Tallahassee-based band Mayday Parade has just celebrated great success over the release of their sixth studio album, <ital>Sunnyland</ital> back in June. The band, comprised of Derek Sanders (lead vocals), Jake Bundrick (drums, vocals), Jeremy Lenzo (bass), Brooks Betts (rhythm guitars), and Alex Garcia (lead guitarist), recently begun performing the album on their tour, with the exception of the songs they performed at this year’s Vans Warped Tour. I recently got a chance to speak with rhythm guitarist Brooks Betts about what went into making and producing the album along with other events this past year.
You worked with a lot of producers on this album, what was the best part about working with that many producers and new producers?
Well, we wanted to do it because it’d been a minute since we’d worked with some guys who were kind of known for their writing capabilities and, you know, being able to make something a little bit more mainstream I suppose. So, that was kind of the idea going into it and at the end of the day I don’t think we did too much of that. We had more opportunities to veer down different paths and we kind of stuck more to just what Mayday Parade does anyway. But I guess to really answer the question as to what it achieved was that even though it was a little bit more difficult working with people that we’re not used to working with, we got really good results out of a lot of songs. Maybe a little bit different than what we would’ve had otherwise, say with just working with Zack [Odom] and Ken [Mount], which is what we’re used to; we work really well with those guys, we’re very like-minded, but it doesn’t give you any kind of opportunity to veer down a weird path as much as it does with working with somebody that thinks differently.
I’d say your sound as a band has evolved, especially with these last two albums. Do you find that this new sound has attracted a different or more broad demographic of listeners?
I think it does, yeah, I think there’s more in there [the album] for everybody. I think what you’re kind of referring to is that <ital>Black Lines</ital> is probably the most different of all the records we’ve put together. In my opinion, it’s my favorite, but I know also that people would miss the pop punkiness of the earlier stuff if we continued to just do that. So we tried to do a good combination of that with <ital>Sunnyland</ital>, as well as opening up new doors, too. I think that’s one of the reasons why we’ve been a band for so long and have been able to have successful records is because we don’t try and put out the same exact thing every time.
In what songs on the album do you have a heavy influence?
There’s three of them which were “Take My Breath Away”, “Satellite”, and “How Do You Like Me Now.” Usually what happens is every member brings most of a song to the group and the group makes it a lot better. So, for those three I had most of the main ideas for them. I had more help with “Take My Breath Away”; Jeremy, Alex, and I kind of worked that together. Jeremy had a really cool little melody for the chorus and I was able to put more lyrics to that and I had gotten far with that. One day, we were in the studio, actually, when we wrote it and I was like “Alex I can’t finish this,” and he was just like “Just say take my breath away at the end it makes perfect sense.” And I was like “You’re right that’s perfect.” So, I mean, that was more of a good example of a song that I was steering, but needed help and the guys pulled through.
What are your favorite songs to perform on the album?
Well, it’s hard to say so far because we only did Warped Tour since its release and it doesn’t leave you a lot of room to play new songs, but we were doing a couple and “It’s Hard to Be Religious” is my favorite so far. We’ll see coming up in the fall. We’re going to add in a lot of the new ones and kind of switch a couple out so we’re not too heavy-handed on the brand new stuff and just kind of experiment and see what the crowds really like.
Are there any plans to make more music videos for the album?
We are going to do some more, but we’ve actually had a little trouble lining up the right guy to do them because we did plan on having some for the tour, but we wanted to be a little bit more thorough with how we approach it and that’s made the process a little elongated, but we’ll have some more out.
During this year’s Warped Tour you had been going around selling signed $10 Sunnyland CDs at the different venues. Being that you guys headlined Warped Tour and are a big band, was it nice to interact with the different people and fans there at such a close level?
Yeah, it was cool because you get good feedback. Obviously it, kind of, hurt the record through Spotify, but honestly the reason we were signing them was because people like that, people love to have the actual album signed. That’s a really cool thing and we realized that people were attracted to that, so we were really selling it to people who were just listening to our records on Spotify and Apple Music and stuff like that. So, I was actually getting feedback of what songs they [the listeners] liked, which ones were their favorite, and sometimes they just liked to tell you their experience with your music, you know, and how long they’ve been listening and all that which is really cool.
Did doing that make you feel nostalgic of the band’s start with selling CDs at Warped Tour?
It did for sure, it’s kind of like a humbling thing to do, you know. A lot of people thought it was maybe crazy that we would do it, but I think it was a good thing to do and it keeps us down to Earth and helps reaffirm that we’re not too big to go out and be sweating in the crowd and getting sunburnt and all that.
You guys have a very special authenticity, how have you managed to keep the authenticity throughout the years even though the industry and the music scene has dramatically changed?
I think that’s by diversifying our music a little bit. Some of that naturally happens, but what I think bands get in trouble with is, for one, they only have one guy who writes in the band, so that guy can only come up with so many great ideas. There’s exceptions to the rule, for sure. There are phenomenal writers out there who can just write hit after hit and keep going, but I think because we’ve all been writers in our own music that helps keep it going and fresh. It gives new perspectives, it gives new song ideas that might not have been there. You know, you could go and you could co-write with these guys that aren’t in your band, and we’ve done that, we even did that for <ital>Sunnyland</ital>, but none of those songs made the record because they didn’t feel like Mayday Parade. So, having us all involved in that process and not being afraid to follow what the song really wants to be, and not trying to make a song a pop punk song just because we feel like we need more of that, has helped keep things interesting throughout the career.
Would you say that you’re more experimental in the songwriting process or do you keep close to a sound that the band is known for?
It really depends. Some of the songs that I wrote, even for this record that didn’t make it, are experimental. There are songs that we’ve done that I’ve worked on or the guys have worked on that are experimental and we kind of just let them be that and not try and go too hard in one direction. A good song will speak for itself, so you have to kind of do it it’s own justice and not taint it. I think by not trying to make everything pop punk, that just lets the song speak for itself. So, to answer your question I don’t worry about it too much, what I do is I rely on the band as a whole to say if something is too far left or too far right to kind of bring it back to center.
Do you guys consider yourselves to be strictly pop punk or sort of a mix of musical genres?
I mean, I just kind of call it emo, but, you know, I think we have everything from ballads to heavier rock stuff and, you know, we’re pop punk but we’re rock and roll, emo, we’re all those things. It’s hard to say what you call it, it’s just Mayday Parade.
This is just out of curiosity, but where do you get the inspiration for the names of people in your songs? In this album you had the name Jade and in the past there’s been Katie, Jessie, etc.
Well, sometimes they’re real people, like in the instance of Katie, but then sometimes it’s more metaphorical, you know, Jade is actually more of a description of someone who’s jaded so, you know, that helps [the song].
What do you do on the side as a hobby to keep your creativity flowing?
Well, I try and mess with some other bands’ music here and there. There’s a band from Tallahassee called Brightside that I kind of work with a little bit that’s really good. Stages and Stereos is another good band and we have fun and mess around. I mess around with stuff with Daniel [vocals/bass of Stages and Stereos] here and there, but nothing too serious or, at least not at the moment, you know. We just kind of mess with stuff together because writing music isn’t just a job, it’s fun. So, I do that, but other than musical stuff, I’m really into the ecology of forestry and the environment where I live here so I spend a lot of time in the woods and working with the land to try and make it better and restore it back to a more natural state.