In Jacksonville, Florida in the mid 90s, a bunch of mates coined a term; a term that meant your parents were out of town and a rager of a party was to be thrown. It became a commonly used word amongst the teens of the time, and that word was ‘Yellowcard’.
Little did these mates know when they decided to call their band Yellowcard, in a hasty decision before their first gig, that a decade and a half later, they would’ve toured the world over and recorded eight studio albums.
After a number of band member changes, a two year hiatus, and a well-received return to the scene in 2010 with their album When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes; the internationally renowned pop punk act are back again with their eighth studio album, Southern Air.
Following the album’s August release, the boys will be heading our way on a headlining tour in September, as well as hitting up the Fat As Butter festival in Newcastle.
One of the very few men to punk-rock a violin, Sean Mackin, took time out of Yellowcard’s crazy tour schedule to discuss their first trip back to Australia in five years, and their upcoming album Southern Air.
“I am the most excited I have ever been for a Yellowcard album,” enthuses the Florida fiddler. “After working with Neal Avron, the world’s best producer for almost a decade now, we had this opportunity to write another record with him.”
Avron, who’s worked with the band since 2003’s Ocean Avenue, “highlights the best parts of Yellowcard and pulls out the best performance from each of us,” says Mackin.
“I think this record highlights the strength of our band from our entire discography. So we’re working very hard, we went to 32 countries last year, and we’re very excited for this release,” he adds.
Mackin admits the new album is a little bit different, it brings about a kind of evolution for Yellowcard, but at the same time, they’re just doing what they’ve always done and what they do best.
“It has its sort of changes over previous Yellowcard albums. I think there’s a little bit more of an edge, where we go a bit heavier in a lot of the songs. But melodically with all the harmonies and arrangements, we definitely tried to get it to the next level.”
Drawing inspiration from heavier music, as well as other surprising genres, is perhaps why the boys have finally decided to throw in this heavier edge for Southern Air.
“We draw inspiration from everything. As a classical musician, growing up I loved Bach. He’s a brilliant composer. There’s passion and a little bit of darkness to his music, and that’s my sort of influence. LT (drummer Longineu W. Parsons III) listens to jazz, jazz percussion and also loves heavy metal so there’s that edge there. Some of the bands I listen to outside of folk or acoustic artists have a heavier edge too so it’s nice we are able to throw these influences into the Yellowcard album as well.”
It’s at times like this, when they’re always touring, Mackin says, that these kinds of influences really appear and make an impact.
“Through our travels I take a liking towards bands… it’s funny, right now we’re in a bubble where we’re just getting the mixes and masters of the new album, and all we listen to is our band, so it’s nice to have these other bands that can sort of pull me out of the bubble and make sure that I’m still listening to other things, and keep me excited and fresh,” explains Mackin.
While most bands spend their time trying to convince you they’re so completely different from every other band, Mackin was quite modest about how Yellowcard try to stand out.
“On the surface absolutely it (the violin) is something that makes us a little different but if you look a little deeper, I’m a fan of the musicians I share the stage with. I hope people just don’t look at us and say ‘oh they have a violin.’ I know that honestly, music is just in variation and no one has really reinvented it, but I like the fact that when we play the music the violin adds more depth and emotion to the song.”
“Most artists in the studio will experiment with string arrangements and add them to a song,” says Mackin; “but it’s nice to be able to have that chamber where that arrangement is brought to life in the live setting as well. I’m hoping that’s not the only reason that makes Yellowcard different, but I guess if people like to look at us as ‘the violin band’, well that’s still awesome so I’ll take it.”
Coming to Melbourne in September for a show that will bring “fists of fury to your ears” and “put a smile on your face”, it looks like Yellowcard are well and truly back.
“When we took a hiatus it definitely wasn’t the end of the Yellowcard story. When you travel and tour 300 days of the year it’s really hard to have the other things in life that you miss out on, family and friends and relationships,” explains Yellowcard’s violinist.
“When we got back together we were all focused on heading in the same direction,” he continues. “We are a touring band. Right now we’re totally booked through to next March 2013, and with the release of Southern Air we’re hoping that we’ll be able to tour internationally until December next year.”
“Honestly there’s really a moment where I think that we’re from Florida and we’re in a different part of the world and people sell out shows. When I was growing up playing the violin, my mum was like you’re going to play the violin, one day you’ll thank me for it. I just think it’s unbelievable that I play the violin with my friends and we play shows in Melbourne, and the first one sold out, and we’re just so looking forward to coming down to Australia I can’t even explain it.”
Southern Air is out now through Hopeless Records. Read the Tone Deaf review here. Yellowcard begin their headline Australian tour this September. Full dates and details here; and play Fat As Butter Festival in Newcastle in the same month.