Interview: Sean Mackin from Yellowcard

Breakthrough rockers Yellowcard return with new album Paper Walls on July 17th, the third in a trilogy of albums that includes 2006’s gold-certified Lights and Sounds and their 2003 smash, Ocean Avenue. The band will join the 2007 Vans Warped Tour from June 29 – July 19, with more summer live dates to be announced soon. A full list of confirmed tour dates is below.

Yellowcard emerged from Jacksonville, Florida with a completely infectious and original blend of rock, punk and classical (owing to violinist Sean Mackin) that made them a sure thing to break out of the pack, but even the band could not have imagined how far.

With a string of successful indie releases, a tireless touring schedule and a steamrolling fan base the band made their Capitol Records debut with 2003’s Ocean Avenue. The album was a smash, spawning huge hit singles, sold-out tours in the U.S. and abroad, an MTV Video Music Award and has sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide. 2006’s gold-certified Lights and Sounds – an even bigger-sounding, more expansive and harder-edged album – was released to rave reviews, showcasing the band’s diversity as songwriters and once again sending them circling the globe.

But with the success some darkness fell – the loss of founding guitarist Ben Harper, major vocal surgery for frontman Ryan Key, and general fatigue from years and years spent at breakneck speed had the group frazzled.

After some badly-needed time off the band regrouped in a Los Angeles studio with a new plan: to have NO plan besides simply coming together for the sheer joy of writing and playing music. To get back to their roots, write songs for their own sake, and everything else was gravy.

Those sessions yielded the songs which would become Paper Walls. Drawing from both the universal, buoyant, hook-filled style of Ocean Avenue and the tougher edges of Lights and Sounds, Paper Walls takes it all a step further with an energized, anthemic and forward-looking set of songs.

We were able to sit down with Yellowcard’s Sean Mackin for a one on one about the band’s new album, their thoughts on touring with The Warped Tour, their favorite television shows, and what’s next on their agenda!

How would you describe the growth of the band and the sound of the band from the previous albums to this album?

Sean: I would describe “Paper Walls’ growth as the natural evolution for anyone the age of 25 to 27, but with “Paper Walls’ we focused on the best of what Yellowcard had to offer from our previous work. Meaning we took the energy we had from Ocean Avenue and blended that with that sharp rock edge and all the different sonic evolutions we have on “Lights and Sounds’, and we basically mashed them together. So what we have on “Paper Walls’ is basically the finest Yellowcard sounds we have to offer.

What were you musical inspirations for the new album?

Sean: Nothing different than the usual Yellowcard inspirations. We have our palette that we pull from; each artist is inspired by different artists. We have our general Foo Fighters, Green Day Nirvana, Weezer-y type pop stuff. And then we have the 90’s punk rock movement of No Effects, Bad Religion. And then each member pulls from their own influences. LP loves medal so he brings a lot of- I guess- power to the table; I guess that’s the most PG word I can say. And then Pete listens to a lot of Beatles and Beach Boys. Ryan is really on top of the pop stuff of today, you know like Foo Fighters, Weezer, and even Kelly Clarkson. Mendez is just the rippingest guitar player ever. I don’t know what he is even listening to, probably some Jagged Corpse or whatnot. I always bring the classical side coupled with- I listen to a lot of musical soundtracks and arrange based stuff. So that’s where we get the wide range of sounds on the Yellowcard albums.

You guys have had a fair amount of band changes over the years, has that had an effect on any of the songwriting or the band atmosphere?

Sean: Of course it has its effects, we’re a family. And with every family you’re always going to have those pushes and pulls in every relationship. But the base of Yellowcard is that we have shared the passion of music through friendship, and that relationship and that ethic still holds true in Yellowcard today.

Yellowcard has existed for 10 years now. How did the band initially start, and at that time did you think that things would be as there are now?

Sean: First off, I could have never imagined that things would be as they are right now. I don’t think anyone really can, and if they can they’re delusional or egotistical and probably a pretty ugly person. For anyone to say that “my life is going to be like this”. it’s crazy in such a crazy world that lives around the entertainment industry. But when the band first started, before Yellowcard first started, it was a group of friends that hung out, drank beer, watched the sunrise, and had a good time. We all went to art high school, so that’s where you get guitar players hanging out with orchestra people, actors, dancers, and creative writers. Out of this creative environment and this circle of friends, we formed Yellowcard.

Now what’s the school schedule like with art school? Is there much more emphasis on fine arts and music?

Sean: Yeah, it was a public school so anyone could go. You did have to audition to get in, and after that it was your basic academic requirements, you know mathematics, social studies, and English, and then instead of any electives that you may take like home economics, computer, or soccer- We were only required to take a year and a half of physical ed over the course of high school, and then everything else was based on your art. I would go through calculus in the morning and ap history, and then the rest of my day was music history, string assemble, and symphony orchestra. That was my day.

What’s the story with you and the violin how did you initially become interested in that instrument?

Sean: I am half Japanese, and it was one of those things where my mom was like you live in my house, and you’re going to do these things when you live in my house, and one day you’re going to thank me for it. Violin and golf were basically those requirements, and I look back, and I definitely thank my mother for making me play the violin, play golf, and play tennis.

How much creative control do you all have with the album artwork and music video concepts?

Sean: We work pretty hand in hand with the label. We have a really good team in place, our manager, she’s pretty buff, and takes charge with what we like. We always feel like the artwork and the music videos work hand in hand with what is happening with the music side of it. Just to give you a little insight, Mick, the artist, has been my best friend since I was 16, and he’s known all of Yellowcard for that long. We always wanted to have him work with us, and his career path has basically crossed ours, and it was a great opportunity for him to show artistically what we’ve been through and have a greater understanding on that level.

Yellowcard has been heard in countless television shows and movies, is it a bit surreal listening to your music in these mediums?

Sean: Yeah of course it is. I still remember the first time we were on Madden 2004, and we were like “omigod, we’re on a video game’, and that video game goes on to sell millions of copies. And now we’re on NBC, which is an amazing network and Heroes has used our show for the advanced promotion of their new season. It’s crazy to believe or think or understand what can happen with your music. And like I said we have such a great team, everyone at the label, and the booking agent. They really believe in us and enjoy our music. We’re really big fans of them, and they take great care of us.

Now you mention your song being on Heroes. It was “Light up the Sky” that is being used in promoting the TV series Heroes. I actually saw that the other night.

Sean: What did you think? Was it pretty cool?

Yeah it was great, it matched. I think that the “Light Up The Sky” song is really a perfect type song for Heroes too. So it was really cool seeing it in conjunction with that. And we have a huge fanbase for that show at our site as well. So I have to ask, do you have time to watch television, and if so, what are your favorite shows?

Sean: It’s funny that you asked me. I actually never watch TV unless it’s like sports things, or I’ll be at home and have VH1, Fuse, or MTV on in the background while I’m writing songs or doing some internet work. Only because of my schedule, if I get into a TV show, I feel like I’m committed to a show, and then it I never get to see it, and it’s such a letdown. We got into Lost really hard. Ryan and everyone else started downloading it off iTunes, which is really great that iTunes offers shows and whatnot. I guess right now a lot of the guys are, ironically enough, are into Heroes, and Lost is a great series that the majority of Yellowcard has been following religiously.

You all toured with the Warped Tour this summer, I actually was at the show here in Atlanta, and it was unbelievably hot. How would you compare touring with the Warped Tour to other tours, and did you ever find yourself on stage saying I wish this tour was in the fall, or sometime when it’s cooler?

Sean: There were days- Like in Phoenix it was 126 degrees on stage. And everyone was like “okay, the Phoenix show should just be at night’. I don’t know it’s always been one of those things where the Warped has been in the summer, and between that and the port-a-potties, that’s the only bad things about the Warped Tour. Everything else is awesome. The Warped Tour is the best thing for bands and the best thing for fans. Kevin L yman has a great thing going on, and I hate to tell him to change it. I mean he’s made so many people happy. There have been so many wonderful days, that I can remember the Warped Tour, so even though it’s hot, once you get passed that you get to hang out for 20 bucks, watch all these bands and bands you’ve never seen, and get cheap merch. And for the bands, they get to hang out with all their friends that they never get to hang out with all summer.

What’s next on the horizon for you all?

Sean: We’re just excited about each day. We’re going to take it one step at a time with the release of “Paper Walls’ and with touring this fall. We’re with Sum 41, and then we go on an 8 week long tour with Blue October. We’re just really excited to go out and spend time with our old friends and fans, and maybe make some new fans while we’re at it.

If the fans could only take one thing away from “Paper Walls”, what would you want it to be?

Sean: Take away one thing, I guess the message that’s on “Paper Walls”, that’s really important to Yellowcard, is the fact that we’re comfortable in our skin. We’re not going anywhere. So I hope that people understand that and feel that. That it’s okay to be yourself, and it’s okay to have fun in what you do. And I think that’s a really important lesson for Yellowcard to learn, and we’d like to share that with everyone.

Interview By: Emma Loggins

Yellowcard Official Site


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