If you’re twenty-something years old, then chances are that Yellowcard were one of the bands that soundtracked your youth. Upon the release of their breakthrough album ‘Ocean Avenue’ in 2003, the band blew up in the worldwide alternative music scene. Now, a decade later, the group has done a lot of growing up, and is set to release their most mature record to date, ‘Lift A Sail’ this October. We had the chance to talk to violinist Sean Mackin about the record, as well as about their return to Australia next year with Mayday Parade.
You guys are now just weeks away from releasing ‘Lift A Sail.’ This is your ninth studio album. Do you find that the anticipation for releasing this album is particularly different to what it was like earlier in your career?
For me, it’s still the same. Any Yellowcard record that comes out, it’s kind of like we’re just leaving the safe zone where I can still be proud of what I’ve created before people either tear me down or lift me up. The anticipation is overwhelming, and really, I think Yellowcard has set out to do a lot of new things on this record, some things that we’ve wanted to do for a long time, and there’s a really sense of pride about it. The excitement and anticipation is definitely still there.
It’s previously been stated that you actively chose to do a lot of things that were completely new to you on this record. What sort of choices would you say these were, and why did you make them?
I think the goal was just to set out and not do a Yellowcard record. We didn’t wanna remake ‘Ocean Avenue’, we didn’t wanna do ‘Southern Air Part Two’ and I think the idea was to use modern elements that similar artists or artists that you may not expect us to listen to use. We just wanted to do things that we haven’t done heavily in other records
I don’t think we set out to go against the grain or anything, I think we just used different elements and instrumentation that we’ve always wanted to use, or use tools that we had a little differently, and I think that looking back, we worked really hard to make this a cohesive record rather than just a bunch of sounds and ideas that just didn’t work together.
I’ve found that ‘Lift A Sail’ has a much more mature sound than your other material. Not just the early stuff, but even your last record, ‘Southern Air.’ What do you think brought that about?
Well first off, thank you. And second, I think that there’s something to be said about writing songs in your thirties as opposed to writing in your twenties. Even your late twenties. Some of the ideas and riffs I have, I have been floating around for years at a time. I don’t know about other artists, but I have these notes that I love, and you always hope that one day every note will get to be used. I think the thing with ‘Lift A Sail’ though is that everything is new, and everything is fresh. I think some of that spontaneity and some of that mindset influenced the record a lot. I think that may be part of where the maturity came from.
I would also say that with Yellowcard, our music sort of mimics our life, and the last few years things have been a bit more difficult for some of us personally, and that’s probably caused some of us to grow up a bit more and a bit quicker, and I think that affected it as well.
You got to take something of a new approach on this record yourself with the intro track ‘Convocation’ and ‘MSK’, which sees you taking a very ‘front and centre’ role with the violin parts. What do you feel that added to the record?
Well, I think that just being a violinist in a modern contemporary rock setting has always given me something of a ‘front’ role. It’s not just like, playing violin over a Yellowcard song and calling it a day. On Lights and Sounds in 2005, we intro’d the entire record and had recurring themes and I think this is a little bit of a throwback to that.
When we sit down and share song ideas and all of that, I showed ‘Convocation’ to the guys, and it kind of came from playing festivals in Europe, and there were bagpipes and all of that around, and it kind of had this celtic, scottish feel. The guys were just like ‘oh my god, that’s awesome!’ To have that mutual respect with these guys is great.
There was a bit of controversy around the announcement of ‘Lift A Sail’ when information (the artwork and track listing) was leaked online before you had a chance to announce it. What’s your personal take on the music industry in an age where information seems to be so easily accessible that almost anyone can get it?
It’s really frustrating when you create something and you believe in something, and you sit down with your friends and co workers and you plot, and you think, “how can we make this a special Yellowcard release?” We plot for hours, trying to decide how to make this exciting for Yellowcard fans, and we spend a crazy amount of hours debating over what feels right and what’s gonna work, and then someone steals that from you. Someone you don’t even know, who has no connection to you, who just wants to stamp their name on a post or a thread on the internet. That moment is then stolen from us, and we don’t get the time back that we spent on working out how to share our art that we’ve created, and that is very frustrating.
There is a little bit of controversy there, and I don’t think I’m being a whiny musician diva or anything. I think I’m an artist, who has created something that they care about, and has had a moment taken away from us.
At the end of the day, we’re putting out a new record called ‘Lift A Sail’, and we’re really excited for everyone to hear it.
You guys are also set to come back to Australia next year in July to tour in support of ‘Lift A Sail.’ It’s still a fair while off, but are you guys excited to be back down here again?
Yeah, Australia is one of the best places in the world. You guys have got it right. You’ve got your own island, surrounded by beaches, and some of the best Yellowcard shows in the world have happened down there. It is unfortunate that it’s so far away, but we’re coming down with our friends in Mayday Parade and we can’t wait!
You play these festivals like Warped Tour and all of that and you meet so many bands, and gain so much mutual respect for them. We grew up in Florida, and I went to college in the town they’re from. When you see how much they love their music and how much their fans love them and how much they love their fans you start to realise that you kind of do some things the same way.
We’ve never actually played with Mayday Parade either which is crazy, since we tour really heavily and so do they, so it’s pretty exciting to get to come together to Australia to do this. It may be a fair while out at the moment, but that’s gonna fly by and we’ll be over before you know it!
You guys have been to Australia quite a few times now. Do you manage to find new experiences each time or is it kind of ‘same old, same old’?
I think both, to be honest. I think our first trip to see you guys was back in 2003, so it’ll have been eleven or twelve years. You always make new friends, or you find a new restaraunt or cool things like that. A friend of mine married a gentleman from Newcastle, so last time I flew down a week early and got to hang out with them before tour and kind of live the life, driving on the wrong side of the road and all of that. You guys really have a good thing going!
I love finding new things, and finding new friends, and all of that. it’s crazy to think that we can come from all the way around the world, get in a car and drive up to a friends house.
You guys are gonna be taking on some pretty huge venues on this tour. Are you particularly nervous about that?
Yeah, I’m always nervous about the venues that ‘smarter people’ have booked, but hey I don’t know any of that stuff. I just play violin in Yellowcard (laughs). But hey, whether it’s 500 or 500 people there, I know we’re gonna give them the best show we possibly can, so hopefully come July, we’re gonna have a lot of fun no matter how many people are there.
Yellowcard tour with Mayday Parade nationally July 2015. Details here.
‘Lift A Sail‘ is due out October 10 via Cooking Vinyl.