Interview with Yellowcard: Going Acoustic

In 2003, “Ocean Avenue” was the most popular song in my middle school and Yellowcard were one of the biggest bands around. Fast forward 10 years and Yellowcard are still around and making new music. Their latest release, Ocean Avenue Acoustic, might not exactly be new music, but it is a fresh take on the group’s biggest and most successful release to date. This wasn’t just a “Let’s get our acoustic guitars out and make an album”-type deal. This was a process—a re-visioning of sorts—finding themselves more emotionally invested in the songs they produced 10 years earlier.

Being an artist who writes these songs, you learn to become married to them. Day in and day out, you are stuck with them, whether you like it or not. The guys from Yellowcard are happily married to their hit album from 2003, and embrace it by celebrating their 10th anniversary together, only acoustically this time. I was able to catch up with Ryan Key, lead singer for Yellowcard, to discuss all things Ocean Avenue. In addition to the new album and fall tour, Ryan and I also chatted about social media, using Pro Tools, and the Video Music Awards. Check out what he had to say below:

What inspired you guys to celebrate 10 years with an acoustic album?

I think the fact that we did an acoustic version of When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes a couple of years ago is what ultimately led us to the decision. There is certainly a trend with bands in our world of music celebrating the 10th year of some pretty important records and doing that by going on tour to commemorate the anniversary. We ended up wanting to do something more than just a tour and we enjoyed making the acoustic record a couple of years ago, so we were able to get in the studio and take it a little farther than we took the last one.

With this anniversary, you guys have been making music for a little while now. Can you tell us what it’s like to be in a band that has lasted as long as it has?

I think I’m still shocked on a regular basis that this is what I do for a living. That my sole occupation is writing songs, touring the world, and playing to audiences around the world. For me, the biggest thing about being in a band this long has been the learning process. I have learned so much about who I am as a person with the way Yellowcard has allowed me to continue my career.

Absolutely and it has been interesting to see how music has changed along with technology. Have you guys had any issues learning adapting to the change in technology?

I think more than anything, it has been the change in personal attitudes toward technology. I mean, you don’t want to sound like your parents, but as things continue to change it gets hard not to. I think social media has seriously injured the social skills of young people and I think the attention span of music fans has shrunk immensely. But that being said, social media has provided an unspeakable amount of resources for the band to be able to control its own destiny.

Has this social media provided you with a different way to connect with your audience or is it a bonus?

We have access to fans in ways we have never had before, and we are able to add a personal touch on our communication with them in a way that wasn’t possible. Sometimes we won’t always have time to respond. As a band, we deal with fans in a way that is right for us. We’re always navigating, trying to make the right decisions to keep everyone happy. It’s incredibly difficult to do. It’s kind of a love/hate relationship that I have with it. But we do get to meet fans from all across the world and read their responses. We do get to read a lot of amazing stories on what our band has done for people, whether our music affects their lives on a big scale or we hear from others who are just excited for a new album or to come to a show. That part we really do appreciate and enjoy.

It’s a great thing to be able to hear how your music inspires others. Now that we have discussed technology’s impact on the fans’ side, how has it impacted the way you write and record, if at all?

I would say it has on both sides, writing and recording. The ability to demo your songs has never been easier. We’re able to put together and realize songs with Pro Tools. It would be nice to have millions of dollars in recording budget and a year and a half to make an album, but now you have to have a record written and recorded in 10 weeks now. We’ve been in a rebuilding process for the past three years after taking some serious time off from the band. For a band like us, we have to make a record pretty quick, so without this recording technology, it would be a lot harder to deliver a record on a timely manner.

How was this recording process for Ocean Avenue Acoustic different than the original one in 2003? Was it more strenuous or fun?

This one was stretched out over a couple different periods of time so it wasn’t as much of being in the studio day and night working on the same album. In that way, it was completely different. My friend Eric and I produced the record mostly at his place in L.A. but also in Reno, Nevada. Midway through the recording, my wife—fiancée at the time—had a horrible accident.

I remember getting the call when I was in the vocal booth. She received her initial treatment and surgery in Reno and I made my way over there the moment I got the call. A week later, Eric packed up his car and brought everything to the hospital. He set up shop in the hotel room on one of the floors there. We finished the record over a course of a week or so there. It was a way crazy experience but it certainly was fuel to the fire in terms of deeply investing in the album.

You are asking fans to send in their favorite Yellowcard moments on Twitter and Instagram. What has been your favorite moment so far in your career?

If I had to pick one in particular, it might be when we won that Video Music Award back in 2004. It was just a crazy experience to have the Beastie Boys giving us the award in front of all of those other talented musicians and performing on stage; it was pretty surreal. Getting back together in 2010 and making that first record back was also great. Having that second chance that we were given has to be the greatest experience for me. The past two to three years have been the absolute best to be in Yellowcard.

What are you looking forward to most with this upcoming tour? Continuing this comeback and getting out on the stage?

Yeah, the U.S. tour was always one of the biggest highlights of the year when you are out on the road and I think the nature of doing this acoustic/electric show is going to be really cool for everybody there, band and fans. We get to spend an intimate amount of time together playing these old songs that have meant so much to us. Hopefully when we get back out there, people will be flying over the barricades, running around in circles and all of that fun stuff that goes on during Yellowcard shows.

What do you have planned after the U.S. leg of the tour?

We are taking the shows to Australia and Europe. We will be doing the acoustic thing on three continents, which is pretty cool.

Should be pretty special. Is there anything you would like to tell the readers?

We’ll be doing two nights in both Philly and New York. I understand it is a really tough time for people going to shows to decide which ones to go to since this fall is packed with amazing tours. With the economy, I can’t imagine as a fan having to decide which show you would want to see. We are investing a lot of ourselves into this show and we think it’s going to be something special. We would really love to have you there at either city.

Yellowcard will play at Philly’s Theatre Of Living Arts on Sept. 4 and 5. They will also head to NYC’s Irving Plaza on Sept. 9 and 10. Ocean Avenue Acoustic is now available. For more information, go to