From their iconic debut, A Lesson In Romantics, to their latest album in 2013, Monsters In The Closet, and proceeding tours, Mayday Parade’s music has been a testament to their consistency, never relinquishing in its heart-on-its-sleeve personality and creative, but signature instrumentation.
Consistency is a key ingredient in the success of the Tallahassee, Florida-based band, along with their knack for writing clever and emotive lyrics, playing melodic riffs and epic-sounding solos, and performing with an astute stage chemistry. Mayday Parade have all band members since the band began, minus Go Radio’s frontman Jason Lancaster, who left Mayday after their first album.
For nearly a decade, Mayday Parade have been touring and recording, mending heartbreaks and inspiring young adults through their unique and harmonious blend of rock, pop and punk rock elements. Beginning in 2005 and releasing their first full-length in 2007, Mayday are no strangers to musical trends and changes, but remain a band easily recognized worldwide amidst the pop-punk rock genre.
While time has passed, Mayday Parade retained and reinvented its musical ingenuity, establishing themselves through extensive touring and new music releases. I had the chance last month to speak with Mayday’s lead guitarist, Alex Garcia, about their upcoming tour, his approach to guitar playing and what’s next after the road for the band.
This last summer was your fifth year doing Warped Tour, including your first year where you just sold CDs. What makes the band return to the tour year after year?
Well, Warped Tour is a great opportunity to reach out to kind of like our core fanbase and it’s pretty much where we got our start. We gained a lot of fans from selling CDs on our first Warped Tour and it’s always been like the biggest American music festival for our theme.
What’s the biggest challenge while you’re on tour for you and the rest of Mayday?
It’s always kind of been like this but I’d say it’s not being burnt out by the schedule, and Warped Tour is a great example of this. It’s difficult because you’re constantly going and having to perform, which can be pretty brutal with the heat and it being an outdoor festival. So it’s hard to stay fresh with everything if that makes sense.
I mean, we used to, back in the day, tour for consecutive months at a time, maybe three or four, and I think the longest stretch we did was about seven months, with hardly any sort of breaks, and we can’t do that now. It’s pretty grueling and difficult on us mentally, emotionally and physically especially.
What’s your approach to your guitar parts and solos during live performances? Do you like to stick true to the studio recordings, or do you improvise and add new elements to certain songs?
I think we try and do a little bit of both. A lot of times, we’ve approached songs, either writing them or performing them in the studio as in not really thinking too much about how to perform it live, so that when it comes time to perform a song live, you kind of have to custom tailor what you’re going to play. So it could be easier or more fluid, or pick out the more audible parts and important kinds of things, and I think it definitely changes a little bit.
I also think that the longer that we play songs, like things from A Lesson In Romantics, the more they change. Like for “Jamie All Over” for instance; I know I play it differently now than I played it in the studio. I think over time I just got used to playing it a certain way and it’s just developed into something else. So I think we try and stay true, and I think that’s the same for everybody, to the original recordings, but you customize it, and also, in general, it comes across totally different live than it does on the CD.
Coming from a fellow guitar player, I’m always interested what guitarists choose to play and use on stage, whether their setups be complex with multiple guitars and a board of many effects, or simple, using one or two guitars and a few select pedals. What kind of equipment do you use when you perform live?
I try not to switch around too much with guitars because a lot of times it tends to be more of a hassle than a help, and we don’t really change tunings, actually not until recently we never changed tunings on stage. We have lately for some of the newer songs, so if you see us now, you might see me change up, but I know Brooks [Betts] changes guitars frequently.
I try and stick with one guitar, and as far as effects, the one I use the most is a specific delay called an Eventide TimeFactor, and it’s just a really nice, programmable device. It’s easy to program a set and I can switch between them during songs really quickly to have a specific delay tailored to the song. That’s definitely the most used effect I have.
Does this approach change in the studio?
I try and stick with the same guitar in the studio as well. I don’t know, I’ve always been obsessed with getting and finding a perfect tone for what I want, and because of that, I’ve done stuff with the same kind of things, and honestly, it’s actually something I’ve been thinking about getting away from at this point.
But in the studio, I’ll pick one of my three Gibson Les Pauls. For the last two albums, actually three albums, I just would pick one and stick with that, and that would be the guitar that I’d use primarily. I mean, obviously there are some exceptions, like for really clean parts, like the song “Hold On To Me” on our newest album. I didn’t use one of my Les Pauls. Instead I used a Gretsch Falcon. And there are other instances of that, like I have an Epiphone Dot that I use live too for clean songs and I used it on the last album as well. So it’s not always like that, but generally I like to stick with one guitar.
Mayday Parade have been performing for nearly a decade now. How do you and the band decide what to incorporate into your live setlist?
In some ways it’s easier, in other ways it’s harder. It’s easy to fill out a setlist and pick songs to play. It’s not like we’re trying to figure that out, but the hard part is that with the more albums we come out with, obviously we have to play newer songs, and it’s something we want to do, but it gets to the point where we’re having to cut out some older songs that are favorites.
It’s always a balance between trying to play songs we know kids really want to hear, and also play newer songs, but also trying and keep it fresh. We usually do that by just cutting or incorporating one or two extra songs and kind of switch them around, and think of cool ways to transition between songs.
Your studio guitar work, whether it is your riffs or solos, has always translated well live. What did you grow up listening to and what inspires your guitar playing?
My biggest influences probably guitar-wise were Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page in particular, and Cream, stuff like that, like British blues kind of stuff. Eventually that got me into American blues, but also bands like Oasis, which is one of my favorite bands. Noel Gallagher’s guitar playing definitely influenced me. If I were to go and write a solo, that’s usually where I’ll draw inspiration.
But there’s a lot, I mean, I try and find something in every band with a guitar, because there are a lot of amazing players out there, and it may not be the most interesting part or most technically challenging, but it’s always something that really enhances the rest of the song, which is the most important thing.
Just last month you announced a new album coming out in 2015. Where is the band now in the process?
We’re in the very, very beginning stages of it; I mean, we’re still trying to talk to producers and stuff. I think the only thing we’ve agreed on so far is the timeframe, which will be spring/summer for us to record. We haven’t really gotten together too much to show each other songs, maybe a little bit, but not too much. It’s exciting though, I’m definitely, and I think everyone is, getting really excited about it and we’re definitely starting to transition from the touring part of being in a band to the writing and recording part of it. I’m just really looking forward to it.
Mayday Parade have been together with all its original members, excluding Jason Lancaster, since they began in 2005. How does it feel to be still playing with the same group of guys for so long in an age where lineups rarely last?
It’s great, I mean, I love everyone, we all love each other, and we’re family pretty much. There’s a lot of familiarity there, which is great. You know, obviously there’s times where we can be at each other’s throats and hate each other, but in general, there’s always a good vibe and really positive atmosphere. I couldn’t imagine it any other way. We all got really lucky, being able to be in a group like this for as long as we’ve been and with the other people in Mayday, if any one of us were a different person or not there, it would definitely be a totally different experience. It’s been great; there have been a lot of good times.
What are you most looking forward to out on tour, and in the months following Mayday Parade’s stint on the road?
For the tour, I’m excited to see the bands. I’ve seen PVRIS play on Warped Tour once and I really liked their music so I’m excited to see them play. Same for Tonight Alive and Major League. I’m excited to just get out there and play, especially the Canada dates. We’ve hardly done any significant touring in Canada, so I’m really [excited] we’re going back there and trying to establish ourselves there.
After that I’m excited to record. I’m excited to really start getting ready and write with everyone and work on new material. I think we have a lot of potential and we’re changing a little bit. I mean, we changed from Anywhere But Here to our self-titled, and from that to Monsters In The Closet and I’m excited to see the progression. I’m ready for it.
Mayday Parade will play The Emporium in Patchogue, NY on Oct. 16 and the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ on Oct. 17. Their latest album, Monsters In The Closet, re-released as a deluxe edition on May 27 and they are expected to release a new album in 2015. For more information, go to maydayparade.com.