Considering how long Yellowcard and New Found Glory have both existed within the same realm of major league of pop-punk, it’s kind of shocking that they have yet to tour with one another—in the United States, anyway. But that is finally changing, as the two began a co-headlining North American tour earlier this month with Tigers Jaw as support.
First forming in the late ’90s in Jacksonville, FL, Yellowcard started as a hardcore punk band before settling on a more lighthearted sound. Their fourth album, 2003’s Ocean Avenue, catapulted them into the mainstream, and the 2006 follow-up, Lights And Sounds, only secured their success. Nearly two decades into this journey and they still have their eyes set on the future, as a new era began for the band when they signed to Razor & Tie to release their ninth LP, Lift A Sail, last fall.
Before hitting the road for this run, vocalist Ryan Key had other things on his mind. Spending the last week before tour moving into a new home in Nashville (the same city that will be the future location of his crowdfunded studio Lone Tree Recordings), he was preoccupied with getting everything settled before he left.
“I haven’t prepared at all,” he said, sounding slightly overwhelmed. “I’m trying to get everything finished up today, and over the weekend I’ll sit down with my guitar,” also noting that he has a special piano portion planned for the shows.
“It’s going to take a lot of practice, a lot more than I have allowed myself time for. I’ll probably be playing piano until my fingers bleed.”
This is your first tour with New Found Glory in the States. What are you most looking forward to the most?
It’s crazy how we’ve toured Japan together, we’ve toured Europe together, we’ve played festivals together, we’ve done Warped four or five times, but we’ve never done a proper tour in the U.S. where we play clubs and theaters. I think it’s been a long time coming because we’ve been friends with the guys in NFG for many years, so I’m most looking forward to the hangs. I’ve always been really close with Jordan Pundik, and Chad [Gilbert] and I have really taken to a new level of nerd in our older age where we play a lot of Magick together. So since we’re going to be stuck on tour together there will be a lot of nerding happening. But I love those guys, and I think we share a lot of fans so the experience is going to be killer.
Very cool! Sounds like it’s going to be super fun.
That’s exactly what we wanted it to be, just super fun. We wanted it to be low stress. For Yellowcard at least, the record cycle has kind of ended, so there’s not a lot of stress as far as pushing a new album goes. We can just get up there and have a good time.
Yellowcard fans seem to be very adamant about their favorite songs. When making a setlist, is it difficult to try to please everyone?
It is. So what you do is, you don’t. Does that make sense? It’s impossible to please everybody, so don’t try. We know the songs that we have to play and we try to work those in the best that we can, but we’re also trying to change it up and play songs that we love. A lot of thought goes into it, but you’re never going to make every fan happy.
However, I’m really excited about the setlist for this tour. I think it’s a really good mix across the records. We had a chance to go out and play a lot of songs off Lift A Sail on a few different tours, but this isn’t so much about supporting the new record. We can play a couple songs from it that we love and feel the crowd really interacts well with and then we have some room to put back in older stuff.
What are your personal favorites that you look forward to performing night after night?
When I come on stage and talk about the new record, I tend to say that the thing that keeps it fresh and most exciting for us as a band is getting to play new music. We always wonder how new songs are going to be accepted live because we’re used to people flooding over the barricades 10 at a time, and there are some songs that don’t necessarily lend themselves to that type of energy. We were pleasantly surprised by how stoked people have been to hear some of newer songs. Also, I still like going back and playing “Ocean Avenue.” It’s the best part of the night. If you think you’re having a bad show it becomes a good show; or if you’re having a good show it becomes an even better show when you get to that song. That is still definitely the highlight of the night, and you can feel the tension building as fans are waiting for that song.
So I wanted to talk about the crowdfunding campaign for Lone Tree Recordings. How did the idea to take it to the public come about?
I started by talking to people who had done it and by looking at other artists who have used it. For me, it was important to build something that I felt good about building and fans felt good about supporting. One person I talked to a lot about it was my friend Arun Bali from Saves The Day because they did their last record on PledgeMusic. I got to a point where I was pretty confident in building something that was going to give back to the fans that felt like supporting the project, so I decided to go for it.
What was your reaction when you reached your goal?
It was so amazing. The day we hit the goal was a huge relief because it’s something that I’m very passionate about and is something that I really want to move forward with. So we made it and I was like, “Wow, okay. We did it.” And then it kept going and I was like, “Wait, this is still happening?” (Laughs) Then on the last day with just a few hours left there was such a huge push. It was just mind blowing. It was the middle of the night when it ended so when I woke up in the morning and saw it I just couldn’t believe it. Honestly, it was kind of like tear to the eye, to be able to make this dream come true. I haven’t really had a big dream other than Yellowcard for a while, so this is a big step.
I also really wanted to make music a part of it, so I kicked up a little side project here in Nashville with a few friends called Will And The Whiskeymen and recorded a couple songs that we did as instant gratification tracks for people who were backers. One of the big features of the Kickstarter was to get the first EP from the band and that be the only place you’re going to get it. It’s not going to go on iTunes or be sold in stores or anything like that, it will just be provided to people who back the project. I feel like people are really excited to see it come to life.
In your opinion, how has being a musician for so long helped you as a producer?
Definitely access. It has given me access to artists and record companies where I can go and say, “Hey, I want to make records. Do you have anyone who is looking to make a record right now, and can I sit down with them and tell them I’m the right person to make it?” Then making records and songwriting for over a decade has given me knowledge. Every time you go in to make a record you learn so many new things and I do all I can to just soak all of that up and apply it to making my own records for other people. It’s going to be a long and involved learning process as we go and hopefully it becomes more of a serious thing for me. But I think that the knowledge that I’ve gained from being in Yellowcard and touring and making records as long as I have is priceless.
Would you ever be open to producing a Yellowcard album?
I certainly would. If I did that it would be awesome because I would probably co-produce it with [guitarist] Ryan Mendez. He has a leg up on me in producing, so I’m not sure how I ended up being the one who really wants to go forward with it. But he’s an amazing songwriter and he is much more of a gear head than I am. What I like to do the most is write and produce songs. So if we did the record for Yellowcard, I think Ryan and I would co-produce together. But we make our records with Neal Avron, and we have for 12 years now, and I don’t think any of us would want to make a record without him. So if we were to self-produce a record he would have to be involved. For now I don’t think that’s a thing, but someday it might be rad.
Yellowcard and New Found Glory will be performing at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia on Oct. 23, the PlayStation Theater in New York City on Oct. 24, and the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ on Oct. 28. For more information, go to yellowcardrock.com.