Looking for a way to spend a May day? How about tuning into Mayday Parade’s May 1 livestream? Live music, interactive games, and virtually distant – but still social! – interactions. What more could you want in a pandemic world?
Welcoming the start of springtime means the resurgence of a lot of wonderful things: flowers, warm weather, picnics, butterflies. The list goes on and on. What tops that list in an underrated way, though, is the reminder the Mayday Parade is still working hard at being a band for the ages. With 15 years of music making and concert touring under their belt, the alternative rock icons are still one with their fanbase. Their appreciation for their fans, the interactions they have with them, and the energy they bring is off the charts. Every song of theirs is more impassioned than the one before and every release associated with the MP name is purposeful and tactful. Why? Because what they do is for their fans, the people who have spent the last 15 years building up the wonderful whirlwind of a career that they continue to have.
In between newfound parenthood and pop punk event planning, Mayday Parade’s Brooks Betts got on a call with AQ to talk about the band’s genuine love for what they do and who they do it for (which will always be their fans, but might also be for little Brooklyn Jae Betts now, too).
Mayday Parade has consistently been a band that shows their fans how much they mean to them. The way you guys immerse yourselves into the fandom and allow them to be part of all the band’s action has always been something otherworldly. How important is it for you guys to maintain that bond with them after all this time?
Well, it’s super important because obviously that’s who we do this for, you know? I mean, we make music because we enjoy it, we love playing music and creating, but when we were coming up and trying to figure it out – even in high school and looking up to other bands that we were fans of – that’s always been the goal: to create music that our fans like. We like it, too, but we like all kinds of stuff. I could elaborate on examples of that, but at the end of the day, we want to create something that the majority of our fan base will enjoy.
Of course, the band-to-fan relationship is crucial to an enjoyable career. It only makes sense that we now talk about the Mayday Parade’s May Day livestream on May 1, which is all about those stellar, close knit, and genuinely fun fan interactions. What can people who attend expect? And what are you yourself hoping for?
We’re trying to be available in a time where we can’t be as much as we’d like. We are just trying to create interactive experiences with our fandom, which we’re used to doing when we can actually be out on the road. We try to always make ourselves available to people. This is a way to kind of interact better with our fan base while we can’t see them on tour. There are just a bunch of little things in store and lots of content that we’ll give to fans. I think we’re doing a trivia thing, and I know Derek mentioned possibly even playing a couple of songs. A livestream is something we can’t really do together, because we all live in different places, but we will probably jam a couple of things, acoustically and informally, and do that kind of thing live.
That sounds so fun. And like you said, it’s at a time where a lot of people need that escapism and that enjoyment.
Speaking of, of course we’re still somewhat living in an age of virtual shows and little to no in-person events – hence a livestream. Obviously Mayday has utilized some of the Internet’s most accessible forms of communication and music making, and you have this livestream coming up, but what are your thoughts on this remote way of performing? Is it hard to not feel that rambunctious and electric energy being bounced off of you and the audience from stage to crowd?
Yeah, it’s very difficult. As you might know, we’ve done a couple shows where we performed in front of nobody. It’s all digital, so there’s a couple of factors that are new, but the first big one is that yes, I’m used to being able to move a lot and have a lot of fun on stage. It’s fun for me and it’s fun for the crowd usually. That’s a very difficult thing to do when there’s nothing but a camera in front of you, you can’t see the fans, and it almost feels like a music video because you have nobody to bounce off of except for yourself. Then the other part of it, if you’ve watched any sort of recording – especially like late shows and things like that where they have guest artists come on – those can be dodgy sometimes. Some of those performances are good, but some are bad, and it’s because you’re under a microscope. If I’m being recorded straight off the board and not having room ambience and that kind of thing, there’s no room for error or letting loose. Usually in a live show, if you’re in a big room with people and there’s a lot of amplification and noise going on, I can get away with a couple of flubs if it means that I’m putting on a fun show. When we’re doing these recorded sessions, these streamed sessions, there’s not as much room for error. Now you have two things working against you: you don’t want to screw up because you hear it and you’re under a microscope, and you don’t have any fans seemingly in front of you to perform directly to.
There’s also some exclusive merchandise dropping alongside these aptly named May events and celebrations. But since the beginning, you guys have had such a notable and concise style and aesthetic, for lack of a better word. How hands on are you all with the branding and art aspect of the band? Because from merch to album artwork, there’s never been an out of place or dull moment.
Yeah. As far as that goes, there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen, you know what I mean? With our band we work kind of as a democracy. We’re music people, so it can be a little bit difficult – more so than maybe other aspects of things like the music that we have to be very hands-on with. As each individual is heavily influencing everything, the creative process that’s happening with merch, we just kind of let Jake run with it. The band, in a sense, is in full control of it as Jake, for the most part, has pretty free range to come up with design ideas and that sort of thing. We’re handing those off to artists, though, due to the fact that visual art is not where our expertise is. We’re not drawing up stuff or anything, but Jake is very, very involved in every aspect of the merch line. I always want to be CC’d on those emails and kind of look over what’s coming through, but I’m not a stickler. It’s more like, if I see something that I don’t like, I might raise my hand and be like, “Hey, that one right there, I’m not a fan.” Most of the band tries to concentrate on what really matters, which is the music. It’s great that Jake wants to be so involved with the visual part of it, as well, though, and it rounds it out with the music.
My favorite merch and artwork of yours has always been for “Oh Well, Oh Well,” but it almost changed to that of the single cover for “It Is What It Is” last year. Both have ominous red umbrellas, but that might be just a coincidence.
That’s an overarching theme that we like to keep in the mix. The logo, art, and something like that can be really attached to a band and I think it’s a really cool concept to play with.
Absolutely! You guys started this year off on a really spectacular note with great art and music from the Live At Screaming Eagle EP. All of the songs on it were from 2020 releases that had yet to get truly on stage moments. Why was now, quite the interesting year for creatives and artists alike, a good time to put all of this out into the world?
Well, we were due for it. It’s a tough time for that, though, because there’s so much uncertainty around it. I think it’s great to be able to provide new music for fans, especially in a time where they might not be doing other things as often. People are not as distracted, so they’re listening to new releases. On the other side of the coin, you know, it’s a tough thing for us because it’s definitely an investment on our part and on the labels’ part to put a lot of money up for budget to be able to record these songs. I’ll say it was a weird year and that we put a lot of work into writing these songs because we wanted to get them out, but at the same time, it’s tough to do that and not be able to tour on it. You find yourself in kind of a predicament and then have to go like, “Ok, well we need to put out music regardless, so let’s hope that it works out well and that the timing is right for it and hope people don’t just listen to these songs and forget about them by the time we can get back on the road and actually perform them for them.”
That’s very true, which is why I think it was great for fans and music lovers alike to have a live version of these songs to kind of keep it in their mind.
Right, and we will eventually bring them to the stage. I think these are songs that really stand out to our fans and will be received well. They’ll be ready to hear those live when we have a chance to get back to it, too.
You know, just a few days ago the band’s Instagram account shared a throwback photo from the time on tour with Every Avenue, All Time Low, and Just Surrender. When you look back at your rise to pop punk and alt rock fame, what do you remember and appreciate about those times of being on tour… and not in a pandemic?
Oh yeah, a lot. I think we were a lot more carefree back then. That’s for sure. As time goes on, you worry about things a little bit more, right? Just maybe maturing does that to the mind, but things in general were way, way more carefree. It was a blast, though. When you reflect on those things during these kinds of times, you hope that they come back and continue without the worries, you know what I mean? While the pandemic and things like that were filled with uncertainty, the history book on the Mayday Parade career is full of great memories to think about with genuine certainty. Photos like that bring it all back, because there’s so much in there to remember – and sometimes you forget just how cool it was, so you throw them up and share them online with your fans and family.