Everything changed for pop-punk band Yellowcard since the release of its 2003 platinum album Ocean Avenue. After going three years without a studio release, band issued Lift a Sail last year and changed up its sound a bit (though it still plays pop-punk and utilizes a violin).
“It was hard at first when it all started to crash and burn in a lot of ways and that's why we decided to take three years off,” says singer Ryan Key via phone from a Des Moines tour stop. “But when we decided to start making music again we had learned so much along the way and never looked back. We just try to recognize how rad it is that we are able to do it at any level in our career. I'm not going to cry over spilt milk and I'm not going to look in the past and wish we were as big as we were back in 2004. We just try and take it one day at a time as cheesy as it sounds.”
During their three year break, Key says social media created an “immediacy and connection between band and fan.”
“Social media changed everything, it created this immediacy and connection between band and fan,” says Key. “We were kind of late to the party, we took almost three years off from 2008 to 2011 and that was really when Twitter exploded. It has some negative effects but plenty of positive ones. On a negative side, I think that the immediacy and the high demand to get what you want when you want it has sort of devalued a lot of things in music. There are millions of people out there that care more about getting a tweet from their favorite artist than a single song that artist wrote.”
On the other hand, Key says social media has helped the band out tremendously from keeping their overseas fan base in the loop to being discovered by new fans every day.
“We've been given the ability to connect with the fans in a way that no artist for how ever many decades had the opportunity,” says Key. “We can almost figuratively reach out and touch a fan through social media outlets and we have a really broad, global fan base. We are a band that has spent a lot of time and energy in touring overseas and maintaining our fan base. We rely on our social media accounts to keep fans in these markets up to speed with what is going on with the band and to keep them coming to shows when we come there.”
With a performance coming up this week in Cleveland, Key says there are a couple things he is excited about being in town for.
“We always have amazing shows at the House of Blues, it's a show on this particular run we are looking forward to,” he says. “I think it's the only House of Blues we are playing on this tour and that's always a nice thing because those are the best venues in the country. Also I'm personally excited because I scored a couple tickets to the Green Day show the next night. Our bassist Josh Portman and I are going to go. He's never seen Green Day before so his first time seeing them will be in a House of Blues which is awesome.”
Together as a band for nearly 20 years, Yellowcard has been able to grow with long time fans and still draw new ones.
“There was a guy looking after his daughter in the front by the barricade and he had on a U.S. Army retired hat,” says Key as he retells a story from a previous night’s show. “Before we played the next song I thanked him for his service and dedicated the next song to him. I asked him how old he was and he said 53 I believe, and I picked the first young lady I saw in the crowd and asked her age and she said she was 16. Knowing there was a 16-year-old and a 53-year-old in the same place enjoying our music is amazing.”
Key says catching fans while they are young is a way to stick with them forever.
“It is really something special knowing that there are kids at 15 or 16 that are getting into Yellowcard,” says Key. “That's the age when you find out who you are, I still to this day listen to the bands I fell in love with when I was that age and learning to play guitar. I think it's a really influential and developmental time for a kid learning what music they love. If we can be one of those bands they find out they love we hope to have them for life.”
Looking ahead at the approaching 20 year anniversary of the band, Key says he isn't entirely sure what the future holds for Yellowcard.
“We don’t think that far ahead at all,” says Key about any 20th anniversary plans for the band. “We are trying to finish figuring out the rest of this year. It looks like we will be on the road straight through until Christmas. We want to finish all that up and see what we might do for half of next year. Then we are thinking about taking some time off. We have been going non-stop for five years now and we really feel like we need to take a little time away from it and charge our batteries. We may not even be on tour for our 20th anniversary.”
Yellowcard, Finch, One Ok Rock, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $21.50 ADV, $24 DOS, houseofblues.com.