In July 2004, I was 17. I had just graduated from high school, drove a beat-up Toyota Corolla, and couldn’t attend a single party without hearing Yellowcard’s Ocean Avenue.
The album’s title track would hit #1 on Total Request Live and earn the band an MTV Video Music Award. The album itself would sell two million copies, produce two other hit singles (“Only One” and “Way Away”), and receive platinum certification from the RIAA.
If every summer has a soundtrack, 2004 belonged to Ocean Avenue.
But Yellowcard’s major-label success was not without consequences. Considerable hype and lofty expectations accompanied the band’s follow-up. To the pop punk community, anything less than Ocean Avenue was unacceptable.
After several delays, the band released Lights and Sounds in January 2006. Though the album would debut at #5 on the Billboard charts, its alternative sound and darker themes were met with mixed reviews. With sales of 315,000 units, the success of Lights and Sounds paled in comparison to Ocean Avenue, and the album was generally considered a commercial disappointment.
In July 2007, the band returned with Paper Walls. Though stronger and poppier than Lights and Sounds, the album failed to resonate with consumers. After parting ways with Capitol Records, the band announced an indefinite-hiatus in April 2008.
In March 2011, a reunited Yellowcard released When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes on Hopeless Records. The album received generally positive reviews and peaked at #2 on the Billboard Independent Albums chart. An international tour quickly followed. By all accounts, the hiatus was over.
On August 14th, the Jacksonville quintet will release Southern Air on Hopeless Records. Produced by Neal Avron (Fall Out Boy, New Found Glory, Linkin Park) the album evokes memories of summer nights, girlfriends and adolescence. In other words, it calls Ocean Avenue to mind.
I sat down with Yellowcard’s drummer and founding member, Longineu “LP” Parsons to discuss Southern Air, Ocean Avenue and everything in-between. Our discussion is presented below.
1. The summer of 2012 marked Yellowcard’s fourth time on the Warped Tour, and your first since 2007. With a reunited line-up, a new record, and a matured sound, why did it make sense to go back?
In our eyes, Warped is the best rock-and-roll tour of the year. We’ve worked with Kevin Lyman since day one, and it’s always been a big family out there. We have so many friends on the tour, and it’s a great way to meet other bands, play to their fans every day, and potentially work out other tours. Ever since we came back from the hiatus, we were gearing up for the Warped Tour. It’s the best thing we could have ever done.
2. Nine years after its release, Ocean Avenue continues to comprise a significant portion of your set. Some bands want to move-on and distance themselves from their early hits, but you guys haven’t done that. Why is that?
Ocean Avenue was the best recording moment we ever had together. We were living in a mountain house, writing the record, living together, partying together, playing cards every night, and in the midst of that came Ocean Avenue. It was something we really loved writing together, so we don’t steer away from it. If it was up to us, we’d play two-and-a-half hour sets every night and fit everything in. But even then, we couldn’t do it. I mean, I love playing “October Nights”, but if we only have 35 minutes, we have to figure out what songs make the cut.
3. Is it ever a curse to have an album like Ocean Avenue so early in your career? Nine years later, there are still kids that only want to hear those songs.
If you go to a Green Day show, you want to hear Dookie. If you go to a Metallica show, you want to hear …And Justice for All and The Black Album. You see those bands to hear those songs. When I see those bands, I say to myself “man, I hope they play their earlier records”. I saw Iron Maiden recently, and it was the same thing. When they played the songs I wanted to hear, I thought to myself “yeah, there it is”. We’re very blessed that so many people have taken a liking to those songs.
4. But isn’t it difficult to promote When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes or Southern Air when kids just want to hear “Life of a Salesman”, “Empty Apartment” and “Only One”?
I mean, we are writing for the kids, but we write for ourselves too. We focus on what we like, what gets us going in the studio, and that kind of stuff. We feel very strongly about the things we push, so when we’re releasing new songs, we’re not thinking “oh, it’s not Ocean Avenue”, we’re thinking “we love this record”. I think Southern Air is the best stuff we’ve ever recorded. I’m very excited about it. We all are.
They’re loving it. We’ve had so many kids respond and say “we’re so glad you’re putting out a record we want to hear”, which I guess means similar to Ocean Avenue. It also reflects the times. I think people need a lot of positive energy right now, whether it’s because of the economy or what’s going on overseas or whatever. It’s a time where people need to come together and feel the positive energy and move forward. I think music is the most influential thing out there, even more than our government. It makes a lot of sense to have happy or positive songs that you can relate to and understand.
6. What are your reasonable expectations for Southern Air? Do you strive for another Ocean Avenue, or is the band’s vision of success something totally different?
Honestly, I don’t even pay attention to that. I don’t think you can predict what people are going to do, and if you do, it’ll just drive you crazy. Wherever it goes, I’m cool with it. Yellowcard has been together for 17 years and I don’t believe our career has gone downhill. I still think we’re in the same place we were five years ago, if not better. Our crowds are bigger, and more people are getting into our later records. It’s great.
7. If you weren’t in Yellowcard, is there another Warped Tour band you’d want to play in?
Of Mice and Men. I like those guys a lot. They throw down every day on and off-stage. They’re really cool dudes and I see a lot of career-potential in them. They have a big heart for what they do and when they get onstage, it really comes out. If you haven’t checked them out, you should. Their latest record is amazing.
Being the drummer, I don’t really pay attention to the lyrics, but I’ll say “Here I Am Alive”. Lyrically, I think a lot of people can relate to it. Whether you’re having a difficult time financially, in relationships or career-wise, it’s a song that says a lot about keeping your head up and knowing that even if you get knocked down, you can pick yourself up. You can choose how you want to live. You can choose how happy you are. It’s about going back, and having the chance to tell yourself when you were little to look out for certain things.
Of the older songs, I like “Breathing” and the playing part to “Five Becomes Four”. It’s very aggressive. I’m an aggressive player and that song is really balls-to-the-wall. I like the intensity. It never really lets up, and even when it does, that’s intense too.
9. You guys are hitting the road this fall with The Wonder Years and We Are in the Crowd. What can fans expect?
We’re going to play a lot of songs. We’ll definitely be bringing in some new songs and promoting the new record. There are also some things I can’t reveal because they’re meant to be a surprise. But, I’d say there are definitely some pretty rock-and-roll things kids can expect.
Editor’s note: After the interview, LP addressed his involvement with Lostprophets (“I have no idea where that rumor came from, it was totally untrue”) and his experience playing with Adam Lambert (“When Yellowcard went on hiatus, I wanted to play with the biggest pop act possible”).