Interview with Mayday Parade lead guitarist Alex Garcia
Toronto, Ontario – Mayday Parade will be playing the final Vans Warped Tour date in Canada on Tuesday, July 17th at The Flats Budweiser Stage.
Mayday Parade is a rock band from Tallahassee, Florida consisting of Alex Garcia, Derek Sanders, Brooks Betts, Jeremy Lenzo, and Jake Bundrick. They have played Warped Tour seven times over the past eleven years.
Lead guitarist Alex Garcia hopes the final Warped Tour will be a celebration of what the festival was; however, he suspects it might be an emotional experience.
“We’ve attended Warped Tour a lot, and in 2006 we sold CDs out of a van. In 2007 we were on it for two and a half weeks. Starting from 2008 to now, we’ve done every even year – so 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, and now 2018. It’s been a crucial part, an important part of Mayday Parade’s career. That’s where we made a lot of our fans as a part of that scene.
Playing the last one is an honour, a deep honour. It’s been such a crucial thing for our scene of music; it’s hard to express how I will feel. I think it’s bittersweet. I hope it’s going to be a celebration of what it was and not a funeral. I’m hoping it’s not going to be as sad as I think it’s going to be. I’m thinking of the last day, and the last band to go on, and the last song that is played will be an emotional time. I know I’ll be sad about it, but I hope it will be more of a celebration. I always love being on Warped Tour; it’s an amazing experience. It’s summer camp for bands, and I’m looking forward to it,” Garcia stated.
Mayday Parade signed to Rise Records last year and recorded a new album.
“We signed with Rise Records about a year ago. We announced it recently, before releasing the record. It’s been really good. It’s different than Fearless, but a lot of the labels on our level operate the same way. I think there were slight deviations from what I expected, but for the most part, it’s what I had expected. They do a really good job, and it’s a pleasure to work with them and see how they do things. I think what’s most important is that they are very passionate about the band. The staff that we work with, we just came back from England and did a festival over there, and they had their press team, the publicist was super cool and very nice. They care about the band; they are positive and willing to fight for our band. It’s the best we can hope for, and Rise has fulfilled that, and it’s been a great experience,” Garcia added.
Mayday Parade’s new album is titled “Sunnyland.” It’s named after an abandoned mental hospital where various band members hung out at when they were teenagers.
“When we were growing up there use to be this mental hospital that was abandoned called Sunnyland. It was this old creepy hospital; it looked straight out of a horror movie. That was the place high school kids would go to get spooked out; it was a real-life haunted house. Derek and Brooks would go frequently. I think I went once or twice. I think everyone in the band went at some point, not together as a band, but growing up in Tallahassee, it was a legend or urban myth. It lived largely in our psyche, and that is where the album title and the song title came from.
I didn’t write the lyrics, Derek wrote it, but from what he’s said, the song deals with nostalgia, longing for our youth, and a simpler time. Sunnyland represents that. It congers up images of a paradise, but it’s more meaningful for those of us who grew up in Tallahassee while that place was still there. They did tear it down and erected apartment buildings there. For a time I would pass by there going to my parent’s house, and it would look creepy with all these vines and a chain link fence. It looked like something out of a Rob Zombie horror movie,” Garcia reminisced.
The new album “Sunnyland” had three sets of producers. Zack Odom and Kenneth Mount produced most of the record, but they also worked with John Feldmann (Blink-182, Panic! At the Disco) and Howard Benson (Of Mice & Men, My Chemical Romance).
“We worked with three different groups of producers in total. We worked with John Feldmann for a week, then Howard Benson for two weeks, and then a couple of months later we went with Zack Odom and Kenneth Mount to complete the record. Most of the songs off the record we recorded with Zack and Ken. We recorded three of our other albums with them. We worked with them before, so we were comfortable, we have a good working relationship, and we know what to expect, and they know what to expect from us,” Garcia noted.
“With John Feldmann and Howard Benson, on the other hand, that was a little bit different. We never worked with either of those producers, and they have a history of working with bigger name acts and producing more mainstream songs. They work on a different level than what we’ve been on. It was cool to be in their studios, to see all the gold and platinum plaques they have lining their walls. It’s very awesome and very humbling for sure. They worked very differently from each other, and in turn, worked very differently than what we’re used to. I think we all learned a lot to work with both guys. Both of their styles are very interesting, and clearly, it’s worked for them.
I think it was a little difficult for us to get in their grove, but at the end of the day, I think it was a worthwhile experience, to shake us up and see something new. Some of the songs from Sunnyland came from those sessions. I think one came from Howard Benson, and several came from John Feldmann. We recorded a lot of songs with them, and it was an interesting experience. It was a good learning experience and awesome seeing these masters at work,” Garcia replied.
The result is an album built on impassioned vocals, sing-along choruses, and deeply heartfelt lyrics.
The music videos for “Piece of Your Heart” and “Hard to be Religious,” the first two singles off the new album, both tell a compelling story.
“That video, “Piece of Your Heart,” works with the other video we released for our second single called “Hard to be Religious.” It’s all meant to be one storyline, and if you watch both, it should make sense. The imagery we used in “Piece of Your Heart” all takes place in a location the cult was located at in the storyline. The black armband being ripped off is symbolic of them abandoning the way the cult thought, and abandoning that lifestyle of the cult itself,” Garcia said.
Growing up, members of Mayday Parade enjoyed music videos that told a good story, and they’ve done their best to emulate that with their music videos.
“We grew up watching videos that had more substance to them, and I find them more interesting when they have a storyline, and we wanted to explore that. We thought the treatment was pretty cool; the storyline was neat. We tinkered around with it and added elements like the faceless guy in “Hard to be Religious.” I think it’s nice to have videos like that with a little bit more of a storyline, and something the viewer can take away from, rather than just a band performance and a showcase for the band. Growing up, I distinctly remember watching the video “The Ghost of You” by My Chemical Romance. It was like Saving Private Ryan, it was such an awesome video, and they set the bar for what a good music video is, and I’m sure the other guys in Mayday would agree with me on that. It set a high standard, and that’s something we’ve always tried to achieve. We try to do storylines because it’s more interesting,” Garcia explained.
Mayday Parade has over 1 million views for their videos on YouTube, and their songs have amassed over 350 million streams in the US alone. Their 2007 album “A Lesson In Romantics” sold more than a half-million copies. Sonically, some of the songs off of “Sunnyland” are reminiscent of their old school sound.
“Some of the songs we released now fit that older mold and are very reminiscent of that older era of Mayday Parade. I think there is a decent balance between songs that are very much like “A Lesson in Romantics” and our self-titled. There are songs like “Is Nowhere” and “How do you like me now” that are more in the “Black Lines” kind of vein. We never overtly said we’re going to try to make a balanced record. But each of us in our own way is aware of that fact that our most successful work was our first album and our self-titled album after that. Our fifth album “Blacklines” didn’t fare as well commercially. Those things were in the back of our minds.
Also, when we were writing these songs, we were on the 10th-anniversary tour for “A Lesson in Romantics” and constantly playing all those songs every night. In the back of our minds, we know this is what people expect from Mayday Parade, but we also have inclinations to want to progress and move in the direction of “Black Lines,” whether it’s heavier or more experimental. Every one of us internalizes that, and it’s reflected in our song choices for the record, and each person’s part. I view “Sunnyland” as more of a progression from “Black Lines” instead of seeing it as split down the middle. Then again, I didn’t think “Black Lines” was a far departure from our sound. I think it’s balanced in a good way and that the listener will enjoy it,” Garcia noted.
The lyrics for the song “It’s Hard to Be Religious When Certain People Are Never Incinerated By Bolts Of Lightning” was inspired in part by the 2016 U.S. election.
“Derek wrote that song, but I heard him speak about it enough that I hope I can give an approximate answer. From what he’s mentioned, he wrote that from anger derived from the 2016 U.S. election, and the hard feelings there. I think he kind of plays with the “Sunnyland” nostalgia thing in that friends change, people change. There is an element of that idea that we were once friends, we were once brothers and worked together, but now due to your selfishness, it’s no longer like that. You’re a different person, and the friendship has dissolved. There are elements like that in the song that derive from his life and things he has seen. He’s said before that a lot of the anger and feeling in it comes from the 2016 election,” Garcia reiterated.
The first two singles from “Sunnyland” have entered the band’s setlist, and are both very enjoyable to play live. “Piece of Your Heart” has become a singalong tune for fans.
“In England, we played three shows, and at all three we performed “Piece of Your Heart” and “It’s hard to be religious” and both are fun to play. “Hard to be Religious” is my favourite to play in that I like the style of the song. But it’s cool to see the audience singing along to “Piece of Your Heart” and to see them really into the song. It’s great to experience and see that,” Garcia admitted.
Mayday Parade looks forward to returning to Canada to play Warped Tour in Toronto. They are also grateful to their fans.
“We appreciate our fans so much, and without them, we wouldn’t be able to do this, to keep making music. It’s a cliché, but it’s true, without support from our fans, we couldn’t support ourselves, and have to get normal jobs, and not be able to make music. The fact that they are supportive enough to buy merch, to buy the CD, especially in this day and age, with so much music and entertainment, and you can listen to it on Spotify, or download it, or listen to it on YouTube. The fact that we have fans that support it, I can’t explain the gratitude I feel, but it’s there. We are extremely fortunate and lucky to have that. With Toronto, I love the City, and we love the fans there. Hopefully, it won’t be crazy hot and humid like it is in Florida right now,” Garcia concluded with a smile.