Sometimes stepping away from something can remind how much you love it. Yellowcard’s hiatus for the past few years was in no way an ending for the group, but rather a pause that’s revived the band’s passion for their music. Early last year Parsons began approaching his bandmates with the idea of beginning their fifth album—a follow- up to 2007’s Paper Walls. The other members agreed, ready after their temporary break to determine the band’s next step. “I think it was absolutely the best possible choice we could have made as a band,” Key says of the break. “The fact that we had that time to refocus and recharge individually made working together for the first time in 2 years so much more exciting. The possibilities were endless again.”
The writing process for the group’s energized new album, When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes, lasted for the better part of 2010. The band members sent demos and song ideas back and forth via email, and flew to each other’s homes in Seattle, Los Angeles and Phoenix to expand those initial thoughts. The pieces slowly began falling into place and the record came about naturally, without any real plan besides making good music the band was excited about. “There’s a really fresh energy to it,” Key says. “If there is a record we’ve written since Ocean Avenue that’s closest to it, this would be it. What I mean is that there’s a similar feeling to it. The emotion and the energy that you get from the music. That’s because it was so fresh and so new. We didn’t feel like we had to top something we’d already accomplished. It was almost like writing our first record again.”
Once the band felt they had enough material for an album, they began reaching out to record labels. Hopeless was an easy decision and Yellowcard signed with the label before going into the studio last fall to record in LA with Neal Avron, the producer they’ve worked with on almost all their previous albums. Two weeks were spent doing preproduction and rehearsing the songs, followed by six weeks recording. The process, which concluded in mid-November, was fun and exciting, bolstered by Avron’s keen ear and longtime friendship with the group.
“He’s like a sixth member of the band when it comes to recording and writing,” Key says. “Neal tells you what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. It really pushes you to work harder and make sure that every piece of every song is the best it can be. He knows the chemistry of the band—this is our fourth album with him—and he knows how to work with us, as a group and individually.”
Knowing their strengths and weakness was important to Yellowcard on this album since they wrote with the intention of highlighting what each member does best—something that truly augments the record’s quality. “I think this a great reflection on Yellowcard’s body of work,” Mackin says. “It highlights the best of what we’re all good at. The songwriting was really focused and we all complimented each other’s talents. Ryan as a vocalist gives by far his best performance. I truly feel this is Yellowcard’s finest work.”
The final album’s ten songs both recall what fans love best about Yellowcard and evolve their music forward. Many of Key’s lyrics deal with what’s happened to the musicians over the past few years and, as he explains, foster a “feeling of rebuilding and rebirth, and getting back to a place in your life where you want to be.” It’s about looking ahead, rather than backward, and being able to move on. "For You, And Your Denial" is an upbeat rocker, replete with a sing-along chorus and pop hooks, while "Hang You Up" is a slower number, almost ballad-like, that showcases the band’s more introspective side. Yellowcard also revisits the subject matter of Ocean Avenue favorite “View From Heaven” on “See Me Smiling,” a pensive number about looking back on the loss of a friend ten years later.
That message of forward motion isn’t just in the album’s lyrics. It’s something Yellowcard is embodying as a group as they unleash their fifth album. “I feel like we’re doing it again for the first time,” Mackin says. “Everyone is so happy to do this. We remember why we do this and it feels incredible. We’ve got new pages sewn in our passports and we’re so excited. Yellowcard has always been about really good friends enjoying music together and we can’t wait to bring the new music to the fans and hopefully get some new fans.”
Memphis May Fire:
The music of Memphis May Fire is the sound of hope and compassion, delivered by a dedicated group of men striving for something greater than the world around them. Memphis May Fire is a clarion call to those who insist on bettering themselves, their loved ones and the conditions afflicting the world. It’s not about divisive politics, it’s not about polarizing debate – it’s about the transcendent power of love through heavy rock.
The body of work Memphis May Fire has crafted over their last three albums, together with producer and collaborator Cameron Mizell (Sleeping With Sirens, The Word Alive), represents a creative achievement beyond even what the band’s formidable success would suggest. Sure, Unconditional arrived at #1 on Billboard’s Rock, Independent and Hard Music charts, but that was just the mainstream icing on a cake that was lovingly baked by fans around the world who’ve discovered Memphis May Fire in the live setting, from satellite radio, from social media and from each other.
These five guys are like family to over a million fans following Memphis May Fire on Facebook, the tens of thousands who rushed out to put this year’s Unconditional at #4 in the Billboard 200, the dedicated diehards who empty the magazine rack whenever the group graces the cover of Big Cheese, Alternative Press, Outburn, etc. and the early believers who made Challenger the highest selling debut ever for Rise Records to that point when it was released in 2012. YouTube clips like “Sleepless Nights,” “Miles Away,” “The Sinner,” and “Vices” together represent more than 20 million views.
The unity of shared purpose is palpable at a Memphis May Fire show, whether songs like “No Ordinary Love,” “Beneath the Skin” or “Losing Sight” are blasting from the Warped Tour’s main stage or emanating from the speakers at one of the packed clubs the band makes their nightly home. Cares cast aside, problems pushed to the forefront, the visceral connection between artist and audience is alive and audible with each sing-a-long chant. Melodic mood swingers like “Speechless” and “Need to Be” demonstrate the full capacity and scope of what Memphis May Fire is capable of doing, winning them spots on major radio festivals like Welcome to Rockville and Carolina Rebellion as their heavier side secures fests such as Download and With Full Force.
An organic and incremental growth has propelled Memphis May Fire ever since they followed their underground 2009 debut album with 2011’s The Hollow, a modern metalcore masterpiece that led into the broadened musical horizons of their commercial breakthrough, Challenger, and the 2014 Album of the Year contender Unconditional.
Plenty of Memphis May Fire’s contemporaries have fans that profess their adoration, gratitude & even spiritual connection to the power of music, but few groups embrace the full responsibility inherent within those reactions the way Memphis May Fire has, acknowledging that something bigger than rock n’ roll has taken hold. Make no mistake, Memphis May Fire deliver hard rock anthems steeped in modern subculture and the best of radio rock, but their purpose continues to evolve into something greatly bigger than themselves, with no limit as to what they can achieve.