Interview: Mayday Parade
It's always sunny in the world of Mayday Parade, however, there is sometimes a chance of showers. The Tallahassee quintet are no strangers to the changes in the weather, or in this case, the challenges that arise during touring and recording. Being a band for 13 years has anchored them in their methodology and approach to songwriting, as well as solidified them as a staple in the pop-punk music scene. I spoke with rhythm guitarist Brooks Betts [pictured above, right] about the new album, Sunnyland, what it was like working with John Feldmann, as well as the final Warped Tour.
Sunnyland will be Mayday Parade’s first release on Rise Records. What made you guys make the jump to a new label?
I think that Rise has a lot of good things about them. Fearless was great, Bob Becker is still a huge part of Fearless but he’s stepped back a little bit. He was such a big part of our career, and he really believed in the band. Not to say that if we didn’t stay with Fearless, that he wouldn’t have believed in the band, but he’s getting to where he’s trying to chill out a bit and halfway retire. We figured if we went with Rise Records, they had a bit more of what we really used to like about Fearless, when we first started. A lot of people do change in this industry. At this point in our career, it made sense to get a fresh look - not look, per se, but a new team that would be excited about ahold of a record of ours and really pushing it forward.
What was the inspiration behind naming the record Sunnyland? I know that it was a an abandoned hospital where some of the band members hung out in their teenage years.
It was a cool spot, it was condemned but it stood for a long time when we were younger. Now it’s all been turned into apartments - they tore it down and built apartments on it, which I assume are haunted now. It was one of those places that was well known for being a haunted, abandoned establishment in the U.S. and it was just outside of downtown in Tallahassee. We would go there and explore it - you’re not supposed to, obviously. But it was a really cool thing back then.
What are some of the big themes in Sunnyland?
Mayday Parade has always been about relationship inspired stories and that sort of thing. So obviously that’s an ongoing theme with us, but I think you get a lot of different feels with the different tracks. You get a little bit more of a throwback - there’s a bit more pop-punk on this record than there was on the last one, but there are certain tracks that could have been on Black Lines as well. We’ve got at least one or two more ballad type songs on this record than you generally would have gotten on other records. Sometimes a band will treat it like, you need at least one, but we’ve done so well with them. We thought that it seems to be a strong suit for us, so maybe we’ll add a couple more slow jams. You get a pretty well-mixed record overall, I think.
It’s been three years since the last album, Black Lines. You guys have been busy with a lot of touring since then. Did time between albums the creative process for this record, was there less pressure going into it?
We definitely took more time on purpose. For a long time, I’ve been pushing it - what really drives you while touring is how good your album is - so we sat and talked about it a lot and came to a conclusion that we’d take more time, that it can’t hurt to take an extra six months or more. The whole idea was to just get better tracks, and we would usually on other records move out to the beach, rent a place, and hack out songs together and then we’d go and record. This time, we did that whole trip like we normally would, hacked out some songs and then we went back home and kept writing. It definitely helped with what I thought was lacking on the record, or what other people might have thought we needed on the record, so we went back and wrote songs based on that. We had basically two of those sessions, so I can say for sure that we came out with a much better record than had we just gone to the studio after the first writing session together. I know what would have been on the record then, but I know what’s on the record now, and we got a much better product.
You worked with Zak Odom and Kenneth Mount who have produced three other Mayday Parade albums (A Lesson in Romantics, Mayday Parade, Monsters in the Closet). What was the experience like of working with producers you’ve worked with before, in terms of comfort in the familiarity, but wanting to push yourselves and open new doors creatively?
We did most of the record with Zak and Ken, and then we did tracks with John Feldmann and Howard Benson. Out of those, I think we had 3 songs from Jon that are on the record and one from Howard. The plan was to come out and have 3 from each of them, and I think it worked out well the way we did it. We worked with 3 different producers which was the goal to make sure that we ensured we got the feeling that we’ve always gotten with Zak and Ken but being able to experiment and see where things go with the different producers. In hindsight, I think it would have been better to know how Howard and Jon work before we got in there, but I think we got a good product out of that. Going with Zak and Ken again, because we didn’t use them for Black Lines, we got a lot of the same stuff we got before, but I think they were very open to what we really wanted, opposed to them following what they like to do. Every producer has their way, and they’re usually really stuck in it. Just like a musician, it’s really hard to get them to play something they don’t want to - like, you’re not gonna get me to play jazz, cause I don’t do that. I think Zak and Ken opened up a bit more to different ways of tracking, styles, looking at our music differently, and the whole thing. It was a great experience, I think we’ve really grown with those guys and every record gets better working with Zak and Ken. I can’t say enough about the process with them.
What was the most challenging part of writing and recording this album?
The most challenging part was probably working with different producers, and having to adapt. When you’re working with guys like John and Howard, they’re very set in doing their own thing. I think adapting to their styles of recording and pre-production was probably the most difficult thing to get through, but that’s also what makes a song good, when you work with someone and you think outside the box. I think we ended up with a better product that way, but it also was a hard part of the process.
What can people expect from this new album?
Overall, in my opinion, you can expect a really good record. We’re really excited about it. I think you can expect a record that will be fun to come and see at shows - energetic, that sort of thing, and if that is your sort of thing, it’s on there for you.
This year is the final Warped Tour, and you guys are on the bill. What are your thoughts on Warped ending, and what are you looking forward to about going on the tour one last time?
We did it in 2005 for the first time - but really, we were just following the tour so I guess we weren’t really doing it. We owe 50% of our career to Warped Tour, that’s really where we got our start. It is really sad to see it go, but we’re happy to be on the last one. You make a ton of new fans - there are so many bands out there and so many people going who don’t even know your music, so that’s the coolest part of Warped Tour. I think Kevin Lyman who runs the tour will do something else, it might not be Warped Tour, but it’s gonna be something in the way of festival touring - I don’t think he’d just let it die completely. He’s been doing it for 20 or so years, and the music industry has changed so much in that time, so what worked then might not work now. I’m sure he’ll do something else and it’ll be successful.
Mayday Parade's sixth album, Sunnyland, is available on June 16th through Rise Records, and you can catch the band this summer on the final run of the Vans Warped Tour.