Since bursting onto the scene with their 2006 debut EP, Tales Told By Dead Friends, Florida’s Mayday Parade have left a tantalising trail of music. The Midlands Rocks spoke to vocalist Derek Sanders and guitarist Alex Garcia just prior to their appearance at the South edition of the Slam Dunk festival (reviewed here).
You played Slam Dunk (North) yesterday. How was it?
Derek Sanders: It was amazing. First of all, it was an amazing show but even more so because we hadn’t played live for so long, it really made it super special. It’s hard to be happier than that when you’re playing in front of so many people and they’re all singing and having a great time. It was such a euphoric thing, it was great.
Has it raised your exceptions for today?
Alex Garcia: It’s nice because we didn’t have a warmup show or anything before yesterday so if anything yesterday was a warm up show for today.
Derek: Right. Now we’re even more comfortable and eager to get out there and do it.
You seem to have a real affinity with the UK. What is it about your sound that’s struck a chord with the British?
Derek: I really don’t know. We’ve been coming over here a really long time, I think the first time was 2007, it’s been a long time and it’s been so cool to keep coming back and seeing the fanbase grow. I’m not sure why but we’re really grateful for it.
Last year you celebrated your 15th anniversary. How do you look back on those years?
Alex: It’s crazy, I remember when the decade came round. On one hand it makes you feel really old but on the other it’s still so much fun. We’ve evolved and we’ll continue to do so but it’s been an honour really.
Derek: It’s crazy because it doesn’t feel like 15 years. The time has flown by, we’ve done so much but the main thing I’m thankful for is that it’s still the five of us. With some bands members come and go whereas we’ve experienced all of it together and that’s made it extra special.
So, what’s been your secret for staying together so long?
Alex: Bury that resentment far down! I’m joking, we definitely put our unity together and at the forefront of everything we do, and we try to maintain respect for each other and hear each other out. That’s important.
Derek: We kind of all grew up together, went to school together and played in different bands together so even from the very first band practice for Mayday Parade we just clicked. We all just love what we do, and we just appreciate that, and our lives could have gone in so many different ways but we’re lucky enough to be playing music and that makes it so easy to just keep going and do it for as long as we can.
Your lyrics can be very honest. What’s it like performing and inhabiting songs that you wrote 15 years ago?
Derek: It can be weird sometimes, especially now after 15 years, it can be weird but when you get on stage and having people singing along that makes it OK. There are songs, especially as time goes by, can be difficult to go back and play but if people are there and singing along then we’re happy to play them.
Alex: I don’t think about it so much as the songs but as our clothing choices and haircuts, which are readily available to see online, I sometimes look back and think ‘what was I thinking?’ but it was part of the scene I was in and at the time I thought it was cool, it was a niche bolthole, and similar to the music, even if it feels weird looking at it now, it was a moment in time.
It’s been a year since you released your last EP Out Of Here. Looking back is there anything you’d change?
Derek: I don’t think there’s anything I’d change about it. I was really happy with it. We didn’t really plan on doing that EP, the pandemic affected everything, and we had a couple of songs recorded so we realised it was going to be a while before we could do anything else so let’s put out some music. I love those songs.
Alex: It was a nice change because normally we write and record 12 or 15 songs and just having the three, I feel like a lot of care was put into those three songs and that was something I really enjoyed. I feel like each song got the attention it deserved.
How easy is it as an artist to know when a song is finished? It must be so tempting to want to go back and tinker with it.
Alex: You have to have a good team around you. We kind of do a good job of that; someone will get carried away and we are respect each other enough to say, ‘you’re ruining it now, you’re killing your child.’
Derek: Exactly. And often you’re in the studio for a set period of time. We have an allotment of time to get everything finished so you just do what you can.
Did you manage to get writing through the lockdown and keep bouncing ideas around?
Derek: For sure. I think it was the same for all of us but at first it was really weird, I found it hard to get the motivation to work on music for the first three or four months but once the lockdown started to feel like the new normal, I was able to put the spotlight on music and we all wrote a bunch of songs, that’s all we could really do was work on music.
Has the whole lockdown experience influenced your writing?
Derek: Definitely, to some degree. In fact, we have a new song about that, just being sick of the lockdown and looking at better days ahead. Other than that, it’s difficult to say but I’m sure it has affected many things.
It feels like with your new single ‘Bad At Love’ you’re moving in a new direction. For example, the falsetto vocals. That’s something I’ve never really heard from you before. Was that a conscious decision?
Derek: It just kind of happened. I feel like were always trying to move in new directions and not just stay in the same bubble or whatever. I think we try to do two things; write songs that still maintain that Mayday Parade sound but also try some new things also. It’s like the falsetto, that’s something I’ve never tried before but it makes it fun and takes you out of your comfort zone.
How do you walk the fine line between pleasing yourself and pleasing your fans?
Derek: That’s a tough line for sure and I think we learned a lot about that along the way. Black Lines for example was an album where we went in and said we’re going to make the album we want to make but after that we realised you have to identify what it is that your band does well and what people like and go from there but also write songs that we love and are happy with. For me when I write I always try to keep in mind what people like about our band and build from there.
Alex: I think each band member would have a different answer to that question, but I think all of us having a different mindset on it helps push us forward and maintain a sound that our fans enjoy.
Finally, what are your future plans? Do you feel like you have to make up lost time because of the pandemic?
Derek: Yes, kind of. Next year is going to be very busy, perhaps one of the busiest years we’ve ever had, tour wise and everything and I think a lot of that is to pop back up and there’s so much happening with the 10-year anniversary of our self-titled album, there’s a lot going on.
Alex: And to be totally honest we haven’t made any money for a year and a half. This is how we make our livelihood so it will be nice to earn some money again.
And hopefully we’ll see you back in the UK next year?
Derek: We have plans, so we’ll be back.