After a few years of silence, pop punk band Yellowcard are at it again. It’s been nine years after they hit it big with Ocean Avenue, and in 2012, they’ve made it clear they’re here to stay. Back in 2003, hits such as “Only One,” “Ocean Avenue” and “Empty Apartment” made fans take notice. Tours hit the road and a fanbase began to grow. Those days have gone, but they are far from being forgotten. This year, the release of Southern Air has fans everywhere rejoicing at the return of their beloved Jacksonville band.
After a phenomenal setlist on the Warped Tour this past summer, Yellowcard has people wondering, “What’s next?” Well, after I talked with singer Ryan Key, The Aquarian Weekly has the answers you’ve been waiting for.
Back in 2003, Ocean Avenue was released. What was going on during that time in your life?
Let me see if I can remember, I’m an old man now (laughs). At that point, it was all kind of surreal to us. We were signed with Capitol Records and we were out in Los Angeles and our lives had changed so much in those three years since we left Florida where we grew up. I think our biggest goal in life, really, was to be on the Warped Tour. We didn’t even know what to expect from any of that and it’s funny that in particular the song “Ocean Avenue” was the one that really put the band into the spotlight. The song almost didn’t make the album because I couldn’t finish writing the chorus.
The way it all happened was pretty cool for our band. We’re not one of those bands that are hunting singles because we have that song that worked so well for the band, and it named the band. In our lives, we were going through that whole experience and it was all so new. We were learning as we went as we did a lot of things right, and we also made a lot of huge mistakes. We were kind of young and dumb and having too much fun sometimes, and we learned from all of that along the way. That’s really the best part of it, knowing what to do now.
Have you been back to Ocean Avenue in Jacksonville?
On the actual street sign in the location that we hung out, it just says Ocean, but if you go on the map it’s Ocean Blvd. I was writing lyrics and it rhymed better to do Ocean Avenue. I’m here right now at the beach in Jacksonville staying with my parents for my time off this month. I still come here as much as I can. As an adult it’s a better experience. When the band was blowing up it was a different experience to be here. It was going out to bars and restaurants and places; it wasn’t always the best experience and now it kind of cooled down and I prefer it this way. It feels like home to me now more than it did then. You spend your whole life kind of running from your hometown, you kind of want to get out of there at all costs. A decade goes by and you just want to go back there. I love being here and it’s definitely an inspiring place for me now.
Did being in Jacksonville at your hangout spot influence your writing?
Yeah, the time we took off from the band, I was back East a lot. I lived in Athens, Georgia. I was down here a lot in Jacksonville too. Coming off the road, being away from that whole lifestyle, it was life altering. It reminded me what was important in my life. It’s funny because I wrote another album before Southern Air and that record wasn’t so much about that time and how much I changed during that time. It was more about the band getting back together and all of these new dreams and goals we had as a band to go out and conquer the world again. After some of those things were accomplished and realized over the last 18 months, we went in to work on Southern Air. That’s when I started to open my eyes and see how different my life was because of the time I had back here being around the people I love and the people who raised me. In that way I think Southern Air was really influenced by my time here.
You recently did a music video with Tay Jardine of We Are The In Crowd. How was it working with her, and how did the collaboration come about?
Well they’re on our record label, and we’ve toured with them and became friends with them. We wanted to do a separate background vocal on that song that you could clearly hear was different. Tay was in town and was excited about the opportunity to do it. We thought it would be rad to have her be a part of it. We’re loving where we’re signed right now. We love Hopeless Records, we love the guys that work there. They’re super inspired all the time and connected to our band on a personal level. They work really hard for the band, not just for themselves. We like to keep everything in the family so having Tay do this was just a way to do that.
Which music videos are your favorites of all time?
My two favorites are definitely for “Rough Landing Holly” and “Ocean Avenue.” For being the single and the song that we’ve played more than any other song we’ve ever written, that video is still one of the best things we ever did as a band.
How important is it as a band to stay positive for your fans and show them you’re here to stay?
It’s funny how we stumbled into being that band in our songwriting. Not to say that I haven’t gone through some super negative or stressful or dark times in my life, but I think we have a pretty clear description of those times on Lights And Sounds . It’s definitely not the same sunny, happy vibe we had come out with on the previous two records. I think I would say that I write where I am. I write how I feel. I write where I am in my life.
Fortunately, the last two records have been really positively charged. Everything in our lives is moving forward in a good way and we had a lot to look forward to when we were first starting back up and it went so well. Now it’s even better than we could’ve imagined. Having that energy in your life is going to inspire you to write positive songs and I think also I’ve learned over the years what our fans enjoy and what inspires them and I gravitate towards that energy more. At the end of the day, it’s not unhealthy for me to stay on the positive side of things when I’m writing music. It’s better for me, better for the band, and I think I’ve learned how to do that over the years.
What’s your favorite song to play live?
I think “Ocean Avenue” is my favorite song to play live because it’s the one song no matter how bad or good the show is going, the show either gets good or gets better. It’s the song that brings everybody together whether you’re at a headlining show or a festival show where only 10 percent of the crowd knows who your band is, and you play that song and everyone knows who your band is. Like I said, if it’s been a shitty show, then all of a sudden it’s a good show. If you’re already having an amazing show, you close with that song and it takes it to the next level every night, every time. It’s the one song that will always be a good thing in the show.
What can your fans expect to hear on your upcoming tour?
We’re playing a lot of new [songs]; we were challenged to fit in the old. Last year on our fall headline, we played seven out of 10 of those songs on our previous record in our set. Now we have a whole other record now so we have to not play as many of those songs. We have older songs that we have to play. It’s not like people were complaining, “Oh, they didn’t play any of the old songs.” If anything, the new songs were better live last year than the old stuff. It was crazy. I don’t see why that’s going to be any different this year based on the reaction to Southern Air.
I see so many Twitter posts and messages saying, “I hope the fall tour is loaded with SA songs, I hope they play the whole record,” stuff like that. We’re definitely going to play the songs we need to play but we’re excited about doing another big tour where we can play a big chunk of our new record. I think it’s going to be awesome.
Do you have anything you’d like to say to your fans that plan on coming out to New York City?
Well, it’s funny; the New York show is a good example. We played at Irving Plaza last year. It was great, the show sold out. And I said, you know, if we’re playing that spot next year, we’re doing everything right. There couldn’t be a better description of the fact that everything is going in the right direction for Yellowcard. In the summer when we were talking about the tour, we got the offer to play at that spot. I said, “That’s rad, that’s exactly the venue I used as an example to gauge how everything was going right.” Last week the show sold out.
So our minds are blown, honestly. I’ve been touring in this band for 11 years—12 years almost really—and through every up and every down, to have New York City, one of the biggest markets in the world to play music in, for our band, Best Buy [Theater] is a huge accomplishment and selling it out is a huge accomplishment. We are so grateful to our fans there for the opportunity. Thank you is really what I have to say to our New York fans. I don’t have to ask anybody else to come out to the show, it was all because of them. It’s going to be awesome, and I can’t wait. I’m looking forward to that show out of the whole tour.
Yellowcard will be at The Electric Factory in Philly on Nov. 16 and the Best Buy Theater on Nov. 17. For more information, check out yellowcardrock.com.