I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ryan Key of Yellowcard during their stop in Indianapolis, Indiana on their Ocean Avenue Acoustic tour. Ocean Avenue was originally released in 2003 and now 10 years later they have went back to the studio and recorded it acoustically. The album is widely considered to be one of the must have albums for any fan of Pop Punk.
Josh: So, we’ll start off with the basic everyday question, you know. How’s tour? What’s the response been like?
Ryan: It’s been so awesome dude. It’s been so good man. New York City was just like next level I don’t even know. The first night was, when we finished playing the electric set with “With You Around” and we’re going to go in the last song and after we played it we didn’t do anything special or different or anything; we just finished the song and went to grab some water and the crowd was just like cheering for the end of the song and it got louder. And it kept kind of going and then they just didn’t stop and I couldn’t start the next song. It was so loud that I had to turn my monitor pack off on my belt because it was so much coming into my microphone that it was physically painful to hear in my ears. And like I’ve been to Georgia football games with 100,000 people in the stadium and it kind of sounded like that, it was 1000 people, you know.
Josh: Awesome, and you sold out both nights there didn’t you?
Ryan: It was close. We try not to pay attention to that right now because there is so much competition. I mean the big tours aren’t selling out either. So I mean obviously we’re not playing at the arenas and stuff like Fall Out Boy or A Day to Remember and those big tours, but those aren’t selling out either, so we’re close you know. Tonight probably will in Indianapolis, which is cool, but we’re not really too worried about it, I mean this tour is something I think in the first time in a long time it’s just as important for us, like the band is really every night enjoying it as much as the crowd is I think. And not to say we don’t always enjoy what we do, but like 3 years of touring doing a 90 minute set and we’re just kind of interchanging the songs, it’s easy some nights to just kind of get into a routine and then the shows over. I mean I’ll kick myself in the ass all the time about it, like “Man, I should have been more into that,” but with this format, doing the acoustic, you know, playing the record all the way through and then come doing the set change and coming back out and it’s just so fresh and exciting, like it’s still new every night because it’s just a new thing for us to do. And I think the tour is just short enough to where we won’t get quite comfortable enough with it to where we would get relaxed or complacent in any way. So I think for the band it’s really an important tour because it’s really reviving us. Earlier this year, we had a pretty tough run, just everyone was sick and it was long and cold and it was just kind of shitty and started the year off really bad and lame. So we took a lot of time, we took 4 months off just to kind of go home and regroup or whatever. So coming back into this is really cool because there’s just such good, positive energy every night.
Josh: Cool. So you’ve kind of touched on it already, but with the new format on this tour, doing your acoustic and then electric, are you seeing a better reaction to the acoustic stuff or the electric or is it pretty even keeled across both?
Ryan: Yeah, like I would say in New York City for example, since we played 2 nights, the first night the electric set was better reaction wise, crowd wise and I think in the second night, the acoustic was better. It’s crazy because you’re really playing 2 shows, 2 totally different shows, so it will tend to have one be better than the other, just depends, you know. But overall, it’s been awesome all the way through. I mean it’s just a super cool show. It’s a long show. It’s a lot of songs and I think fans are just really leaving, I hope fans are kind of leaving going, “Whoa, that was insane! So much music! It was such a great time!” So that’s what we’re hoping for.
Josh: So, I’ve obviously been around with you guys for a while. I’ve talked to Mackin before, Mendez, and you a couple of times as well, what’s the general feel? I mean if you could go back to when “Ocean Avenue” originally came out and say, you know, 10 years from now you guys are going to be playing this acoustic and people are still going to be into it, what’s that mindset for you guys?
Ryan: Well, I don’t know because I think at that point, you know, if you go back 10 years, 2003, I don’t think we knew what was going to happen. It was still so, I think at that point we would be like, “Wow. This is insane that we’re still going to be doing this then,” but fast forward a year later, I think we would be, and I’m glad we’re not now, but at that point I think we’d be bummed if we found out we were still playing small clubs 10 years later when at that time we were playing huge theaters and amphitheaters and stuff so that was just a crazy time dude. And you know, obviously you know what the band has just been through; so many ups and downs and I’m really proud of us for doing what we do still and I just think we are genuinely happy with where we are. And I mean you know we’re still working really hard and it would be cool to have some magical thing happen to where we get back to playing those bigger rooms and stuff, but nobody’s upset with where we are. We’re making a great living and we’re making new fans everywhere we go still. I mean I know you know, like Chicago yesterday, there was 20,000 something people watching us play and I know they weren’t all Yellowcard fans but the show was insane front to back. I mean it was just wild. The crowd was wild and I know there was people leaving that show going “Oh man, I know of that band, but I need to get more into it.” I think we are doing that still, which 10 years later, is a rare opportunity I think to have the chance to make new fans on the level that we do. You know getting to tour all the time like we did a couple years ago really brought in a whole new group of fans. That with doing all the international festivals and stuff we get to do, making fans there. You know, so this tour is definitely geared towards the fans that were in those big theaters and amphitheaters and stuff who are still around. That’s whose really coming to these shows and that’s awesome. But it’s so cool to look out you know, especially along the barricade and you still see 15-16 year old kids and you’re just like “wow how is that possible? How are you guys hearing about us? Do you guys just not age?” So that’s really cool to see too and I don’t know I think 10 years ago it just would’ve been, for someone to tell us we’d be still touring and making records in 10 years, we would have been like “Oh, okay cool! Sounds good” you know, like that’s what we’re trying to do.
Josh: So obviously when you guys wrote “Ocean Avenue”, being fresh faces to the industry and things like that, how much did it mean to you then? And then, like in hindsight, how much connection is there still to those songs, especially songs like Breathing, Believe and things like that?
Ryan: Yeah, I mean those songs that we still put in the set regularly, obviously, we’re still really connected to and so are the fans. I mean that’s why we keep playing them, you know? I mean this tour has given us a cool experience to go back and play some of the songs we haven’t played. I mean I don’t think we’ve played Miles Apart since Something Corporate Tour in spring of 2004. So you know, songs like that, that we just haven’t played in a long time it’s really cool, but I mean I think that the songs sort of did stand the test of time in a lot of ways. I mean, you know, that record is such an important thing for us and when we play new songs now, especially on this tour because it’s such a devoted fan base that is at these particular shows, they know all of the new songs and it’s awesome. But you know those Ocean Avenue songs, when you’re not playing for just a devout Yellowcard fan base, that’s what gets it going you know, still those songs that people recognize and know. So you know, without those 13 songs, we would not be where we are you know.
Josh: I know you guys have heard this a lot, that album was exactly what people needed when they needed it. In 2004, I had lost my father and that album legitimately saved my life with Miles Apart, Life Of A Salesman, and View From Heaven things like that, so for me, when you guys announced that you were going to drop it in an acoustic, I’m like bringing back the memories. So for one, as a fan, and I’m sure there’s tons of people out there too, thank you for writing the record and making the music you know. But then on the other side of that, it goes with, you’ve already said you’re seeing some of the diehard fans or a lot of the diehard fans come out, how many of them are coming out saying, “thank you for that album” you know or “we still listen to it every day.”
Ryan: Yeah, we’re getting a lot of letters from people saying “this record saved my life” or “got me into music”, “first record I bought” letters and stuff like that and that’s just mind blowing you know. I mean my first record I bought was a Michael Jackson record you know, to think we filled that slot in someone’s life of being their first album of music that they bought on their own, it’s pretty mind blowing you know.
Josh: I would say I mean you guys definitely opened the pop-punk band door for me, I mean my first album was, I think, Metallica’s Black album was the first album I ever bought myself. But then, shortly after, you know, same thing like Michael Jackson was a big one, and things like that. This tour, you’ve got Geoff with you. How cool was it, because I mean obviously you guys grew up kind of alongside him but also listening to his music, how cool was it to have him out doing stuff now.
Ryan: Super rad. I mean I keep making the joke on stage every night, he just makes us look cool you know. I mean when he first said he wanted to do it we were like, “Well cred police can have a good time with this one.” You know, if Geoff Rickly wants to tour with your band, you must be cool. (laughs) He’s great man; we’re really getting to know him well. He’s sharing a bus, riding on the bus with us and you know I think gelling really well with everyone and just getting to know him, super cool. Just the novelty of the fact that our bands you know came up in the same, yet different scene of stuff because I would say you know there was kind of the Yellowcard, New Found Glory, Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance kind of world. And then there was Thursday, Thrice, Taking Back Sunday kind of world and they were very clearly different but at the same time so closely associated in people’s minds. So having Geoff out is such an honor really, you know, because he came to us saying “I heard you guys are doing this tour, I want to do it.” And it’s really cool.
Josh: Awesome. So speaking of Taking Back Sunday, they just joined Hopeless Records as well as Bayside. How cool is that for you, getting more bands that are similar enough in the genre getting in that label?
Ryan: I’d like to think that hopefully Hopeless would, with what they did with “When You’re Through Thinking Say Yes”, it’s kind of taken us from where we were as far as sort of just being non-existent at the time, and just putting us right back on the map. It’s inspired some of those bands to look to Hopeless for a home and you know it’s great. It’s great for the scene. It’s great for the label. It’s awesome.
Josh: Awesome. With that, on the camera phone thing, last time Taking Back Sunday was here Adam actually stopped the show.
Ryan: I do it before the show starts.
Josh: Yeah, like he wasn’t in the middle of a song, it was in between songs while everyone was doing their changeover and he was like “Look I’m going to give you guys this next song, take all the pictures you want, take the video, whatever. The rest of the songs, I’ve got 4 more songs after this, the rest of the night, no cameras out. Just enjoy the show.”
Ryan: I say it before we even start on this tour because this really has gotten bad. I mean you’ll see it tonight. I don’t know if it will be different than any others, but the show hasn’t even started and the reason I started saying it, it was probably like the third night in, because when we come out on stage we haven’t even played a note of music yet and it’s the entire crowd, so I just say, I try to be really nice about it, you know, I’m like “It’s your prerogative, everybody’s got a phone. I can’t stop you from doing what you want to do and I’m not going to be angry, but I love my job and I’m going to have a good time up here regardless, but I’m trying to tell you that you’re going to have a better time if you put that phone in your pocket and watch the show and sing along with the show and enjoy the show.”
Josh: Grab a couple snapshots, fine.
Ryan: Sure I say that, “If you want to take a couple pictures, whatever, cool, but standing there for the whole entire show, filming every single song.”
Josh: Not to mention, how does your arm not hurt?
Ryan: Well sure, like people bring full size iPads to the show. I feel bad for the person behind them.
Josh: Yeah, their watching it through that screen now.
Ryan: So I say it before we even start the show, you know. We got off stage a couple nights into that and I asked the guys, “Hey, are you guys upset with me saying that, like do you think I’m throwing a bad vibe out, like bad juju?” There were like, “No, it’s awesome. It’s fine.” So I think it’s helped. I mean honestly, it provides fans with kind of the idea that on the very first song “Ok well he said I shouldn’t use my phone so I’ll put it away.” Then they start singing and dancing and then that’s the show, like that’s the norm like it should be. We’ve been handling that pretty well, but we definitely had shows that I’ve full blown stopped the show and not been that nice about it so I’m trying to be nicer about it now but it’s really frustrating.
Josh: Basically last thing, well 2 things left. What’s the plans for the rest of the year and leading into next year?
Ryan: Well we tour through the end of November; we’re taking this Ocean Avenue thing to Australia and Europe, and doing the Warped Tour in Europe. And then we’ll be off December and January. Then I’m not sure, we may look into doing some dates somewhere early in the year, but nothing heavy, just a couple weeks. And then we’ll probably get into writing and start thinking about a new record.
Josh: Awesome. And then the last thing, anything to say to fans, other than the stuff we’ve just said, you know?
Ryan: Other than the reprimanding? (laughs) Well, you know, we’re just so grateful for everything. It’s been amazing. These last 3 years really have been just incredible for us. I mean not knowing what was going to happen at all when we all decided to get back on this bus, you know, 3 years ago. It’s just really, I mean we’re going to countries we’ve never been to before. We’re playing these huge shows like Riot Fest and the tours are doing really well. As I mentioned earlier, there’s so much competition out there this fall for a fan to have to choose so, you know, we’re not “Man why isn’t our show sold out?” But the fact that our fans are choosing to come see us play, it means so much to us. Like you can’t even, I say that on stage as well at night. A huge thank you for choosing Yellowcard because I know that there is a lot of amazing music right now out there for you to go see and I know how expensive it is and how hard it is right now for fans of music to get to one show, much less all 5 you want to see, you know, in that month. So the usual giant thank you.
You can also see what Ryan had to say about the music scene and what fans can do to contribute to its growth over at You Make The Scene.
As always it was an absolute joy catching up with Ryan and the guys for this show. They have always been down to earth and their love of performing is very apparent during their sets. They are continuing this tour in the US until October 6th before they start to head over to Australia and Europe. Be sure to pick up the Acoustic album and tickets to one of their upcoming shows!