayday Parade at some point or another. It’s a given. There wasn’t a MySpace page that didn’t have a quote from “Miserable At Best” or “Oh Well, Oh Well”. I’m the exception to this rule, per usual.

My “emo” phase (if you could even call it that) happened a lot later than most kids’ did. I wasn’t around the music scene for the heyday of many of these bands. I came in a little later: For example, I’m much more familiar with Paramore’s Brand New Eyes rather than All We Know Is Falling. In short, I was too young for the Golden Age of Emo, and therefore too young for Mayday Parade.

You can buy Sunnyland on Apple Music.

I never went through a Mayday Parade phase until today. I blasted through their entire discography to prepare myself for their sixth album, Sunnyland. Of course, I dabbled in their singles. You can’t have “Jamie All Over” without the word “jam,” now can you? I know a lot of diehard fans of Mayday, though, so I’ve definitely received expert secondhand knowledge. It’s enough to get me by.

Sunnyland starts with a track called “Never Sure.” I think it’s called this because I’m never sure whether I’m listening to “Melrose Diner” by The Wonder Years or a Mayday Parade song. That being said, it’s a great track and the perfect choice for an opener. This seems like a weird detail to hinge on, but I love the tone Derek Sanders’ vocals in the chorus. He truly shines on this album, whether he’s singing softly or really putting some growl into it.

The album continues with “It’s Hard to Be Religious When Certain People Are Never Incinerated by Bolts of Lightning”, which just might be the longest song name released by a band who isn’t empire! empire! i was a lonely estate. I wasn’t a huge fan of this when it was released as a single. I had never listened to Black Lines since it was released in 2015, so I wasn’t used to a heavier sound from the band. It fits into the album very well, though, and I have a new appreciation for it.

The fourth track really stands out. “Is Nowhere” hits hard and seems to me to reference a toxic relationship. You think everything is great at the beginning, but after a while, true colors come out and the idea of the person’s (or even your own) perfection is shattered. “You smile while the symphony plays / And tell me music is your only escape / Well I don’t hear it anymore / So what do we do now?”

Mayday is probably best known for their heartbreaking ballads. “Miserable At Best”, “Stay”, “Terrible Things”, etc. I think the fifth track, “Take My Breath Away”, is a contender for that prize on Sunnyland. I love this track because it’s so delicate. It’s short, but it definitely stuck with me.

A low point on the album comes for me with “Stay the Same”. I think the chorus is a little bit weak, considering the rich lyrical quality of the verses and bridge. I know I’m really picky when it comes to lyrics, but I don’t think the chorus matches the imagery in the rest of the song. The opposite of a low point, though, is “How Do You Like Me Now”. Another intense track, it has nothing in common (thankfully) with the 1999 Toby Keith song of the same name. There’s a lot of things to think about in a lot of these songs, and the lines that really made me stop were the last three: “The hand you hold is letting go / The sunset is fading / So how do you like me now”.

“Satellite” is a cute track, but I feel like it’s a theme that’s been overdone in music lately. There are a lot of songs comparing love to outer space, and I think this track fell flat for me just based on that cliché. It’s a throwaway track in a sea of other really strong ones. It’s not a hindrance to what the album tries to accomplish, it just seems like an afterthought.

Interestingly, the album’s title has an explanation that we don’t get until the last two songs on the album. It ties everything together and makes the entire album more reflective than it appears before you get to the two final tracks. “Always Leaving” is a look back on the time they’ve spent away from their homes during their time as a band. Derek Sanders has a kid now and I have no doubt that this song was brought from the idea that his line of work forces him to miss out on things at home.

The final track, “Sunnyland”, talks about being kids and having the view that nothing could go wrong. Obviously, if you’ve listened to the rest of the band’s discography, you know that virtually everything went wrong in some way or another. Derek sings, “I left something important back in Sunnyland / And it’s something that I know I’ll never find”.

Sunnyland seems to be the name Mayday Parade created for the concept of nostalgia. They talked about old relationships, driving at night with friends, and playing baseball as kids. They’ve covered the theme in virtually every album they’ve released, but I think this is the first time they’ve really nailed it so heavily. This album is a fantastic piece of art. If emo was dead, Mayday Parade have singlehandedly raised it back to life.

4/5

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Mayday Parade Celebrate 10 Years of “A Lesson in Romantics”

Amidst the never-ending deluge of 10-year anniversary tours that have become the calling card for a scene currently awash in nostalgia, how satisfying is it when the source material truly stands the test of time? Mayday Parade’s debut, A Lesson in Romantics, remains just as fresh and enjoyable a decade after its release, while serving as a touchstone for a period when emo pop began bubbling to the surface of pop culture consciousness.

This is probably as good of a time as any to reveal my bias. A Lesson in Romantics is one of my favorite albums – a collection of songs that saw me through a particularly difficult period of life and placed hope on the horizon. I also consider it to be a hallmark album in a genre I love. Born from the influences of its many predecessors, A Lesson in Romantics managed to successfully embed punk inspiration within a pure pop vehicle, helping expand the scene’s audience.

Mayday Parade

Thus, my attendance at the Indianapolis date of the tour found my objectivity slightly compromised. As Mayday Parade made their entrance, the rising lights revealed a stage setup resembling the album’s unforgettable cover art, complete with a sunset, a hand-drawn skyline and even streetlights buzzing with a yellow glow. The only notable absence was that of a red umbrella.

As the opening chords of “Jamie All Over” blasted through the monitors at the front of the stage, I found myself shouting the lyrics of, “I had a dream last night we drove out to see Las Vegas” while wielding my camera to capture the scene – half fanboy, half music critic. I have no regrets.

Of course, I wasn’t alone. I’ve seen many Mayday Parade concerts through the years, and one of the things I love about the band is the joyfulness of their performance. It’s hard not to watch vocalist Derek Sanders bound across the stage, typically barefoot, and not return his smile. Often, the crowd becomes a choir, especially during setlist staples like “Jersey” or “Black Cat”.

Something that sets A Lesson in Romantics apart from its peers is its lack of a signature song, although you could make a compelling argument for “Miserable at Best”. Instead, the album flows effortlessly across 12 tracks, and on this night, everyone in attendance seems to know every word. There are no lulls, no filler tracks to suffer through – Romantics is a truly great album from front to back. Sure, I have my favorite songs, but there’s not a single one that I’m apt to skip.

Mayday Parade

One of the most obvious conversations surrounding the tour has been the absence of Jason Lancaster, who provided half of the vocals on the album, but departed the band before its release. No one truly expected a sudden reunion, but it’s hard not to wonder what such a tour would have felt like, at least until you attend one of the shows.

True to the album’s sing-along nature, the Indianapolis crowd belts out the lyrics in call and response fashion, assisting drummer Jake Bundrick with additional vocal duties. During the aforementioned piano ballad “Miserable at Best”, the crowd is allowed to sing alone for several stretches as Sanders plays from behind the keyboard. It’s the kind of communal catharsis that makes this scene still worth fighting for and a joy to be a part of in its best moments.

A few of my personal favorite moments of the night came during those fleeting lose-yourself flashes, such as during the soaring chorus of “Walk on Water or Drown” and the opening lines of “I’d Hate to Be You When People Find Out What This Song is About”. Even so, it’s hard not to also enjoy observing others in attendance having their own moments of delight or release.

Perhaps what’s just as impressive as the lasting impact of A Lesson in Romantics itself is Mayday Parade’s ability to embrace the lighting in a bottle they captured on that record, while continuing to push themselves forward as a band over the past 10 years. While albums like Mayday Parade and Black Lines may not have resonated in the moment to the same degree, the band has no shortage of great music in its catalogue, highlighted by an encore setlist after their performance of Romantics comes to a close. Songs like “Terrible Things” and “When You See My Friends” seem to elicit just as much energy from a tired crowd as the heralded album that preceded them.

The past few years have seen so many anniversary tours, that it’s sometimes hard to remember what the point was or which albums truly deserve such a grand re-telling. Perhaps it’s something deeply personal, no matter the scope of the tour itself, and a reminder that different songs impact each of us in different ways as time passes. If the goal is to collectively celebrate an album that has stood the test of time, while offering a community the chance to share the experience of what those songs still mean to us, this tour has effectively provided the best blueprint.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Review: Mayday Parade – Black Lines

mayday-parade-press-2015

Better, louder, edgier, more focused, more mature. Somewhere, there’s a collection of the tired, cliché descriptors used by bands to describe their forthcoming albums right before they release an album that sounds very much like the last.

When Tallahassee, Florida, rock band Mayday Parade made claims about the sonic departure they would make with their fifth full length album, Black Lines, they were not paying lip service. With Black Lines, Mayday Parade have crafted what may be the best album of their career and have taken a risk that will likely pay dividends for years to come.

You can buy Black Lines on iTunes.

You can buy Black Lines on iTunes.

Mayday Parade have spent the better part of a decade building an immensely successful career using equal parts pop, rock and emo. The resulting mix of saccharine hooks and melodic riffs has been, at times, terrific (A Lesson in RomanticsMayday Parade) and, at other times, uninspired (Anywhere But Here).

No matter what, Mayday Parade have remained consistent. Their last release, 2013’s Monsters in the Closet, debuted at number 10 on the Billboard 200 and sounded very much like another Mayday Parade record. While it seems unwise to fix something that ain’t broke, it’s also hard to ignore that most bands in this scene have a shelf life, especially if there are no more tricks in the bag.

Perhaps this is why Mayday Parade didn’t just add a new weapon to their arsenal – they instead have reemerged in camouflage, appearing as an almost completely new band. From the opening moments of “One of Them Will Destroy the Other”, which finds singer Derek Sanders screaming atop grinding guitars and crashing drums, it’s clear that this is not another collection of summertime anthems.

Black Lines is a departure from the Mayday Parade we always knew in almost every way. It’s abrasive, dark and extremely raw, sounding more akin to mid-90s alt rock than late-aughts pop punk. However, after multiple listens, the band’s signatures begin to bleed through the cracks in the most pleasant of ways.

“Just Out of Reach” finds Sanders alternating between his new gritty delivery and his tried and true soaring vocal melodies. While Alex Garcia and Brook Betts’ guitars get grimy near the song’s bridge, the song melts into a shadowy, piano-driven refrain near the end that feels like Mayday’s evil twin.

When Mayday Parade truly excel on Black Lines, they throw caution to the wind and fully embrace their new dark side. “Hollow”, a post-grunge number and the album’s best track, feels born from the same session that produced the band’s cover of “Comedown” by Bush. The meandering guitars are haunting, as is Sanders’ cry of, “Bring me the head and cast the rest away”. This is the type of song you might have dared Mayday Parade to write without ever expecting them to follow through.

“All on Me” is another example of pure, unadulterated alt-rock indulgence with its menacing guitars and perfectly placed drum fills, courtesy of Jake Bundrick. When Sanders delivers his aggressive chorus capped with the line, “We’re all liars and truth be told, I’m lost and so afraid”, the formula is complete. “Narrow” capitalizes on its gentle introduction with a crash landing for the ages, capped by some of the best vocal work on the album from Sanders. “Look Up and See Infinity, Look Down and See Nothing” is a new, grimmer take on the customary peaceful Mayday song.

The band’s only real flaws on Black Lines are a few temporary lapses in focus that result in out-of-place moments. “One of Us” could have been the closer to almost any of the band’s albums and “Until You’re Big Enough” sounds like a Mayday b-side. Even so, it’s hard to complain when the overall body is such a welcome shock to the system.

It’s hard to say whether Black Lines is Mayday Parade’s best album – a deviation of this magnitude may take months to properly digest. Nevertheless, it’s an important and exciting stepping stone to the next stage of the band’s career.

4/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.