Almost 15 years as a band and Yellowcard is still going hard. Though the members have faced their fair share of trials and tribulations, they turned Mill City Nights upside down for one hell of a show. We were lucky enough to sit down with Ryan Mendez before the party started to talk about the new industries norms, as well as what 10 years with Yellowcard has been like for him.
Let’s settle this once and for all. Who is the best Ryan in Yellowcard?!
Ryan: Haha well actually, there is only one! Ryan is his middle name, WILLIAM, is his first name.
Was there ever a point with where you weren’t sure if there would be another album, or even another tour?
Ryan: Definitely. Back in 2008 when we had taken that hiatus. That lasted a couple of years and I don’t think any of us thought we were going to get back together. We did that acoustic tour in 2008 and it felt like we were breaking up, but no one said it because you never want to admit that. It was a pretty great feeling when we got back together in 2010 for that record, happy to still be going.
Now you’ve been with Yellowcard for just about a decade, and then Yellowcard as a project has been around for almost TWO decades! What does that feel like?
Ryan: Well so the band has been around technically for 17 years, but this form that people know is not quite that long. Still though, 14 years is a long time and for me it feels great to be a part of it because I’ve been friends with these guys for a really long time, like before Ryan even joined the band. They all came out to California and played some shows with my old band, so we became friends through that and then we toured together. I remember when things started to blow up for them and being able to watch that was pretty amazing.
What do you think of the ‘new mainstream?’ Things being based on your social media presence and then bands getting signed literally based on the amount of Twitter fans they have?
Ryan: Well I think now, there are more bands than ever before. Kids can record a demo in their bedroom and then go and start playing shows, which is good. I think it’s a great thing that people are so in love and involved with music. Social media is kind of a necessary evil now you know? It’s wild because fans can interact with their favorite artists in a way that was never possible. When I was growing up and I wanted to see my favorite band, I would have never dreamed in a million years that I would be able to write them a message and be able to talk with them or even meet them at a show. You would go to the show, have a great time, and then go home. That was it.
Now you’re kind of expected though to be constantly engaging with your fans and anything they want you to do, you almost have to do or else they will say “You don’t care about your fans!” Like they seriously know that if you wont talk with them, then they will write you off and go become fans of a band that WILL talk to them all the time. On one hand it’s really cool because it is nice to be able to get to know your fans and thank them for all of their support, but then on the other hand there are some who are extremely pushy and don’t seem to understand that we have lives outside of the band and we have a lot of stuff on our plate as well. I’m sorry I can’t make you a 2 minute video for your friends birthday because I literally have to go to soundcheck right now. It’s a very small portion, but there are those types of kids out there.
Completely understand. Dave Grohl said “Musicians should go to a yard sale and buy and old fucking drum set and get in their garage and suck, then get their friends to come in and they’ll suck, too. Then they’ll start playing and they’ll have the best time they’ve ever had in their lives and then all of a sudden they’ll become Nirvana.” Can you think of any bands that kind of fit that description? A band that in a sense just fucked around, and ended up making something great?
Ryan: Man, that’s a great question. I’m sort of slow at getting into new music, I kind of lag. So I can’t think of any current bands, but I will say that I completely back that sentiment that Dave Grohl is talking about. I started out playing an old nylon string guitar, the most bottom of the barrel stuff.
Those old acoustic nylon string guitars?
Ryan: Yeah, exactly! That’s what I started out playing on and I always tell people to learn guitar on acoustic first because it’s physically more difficult. Like learning to drive a stick shift before driving an automatic. Back to your point though, when Nirvana got big there were outlets for music like that in the sense that there were way more rock stations around that were willing to play music like that, and even MTV was into it and playing rock music videos. Neither one of those things happens anymore, you say what you want about radio stations but back then, there were significantly more Rock stations and stations that were willing to play stuff like Nirvana. Now a days? There are almost no stations willing to play stuff like that.
If ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ came out today? It wouldn’t survive. That song is what made me want to play guitar by the way, but the climate is not the same and you just couldn’t get the support that you did back then. I agree with Dave Grohl, but I think it’s a lot tougher just to be a rock’n roll band like they were. It’s really, really tough getting people just to care and for companies to want to invest in you. They want people like Taylor Swift, or even Of Monsters & Men and Imagine Dragons. You can call that rock if you want, but I want loud guitar and big sounding drums and um…
Like ‘Stadium’ music.
Ryan: Sure! Well what’s funny is back in the day what Stadium music was Def Leopard and Motley Crew, then Korn and Limp Bizkit. No matter how people felt about those bands, they were bands that played LOUD music! That to me is Rock’n Roll, but the landscape is different now.
I remember ‘Freak On a Leash’ making it 6 weeks in a row at #1 on TRL! Really does explain that back then there was a much broader acceptance for that music.
Ryan: Well and an ability for it to be heard. MTV stood for Music Television at one point, but a few years ago they officially dropped that title. They said “It’s no longer an acronym, that’s just our name.” Music videos are now played on Youtube and VEVO.
How did making albums back in 2005, compare to how ‘Lift A Sail’ was made?
Ryan: I think the only thing that was different, was time. Back then budgets were bigger, too. When I joined the band we were on Capital Records and with Paper Walls, we had 8 weeks of pre-production with the producer, and then we had 8 weeks of actual recording. The last 3 albums though? 6 weeks was the most time we had. We’re lucky to have had Neal Avron produce with us for every record since Ocean Avenue, so he get’s the time restraints and budgets. He’s almost like another member of the band.
Anything you’d like to say to the fans before you hit the stage?
Ryan: If you’re not going to buy our album, you wanna stream it on Pandora or Spotify, that’s fine. But come to the shows! Buy a shirt, sing a long, party with us. That’s such a huge part of supporting any band, it’s what truly keeps us alive.
You can get Yellowcard’s latest album and more, here!
Photos and interview: Chris Duke