The sounds we listen to can often become humdrum. From radio stations to MTV playing the same old songs, the sounds that are fresh are often ignored. Enter the four young kids (originally hailing from Jacksonville, Florida) who, under the name Yellowcard are ready to take their conquest to new heights. On July 22nd, Capitol Records releases their major label debut Ocean Avenue.
The sound of Yellowcard boasts traces of melody, intensity, and acoustics all packaged together into one dynamic sound that incorporates some fine violin work. They wanted to make music as a way of life, they followed their dreams and now they will be heard.
David: What were some factors that helped you guys sign with Capitol Records and how did it all come about?
Ryan Key: Well…we moved from Florida to California and basically just played everywhere and anywhere in LA and around the country until someone noticed who we were. Our live performance has always been the most important part of the band. I think the people at Capitol just loved the passion we brought on stage with us whether we were in front of 5 people or 500.
David: How has being on a major label changed things so far for the band?
Ryan Key: Things haven’t changed a whole lot just yet. We are told its going to get pretty intense once the record is released. But for now we are just touring our asses off and trying to keep up the same level of rocking that Yellowcard has always had.
David: How much did Lobster Records help you guys get to where you are now?
Ryan Key: They helped us enormously. They produced our first full length record which gave us music to get out and make fans with. They did the best they could to support and promote our early tours (at the time it was a two man staff so you can imagine they had their work cut out for them!) Lobster Records is a wonderful label run by wonderful people.
David: Why did you guys decide to incorporate the violin into your music?
Ryan Key: Ben, our guitar player and Sean, our violin player had been jamming around our hometown of Jacksonville, FL at local coffee shops and book stores. They were doing classical pieces on a classical guitar and the violin. Anyways, when Yellowcard recorded their first LP in 1997 they had Sean come and play on one of the slower songs on the record. The fans seemed to fall in love with the idea and the rest is history!
David: Talk about the opportunity of touring in Japan and how that has affected the band?
Ryan Key: It is an amazing opportunity. It is crazy to think that people in an entirely different part of the world know who Yellowcard is. We are very excited.
David: How did your parents respond to you guys dropping out of college on full scholarships to pursue the band as a career?
Ryan Key: At first they were pretty pissed. But something changed when we sent home copies of “One For the Kids”. I think at that point they understood that we were really serious about making music a way of life. They are behind all of us 110%.
David: What are some negative experiences the band has dealt with in the music industry?
Ryan Key: There is always a lot of legal bullshit that we didn’t have to deal with when we were playing in our garages and bedrooms. But most of the negative experiences in Yellowcard have been brought by our own trials and difficult times. We haven’t had any real industry nightmares just yet.
David: How did the choice to pick Michelle Branch’s “Everywhere” to cover come about? Any cover songs lined up in the future or songs the band would like to cover?
Ryan Key: We were offered a spot on the Fearless Records comp “Punk Goes Pop”. Sean sort of arranged and brought the song to the band. We put it together in the studio over a weekend and that was that. We hope to cover “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by The Charlie Daniels Band someday.
David: Your new album Ocean Avenue comes out July 22. What can you tell the readers of Sound The Sirens to expect from it?
Ryan Key: We are very excited about Ocean Ave. It has all of the things you expect to hear from Yellowcard and a whole lot more. We experimented with some new sounds and brought out the best of the old. The record is a journey from start to finish. Hopefully everyone enjoys the ride.
David: What is with you guys beating the crap out of each other for personal shits and giggles causing you to break your jaw?
Ryan Key: Breaking my jaw has been the worst shit I have ever gone through but…you drink too much whiskey, you pay. We are idiots. That’s all.
David: Many times, the punk scene is full of camaraderie with bands. What bands are you guys really close with and respect and why?
Ryan Key: The list is forever long. We cherish the friends we make and the time we spend on the road. Being away from home as much as most bands are, your only friends are the guys and gals you share the stage with.
David: Years down the road what are you going to look back on from the time you spent in the band Yellowcard?
Ryan Key: I hope we can look back and know that we did exactly what WE wanted to do with our lives. We followed our dreams all the way through. I think that is the most important thing in life…be what you want to be…dream as big as you want. I want to look back and know we rocked as hard as we could and never gave up.
Everything Will Be Alright: An interview with Ogikubo Station
There is great joy in simple chords and simple melodies. It is, after all, the feeling of comfort that these things often bring. Comfort from the day’s burdens, comfort from the issues that disappoint us, comfort when the sunsets bring us joy. Ogikubo Station, the music project of Maura Weaver (of Ohio punks Mixtapes) and Mike Park (of Asian Man Records), is that kind of comfort. It is music that makes us think of the week we’ve just had, music that makes us want to do better in our every day, and music that makes us laugh, cry, and sing-a-long.
Fresh off the release of a new 7” EP Okinawan Love Songs, we chat to Maura and Mike about the new songs, making music from distances, and how Ogikubo Station came to be. The chat was a reminder that music can be the result of many things and many reasons. Some simple, some more complicated. It was also a reminder that if we’ve got the music, then maybe, just maybe, everything will be alright in the end.
You released your full length We Can Pretend Like last year- was there a catalyst that sparked getting back into the writing and recording again so quickly?
Maura: I think Mike just called me and said do you want to come out to California and do some songwriting, and then while I was out there he booked two days in the studio and said “Guess what? We’re gonna record a 7 inch.”
Mike: Is that what happened? Haha. I can’t remember. I know we had “Would I Break My Heart Enough For You” written and we were playing it live, so I thought “let’s just add a couple more songs and release a fun 7 inch.”
Did you write these songs the same way you’ve written in the past; from a distance?
Mike: Not this time. Since it was only a few songs we just rehearsed for a day and then recorded.
Does that process ever get easier, being quite far apart?
Maura: Not really. I prefer being able to collaborate in person and I believe that’s the plan for the next record. We started writing 4 new songs aside from what’s on this 7 inch to go towards the next Ogikubo full length.
Mike: Yeah, it’s not the best case scenario, but I’ve been doing with a lot of different projects over the years. Sending mixes and vocal parts and asking various friends to guest on records, so it’s not that bad actually.
How was having Dan (Andriano) play bass on this EP? Will you be working with him again in the future?
Mike: I’ve known Dan since he was a teenager, so I just called him and said “Dan, I’m gonna send you a couple of songs for you to play bass on” and he was like “okay”. He has his own home studio and he’s kind of a gear head, so I knew it would be easy for him to do. I’d love to do more stuff with him, but I guess we’ll see.
Maura: Heck yes! I’ve been an Alkaline Trio fan since I was 14, so this is all kind of geeking out excitement for me.
For those who are new to Ogikubo Station – tell us how you ended up collaborating together?
Mike: Maura, you want to tell it?
Maura: Sure. So I was visiting the San Francisco/Oakland area where my sister lives and we were hanging out with my friend Danielle Bailey who is also friends with Mike. Danny had posted some photos of us hanging and Mike called Danny and said: “ask Maura if she would record a song with me”. So we drove to San Jose and we recorded a song called “Weak Souls Walk Around Here” and that was it. Just a one-time thing.
Mike: And at that time I believe I told Maura I’d like to put out her solo album and so for the next 2 years I would bug her every couple months to see how it was going and she would say “oh, I’m still working on it”. And then I finally said “hey, let’s start a project together” and thus Ogikubo Station was born.
How many bands are you in now Mike?
Mike: Kitty Kat Fan Club, Ogikubo Station, Bruce Lee Band …are the only ones that play, but I’m working on a couple of new projects. Always doing music.
Maura, how different has it been with Ogikubo Station than say, writing and recording with Mixtapes? Do the different processes give you new ways to write and approach songwriting?
Maura: I guess the biggest difference is the distance factor and that Ogikubo is not a full-time band. Mixtapes was my first real band and it was at a time in my life when everything was a first. First tour, first record, first van, the first van breaking down. I was still in my teens with Mixtapes and we all lived in Cincinnati. So it’s very different with Ogikubo. It’s hard to explain fully, but both bands have definitely been influential in different ways. But the basic idea of writing a melody over a strummed guitar chord is the same no matter the situation.
I love the TMBG cover on the new EP, and the fact that you chose to keep it lo-fi—what are some of the other bands you say would have directly led to the music and songwriting of Ogikubo Station?
Mike: I guess I’ve been listening to a lot of 80’s bands as of late and just kind of falling in love again with bands like Hoodoo Gurus, the Replacements, REM, and then newer bands like ALVVAYS, PUP, and Laura Stevenson. I’m always just looking for a good melody and some lyrics that aren’t filler bullshit.
Maura: I listen to so much music. From Kate Bush, TMBG, Desmond Dekker, Operation Ivy, to Beyonce and Taylor Swift. It’s hard to say what influences Ogikubo Station, but those are some bands I’ve been listening to lately.
Mike, I know on Twitter recently you’ve expressed your frustration and anger at a lot of the political things that are happening in the US (hopefully that’s not the cause of those grey hairs!) – but as songwriters, do you feel that it’s more important than ever to provide listeners with fuel to fight for equality and kindness, or do you feel that its just as important to provide an escape through music?
Mike: I’ve always felt music is political even when you aren’t trying to make it political. The sounds fuel the soul, creates the body to move and puts you in moods that you may not even realise are happening. Music has been my solace when it comes to expression and emotion. An outlet to get my ideas across in an artistic and productive manner. I don’t feel it’s imperative to be overtly political. I try not to shove politics down your throat, but if something comes to mind and I write about it and it happens to be classified as political, so be it.
Maura, you did the artwork for the new EP, an illustration of your Okinawan grandmother. The art is beautiful, can you tell us a little bit about your art and how you came into illustrating?
Maura: I’ve always enjoyed illustrating and painting. Creating art: With a guitar or a brush or a pen/ pencil. I wanted to draw my grandmother and give it to her as a present. When Mike saw the drawing he asked if we could use it for the 7-inch cover. It wasn’t meant to be the cover, but after mike brought it up I said of course.
What are some of the things you’re looking forward to on this UK tour? You guys are going all over England, and then to Wales, and then Scotland.
Mike: Sadly I’m not going on the tour this time due to some hearing damage I have sustained, but I’m still going to Brighton for a wedding, so I will be there for 3 days. And I’ll try to do every stereotypical British thing. TEA/MILK/FISH/CHIPS/MUSHY PEAS.
Maura: Getting to travel with my best friend Megan is the most exciting part of this UK tour. She’s never been before and that makes it that much more special being able to share this experience together. We are both Vegan/Vegetarian and one of our favorite things to do is eat, so we’ll checking out the different vegan spots in every city. And just meeting new friends, seeing old friends, and Edinburgh. I can’t wait to go to Edinburgh.
Is there a new full length on the horizon?
Mike: I’d like to work on one next year. I’m tapped out for this year. I’m gonna work on some new Bruce Lee Band stuff next and then I have a couple of other collaborations, but hopefully sometime next year we can start the process for the next full length.
Maura: That sounds good to me. It will give me a chance to keep writing songs.