Mayday Parade Are Creating On Their Own Terms With New Independent Releases [Q&A] | THE NOISE


Photo Credit: Salma Bustos

After fulfilling their most recent record deal with the release of their seventh studio album, What It Means To Fall Apart, Mayday Parade has decided to take things into their own hands and operate on their own terms and timeline. It's a space the band, comprised of Derek Sanders (Vocals, Keys), Alex Garcia (Guitar), Brooks Betts (Guitar), Jeremy Lenzo (Bass), and Jake Brundrick (Vocals, Drums), hasn't fully existed in since their self-released debut EP.

The pivot brings some much-needed flexibility in support of their personal lives. "It's extremely exciting and terrifying all at the same time," shares Bundrick. "There's obviously a lot more freedom and control," adds Garcia. 

This newly refound freedom has inspired the band the experiment sonically and create on their own terms, eliminating the pressure of outside forces and allowing them to push the boundaries of what they can accomplish. As Lenzo explains it, it will allow the band to "release new music more consistently as opposed to dropping an album every couple of years." He continues, "We're going into this with the mindset that each song really needs to stand on its own."

With that in mind, the band has taken their time when it comes to deciding what to record and release. "We always stew on the songs we're working on to make sure they're ready to be recorded," explains Lenzo, "so sometimes you end up sitting on an idea for a while until it comes to fruition.” 

"Sonically," shares Bundrick. "I wanted energy from this new batch that still felt angsty but had our emotional flair to them. It's been a while since we've put out some uptempo songs, and that was important to me." 

The band’s forthcoming releases and summer tour with Yellowcard marks the latest chapter in the long history of the beloved Tallahassee five-piece, who are approaching nearly two decades of playing and releasing music together. Such longevity is a feat in and of itself and one they don’t take for granted. 

"We started this band when we were all fresh out of high school," shares Lenzo. "I think a large part of why we are all still here is that we have been friends most of our lives, even before the band." Garcia agrees, noting, "This is everyone's full-time job and passion. We all love playing music, so the fire is still alive. We have created something important to us, and it's imperative that we maintain it by giving it the requisite attention."

The Noise had the chance to chat further with Mayday’s frontman Derek Sanders all about the future of the band, how it feels to have full creative control, and how the band has changed during their 18 years together.


I'm excited to talk to you today about anything and everything Mayday Parade-related. First, how are you doing today?

Derek Sanders: I'm doing very well. We just got home yesterday from the All Time Low Tell Me I'm Alive tour, which was so much fun and very successful and everything. It's good to be home for a couple of days before we're back out on the road. So it's pretty "go go go" right now but that's okay. It's good to be busy and we've got a lot of exciting things coming up.

You’re no stranger to tour life at this point in your career. What have been some things that you or even the band have learned about how to best experience being on the road, being away from family and going through the process of having to perform every night?

It's all about balance, you know? It's such a strange thing because it's two completely different lives – being at home, then being on the road – and the most difficult part of it is the switching from one life to the other. Once you've been on the road for a few days or a week, you're in the routine, everything feels like “Okay, this is normal, this is your everyday routine.” And then once you're back home for a few days, the same thing, but that period of the first couple of days can almost be a little depressing on either end, like going out on the road or getting back home, just because everything that you're used to completely switches and you have to adapt to a new daily routine of life. It's just understanding those things and trying your best to be prepared for that and [be] as comfortable as you can and balancing the right amount of time on the road versus time at home. Every now and then there are opportunities we have to turn down or say no to because we'll say yes to it now, but then once we get to it and we've been on the road for so long and we're just constantly gone, we're like, "Why?" You're just burned out and like, "Why did we do this to ourselves?" But I feel like we've done this long enough that you know what to expect and how we're gonna feel about everything and got to a pretty good place with all that.


You've gotten to a place where you know your limits and know your boundaries to reach that balance.

Exactly.

What are you most excited about for this upcoming tour with Yellowcard? Are there any cities that you're really excited to perform in?

The first one that sticks out to me is Pier 17 in New York City. That's just such a fantastic, beautiful venue and I'm just excited. That tour is just going to be so great. Yellowcard coming back is such a cool thing and I love those guys and have done a little touring with Anberlin and Story of The Year. This Wild Life is always just incredible. We've toured with them a handful of times and loved those guys and the Emo Night Brooklyn guys I've worked with. So it's going to be all friends, all good people, so much hanging out all summer long, and it's a long tour. This last tour we just did was only a month-long, so it felt like as soon as you got into the swing of things and got comfortable, it's halfway done. And before you know it, it's over. I feel like it's gonna be a lot of time to hang with everybody, and the shows will be incredible, and I think most of them are sold out or selling really well. So yeah, it's all good vibes.

Your newest single "Got Me All Wrong" feels like an excellent continuation of your last single, "More Like a Crash." I felt like "More Like a Crash" blended Black Lines and your self-titled record. It was an excellent continuation that brought in new elements but kept it cohesive. What influences are you pulling from right now? Are you drawing from the Mayday archive and also bringing in elements of newer sonic inspirations? Where do you feel like you y'all are at right now creatively?

I think that's definitely the goal for a long time, to build on what we've established. And I feel like we have a core sound and a vibe, something that people are used to about us or fans of the band like about us. We take that, keep it but expand upon it, try out some new things, and go into some new territories and whatnot. That's always been the vibe. And actually, one of the things I really like about "More Like a Crash" is that I think it kind of has some of that Black Lines feel where we haven't done as much of that since that album. Then "Got Me All Wrong," I feel like it's a little bit more straightforward and it's very just kind of pop-punk. So, I don't know, it's tough. One of the things that isn't easy is getting all of us to be on the same page about what we're going to do. Typically, we write songs, bring in songs, and then record songs. I would love to continue to try and do things a little bit new and different. I feel like the handful of songs we recorded recently, I feel like we played it pretty safe by just like keeping it true to what Mayday fans are gonna like. And that's fine, there's nothing wrong with that. Still, I'd love to – especially since now we're at the point where we're just trying to release singles for a little bit and not really do a full-length album – it's time to experiment a little more and branch out and try some things that are more modern or different. So, again, it's that balance. You want to have it all work together and feel good, so it depends on who you ask. I want to do more of that and we'll see whenever we get back into the studio. But I love the songs we recorded on this recent batch and think that people who have been longtime fans of Mayday Parade will be happy with what we've done here.


I'm sure they will be! What would you like to experiment more with?

I'd love to try some different synths or something more poppy. Or we could do some songs that are like that and some that are even more raw and rock and have a dark energy. You can pick whichever way you want, and I like the idea of bouncing around like that. We had a bunch of the songs that came in, and some of them were almost super in the pop world, and some were very fast raw rock energy. I love the idea of being able to do all those things, you know? But we'll see how it all goes. It's tough for us to all be on the same page about it.

Of course, you all have been in a band for so long that communication must remain at the forefront when collaborating with four other people.

Right!

What is the most crucial thing you've learned when collaborating and working with a team versus writing and creating for yourself?

One of the biggest things, and it's tricky to know, is how to stay out of our own way. Because what can happen is that somebody has an idea for something for a music video, for a song, for artwork, for a wardrobe thing, whatever, and then once four other people then go,"Oh okay, well, what about this" or "What if you do that?" The waters can start to get so muddy, and it starts to fall apart from where it originally was. It's difficult to know when is the right time to chime in and say something because it's a good idea versus "this is what I think we should do." It might not necessarily be any better. I think we've all tried to be conscious and aware of that. If somebody comes in and they have a vision for something, trying to let them see that through and try to be there to complement, encourage and help build, but not get in the way – because that's one thing that can easily happen. So that's one thing. And then also communication, we've been working a lot on just trying to have band meetings. It's funny because in the early days, we would have pretty consistent band meetings, we had to. We didn't have a manager and the label had a team doing things for you. Then at a certain point, you build up and you have that team and you can start to go, "Well, things are happening." You stop communicating as much. So lately, we've been working on a "Let's try and make sure that we're talking at least once a week" either in person or on the phone and just staying on top of all these things that can easily slip through the cracks. So it's always a work in progress. Even after almost 18 years of being in this band, we're still learning, adapting, and changing. I think we're in a good place and we're happy to be figuring it out.

Well, it's good to hear! Speaking of taking control, planning your meetings, and trying to just be in charge of who Mayday Parade is and what you're doing: This is the first time being fully independent since your self-released debut record Tales Told by Dead Friends. Now that you have all of this control and freedom, how does that feel to be your own boss, and what have been some of the benefits and challenges of this new freedom?

It's a fantastic thing, but it's also scary. There's more accountability where it's, "Well, this is all on us." You can't go, "Well, the label didn't get it right," you know what I mean? I love the freedom of it. It's kind of too early to say for sure, but I think in the end we can be just as happy, if not hopefully happier, with the result of trying to come up with these ideas ourselves and do the work ourselves. I feel this because that's something we've been talking about a lot lately on this tour and in these meetings that for so long we've compartmentalized these things like "Well, we'll write the songs and then these people will do these things." Then for so much of it, you're unhappy with, "Oh, we don't like that music video" or "We don't like this whatever kind of thing" but you're kind of just hoping someone else comes up with the thing for your band and your creativity. I think, ideally, it can work a lot better if we're just kind of in charge of those things. It's gonna take a lot more work on our end and it will suck if you, you know, come up with something and put all this work and love into it and it doesn't really work that well or it doesn't look as great as you thought it would. Some of those things can be a tough pill to swallow but I feel like if you try and learn from that and keep moving forward and keep trying to be better – I guess that's pretty much where we're at right now and we'll see how it all works out.


You mentioned that you guys aren't focused on releasing an album at this point in time so what can we expect from future single releases? More classic Mayday Parade? More of a blend? 

I don't know how much I'm supposed to say or not but I'm not too worried about it. The last time we went into the studio, we recorded four songs. While "More Like a Crash" was the first one we put out, we got "Got Me All Wrong" and two more. There are elements like "More Like a Crash," which I think was probably the one that was the most a blend of a few different things. As you said, it is like the Black Lines kind of thing – I feel like the hooky part at the end of the chorus is kind of a pop hook. The other three songs are a little bit more, somewhat straightforward, just like classic Mayday Parade songs. I don't know when we'll get in the studio again. But the plan is to get in the studio, hopefully, this year or early next year, and record another, I don't know, five, six, whatever songs and then just keep dropping singles for a while. That's when we'll see how it all goes, and I don't know if we'll be able to rally [and be] on the same page with it, but I'd love to do that experimentation. And maybe one or two of them will be pretty safe songs, just classic Mayday Parade songs, and then do a couple that are off in this direction and a couple that are off in that direction. It's cool to me how you'll hear certain bands and artists that you feel like they're really developing and experimenting and maturing, so there's something to be said. Some bands say, “This is who we are, we're gonna keep doing this forever," and that's fine. It can work very well, and there's something to be admired about that. Then some people are always trying to evolve and change, so I don't know where we land in that. But somewhere in the middle of that, I think, would be super cool.


Has your process changed over the past 18 years regarding songwriting? I know that you pull from a lot of your life experiences or just what's happening around you. Is this process still very tried and true for you? 

Yeah, it's still very similar as far as the fundamentals go and how I write songs. A lot of the technology has changed. Like it used to be that I had, you know, an acoustic guitar and would mess around and try and write stuff. And then I'd have to show the guys like, "Oh, this is my idea," and you're just playing it on acoustic guitar, and then you don't really hear what it sounds like with a full band until everyone's playing it together. And now, obviously, we all have our own little home studios and you can build out like a fully finished, demoed idea with drums and everything. So it's a lot easier to put your vision together into something full and finished and realized, and then send that and go, "This is the song." You know, it's not just you on an acoustic guitar playing it. It's tough to say for sure which one of those is better because there's something different and unique about both. Like, I do love the ability to go, "This is exactly how I hear it," and finish it all out. But there's also something cool about the way it used to be that this is all I can really do is play it on guitar and sing it, and then we have to build it together. It was a more collaborative process. So everyone writes songs and submits demos, you know, and that's just kind of the way it's become, so I don't know. It's tough to know which one of those is better. I would love it if we still got together as a band more often. Even when we were writing, we rented a beach house, got together, and put together ideas. And lately, we haven't done that as much. It's just everyone submits songs, and then we go to the studio, pick the songs we liked the best, and record those. I think it would be nice to go back and do a little bit more of the band just playing together because there's an energy that happens there that you might not get otherwise. So I guess, ultimately, it's still kind of the same but that part of it has shifted a lot for sure.

What would you say if you could say anything to the version of you that was at the beginning of this journey?

Oh, gosh. Well, mostly, I guess it would be something along the lines of – I'd have to think of how to word this. It would be something like, “Nobody else is going to care about this band more than the five” – well, it was six of us in the beginning. We are the ones who have to do the work and have the vision and no one else is gonna see it the same way or love the band the same way or care about the band in the same way. And specifically, I think that whenever we did our second album, Anywhere, But Here, I think that was the closest that we came to probably just falling apart and breaking up because that was the point where so much of the creative control had been taken away from the band. We were on a major label, and that process was just like – it happens to so many artists and bands and they never recover from that. They don't come back from that. But it's also tough, because I've thought about this a lot. Even in hindsight, I don't know that I would go back and change that experience because we learned so much from that. So yeah, I [would] go back and tell myself, like, watch out and don't do these things. But it's also like, that's what gave us the clarity. It was like doing that album and realizing, "This sucks. What have we become? We're such a different thing now than [when] we started just a couple of years ago." It may take going through that to learn and truly understand that. So I don't know that I would really change it.


What do you think has been the most important thing you've learned about yourself from all those experiences? Or what has been the most surprising thing you've encountered along the way?

Gosh, that's tough. I think that one of the most important things is that I feel like, in hindsight, it is crazy that this is what I do and decided to do because I'm a pretty introverted person. When we started, we had all these peers and other bands that we would tour with and we're friends with. You see all these people that are just like these big, kind of loud personalities and very – not dramatic – just these big star personalities and there's a part of you when you're younger that goes, "Oh, I can be that. I can do that." And then eventually, you kind of learn it, really, for all of us, all of us in the band, that's just not who we are. I feel like it's important to acknowledge that and go, "Okay, well, who are we and what is it that we do well naturally?" and you try to focus on that and make that real because that's what's going to come across as genuine. So long ago, we abandoned that idea and any of that kind of side of things. Now it's just like, “No, we're pretty chill and we're going to get up and play songs and have fun but we're not going to be the spotlight kind of band with all this drama and the crazy story and whatever.” That's just not who we are, you know?

Is there any message or advice or anything that you would want to say to any fans that could be reading this article?

Yeah! First of all, thank you to anyone and everyone who has supported us throughout the many years. It is truly insane. I was 19 when we started this band, and I'm 36 now, and I'm so grateful to still be here, doing it, making music in 2023. It is just wild. But you know, it's one of those things that anyone can do. A lot of people have the ambition and want to try and do something and take the risk, and you have to do those things. Even if it doesn't all pan out and work out for you, it's a great life experience and you'll learn from it and you'll wind up somewhere and hopefully be happy. Overall, we're just grateful to be here still.

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