Underrated Band of the Year:
“Their music is amazing, and their lyrics are inspiring and honest.” – Emma Borwick, Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, UK
(Photo: Nicole Zeno)
It’s been a good year for Yellowcard. Returning from a hiatus, the band released When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes in March, toured all over the world and gained a whole new crop of fans. These fans in turn voted them AP’s Most Underrated Band of 2011. Frontman Ryan Key checked in with AP from Barcelona, Spain, during a day off from their European tour with Saves The Day to reminisce about this year and speculate about what’s to come in 2012.
Interview: Rachel Lux
Yellowcard were voted the Most Underrated Band of 2011. Often—but not always—this award goes to a newer band. What’s your reaction to this fan response after coming back from hiatus?
Yeah, it’s kind of nuts. I would assume that type of thing would usually go to a band who was coming up and fans kind of want the world to know, “Hey, this band should be bigger than they are.” So it’s definitely an interesting category for us to win, but it’s extremely flattering. We’ve been working really, really hard this year and I’m not sure what that means, to be the Most Underrated Band. We went into this whole thing with a very clear understanding of how much work we had to do. We don’t hide anything. We don’t not talk about anything. It’s no secret that at one point the band was massive, playing almost-arena-sized shows and the [MTV] Video Music Awards and whatever else, and shortly after that, it wasn’t that big anymore. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, and especially after taking a break, we were very aware of how much work we were going to have to do to get the band back to a place where we wanted it to be.
I don’t think that place for us is necessarily being on the radio and being on the VMAs. That’s not really that important to us at this point in our career. I think what we’re trying to do is really make records that our fans love and be able to sustain a career touring for as long as we possibly can. I guess reading into Most Underrated Band, people are saying, “Well, Yellowcard should’ve been more in the press or more in the media or more on the radio.” That’s what I take from it. For us, that’s cool and awesome. It let’s us know there are that many people out there who think our band should be in a certain place or on a certain level. But we’re happy where we are, and I think things are going incredible. They’re going better than we ever could’ve imagined it could go after taking that much time off. It’s very flattering, but at the same time, we don’t feel underrated.
I know you’ve held on to a lot of your fans from the past, but are you seeing new fans that maybe weren’t as familiar with what you did earlier in your career?
Yeah, I think for a lot of really hardcore fans who have stuck with us the whole time, in their minds, we are still the band who was kind of this massive phenomenon that just happened really quickly in 2003-2004. And they don’t understand why it’s not still like that. And I could go there all the time in my brain if I wanted to, sit around and ask, “Why isn’t [our] band still as huge as it was?” But I’d go crazy if I lived my life like that. So I try to stay focused on what’s happening right now and stay positive about the things that are happening for the band. And that seems to be working for all of us. But as far as new fans, absolutely. We had really great opportunity earlier in the year touring with All Time Low, and we did some international stuff and then almost a full two months in the States on their biggest tour to date, so we were getting to play for a lot of people who hadn’t seen us before—a lot of younger fans. When we did our tour in the fall in the States, which was our first headlining tour in the States in years—we could totally see those fans from the All Time Low tour coming in.
Yellowcard have had a really huge year. Is there a defining moment for 2011?
Man, there’s been a lot of really awesome stuff. I think one show that I remember where we really felt like, “Wow, we’re moving forward and we’re going to be okay working,” was early in the summer. We were co-headlining with Good Charlotte, and the last couple shows, Good Charlotte dropped off the tour and we finished on our own in our hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, and then the House of Blues in Orlando. And the House of Blues in Orlando is one of the biggest in the country, and we’ve always done really well there—it’s our home state. But we hadn’t played there in a long time, and we were gonna headline and it’s just going to be us and a couple of local bands opening—it wasn’t part of the tour or anything. And the show ended up selling out. And we just all sat back and thought, “Wow, this is huge. We just came here and sold out this pretty big venue for where we’re at right now.” And the show was just monumental—it was definitely a night to remember as far as how well the show went and how great the crowd was. That was just a real moment where we saw a big light at the end of the tunnel and there was a place for this band to go and all this work is paying off.
In February, when we got on the airplane to Japan to start all this touring this year, we had no idea how it was going to go. I remember that night in Orlando sitting in the dressing room and all kind of saying, “Good on ya, boys. We’re gonna be alright.” [Laughs.] And it’s been great.
When you talked to AP for the Most Anticipated Albums of 2012 issue, you said you’re planning to head to the studio again in March with Neal Avron. Have you made any more progress on new music?
Yeah, we’re still pretty much there. [Laughs.] This Europe tour has been crazy and it’s not really a conducive environment for writing. We’ve booked a rehearsal space, so we’re going to get started the second week of January. We’re going to be in Los Angeles, and we’re just going to get in a room and start banging out ideas. This record coming up, writing-wise and a far as circumstantially, it’s very similar to Paper Walls. We came off the road from Lights & Sounds, we had about four weeks off, and then we went right into the rehearsal space. So I know we can make a great record under pressure like that. And I know that the band is not afraid. We’re excited. We don’t feel like we’re rushing this just to rush it; I think we’re doing it because we’re excited to just go ahead and get it done and write another record. I think everybody feels really charged and creative right now. But if we don’t do it now, we can’t record until the fall, and then the record doesn’t come out until 2013, and that’s just way too long to make people wait for music. So I think we’ll be fine, but we definitely have a lot of work to do.
And if you’re all feeling creatively charged and you still have something to say this close to the last release, that’s great.
Something to say… A great man once wrote, “Ay, there’s the rub.” [That man was Shakespeare.—lit nerd ed.] Because I’m gonna have to come up with lyrics, and that part, I’m pretty stressed out about. But musically, I think we’re definitely good to go. We’ve already talked a lot about the kind of record we want to make and what we think really worked about When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes, and how to continue to move on from that and keep going in a positive direction. But once the music’s done, I’m going to have a lot of late nights with pen and paper and a bottle of wine, trying to figure out what I’m trying to say. But we’ll get it done.
Based on the momentum from this year and your plans for next year, is there an award you’d like to win at the end of 2012?
[Laughs.] I don’t know, is it’s too cocky to say it’d be cool to win the No. 1 Best Band Award? No? Okay, because I think that would be cool. We’re going to work just as hard next year if not harder than we did this year. This year’s been all about learning about where the band is and where we can go from here, and it’s been awesome. So that would be rad to put out another record and have the same overwhelming positive reaction. And maybe win Band of the Year. That’d be great. ALT
For the runner-ups in this category, keep reading!