Yellowcard Q&A with violinist Sean Mackin

YellowcardYellowcard a pop punk/alternative band that’s been around for 17 years and began playing together purely for the opportunity to play the Vans Warped Tour is coming to Alaska for the Road to Vans Warped Tour. They will be continuing onto the Vans Warped Tour this summer in the tour’s 20th year. Yellowcard violinist Sean Mackin spoke to TNL about life on the road, the amazing opportunities the band has had because of the tour, the fans and about their new album to be released later this year.

 

TNL: Why did Yellowcard have a hiatus a couple years back?

Mackin: “Oh, you’re just getting right to it, huh?

It gets really hard. It’s almost like a marathon and you gruel it. It’s grueling and you can’t get out. I think for us we had been touring as Yellowcard for eight years solid. Our singer, he had blew his voice out twice because of how rigorous our touring schedule was. Yellowcard has always been a band that always tried to work harder than everybody else. In 2004, we were on tour 320 days out of the year.

In 2008 the economy kind of dropped out, the music industry was kind of set on fire and there were things we didn’t have an answer for that happened outside of Yellowcard and then within the band, I think there was just some mental fatigue. It crept in after eight years of touring really, really solid. Instead of killing each other or breaking up or something terrible happening, we just all chose to take a step back and reevaluate. At that point none of us knew if we were going to get back together, even if anyone ever wanted to hear anymore Yellowcard songs. … It was definitely a very trying time for Yellowcard, but I think ultimately that made us stronger, refocus us and we’ve come back with this new ante, new excitement about playing music and I think you need that. It’s such a gift. We’re enjoying it and we can’t wait to come to Alaska.”

 

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Hopefully it will be sunny for you guys. It was raining.

“I live in Seattle. It’s fine if it rains a little bit. It’s the last state I have to set my feet in. I think most of the guys in Yellowcard share the same feelings that I have, but we’re just so excited to be up there. We’re kind of like six continents and 50 states. It’s just such a cool thing for us.”

 

So you guys haven’t come up here before?

“Unfortunately we haven’t. There were rumblings of a couple opportunities to play up there, and as you know it’s just a little bit further away, so it gets expensive when you’re shipping gear. Just to be a part of this Warped Tour experience or Road to Warped Tour on the 20th anniversary, it’s just so cool for Yellowcard just to be able to share in a small part of it.”

 

So it’s your 20th anniversary of doing the Warped Tour?

“The Warped Tour started in 1994. … 2002 was Yellowcard’s first Warped Tour. Then in 2004, we were featured on the main stage. So I think we played 2003, 2004, 2006 and then 2012. The exciting thing for us, which not a lot of bands have got the opportunity to do, is we played the 10-year anniversary Warped Tour, and now we’re playing the 20th anniversary — and both times we were on the main stage.

A little bit of Yellowcard trivia is we only ever wanted to write songs with our friends, which is how the band started, and be on the Vans Warped Tour. So to have that sort of relationship that we have with the Vans Warped Tour and Kevin Lyman — who’s the founding father — and for him to take us to Alaska as part of the 20th anniversary, it’s just so surreal.”

 

What’s some of the things people can expect at this event?

“For us, the Warped Tour is like a summer camp. A conventional tour is three to four bands and you play 30-50 days in the continental United States, but the Vans Warped Tour is almost 300 bands, so we get so many friends together that you would never have another opportunity to tour with. … We can’t get as many bands up to Alaska, but you’re going to get that vibe where we’ve toured with All Time Low, and we have friends that are playing the show and it’s just going to be so much fun.

There is kind of an excitement, Alaska is kind of an anomaly and it’s sort of an untouched musical market. So anyone whoever gets to play there, (it) could be rain, pouring and three people show up, and the way musicians talk to another, ‘Oh my god, we played Alaska, it was pouring and it was beautiful. There were three people there. It was just so awesome.’ So I think everyone is just going to share in this excitement, and we’re going to bring that to the show. The Yellowcard show, we always want to have high energy and put on the best show, and I think with us being excited just to be there with you guys is just going to make it that much better.”

 

Since we’re talking about touring, what’s the coolest place you’ve gotten to go tour to?

“I think for me (it’s) just the opportunity to play shows, obviously I don’t want to leave anybody out, but just the ability to play… Just to be able to play on so many different continents and so many different countries… It’s just such an amazing opportunity.

Yellowcard’s first country that we played outside of the United States was Japan. My mom was born just outside of Saka, and I’m half-Japanese and the other half is Irish and American or whatever, but I always have this relationship every time we play in Japan… Japan is the country outside the U.S. that Yellowcard has played the most, and it’s just one of my favorite places to play. It’s so unbelievable.

It’s so funny for me to be in the middle of Tokyo and have some sort of faint idea where things are. … That to me just kind of blows my mind that I live in Seattle and I grew up in Florida and I play music with my friends and when I’m in Tokyo … were just dudes from America walking in Tokyo knowing where we’re going. It’s crazy.”

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What first sparked your interest in music?

“It’s really my mom’s fault. She always said I never wanted to play the violin. I think I quit every day until I was 15, but I started playing when I was five because she grew up playing violin and piano. So my brother played piano and I played violin. … I was like, ‘Mom, I quit. None of my friends play music, which is stupid. And I got on a fight on the bus because some guy tried to steal my violin.’

And she was like, ‘Look, music is a gift. This is a gift I’m giving to you, and you may not appreciate it now, but one day you will appreciate it.’

And now I look back every time someone says, ‘Hey, what got you started with music?’ It was my mom, and she gets all the credit. I get no credit.”

 

You and your mom have any, like, “oh, I told you so” moments because of that?

“We’ve had a couple. She doesn’t understand rock music still. Not that she’s old, but she’s just Japanese and strong minded and she’s like, “Well, you grew up playing classical, and this is louder.’

And I’m just like, ‘Okay, cool. You have to be a bit more modern, and this is what I’m doing.’

She’s always like, ‘Aren’t you glad I taught you violin?’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah aren’t you glad that I changed it a little bit and I got to do all these cool things?’ and she’s like, ‘Yeah, kind of.’

We have a little interesting dynamic when it comes to music, that’s for sure.”

 

So she taught you how to play the violin?

“She taught me how to play and encouraged it. When it got to a point where … I wasn’t respecting her. Then I got a teacher. Then I went to art school, which is where I met the majority of the Yellowcard guys. In art school, there wasn’t (sic) traditional electives. You took focus electives based on your interest in the arts. I was a violinist in music, so I went to all these orchestra and other classes. Ryan, our singer, was an actor in musical theater, so he was in the acting department. So that’s kind of how I met the guys.”

 

Did you go to college after that?

“I went to college briefly for two years. I wasn’t really happy at college. … I already knew what I wanted to do, and I was paying to take these classes. … I wasn’t really happy there. …Really, it was just I was waiting there until our youngest member of the band at that time graduated high school, and then we moved to California. …

I believe in higher education, and would love the opportunity to go back to school if I had that exorbitant amount of money that it takes to go to college. … I knew what I wanted to do, and for some random reason the energy in the world allowed us to do what we wanted to do, and it worked. It doesn’t always work out that way, but we got very lucky.”

 

What was your guys’ first big break?

“The Vans Warped Tour in 2002. Our booking agent and first business partner Christopher — she’s just such a wonderful person, but she got us 10 days on the Vans Warped Tour. We were like, ‘Oh, man, this is it.’

We were in California for 18 months at this point and were just going for it and working really hard. …

She called us and was like, ‘I got 10 days on the Vans Warped Tour.’

We were like, ‘This is it. We’re going to meet all these people and tour with all these bands. It’s going to be great. This is what we always wanted.’

Then we got out on the Warped Tour, and it was really hard. Some of the guys I made friends with were riding on the bus, and then I was kind of stuck driving this van. We had a van trailer back then. The Warped Tour hits big cities, but they’re six to eight hours apart. I was working all day and then driving six to eight hours at night. It was very, very difficult, but we were reaching so many people.

…I think Detroit, was one of the biggest Warped Tours ever, I think there was 20,000 people, to have the opportunity to be in the space with that many people, not that many people watched us, but to be in a space of that many people who love the type of music that we love and so on and so forth, that was amazing. That same year that our 10 days were up, we were offered to sort of buy-on to a stage … so we were able to play another 10 days. In 2002, we played 20 days on the Warped Tour.

That fall we got a tour supporting, direct support for a band called No Use For A Name, which was one of our idols. We grew up listening to them … fantastic musicians, fantastic people. All of that kind of started snowballing from the Vans Warped Tour in 2002. That was our biggest break, and (we’re) just so grateful again to have such a great part of the Yellowcard history so closely tied to the Vans Warped Tour.”

 

Do you guys get to talk to the fans?

“Yeah, we usually one point of the day, individually all go to hang out at our merch tent. … I think it’s going to work a little different in Alaska, but I make conscious effort to go hang out with our merch guy because he sits out there all day… and that gives me an opportunity to talk with the fans, and we usually walk around and see other bands. …

Live music, there’s nothing like it — and you feed off the energy of the band. You see them performing the songs that you love and that they created, and you get to feel the energy of the crowd. Whether they’re moshing or singing or crying or dancing — whatever they’re doing, you can feel that. My music is like nothing else, so I really spend most of my day hanging out either at the merch tent or watching other bands and just talking to fans and stuff. It’s a lot of fun.”

 

Have you gotten any cool stories about your music from your fans?

“We’re so fortunate to have such supportive Yellowcard fans. Some of my favorite stories are when people come up and they show a tattoo with a lyric. … You can’t explain that. That’s something I created with my friends that means so much that they branded it to their body. It’s really flattering. We try and say thank you.

We’re just making something, we’re just creating sounds, and these fans, they sing our songs and they buy our T-shirts. That’s what gives us the opportunity to play music, and we couldn’t do it without them. So we have the best fans in the world, and we’re looking to make some new Yellowcard fans up in Alaska. That’s really important to us.”

 

 Are you guys currently recording?

“We kind of just finished. It’s so exciting — this is my favorite time. We actually put the last finishing touches on the last couple of songs right before I got on the phone with you. It’s so exciting to know that we have a new Yellowcard record that no one has heard before. …

We want people who still buy CDs to hold them and look at it and feel the paper and look at the art and how it’s related to what we were thinking and feeling. That’s what I do when I buy a record. I open it and read what they have to say and every lyric and what the song titles mean. It’s so exciting to put that together and know at some point this year we will have released a new Yellowcard record. It’s such a big project we started at the tail end of last year.”

 

Vans Road to Warped Tour is happening June 11 from 2-10 p.m. on three separate stages in the parking lot at Northway Mall. The bands 3OH!3, All Time Low, Falling In Reverse, the Devil Wears Prada and Yellowcard will perform. Tickets are available for $40 at Mammoth Music, the Rock Wood Fired Pizza, Northway Mall and Mad Hatter. They are also available online at http://www.flavorus.com/event/The-Road-To-Warped-Tour-Alaska/231306.