It’s always a good sign when a band is ahead of schedule when recording an album. Just ask Yellowcard, who started recording their eighth full-length March 5—a week earlier than expected. “We were extremely well-prepared for this recording process, which was really surprising given the timeline we had to write the songs,” says frontman Ryan Key. “We got it done.” The band penciled in five weeks in the studio with long-time producer Neal Avron, which means the record should be out after Warped Tour. “But not long after,” he assures, while adding they do have a title for it—but that will likely be revealed in June. AP caught up with Key last week, while he was in “studio, live-in-the-cave mode,” to get the scoop on where Yellowcard is in the recording process.
Interview: Annie Zaleski
When I talked to you for the Most Anticipated issue, it definitely seemed like you guys had a vision. And even though Yellowcard only had a few months to write, you guys seemed like you knew where you wanted to go.
Ryan Key: Mainly, it was just that we were so excited about the way things were happening with When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes. The writing process for that record [was still really fresh]. There wasn’t a whole lot of hang-ups or drama or distractions—we were still really focused on that record and how we made it. And we were touring for it, and we really were like, “Let’s just do that all over again.”
Now that you have the demos done, what is everything sounding like?
This question is always so hard for me to answer. It’s so hard for me to put a point on what it sounds like. We definitely picked up where we left off with the last record—and again wanted to write songs that we were super-passionate about playing and I was super-passionate about singing. But also we knew the fans would react to in a big way, both on the record and live. Again, we feel like we accomplished that goal entirely.
The biggest thing about this record—and these songs—is they’re really inspired. I feel confident saying that because this is the first time I’ve ever gone into a recording process—day one of a recording process—with all the lyrics and melodies for a record finished. I’ve always been up the last night before the studio was over finishing at least one song—maybe more than that. Something about this writing process lit a spark in me, and I just dug in and started writing. I finished all the songs, lyrically, before we started recording even. Something about that speaks in and of itself that there was a really high-level of inspiration to make this great, and to get it done. You can feel that urgency and inspiration in the songs.
When you were writing, describe a normal day for you. What was that like, having such focused inspiration?
Most Yellowcard songs, we write the music, play it as a band and feel out the energy and how the push and pull of the sessions of the song are going. Then we’ll demo it in some way, and I will write melody and lyrics over the music. I would say about 80 percent of our music has always been done that way.
We did 100 percent of it that way this time. Because of the amount of time we had, we spent the first part of the writing process finding music and ideas we were excited about. And then once we were able to start demoing them, a typical day [for me] was go to the rehearsal space and work on a demo all day, from lunchtime until 8, 9 o’clock at night. I’d swing by Trader Joe’s on the way home, pick up a bottle of Two Buck Chuck, and head to my house and just get out the laptop, the pen and the acoustic guitar and start working on the lyrics. I made myself work—that was the thing, I wasn’t going to be complacent and I wasn’t going to let myself feel, like, “Oh, well, I just wrote a record, I have nothing to say.” You can tell yourself that, but it’s never true. If you’re a songwriter, you sometimes have to dig a little deeper, but there’s always something to say.
I made myself stay focused; I just made sure I got it done. The days were long; the days are still long. But I’m happy I put in that extra work, because it has allowed me, during the recording process—even in the first week-and-a-half—to be so much more involved in other parts of the record. As the music industry changes, and the recording processes get shorter, the budgets get smaller, all those things. There’s just less time to make a record. On the last album, for example, I didn’t get to play very much guitar at all. I was working so much on lyrics and melody, even throughout the day. So now that it’s all done, I’ve been able to be there for all the drum sounds—and so far have played guitar right alongside of Ryan Mendez on every single song. Which is awesome, to be back in the studio playing guitar again, because I’ve allowed myself to have the time to focus on those things. It’s all good things.
It does sound like a positive—and almost relaxed experience. For me, knowing where I’m going and knowing what I’m doing reduces my anxiety so much.
I’m an anxious person by nature, and I do get stressed out very easily. There’s a fine line of where this whole process could have gone, and I had to make a conscious decision to stay on the positive side of it. Once I got in that groove after the first couple songs… I remember the first night I did it. The first two weeks, say, I was putting it off, going, “Oh, I gotta get started at some point—but I usually finish, so I’ll be okay.” That kind of attitude. I remember the first night I tackled a song, and when I was done with it, I was so excited about it and so happy with the words and the melodies. I sent it to everyone and [they] absolutely loved it. That was enough right there. It just made me go, “All right, let’s do this.” Starting the next day, I pretty much almost did a song a day—or call it a song every two days. I was getting home from rehearsal every day and sitting down and getting to work right away.
My biggest fear was not having anything to say. And apparently, I had a lot to say. I’m happy with it.
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