A decade ago, Yellowcard were just a bunch of young punks, newly relocated to California and hoping to follow in the footsteps of their favourite bands, Lagwagon and NOFX. Then Ocean Avenue came along, and all of that changed. The success of the young band’s fourth album elevated them to headliner status – although it wasn’t an overnight success. “It was a slow burn,” violinist and co-founder Sean Mackin says, “and it wasn’t until we did the Warped Tour the following year when the single ‘Ocean Avenue’ took off and became its own thing.” That early success, Mackin says, really felt like it came out of nowhere. “To have a song become so big that we were able to headline the Warped Tour, that was unbelievable to us. When I look back to the beginning of this journey, we had no idea that it would end up being like this.”

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Ocean Avenue, and to mark the occasion Yellowcard decided to revisit the album and re-record the whole thing acoustically. Now, they’re hitting the road for a series of shows, playing Ocean Avenue Acoustic in full. When I ask Mackin why they decided to do this, he tells me they wanted to put together something truly unique to thank fans for sticking by them. “I think for us, the ten year mark felt like a really big deal, especially for a band in our genre,” he says. “We wanted to do something special for our fans. We thought that we could do a tour, go out and play our songs and everyone could sing along and have a good time, but we wanted to do something more than that.”

“We’ve done Yellowcard acoustic tours and shows in the past, and we get tonnes of requests to do acoustic songs,” Mackin continues. “Two years ago, we did an acoustic release of our album When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes. [This time] we’ve done a full new acoustic recording of Ocean Avenue, and we’re bringing it on the road and playing it top to bottom. We have a lot of old Yellowcard fans coming to shows and a lot of new Yellowcard fans coming to shows. We wanted to just put together a special moment to thank our fans for being there for us, but also to bring everyone together and have a really awesome night.”

When it came to the process of revisiting a well-loved album and re-recording its songs in an unplugged format, the members of Yellowcard had to give significant thought about how to approach the arrangements. They decided, for the most part, to stick closely to the original fast-paced template of the songs, while changing a few things here and there as they saw fit. “We’ve been living with and touring these songs for a decade,” Mackin says, “so there are parts of them that have changed and evolved, vocals and other little things like that. We wanted to keep the songs fresh. The other third of the record, we totally re-imagined it and played the songs with a different aesthetic. We wanted to put something out that would be a studio-quality version of these recordings. We spent about two months in the studio to make sure we would have a really nice-sounding release for this anniversary.”

A decade is a long time, and I ask Mackin if he and the rest of the band felt strange going back to exhume a collection of songs they wrote as much younger men. Given the chance to reflect, though, he says he wouldn’t have done anything differently. “When I look back at Ocean Avenue, Ithink that it was truly a gift, and I wouldn’t change any moment of it. There’s a song on the albumcalled ‘Believe’, where we commemorate the heroes that gave their lives to protect people on 9/11. That song has a lot of meaning to us, it’s still one of my favourites and its meaning touches people so far beyond what we imagined at the time. It has its own special place in our discography. We have our own special relationship with these songs, and it’s great to hear them come to life again in acoustic form.”

The violin is not the most obvious instrument to play in a punk band, and Mackin himself is grateful that he has been able to do it for so many years. He started playing violin at the age of five at his mother’s insistence, but it wasn’t until much later that he began to love and appreciate the instrument. “I grew up in Florida, and everything there is more about surfing and the beach and basketball and football and tennis,” he says. “It’s hard to be a young person there playing the violin when all your friends are doing all these other fun things outside and making fun of you. I took lessons, but at the time I didn’t want to play because I didn’t want to be different – I just wanted to play basketball with my friends. My mom would hammer me about it and tell me how it was a gift and how I’d thank her one day, and she was absolutely right.”

When Mackin transferred to an arts-focused high school, violin began to make more sense. “I played in orchestras through high school and I did lessons, and I realised I was never going to be a prodigy but I still worked hard at it. That was a really cool period in my life – I started writing songs, then I met some friends who shared similar taste in music, so we formed a band, and now we’re touring the world and putting out records and our lives are really amazing.” Though Mackin’s classical days are behind him, he still draws on the ideas he learned about structure, melody and arrangement. “There are elements that people were using in classical music hundreds of years ago that Yellowcard and other bands are using today,” he says. “There’s really nothing new in music. I just want to write songs that we can be proud of; songs that our fans will want to play to their friends.”

The Ocean Avenue Acoustic tour will bring Yellowcard to Australia, and I ask Mackin if the band have any final word for fans in this part of the world. “It’s a long trip to Australia and it hasn’t always been easy for us to get down there, but on our last couple of trips we’ve had more and more fans each time come along to support us and love us. We can see that and we appreciate that, and we’ll make every effort to keep coming back for years to come. We’d really like to thank all our fans there from the bottom of our hearts, and we can’t wait to come back down and hang out.”

BY ALASDAIR DUNCAN

Yellowcard plays Enmore Theatre (all ages) on Saturday October 26 with Toy Boats.Ocean Avenue Acousticout now through UNFD.

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