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Mayday Parade: Colour Outside The Lines

Photo by Sandra Markovic.

At some point, every band must make an important decision: keep going straight down the road or take the next exit and drive in a new direction. It would have been pretty easy for Mayday Parade to just keep on cruising – after all, it has earned them top spots on the Billboard charts, enviable billing on the most coveted festivals around the world and, most importantly, it has kept them on the road doing what they love – but on the eve of their 10th birthday, Mayday Parade veered to the left and took a different route to their new album, Black Lines. No one said change was going to be easy, and the most agonising decision for the band came when they said goodbye to their producers Zack Odom and Kenneth Mount, who have been part of the Mayday Parade team since the early days, and sought out someone who would challenge everything they knew about songwriting and help them create an album that would keep them on the bus for another decade. Their love of Brand New, Taking Back Sunday and Straylight Run led them to Mike Sapone (the man responsible for all their breakout albums) and a little house in the woods in Lake City, Florida to write the next chapter of the Mayday Parade story.

This album feels like it’s the coming of age of Mayday Parade.
Everybody likes to say their new album is more mature and kind of a cliché thing, but I think that’s for sure what it is. At this point, we’ve been in the band for just about 10 years. I was 19 when we started this band and I’m 29 now, so we’ve all grown a lot as musicians and as people. In the past, we felt like we wanted to keep it safe and I feel like our previous album, Monsters In The Closet, was a little too much like the self-titled and other albums we’ve done before. We just felt like it was time to really start doing what we wanted to do.

Did you challenge yourself on Black Lines?
Certainly. The first song on the album, “One Of Them Will Destroy The Other”, [featuring Dan Lambton from Real Friends] I feel like it’s quite a bit different to anything we’ve done before. It’s much more aggressive and chaotic compared to all the songs we’ve done in the past, and the vocals are much more aggressive than anything I’ve done. That one was really a struggle in the studio for pretty much every aspect; we had a really hard time locking in the structure of the song, the key of the song, and there were all these different positions we were split on where half of us wanted to go one way, and half of us wanted to go the other. That song was really a challenge to get it out, but I think all of that was worth it.

Was there anything keeping you up at night during this recording process?
I feel like with each album, it gets a little less stressful, especially this time around where you feel like you’re more free to do whatever you want. For a while we felt like, as a band, we wanted to do everything right to stay relevant and we’ve seen so many bands that have gained some momentum and then dropped off really fast and people forget about them and go onto the next thing, so in the past we wanted to make sure we were still going to be around. At this point we feel pretty established. We’ve been doing this for 10 years and we know that we’re not going to fall off in the next month or two, so it feels like there’s a little more freedom.

As you’ve mentioned, this year is Mayday Parade’s 10th anniversary. How does it feel when you reflect back on it?
It’s crazy to think it’s been 10 years. It’s been the most fun I’ve ever had in my life, and it’s gone so much further than we ever could have imagined. I think mostly we all just realise how lucky we are to be here and to be able to do this and how easily things could have gone so many other ways. We could have been a band for a year or two, broken up and got normal jobs, and that would be it – that would be the rest of our lives. We really appreciate the fact that we’re album to make a living playing music that we love.

With the benefit of hindsight, what advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago when you were starting Mayday Parade?
It’s tough to say because I feel like a lot of the mistakes we made were a big part of the learning process and really helped us figure out where we stand. On our second album, Anywhere But Here, it’s widely known that we were unhappy with a lot of the process and being on a major label [Atlantic Records], we did some co-writing stuff which we didn’t want to do. The whole thing was kind of a nightmare. But I don’t know if I would even go back and change that now because after that whole process we kind of realised that’s not the way we operate the band. We need to be able to just go in and make the music we want to make and not co-writes or any of that major label stuff. I feel like we learned a lot from each one of those experiences.

When Mayday Parade started, the band followed Warped Tour around the US selling CDs. Do you think this helped launched the band?
It was an idea that evolved over a long period of time. Basically, I was in a band before this with Brooks [Betts, guitar] and Jeremy [Lenzo, bass] called Defining Moment, and we toured for a little bit when we were 17-18 years old, playing for hardly anybody, so we used to go to malls and walk around with a CD player and headphones and just try and sell a couple of CDs if we had a day off. Somehow it worked out, we got into a Taste Of Chaos show in 2005, and we were like, ‘Let’s see if we can walk around with a CD player at the Taste Of Chaos and sell CDs?’ And we sold like 100 CDs in one day and we thought, ‘Wow, it takes us a month of touring to sell 100 CDs, but we can do it in one day at this show – what if we just follow a big tour like Warped and just try and sell CDs?’ And then we did that with Defining Moment. We followed Warped Tour in 2005 and sold CDs outside, and shortly after that we broke up and started Mayday Parade, and we knew from the start that that was the goal. We had to go record an EP, release it, press it ourselves and follow Warped Tour next summer and sell CDs. It was the game plan right from the get-go, and it worked. We signed to Fearless shortly after that and the rest took off from there.

In light of all the controversy on this year’s Warped Tour, there’s talk of introducing an age restriction of 21 for all artists and crew on the festival. As someone who got their start on the tour while you were still a teenager, how do you feel this will affect the next generation of bands coming up?
That is kind of a bummer. When we first played Warped Tour, we weren’t 21 and there’s a lot of younger bands who are now going to miss out on opportunities because of that. But at the same time, I can understand Kevin Lyman’s position. I would think he is probably doing what he has to do to make sure the tour goes on. I feel like there’s a lot more rules and regulations that have been put on that tour as it goes, which no one really wants but in the end it’s him covering his bases and making sure they don’t get sued. It was a bummer when they started doing the ‘No Moshing, No Crowdsurfing’ because you’re like, ‘What? It’s Warped Tour! It’s what it’s all about!’ It’s certainly weird, but at the same time I can’t even imagine the responsibility of putting on a tour as massive as Warped and the logistics that go into it.

Black Lines is out October 9 through Fearless/UNFD.

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