The Mayday Parade and Go Radio vocalist is returning to his pop-punk roots with his upcoming solo EP, Say I’m What You Want, which is due for release Dec. 11 via We Are Triumphant. Dedicated to Lancaster’s wife, Dee, the EP focuses on “the fun side of things” and serves as a reclamation of his musical identity in the absence of creative limitation.
Drawing on influences that he’s amassed over the course of his career, Lancaster has developed a distinctive sound that is both fresh and wonderfully nostalgic of the mid-2000s. The EP’s first single, “Good Things Only Happen If You’re Good,” features Mayday Parade’s Jake Bundrick on drums. This is the first collaborative track that Lancaster has released with any of his former bandmates following his departure from the group in 2007. What’s better? He’s totally down to do more.
Alternative Press spoke to Lancaster regarding the creative process behind Say I’m What You Want, his rekindled relationship with Mayday Parade and the future of his career. Go Radio fans, rest assured: The group are going strong and remain an active focus for this rising solo artist.
Between new Go Radio and now this new solo EP, Say I’m What You Want, it seems like you’ve been hard at work over the last few months. What inspired this generation of so much new content?
JASON LANCASTER: I was really excited about doing music in general when I got together with the Go Radio guys. Go Radio obviously has its own sound, and if you listen to that, even compared to what Go Radio was, it’s very different. It’s big and mature and a lot of fun to play. But I’ve always wanted to put up this other pop-punk record, and I had the time, [so] my wife, Dee, was just like, “You should do it. You should just go ahead and do it and knock it out.” So, I started working on it, and what started off as just a single to have fun with grew and grew. We ended up putting those songs out there that came out on the EP. I’m in love with it. It was so much fun to get back and do some pop punk like that again.
You had a long run with Fearless Records across multiple projects. What motivated your decision to sign with We Are Triumphant this time around?
Greg [Long, label owner] actually reached out a long time ago. I think it was almost a year ago [that he] started reaching out. Every once in a while he would just send me a message, “Hey, if you ever want to put out a record…” It was really cool and flattering, obviously, but I was never really at a point [where] I wanted to put out music. At least, not on that level. It might have been the third or fourth time that he said, “Hey, we’re ready.” And we’d been talking [already], but he sent that right around the time that my wife was also like, “You should do this.” And I put those things together. I started looking at everything he does for his bands and the kind of attention he gives to the artists, and I was like, “You know, this seems like a really good place to be.” [It was] kismet, if you will—some great happenstance that just falls in line naturally.
How has the label change influenced the creative and production processes?
Here and there, yes, but not for the reason you would think. Greg is super hands-off when it comes to that. He was basically just saying, “Hey, do you want to write some music? I want to put out your record, and whatever that sounds like, I want to back you up. Go make good music and just be happy with your release.” I don’t even think I showed him rough demos. It was just, “Hey, you can go to the studio and record a record.” I said, “OK, I’ll let you know when we’re done.” [Laughs.] It was really cool [and] it was probably the most hands-off, creatively, that someone’s been with a release.
It’s now been over six years since the release of your debut solo album, As You Are. How do you feel this EP represents the growth you’ve seen as both an artist and an individual in that time?
I think the EP is a lot more focused on the fun side of things. If you listen to it as a whole, it tells the story about where I was at when I met my wife and missing her and the relationship and how it felt. I was able to take a more honest approach with it. There was no pressure to write anything specific. It was just like, “You can go in and make songs that you love that home in on who [you are] as an artist right now.”
What do you think most differentiates your solo work from the music that you’ve produced under Go Radio and Mayday Parade?
I think, stylistically, there’s a lot [that’s] different. It still fits the same genre, for sure. There’s a lot of freedom in being able to go in and do everything yourself. So, when I was doing drums, bass, guitar or any [other] instruments, I was able to play around. I’ll be completely honest: I said, “I really liked the way that Jake [Bundrick] plays pop-punk drums. I want to be able to play these drums like I think Jake would play them because he’s one of the greatest pop-punk drummers out there.” Or, “I really like the attitude that Burns [Matt Poulos] always put into Go Radio songs. So, I just want to see if I can nail that.”
I was able to channel a lot of the musicians that I played with that poured into me for the last 15 or 20 years. I’ve always really liked the way that Jake played drums on A Lesson In Romantics. For pop punk, I thought it was really different and really had its own style to it. So, I tried to go for that with the drums. Then the way that Matt played bass was a really big deal to me, and I wanted to get some of that in there. Different lead lines that I’d had throughout the years, soundcheck songs I’d mess with while we were touring… I was able to utilize a lot of those things and a lot of influences and try to make something unique and different.
The first single off the EP, “Good Things Only Happen If You’re Good,” features a familiar name. What was it like collaborating with Jake Bundrick again?
Awesome. Jake and I have always stayed in touch, but over the last year-and-a-half or so, we’ve really started to talk to each other a lot more and be more consistent. So, it was really an organic thing. I wrote this song, and I was like, “Man, this sounds a lot like early Mayday. I wonder if Jake would do it.” He was actually helping on a lot of demos I made [for] him. He was shooting ideas back and forth with me, and then I was like, “Dude, you should just do this. You should just go and do that part. It would be really, really cool to have that be on this record.”
Do you anticipate any further collaborations with Jake or Mayday Parade in general?
Yeah, I’m always open for anything with those guys. There was obviously a lot of beef early on when we were kids, [but] after the Fearless Friends tour [in 2010], we put a lot of that to rest. We all did some pretty stupid and childish things when we were children. But now that we’ve put some time and effort into our relationship, I love those guys. I’ve always had a really soft spot in my heart for them because they’re great people and great musicians. Any collaborations that they want to do, I’m always down for working with those guys.
Both the track and the EP at large seem so reminiscent of your roots in a way that’s beautifully nostalgic, but they simultaneously read as modern. How did you go about finding this balance?
Honestly, I didn’t try to balance anything at all. That was the fun part of [Go Radio]. I didn’t feel like I needed to balance anything. It was just, “I’m going to write music, and however it comes out, it comes out.” I decided [that] I really wanted this to be about my wife. I’ve never really dedicated an album to her. Even As You Are was all over the place subject matter-wise and stylistically. I knew I wanted it all to fit together. I wanted things to work well together, but at the same time, I didn’t want to say, “OK, well this is a pop-punk record.” Or, “This is a country record.”
We had just finished going through with the Go Radio stuff, and we decided that, as a whole, we wanted to head in a different direction. We wanted to steer that ship a lot more toward what we were listening to and bands we admired. [We] really put our creative spin on what was happening now. A lot of those things just piled into what I was doing with this record. It was a really natural thing. There wasn’t an idea that I was going to mash these two things together. It just happened really naturally.
Is there anything specific that you hope your fans might derive from listening to this EP?
After finishing it, I listen and I get all these warm and fuzzy feelings and memories of Warped Tour and high black socks with Dickies shorts—all the things that pop punk was to me. It jumps back out at me when I listen to it. It’s like a reclamation of a time in my life that I thought was gone. It’s like you grow up and put your spiked belt in the closet and go, “OK, I’m a dad now.” Or, “I have to be an adult because these things are happening.” What this record did for me was allow me to reconnect with that part of my life and say, “Hey, you might have responsibilities now, but that doesn’t mean you need to shelve everything that you used to be.”
You can even ask my wife. She’s like, “Man, it’s so good to hear you writing songs like this.” [Laughs.] [She thought] that the person I became was not the person that I was and maybe [wasn’t] the natural progression for the person that I wanted to be. So, doing this stuff and dialing back into the direction that I started out in really opened my eyes to, “Hey, you can be the person that you want to be. You can write the songs that you want to write. You can open the doors that you want to open and really not worry so much about outside influence. And you can just let it happen naturally, and you’ll be happy with it.”
What do you hope to accomplish in your career going forward? Can we expect any further releases from Go Radio, or is your focus set on expanding your solo catalog?
I guess there’s an internet block of people that are like, “Jason’s releasing his own music because Go Radio kicked him out.” Or, “He’s no longer a part of Go Radio.” Or whatever the current rumor is. [Laughs.] But no, I really love working with [Go Radio], and I love all those dudes. Go Radio will always be my focus, especially musically. It’s an outlet that I love with people that I love. I would never look to cut that out of my life. But [the solo] stuff is fun. I enjoy doing it, I enjoy writing pop punk, I enjoy playing pop punk. I’ve still got my skinny jeans. [Laughs.] I don’t see that ever going away, so I’m excited to continue doing music on this level. I’m going to try to continue writing, orchestrating and producing and see where that goes.
Do you have any plans for expanding on this release with a full-length or, fingers crossed, future tour?
The idea has come about for getting out and doing some regional stuff or acoustic stuff or full-band stuff. That would be a lot of fun, but [with] COVID, who really knows where that’s going to go? I’d been talking with Derek [Sanders] because he was going to do some of his solo stuff with me [for] an EP release party. The idea was to get it streamed and then let 30 or 40 people into a room. Obviously, [we would] respect social distancing and do it responsibly, but then that [Chase Rice controversy] happened, and I was like, “Maybe this isn’t the best idea right now.” If things go back to normal, I would love to be able to take this out, see how people respond to it live and sing these songs with other people. That would be a lot of fun. I would definitely be down with that.