Mayday Parade prefer to play in their videos than act in them
One of the most gratifying moments in the world is when we see an aggressive bully get some karmic retribution. Apparently Mayday Parade feel that way, as well. Today they’re releasing the video for “First Train,” a track from their new EP, Out Of Here. While the band perform, the focus is on actor J. Gaven Wilde (The Righteous Gemstones, Stranger Things). Our hero decides he’s done being terrorized and takes matters into his own sci-fi battle-action hands. The men of Mayday checked in with APTV director Bobby Makar for an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the video and an interview.
In addition, we uncovered some truths about a few of Mayday’s previous videos. Frontman Derek Sanders remembers some of them in a slightly less-than-pleasant way, much to the dismay of bandmates Jeremy Lenzo (bass) and Brooks Betts (guitar). Spoiler alert: What fans may find as awesome days of scene yore (“Jamie All Over,” “Black Cat”) are actually Sanders taking one for the team.
Who came up with the idea for “First Train” and what the concept is behind the video?
DEREK SANDERS: It was a treatment that was sent over by the director, Scott Hansen. We thought it was super-interesting. The overall idea is there's this teenage kid who is bullied in his life. At a certain point, he's being physically chased by these bullies, and he goes up into a treehouse, and they wait for him at the bottom. And he constructs this…
JEREMY LENZO: Sort of Iron Man-ish…
SANDERS: Right, like a robotic armor kind of thing. It’s out there. But he comes down and messes with [the bullies] and scares [them] off. The idea is he has the chance to just kill him. I know it sounds ridiculous…
LENZO: It's very ’80s-inspired. He has all these sorts of gadgets on his suit, like Data from The Goonies, or he’ll squirt goo out to put out their torches.
SANDERS: Our bit of it is a performance setup just near the treehouse. I think it really was that we just love the director. He has done some incredible work and thought he could potentially pull it off well. We’re excited to see how it all comes out.
First of all, that sounds absolutely amazing. It sounds like Turbo Kid. Have you ever seen that movie?
SANDERS: I haven't.
LENZO: I have. That movie fucking rules!
It sounds like Turbo Kid to me but with Mayday in it, which is awesome. How does it reflect the song? How does it reflect the overall tone of the EP?
LENZO: I don't know if the video necessarily… It has nothing to really do with the song...
SANDERS: I think the closest you could really say is, the song is really about moving forward and not getting stuck or weighed down by negative things in your life. In a way, like having the power to move on and go out and be whatever you want or do whatever you want. In some ways, you can see the similarities there.
JAKE BUNDRICK: The imagination to build a suit to get rid of your bullies.
SANDERS: Exactly that. It's not like a direct comparison, but to lay out the idea of being able to take that power in your own hands and move past your problems.
Ten years from now when we’re doing the oral history of Mayday Parade part two, what moments from this video do you think will be transcendent of your career? What do you think people are going to remember from this particular video?
SANDERS: I'm hoping that robot suit looks pretty cool. We've seen some pictures of it in the making, and it looks pretty awesome.
LENZO: There’s a really talented visual effects artist who's piecing everything together and making the suit from scratch. So it definitely has a really cool look to it. Like you said, like Turbo Kid. But th e suit in particular looks really cool. So hopefully that stands out. We don't want it to look cheesy. We want it to definitely look like it's a well-put-together suit.
Comparing and contrasting making a video in 2020 as an established brand versus making a video for “Jamie All Over,” where you were on the edge of breaking through. That video put you out there in a big way. How did you approach music videos then, and how do you approach them now? Are the stakes different now than they used to be?
LENZO: There was more money involved with videos back then. Videos were certainly something that was a key driver for singles. And they still are. It's just the landscape's changed so much, so budgets have come down a lot.
I think we were probably also a lot more excited about doing videos when it was very fresh in the beginning. And it was good when we were excited. I think of those long days on expensive shoots, and now it's a little bit easier. Maybe we understand how we like to approach videos, as well. We'd like to more just [be in] the performance part of these videos and leave some of the acting up to people who actually aspire to be actors.
SANDERS: I feel like back in those early days, there was this nervous excitement you used to have that maybe has changed. The overall approach to it I think is very similar. But certainly I think we've learned that after doing a lot of the narrative stuff ourselves and a lot of the storyline or acting stuff, it eventually got to a point where we were like, “I think we should just do the performance bit of this.” And none of us are just really very good at any of that.
BROOKS BETTS: We stick to what we’re good at.
Whose idea was it to do the “Jamie All Over” video? And how did you know that was going to be the song?
SANDERS: Well, to be honest, it's been so long. I don't remember how that video came to be. I assume it was just like most of our videos. We just receive treatments from different directors and just pick the one that we're feeling the most. I don't know if anyone else can remember...
LENZO: It wasn't like we chose to do that storyline. I think that was pitched to us. The director at the time was a big-time director in the scene, with a lot of bands on Fueled By Ramen and Panic! At The Disco, like all those kinds of bands. Fall Out Boy I think he worked with, as well. I'm not really sure exactly, but [it’s] one of the reasons why we like it. “We should work with this guy. He has to know what he's doing.”
SANDERS: One thing that was interesting is that I think the idea first was to actually shoot it in a casino. And then they weren't able to get the rights to film in a casino. So we had to rent out a space and build the casino set there with all the roulette tables, slot machines and all the stuff that had to be brought in for the video. So it was pretty wild to see what started as an empty room end up looking like this lively casino.
LENZO: I do remember the room was full of mirrors to make it look as if there were multiple casino machines and everything going on, making it appear a lot larger than it actually was. You know, when you watch the video, you get the impression that it's pretty large. But it's actually a relatively small environment. And that light wall that we played in front of. They saved that for the end of the day. It was like an oven. I know for Jake [Bundrick, drums], it had to have been the worst for him because he's backed up to it, right? I just remember it being so hot. We sweated so much, and we had to save it for the end.
BETTS: And we're in suits, too.
There's a particular sense of joy and nostalgia that a lot of people associate with that video. Looking back on it now, what's the one thing you're nostalgic about? What makes you feel that way?
SANDERS: That was on the My American Heart tour, correct? I think we had the RV. It was right at a time when things were starting to elevate for us. And it was just so exciting to see. At this point, we had been a band for, I guess, two or three, maybe two-and-a-half years or so and had done some really small-level touring. We shot that video, if I'm not mistaken, right before we went over to the U.K. for the first time. Those early days when momentum was building, there was just so much excitement about where everything was. Stuff that we had dreamt about and been working toward for four years, both in this band and in previous bands. And to see it all happening and coming true. That was such an incredible thing.
Derek, there is something you had mentioned that you weren’t necessarily comfortable portraying the talent in these videos. You just want to perform as Mayday Parade. Is there any moment throughout making any of your music videos that you just would never, ever want to do again?
SANDERS: [Laughs.] I guess there's probably a couple of videos where it's been maybe a little less stressful. But the “Black Cat” video for me was one that I didn't love. I think that was the last one where there was any sort of acting or whatever involved on my part. The thing is, I'm open to it if it's something that we're all into and excited about.
But if it's just like a treatment where, for example, the “Black Cat” treatment, where it's like, “Derek has to run around and do all these things.” And I'm not really into it, but the band just vote to do it, and you feel like you're forced to do it. However, if it's an idea that we're all like, “This could be cool” and we're excited about it and we all want to do it, then I could see it potentially happening. But I guess that's part of being in a band in a democracy where we vote on everything. Sometimes you just got to do things you don’t want to do, but...
LENZO: So what about the “Black Cat” video, in particular…
SANDERS: Well, I just thought...I don't want to get too deep into it…
LENZO: This is what it's all about, right? We’ve got to dig deep into this stuff…
SANDERS: I don't want to knock it. I guess I thought it was a little cheesy. And you know, in the video, most of you guys were in it for the first 20 minutes we were there. Then you guys all left. And then I'm there all day until 2 in the morning filming all this getting chased by a cat stuff. And it's just a little silly to me, I guess.
BETTS: I think ultimately the video did come out cool, but the process [where] you had to be in it the entire time and it's pretty stressful and probably won't be happening again.
LENZO: And the idea of being scared of a cat as well is a little silly.
SANDERS: Right, right. Yeah.
Anybody else have any things that they would never want to do again?
BETTS: Playing in front of that light wall in “Jamie All Over” again.