Yellowcard has had a hell of a 2011, returning after their 3 year hiatus with a new album, an acoustic version of the same album and a tour. They're back, and they're back for good. Punknews interviewer Jason Epstein sat down with guitarist/vocalist Ryan Key at a recent show in NYC to chat about the band's past, present and future.
What was the reason behind recording an acoustic version of your new album?
We only recorded 10 tracks for the album and we knew that there would only be 10 songs. We basically had enough to pay our producer to do 10 songs, so with only that amount being done nowadays you need to have extra content for iTunes or international releases or whatever else. You're going to need extra songs not on the record. So we have a couple places we can record now on our own and we were like, "Oh, let's do a couple of the songs acoustic as b-sides," and once we got involved in it we said maybe we should try throughout the year piecing together and record all the songs. I actually didn't ever think it was going to be a record. I thought we would release them here and there separately, independently of each other and then we got to talking about making it a record and Hopeless Records (our record company) was really excited about the idea and got behind it and here it is.
Do you think that the songwriting in each Yellowcard album has gotten progressively better over the years?
I mean, I'd like to believe that. I think it's different and every record is independent of itself. I think we're a band that has gone through a lot of growing and maturing and learning about what it is that we do and what we're good and what we're not good at and a lot of that we've even fleshed out on the records through writing songs. So I think where we're at now as a band and as songwriters is a really good place and we all feel really good about this record and even going into writing another one right now we're pretty focused.
That's pretty exciting. Did your hiatus rejuvenate the band in the way you hoped it would?
I hadn't hoped that it would. I honestly didn't think there would be a band. We said it was a hiatus, because what if a show or something came up down the road? I didn't think we'd ever make another record when we split up. For us, it felt like more of a break up but it was something we didn't want to close the door on, an opportunity in the future, you know? And using it as kind of a gimmick, like we broke up and then what if we got back together? It's annoying when bands do that. Anyway, the fact that we did it and took the time off and then agreed that we wanted to make another record…whether I hoped it would rejuvenate the band or not, it did and it was a really great thing that we had the opportunity to take time off the road and off each other and focus on our own lives and families and whatever we needed individually during that time. I think it really helped the band as a whole and provided a lot of fresh energy toward a new record. Do you see the possibility of another hiatus in the band's future?
I don't. We were really able to sort out what we needed. At the time that we split there was so much internally with the band, with the five of us. So much going on at the record company…so much…negativity…..
You wanted to say bullshit didn't you?
So much bullshit. We went from having this kind of fairy tale major label recording experience (that I don't know many bands ever receive) at the beginning of our career, to falling into the most clichÃ© major label recording process that you'd read in any book or so on E! True Hollywood story…it was just insane. You know the A&R guy quits, record company fires everyone, nobody cares about the band or the record anymore. That all happened so we were all just bitter and pissed off at each other and all the energy we had put into Paper Walls, our third record on Capitol and how great the fans reacted to that record when it first came out, people were really excited about it and we were really excited about it, the possibilities and the future. And we'd planned it out in our heads and none of it came true. We weren't in a good head space to keep moving forward. I don't see that happening again We've had a chance to weed out all that negativity and understand what it is we do now and why we do it. I [don't like] to use the word older, but [we're] older and wiser and we [now] know what we're doing.
How does the band generally pick a good set list for each night?
It's hard man. You know, the more records you write the more songs there are to play and the more fans there are that have been around for 10 years that are going to get pissed off if you donât play that one song off of your first record from 10 years ago that them and 5 other people are gonna know in the room. It gets really challenging, to balance it and make everybody happy but this is the first headlining tour weâve done as a band in 5 years and it's crazy to say out loud but it is. The last time we headlined in the United States was the Fall of 2006. So, the set list is really important for us and it's pretty much the same every night. We have a couple of songs that we switch depending on the market or what we feel like that night. For the most part were playing the same songs, but it's long and it's pretty in depth. It does go all the way back to the first couple of records. We're trying to make everybody happy, but it's really hard to do. What are Yellowcard's plans for 2012?
Record first, new record. Then right back at it. I think we're hoping that…[When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes] was very much a way for us to step back out and get our foot in the door and start touring again and let people know that the band was making records again. So while it would be really awesome if we could tour this record for two years I don't think that was really the purpose that this record served. So it makes sense for us to go right back in the studio otherwise we wait until next Fall and then the album doesnât come out 'til 2013 or something and it would be forever. So I think we're excited to keep going and strike while the iron is hot and it looks like the way it's panning out the next record we'll definitely be able to do a year and a half; a longer, more in depth touring cycle on. So that's what we're hoping: that we'll be touring through the Fall of 2013.
What's your least favorite interview question that people ask you?
"Where'd you get the name from?" Cuz I just don't have anything to do with it. I wasn't in the band when they started. I mean I kind of know what it is. From the way I've heard the story it was such a last minute…we have a show tomorrow and we still don't have a name for our band…there's no real deep meaning behind it or anything. And I'm so disconnected from it…it's always just been the band I'm in.