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Interview: Derek Sanders of Mayday Parade

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The popularity of Mayday Parade has exploded over the last few years. The Tallahassee, Florida band released their major-label debut, Anywhere But Here, in 2009 and have been touring extensively all over the world. In early 2011 the quintet released an acoustic EP, Valdosta, which includes re-recordings of four fan favorites and two brand new songs.

Lead vocalist Derek Sanders, guitarists Alex Garcia and Brooks Betts, drummer Jake Bundrick, and bassist Jeremy Lenzo are collectively looking forward to the remainder of 2011 and beyond, with many exciting things for fans to look forward to. I recently spoke with Sanders about their upcoming projects and plans.

First off, congratulations – I understand Songkick named Mayday Parade the hardest working band of 2010 with 194 dates played.

You know that’s pretty crazy, but one thing that’s even weirder about that is that we feel like last year wasn’t even our busiest year. I think in 2008 we played even more shows than that.

Do you ever get burned out being on the road that often?

For the most part, it’s always really cool. We love being on the road as much as we can. We get to spend a couple weeks here and there with family and friends.

You’re playing the Bamboozle Festival again.

Yeah, we’re playing Friday [April 29, 2011].

You last played Bamboozle in 2008. Are you excited to be back?

Yeah, it’s going to be insane. I can’t believe we’re doing it on the main stage. We played a smaller stage in 2008, and it was one of the biggest shows we’ve ever played. There was an insane amount of people.

What has the fan reaction been like for the new Valdosta EP?

Everything seems to be pretty cool so far. Obviously the one point that is a little weird about it – the thing we were expecting people to judge kind of hard – is that we did a couple songs where Jake is singing the parts that Jason was singing before. But we loved doing it. I always appreciated when bands put out little side things, like B-sides or acoustic things.

We didn’t spend a whole lot of time focusing it. We just did it fast in a studio close to hand. The record that we just finished is what we put most of our time into. We’re actually playing one of the new songs from Valdosta, “Terrible Things,” we’re playing that one on the new tour.

How did you decide which older songs to redo acoustically for the EP?

It was kind of tough with all the songs to choose from between the two albums and the [first] EP [Tales Told By Dead Friends]. I really wanted to do one from the first EP, so we did “Your Song.” Originally there was an acoustic demo of “Your Song” that we did, which was really nice. “Jamie All Over” has always been one of our favorites and one of the crowd’s favorites, so we wanted to try that one acoustic. Maybe one day we’ll go back and do some more.

Including Bamboozle, you guys are doing several U.S. dates before heading over to Europe for a bunch of dates. What has your experience been like so far touring internationally?

Yeah, I’m so pumped. We’ve been to the UK three times now, we’ve been to Japan once, we’ve been to Australia twice. We’re actually doing a whole lot more this year. Like you mentioned, we’re going over to Europe, then Japan, and some of Southeast Asia. And then we’re talking about going back to Australia as soon as we can. It’s a lot of fun, a really great experience. The people are just unbelievable. It’s great being able to go across the world and have a crowd of people who really just appreciate you being there and are all singing along.

What size venues have you been playing in Europe?

What we’ve done in the UK so far is around 600-1,000 capacity rooms. It’ll probably still be around that size over there. But you know, hopefully one day we can get on a bigger package over there. We’ve been talking about maybe doing something with You Me At Six. Those are great guys, we’ve toured with them in the past. It would be really cool to tour with them again.

I’m guessing there will be more U.S. touring later in 2011?

It’s hard to say one-hundred percent right now, but I’m pretty sure that October and November will probably be a full U.S. tour. I’m not sure yet whether we’ll be headlining or part of another tour.

What can you say about the upcoming new album?

We don’t have a title yet, we’re still kind of talking about that. But the album is done, and we will hopefully release it – we’re looking at the beginning of October maybe. That’s the tentative plan.

How would you describe the feel of the new material?

More than anything it’s a progression forward. In my opinion, it still sounds like us. It’s definitely more of what we wanted to do. Songs that we love, songs that we care about. More than how it was with the last album. It was a different experience. The last one there were a lot more people involved, with the label and management, the producer – they kind of had a say in everything and which songs went on the album. With this one we were able to go in and do it exactly how we wanted to. Which is how it’s always worked best for us.

Can you explain how the songwriting process works within the band?

For the most part, there’s usually one person who kind of writes however most of the song and brings it to the band. Then the band kind of works on it together to finish it. I do the majority of the lyrics and then Jake, our drummer, he does some lyrics as well. We did some co-writing on Anywhere But Here, and it was interesting to try that out. But I don’t think that’s something we’ll ever do again. We like it more when we’re able to do the songs entirely ourselves. In the beginning, it was a lot of Jason [Lancaster]. Jason and I were the ones doing the songs. So it’s kind of changed over time.

Are the arrangements for each song a collaborative process?

Yeah, at whatever point the song comes to the band and we start playing it through, everyone has an equal vote on how it goes. And if we want to change things, change the bridge or whatever, we sit and work that out as a band. It’s pretty cool. That is, to me, what makes it Mayday Parade. There isn’t just one person doing it all. Everyone contributes.

How is the band’s relationship with Jason these days?

I guess after he left there was a few years where it was just a little weird. You can expect that, it’s just the way it goes. But now things are cool, we did that Fearless Friends Tour back in 2010 and Go Radio [Lancaster’s current band] was on that. Jason came out and did “Miserable At Best” with us every night, it was really cool.

He’s still to this day one of the most talented people I’ve ever met. I’m sure he’s going to do great things wherever he goes, but at the time it wasn’t all aligned the right way. He had other things going on in his life. I think it worked out for the best, and now I think we’re all in a good place. Mayday Parade, we’re all in a good place. Go Radio is in a good place.

I imagine some of the fans you picked up with Anywhere But Here might not realize there used to be another member.

I don’t know, it’s hard to say. A lot of people know about and love Jason and understand kind of what happened. I’m sure there are a lot of people that don’t even know. But either way, it’s all part of the past. We’ve been a band longer now without him than we ever were with him. We’ve all been able to move on.

The new album was produced by Zack Odom and Kenneth Mount, the producers of the first Mayday Parade album. Why did you return to them?

More than anything we knew what to expect with them. We knew when we did A Lesson In Romantics, it was such a great experience. They’re awesome guys, fun to work with. They’re very creative. We knew it was a good match. It was cool doing Anywhere But Here with David Bendeth, but it was just a little different. The type of band we are, we’re more comfortable with a smaller budget. It’s just where we fit better. And we didn’t really want to go with a different producer, with no idea what it would be like. We knew it would be great with Zack and Ken, and we figured let’s just go with what we know. It was just as much fun as the first time. And I think we made a really good CD.

Following the April 29 Bamboozle Festival, Mayday Parade has several east coast dates in the U.S. before their European trek. On May 1 the band will be at the Archway Center in Altoona, Pennsylvania, followed by HYAMP in Huntington, West Virginia on May 2. May 3 finds them at Greene Street in Greensboro, North Carolina, then The Handlebar in Greenville, South Carolina, May 4. Keep up with Mayday Parade at their official website.

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About The Other Chad

Hi, I'm Chaz Lipp. An old co-worker of mine thought my name was Chad. Since we had two Chads working there at the time, I was "The Other Chad."