Read Between The Lines: Mayday Parade’s Derek Sanders discusses brilliant new LP

2016
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It’s an oddly calm, cool afternoon in Pontiac, Michigan, an unusual change of pace from the state’s typical brisk winds and low temperatures during the autumn season. However, even if faced with scorching heat or a pounding blizzard, that wouldn’t stop the hordes of devoted fans lined outside the Crofoot Ballroom from seeing beloved Tallahassee, Florida, pop-rock quintet Mayday Parade perform a sold-out show, that’s for sure.

Fresh off the heels of their dark, compelling fifth studio album Black Lines, Mayday Parade is currently headlining a U.S. tour with support coming from Chicago pop-punks Real Friends, acoustic-based two-piece This Wild Life and upstart pop-rockers As It Is. With Black Lines continuing to push the boundaries of the band’s poignantly powerful hybrid of pop-rock, pop-punk and emo, things seem to be looking up and paying off for Mayday Parade—a band who was more recently terrified of how their new direction would be perceived.

Going through the motions after their fourth studio album Monsters In The Closet, the members of Mayday Parade decided to switch things up for their next release. The mood was dimmer, and the music had to match their current artistic state. Enlisting the help of industry legend Mike Sapone for the production, the band crafted what could only be described as their most enthralling record in an already exciting discography.

Black Lines hits every single cathartically honest, piercingly affective beat you’d come to expect from a band of this caliber, yet doesn’t accommodate to the masses through easy hooks and simple concepts. Mayday Parade could have simply coasted on their fifth album, showcasing an ability to rehash a previously successful style or set of ideas, like many acts do so far into their career. What Black Lines captures instead is the total rebirth of a band—a band that has once again shown their capability of producing truly great art.

As Mayday Parade will only continue to grow in size and stature, it’s all the more refreshing to see the band tinkering with the mechanics of their music and asking themselves the difficult questions: How can we make this better? How can we challenge ourselves as artists? How can we challenge our listeners? And, most importantly, how can we continue to make a lasting impact in other people’s lives?

With their ambition on display, and a commanding live show to boot, Mayday Parade is undoubtedly back and better than ever. We recently caught up with vocalist Derek Sanders, who talks about life on the road, their partnerships with younger bands and the key to Mayday Parade’s longevity a decade later.

You’re about two weeks into this our so far. How have the shows been?
DEREK SANDERS:
 It’s been incredible! It’s been so much fun. There have been some really, really good shows. It’s been flying by—they always do. We’re almost a third of the way through already and it feels like it just started. Regardless it’s been a lot of fun—all of the other bands are just amazing and good dudes. They’ve been really high-energy shows.

As a band that tours frequently for so long, is there a routine you’ve developed over the years to where you’re able to perform well every night?
A lot of it is just doing it every night. Some shows I can get into it to where I don’t even have to think about it, you know what I mean? To where it becomes second nature. A lot of it also comes from the confidence to, after playing so many shows, where you’re a little more relaxed and you’re able to have more fun. To me, that’s the most important thing—to just go up and have as much fun as I can. The fans are great, the music is good and that’s kind of the bottom line. I’m never bummed out onstage, or never let anything bother me. Even if there’s other bad, weird stuff going on, we’re always able to just forget about that, go play the set and have an amazing time.

Black Lines, your new record, has been out for a few weeks. Have you been happy with the reception it’s received?
Yeah, absolutely! It was a little more of a risk on this album where we weren’t really playing that safe and trying out some new things, so I was a little more nervous to see what the reaction was like, but I think it’s been really strong. The main goal was to make an album that we were really happy with and we certainly accomplished that—everything else has just been icing on the cake. The new songs are a ton of fun to play live.

You and the band have said many times in other interviews while promoting this record that you wanted to try something new and switch things up from your past albums. When did you all decide, as a band, that that was a necessary decision?
You know, it’s tough to say, but I think it was somewhere along in the album cycle for Monsters In The Closet. With that album, I think we totally played it safe and felt like we were just doing the same thing that we did with our self-titled, and it just sort of felt like we were repeating ourselves. So we felt like, with the timing of the band, seeing how we’ve been together for 10 years now and this was our fifth album like we didn’t have to worry so much about being like so many bands that just have a momentum where that it’s so easy just to fall off. We just felt like we were in a really good, comfortable place. When we did our Punk Goes ‘90s, Vol. 2 “Comedown” cover by Bush, we tracked it and it felt really good that it was a lot more raw and rough. We tracked most of that live, and we all thought, “Yeah, that feels really good…why don’t we do more stuff like that on the album?” It was a lot more ‘90s rock-inspired.

What inspired you to call the record Black Lines?
Well, I wish there was a great story, but we just kind of picked the name. [Drummer] Jake [Bundrick] actually came up with it. It’s funny because, at first, we just kind of threw something together and it eventually ends up forming some kind of meaning along the way. Artistically, I think it’s cool, seeing how the album cover just has the five black lines, which is very simple and minimalistic, and I feel represents the album. We just kind of went with it.

What was it like working with Mike Sapone on the production?
It was incredible! Mike is such an amazing dude and he’s super-talented. I think he was a very key ingredient in successfully accomplishing what we set out to do with this album, which was to keep it more raw, rough and have a less polished sound to experiment a little bit more than what we’ve done before. He’s all about that kind of stuff. From the first time we talked to him, we knew he was going to be cool and easy to work with and he absolutely was.

Yeah, just looking at his entire backlog of everything he’s worked on and how we really helped shape bands like Brand New and Taking Back Sunday into what they are now, it was really cool to see you guys reach out to him.
Oh yeah, I thought about it all of the time, which is why we actually hit him up in the first place is because we love so much of what he’s done. It was so hard not to ask him questions about Brand New or Taking Back Sunday stuff.

Dan Lambton, Real Friends’ vocalist, sings on “One Of Them Will Destroy The Other.” Do you remember the first time you heard about the band, heard their music, saw them live and knew they were a band you wanted to work with?
It’s kind of a long history. Our merch guy, Tyler, who we’ve known for a long time, was the first one who told me about them. He said, “Dude, you got to check out this band Real Friends, they’re going to be big one day.” That was probably about four years ago. I checked out some of their stuff and thought they were really cool. Two years later, we played Toronto Riot Fest and I got to see and meet them for the first time that day. After that we did a few of Soundwave Festival’s Sidewaves off-shows with them and the Story So Far in Australia, and we all traveled together because of that, seeing how we were grouped together. We chilled pretty hard together on that, we did Warped Tour together the following summer and then this all worked out. It’s been sort of a gradual relationship, but they’re really awesome dudes and a very cool band.

Over your entire career, you’ve done a lot to reach out to smaller bands that are sort of “up-and-comers” in this scene, through taking them on tour and talking them up on social media. As a bigger band, do you feel like mentors for smaller bands now, or is it just finding common ground among peers?
I think it’s a little bit of both. We try to act as mentors, I suppose, but not in any sort of big-headed kind of way, or in a way where we say, “Once you’ve done what we’ve done,” you know what I mean? We don’t ever want to seem old and jaded, but we definitely try to make the tour as awesome as we can for all of the bands and crew. On one of the first tours we went out on that were more legitimate was with Plain White T’s and they were just really awesome, very welcoming and made the tour a really cool experience for everybody and make it fun for everyone out.

This year marked the 10th anniversary of Mayday Parade’s existence as a band, which is cool because all five of you have been in the band since its inception. What do you think has been the key to your success in being able to working so well together?
It’s tough to say, but a lot of it, really, is because we grew up together and played in a handful of different bands together throughout the years. I’ve known Brooks [Betts, guitar] since I was 12 and we’ve always just played in bands together, and the other guys since I was 15 or so. When we started this band, we had done all of these other bands and we were the ones that were trying to take it seriously and really make this happen. We just thought, “Why don’t we take these guys from this band and dedicate our entire lives to making this happen?” And we all just really appreciate how far it’s come, which is a huge part of it, but it’s tough to say since there are a lot of factors. There’s no internal struggle or anything between us at all.