Insert generic press release sounding introduction about Mayday Parade and what they’ve been up to in 2016. Now Insert totally awesome description of our conversation with Mayday Parade’s Brooks Betts on his gear, songwriting, being a rhythm guitarist, & not wanting to be like A Day To Remember or AC/DC. Yeah, rad.
Hey there Brooks, how are you?
I’m well. How are you?
Can’t complain. What time is it where you are at the moment?
It’s around 6:40 at night.
So besides doing all these interviews what have you got planned?
Well, I’m in Tallahassee Florida at the moment having a break. We just got off Warped Tour a couple weeks ago so we’re all at home. We actually had a hurricane come through the other week and half the city is still without power which is kind of crazy. I didn’t thankfully. Well, I mean I did. It was just going on and off throughout the night. I lucked out there with power and water still going. Other than that I’ve spent the past few weeks in front of my computer trying to work out a song that I had in my head and I think I may have just gotten it down. So a lot of time spent in front of the computer just demoing including today.
Will this be for Mayday Parade or for something else?
Definitely for Mayday Parade. It’s rock so it’ll be for that or nothing else.
Being just one guy writing, how do you go about fleshing out the song ideas into the more “full” band ones. Do you use any sort of additional programs to help you demo things like drums?
No actually. I have a setup where I run a snake from my bedroom into the office where the computer is. I’ve got a really good setup here where I’ll play drums, guitar, bass; I’ll play everything. With guitars and drums, I don’t really like using samples. I don’t like working “in the box” too much when I’m using guitar tones even. I mic my guitar amps and learn how to get better with my engineering skills. You know, running all that into a Motu interface into Pro Tools. Really I’m wanting to look into more gear but I gotta keep myself away from that because that becomes a money pit.
What is your guitar and amp setup looking like at the moment?
Well, basically I’m using a Marshall 2X12 cab at the moment. I do have an old Sears Silver-Tone amp that’s really great. I do need to change the tubes on it, though. It’s been going in and out recently so I’m hoping that’s the issue. So because of that, I ended up buying this little Micro Terror Orange amp and so I throw it on there. I use different pedals in front of it obviously to get different sounds out of it but the Micro Terror is doing the job quite well at the moment while the Silver-Tones in repairs. I usually chuck that in front of an old SM-58 mic. I wanna get an SM-57 but the 58 does the same thing really so there was no point. I just like to experiment.
That’s what it’s all about. Especially as you said, you like to be out of the box as much as possible so it does boil down to fiddling with a lot of knobs and trying different ideas.
Yeah, there are a lot of things to work with but most of all the sound’s coming from the way I capture and play it from the get go and that’s really important.
On the side of actual songwriting things, do you sketch out even the vocal melodies or do you just do instrumentals and leave that up to Derek [vocals]?
No, not really. Depending on the idea I might bring a riff to the table and suggest we use it but if I’m writing a proper song then I write everything. So I’ll sit down and do everything from the guitars to the lyrics and melodies. When we get together as a band some of those things might change. Depending on how good certain elements are it mostly works this way. Anybody who brings a song to the table and that song makes the record, then around ninety percent of it is what they wrote and the rest of it is the other members making that song better simply because they can play their own instruments better than the others. And you get new ideas and you change things here and there but everyone’s just really good songwriters in this band so it works.
It also obviously helps that you’ve got a wide array of influences from each other all culminating into this one song.
Yeah, for sure! It doesn’t get too boring that way and is probably the reason we have such big changes within our sound. I think that really works for us though because if we just wrote the same record five times everybody would’ve left us by now.
Well, it works for A Day to Remember…
[Laughs] Them and AC/DC too!
God, that’s seventeen albums of the same riff and they’re selling out stadiums. Hey, maybe that’s why you guys aren’t selling out stadiums as well. You change too much!
Maybe we’re screwing up! We need to narrow down and focus on just one sound and stick to it! [Laughs]
Well, I’d still call you guys successful. Selling out some shows on the other side of the world is a pretty great feat. What do you think has been a driving factor for that success?
I don’t know exactly how to pinpoint it but I feel like it has something to do with the fact that we’re consistently able to put out great songs on all our records or good song at least, right. We’ve had really good records and we’ve had down records but every record we’ve always made sure to have two to three songs that somebody’s going to walk away with the feeling that when we play them live they are really gonna hit home. The other songs, and I’m not saying we don’t try to make them great, but we don’t have to try and make them home runs as such. I don’t know if I could really point to anything else except that [consistency].
Maybe just the simple fact that we came from the same place, same time as friends and stayed together through all of this and we’re easy to work with each other. I can’t really explain it all too well other than those two things…
I think I get what you mean. It’s kind of like, on those other songs where you aren’t working for them to be those “home runs”, you can experiment a bit there and do something you might not have really done before.
Yeah, exactly I think we have room to experiment in the sense that we can put out tracks that have a different feel to than any track we’ve put out before. There are examples out there of that and some especially on the newer record. It’s been on other records too and I think that’s something you earn as you put out more records. You have more places to experiment and do things differently across those twelve or so tracks. They don’t all have to be the same or even be in the vein of pop-punk. That’s what the twelve song average is for. If you put out a ten track record then that’s a bit more focused and is probably gonna be trying to make every song a home run that’s killing it. But when you out on a limb and do twelve tracks you’ve gotta experiment a little bit. And throw in some up and down, some dynamics as well.
One thing I’m keen to touch base on with you is the fact that you’re listed as the rhythm guitarist on Wikipedia. Do you, “identify” as the rhythm guitarist or just as a second guitarist?
I consider myself a rhythm guitarist for sure. I definitely don’t play the leads apart from some here and there but it’s nowhere near what a lead guitarist would do. So yeah, I identify with that and I enjoy playing the rhythm. Alex is great anyways so I don’t think I’d ever be as great as he is at guitar.
Do you think you get the same treatment as bass players where people look down on you as a “rhythm guitarist” and say “oh you’re just playing bar chords the whole time”?
Yeah, I do feel like people look at things like this that way. I find it very interesting actually. I think what would be worse, though, is if you had two guys trying to do the same thing all over each other. I think it’s an important dynamic in any band to have someone who knows what he’s doing with the bare bones of things and then have a guy who can accent and be on top of things in a much more melodic way. It doesn’t really work well that way unless you’re playing metal. I didn’t grow up listening to any sort of technical stuff anyway. What I like in music is very simple and to the point catchy type stuff. When I was learning to play music, I didn’t care about playing anything flashy, I just liked playing a good sounding song.
So what’s you’re approach to rhythm guitar to a song? How do you approach the rhythm as a guitarist as oppose to a bass or drum player?
With that, I like to throw in a lot of interesting chords as much as possible. I probably push the limits a bit too much where somebody else has written a song and I’ve over there trying to put some interesting third note where it doesn’t belong or something. They’ll look at me oddly and I’ll be like, “It sounds kind of cool doesn’t it?” and they’ll just tell me “no”. [Laughs]. But yeah it’s just putting different voicings in places and creating different melodies underneath the chord progressions. Overall getting that sort of mood to the progression as oppose to making it so audible. I think that’s a good way to approach it-
It was right here that our call was suddenly disconnected and I was unable to get back in touch with Brooks to properly wrap the interivew up. So until next time, thank you for the chat, Brooks!
Mayday Parade is locked into tour Australia next month. Get all the details and tickets here.