2003 was all about fame and living in the fast lane for Yellowcard, who shot to fame with the release of their 'Ocean Avenue' album. A decade on, and their breakthrough record has been given an acoustic makeover, with Australian audiences set to get a taste.
The sheer disbelief and utter thankfulness can be felt right down the phone line; as lead vocalist Ryan Key reminisces on the year 'Ocean Avenue' dropped.
“It was insanity. We left home and moved to California when we signed our first independent record deal in 2000. I think our biggest goal in life was to maybe be on The Warped Tour someday, so to be on the main stage at the tenth anniversary of The Warped Tour supporting 'Ocean Avenue' when it was exploding... I'm not gonna lie, it was too much really.”
After rocketing into the hearts and minds of countless fans worldwide, Key gets nostalgic thinking about the legacy he and his close friends have built.
“I owe my life to those 13 songs, it's everything that we have to stand on. The reason we still get to make records, the reason we have such a devoted and incredible fanbase – it all lies in those songs and that record. It was just so overwhelming to be 23-24 years old and going through what we did; with that said it was the most important chapter of our career because it set us up for everything after.”
But every great story has to start somewhere. In Jacksonville, Florida, sits the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. This is where violinist and vocalist Sean Mackin says the talents and skills of his crew were able to flourish.
“I played in the orchestra and Ryan was a theatre major and learnt to sing through that. It was just cool that out of this type of setting we were drawn to the same style of music. We would find ourselves at the Strung Out show on the weekend or face to face in a performance setting, and we were drawn to that Fat Wreck Chords and Epitaph movement. I was just friends with the guys, they wanted to get some violin on this demo they had, and we started a band.”
It's not uncommon to hear about upcoming bands succumbing to the pressure of the rock lifestyle. Mackin says the attention was appreciated, but it took its toll nevertheless.
“2004 is really just a blur, we weren't sleeping much. If we weren't doing a radio show in the morning, which is hard because it's difficult to sing at six in the morning, we were flying to New York or something for press or photo shoots. You start to get a bit down on yourself because that's exactly what it is, hard. We just bought a van and wanted to be on tour someday, it was nothing like we had ever imagined.”
As a generation of people continue to follow the progress of the band, there has been a flurry of new support from the next generation of pop-punk enthusiasts. Support for the genre has trailed off a little from the ‘glory days’ of bands like Blink-182 and Sum 41 many years ago, but a new wave of artists are reinvigorating the style and keeping the older bands fresh. Mackin makes specific reference to Baltimore boys All Time Low when he talks about a breath of fresh air for the scene.
“They have sort of taken us under their wing and brought us all around the world, and just to have the injection of youth in our crowds is great. They grew up listening to Yellowcard and now they're one of the biggest bands on the planet.”
Ryan knows, however, that despite his band’s continued success, the rock landscape has changed dramatically.
“I can speak for America, there's next to no rock and roll played on the radio anymore. Overall the radio and television and award shows aren't driven towards genres like pop-punk. A few bands like us have amazing runs, but at present rock and roll is not present in the minds of the mainstream.”
It doesn’t matter too much to them, however. There’s still a healthy audience for their music, as evidenced by their recent acoustic unveiling. 'Card fans down under can rest assured that their beloved rock quintet is looking forward to touring Australia in support of the release. When asked about his experiences here, Key has nothing but praise.
“It was overwhelming in Australia, how much energy and passion there was from the audience. It just felt so fresh and brand new. I think it's just a place that we have as much of a future as a band as anywhere in the world, if not more than most places.”
With respect to the tour, Sean says they have planned something intimate to commemorate their milestone achievement.
“There's already been, at this stage, a lot of 10 year anniversary tours, and since Yellowcard have been at the back of it we wanted to do something unique. We wanted people to realise that we've grown up a bit and that the songs are taking on different meaning and they've evolved.”
The Yellowcard journey has been about achieving a goal that was once a pipe-dream for a band of young men. Having stamped their name on eight studio albums, Key makes no secret of the fact he's stoked with the direction his career has taken.
“The best feeling, to be this far into your career, is to feel that it's still growing. I've been in a band 13 years this month, and to be in a band for 13 years and still have the feeling that we're doing something new and that new people are coming and the career is building, it's amazing.”
Yellowcard play The Tivoli October 25.