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Yellowcard | Ocean Avenue | review | alternative | punk | Lollipop
Ocean Avenue (Capitol)
by Lauren Bussard
I'm on a roadtrip through Colorado, and for the past two hours, we've been stuck in the car, staring glassy-eyed out the windows and listening to an old Smith's mix that, after four repetitions, has us planning to drive directly off the next cliff, putting an end to our '80s electro-pop hell. So out of desperation, I delve into my bag of CDs to review, and suddenly our eyes widen in surprise - and relief - as the vibrant, explosive vocals and upbeat, unexpected melodies of Ocean Avenue, Yellowcard's major label debut, jump out at us. And, to put the icing on an already virtually perfect cake, they have a violin, which, if you listen closely, you can hear in every song, sometimes melting smoothly into the rhythm, and other times crashing wildly into the fast punk-rock highs and lows of the drums, guitar, and bass.
And as an added bonus to the headbobbing, brilliantly played music, the words to most of the songs go against true pop-punk fashion and refer to the trials and tribulations that actually face 20-somethings, as opposed to the ones that plague high school freshmen. Sure, there's still some lost love and angst, but this album is anything but immature - or depressing. With Ocean Avenue, Yellowcard definitely makes its jump to the big-time - and has nowhere to go but up.
What made you guys decide to add a violin player to a punk rock band?
Well, if you'd heard what Yellowcard sounded like when we were in high school, you'd be even more baffled by the fact that there's a violin in it, because when the band started it was reaaaally fast, really Lagwagon, Strung Out, NOFX-influenced. Straight punk rock. Sean (Mackin, violinist) was just a bro that hung out with us - I was friends with the band in high school but I didn't end up actually joining until 2000 - and we sorta stole him away from the rest of the band geek people because he liked punk music. Eventually, Yellowcard asked him to play violin on a slow song they had on their first record, and all the kids really liked the track, so on the next record, Sean helped write and he played on almost every song. And he's been in the band ever since. It was never like, "Oh, let's put a violin in because people will think we're cool."
Some of the rhythms on this album - sometimes even the violin - sound a little metal influenced. Do you guys listen to a lot of metal?
(laughs) There's definitely that influence in our band, but it all comes from the rhythm section. Our drummer's a metalhead, even though nobody else listens to it. His favorite bands are, like, Slipknot and Chimera. (laughs) We'll get on the bus after a show and we can't go in the back lounge because he's blasting some screaming metal. (laughs)
He and I write a lot together - I'll have a verse and a chorus and chord structure, and we'll just start jamming and he'll put these beats behind it that totally change the whole idea of what I had for the song in the first place, but it turns out awesome.
Ocean Avenue is your first full-length major label album. Has your style evolved since working with Capitol?
I don't think it has at all. I mean, it definitely has way better production, and we had a lot of time to work on the record, as far as writing it and getting the songs nailed down. In the studio, we had two full months to record it, which is nothing we've ever experienced before. The EP we put out last year was written and recorded in twelve days. (chuckles) But I think on this record, we really found our style - we found the groove that we wanted because we had so much time to work and write, together, as opposed to being like "ok, here's the melody, you guys write some shit on top of this, then we'll record it." It was more like, I wrote some melodies and songs and brought them to the band and we all collaborated more than we ever had before.
You guys talk about how important it is to you to write songs that are motivational and not overly dramatic... which is the polar opposite of most of the emo these days...
(sigh) Yes, it is.
Why do you think so many kids are into listening to music that makes them depressed?
I don't really know. I don't understand that whole mentality. I mean, obviously, to each his own, and it has a lot to do with how people are brought up and what their families are like. Most of us came from pretty positive, encouraging families, and we went to a really rad high school. I think a lot of kids go to shitty high schools, and people treat them like shit, and they're just upset at the world... and we're not. We feel like we've got a great opportunity, and we just wanna tell people that if you put your mind to it, you can do whatever you want... and we kinda did it, ya know?
You guys have been on the road almost constantly since 2001 with tons of awesome bands, including Homegrown, Lagwagon, The Ataris, and now Less Than Jake. Do you have any crazy tour stories?
Well... on our tour last year with The Starting Line, the whole crew from our band and their band - probably like 20 of us - went to this bar in Boston, and there were about 30 dudes in there, NO CHICKS anywhere in the bar. So we cruised all the way to the back and started hanging out, and every time the door would open we'd all hold our breath, and then it would just be more dudes (we found out later that most of the guys were the BU basketball and hockey teams). So around midnight, the ladies finally started rolling in, and they just cruised right past all these huge jock guys and came to our end of the bar to hang out with us little punk rocker skate rats. I guess these guys got really pissed off at us, so on our way out, they tried to start some huge brawl on the sidewalk (and we would've gotten absolutely destroyed). Kenny from The Starting Line actually got thrown on the hood of a car. (laughs) It was gnarly. It was scary too, because we were all drunk, especially little piss-ant me - and when I get drunk and someone's mouthing off, I think I'm all big and bad, even though I weigh like 135 pounds soaking wet. (laughs)