The pretty boys of punk from sunny Tallahassee in Florida have well and truly earned their stripes in the hardcore scene. Mayday Parade completed their musical apprenticeship alongside punk rock luminaries Fall Out Boy and You Me At Six while honing their live skills around the world (including on the most educating festival of all: Vans Warped Tour). With album number four – Monsters In The Closet – released to the world last year, the five-piece has climbed to a lofty rung in the music scene. But as many people in this business know, comfort can be a dangerous thing – so Mayday Parade don’t stick to the usual record-and-tour routine.
After the album’s October release, Mayday Parade enjoyed a Christmas break in the middle of what would have been, at any other time of the year, the height of the touring cycle. “This is the third album in a row that we’ve put out around the first week of October, so we’re used to this kind of routine,” frontman Derek Sanders says. “For each album we do the massive fall tour to support it and then we take off for the holidays, and then we hit it hard again early in the next year.”
The split touring schedule can produce different audience responses before and after the holidays. Is it because the fans have become more familiar with the new material? “I think you’ve nailed it,” Sanders agrees. “When we do the first tour it’s very cool and exciting but a lot of the new stuff that we play gets a good response – but because it’s so new just isn’t as familiar to the audience. It feels great to come back after the break and see how the response has changed to the new songs as people have had time to really get to know the music.”
Mayday Parade have been lucky, in a way, that they’ve come to life in the music industry during its post-people-actually-buying-stuff phase. That is to say they have risen through the ranks expecting very little, and appreciate every success bestowed upon them. While so many bands fight against the harsh reality of the modern era, Sanders embraces the yardsticks he has to use to measure success. “I feel like, more than ever, it’s the touring that we use to measure how well we’re doing, and just getting out there and playing the shows. Even if you have fans that exist that don’t buy albums anymore, and they only listen to your albums by streaming or YouTube, those people will still come to the shows and have an awesome time and feel the energy and buy merch. As long as the touring aspect is alive and well, I feel like we have a great representation of how we’re doing and of knowing what’s going on with the band. Feeling what the audience is giving back reminds you whether you’re on the right track or not.”
The category of alternative music Mayday Parade play is tied up in a tricky paradox. By the time a band reaches its fourth album, critics are howling disdainfully that their new material is merely a rearrangement of their back catalogue while their audience salivates at the very same thought. What music critics claim is hardcore’s ultimate creative failing is, to the genre’s audience, its greatest asset: reliability. So how does a band stay creatively fulfilled while adhering to the expectations of the audience? “It can be tough,” says Sanders. “You can spend a tonne of time analysing it and thinking about it, but really, we try to not spend a lot of time thinking about our music too much. We simply try to satisfy ourselves by writing music that we like and we want to listen to. We try and push ourselves with each album by trying to make what [we] do at least better, and that’s about it. We really try not to worry about it too much other than that. We try to be genuine because we believe that is the thing that people can really notice.”
For a band like Mayday Parade, the bucket list is pretty well complete. That’s not to say they’re close to giving up this game of melodies, just that there are fewer mountains left to climb. Or maybe the mountains have just grown bigger? “At this point we have accomplished so much that we set out to do, and even more – we’re all just happy to maintain [it]. If we can keep things going like this then we’ll be so happy with that.
“Musically, we just want to keep gradually changing things up and growing our sound and ourselves. I wanna be a band like Brand New, who’ve been around long enough to have such a hardcore fan base that they’re really able to creatively do whatever they want to do and their audience will just go along for the ride. We don’t want to alienate people who like us for what we’ve done, so for us it’s just a gradual process at this stage.”
Monsters In The Closet out now through Fearless/Shock.