Interview: Mayday Parade at Slam Dunk Festival

Mayday Parade has been a pop-rock staple for a decade. Their debut EPTales Told by Dead Friends introduced the ever-evolving band to the genre, and their latest (and heaviest) effort Black Lines illustrates just how far they’ve come. We sat down with guitarist Brooks Betts and bassist Jeremy Lenzo before their set at Slam Dunk North to chat all about Black Lines, musical direction, and how to break into the industry.

CelebMix: So you’re playing on the main stage later today, what can we expect from your set?

JL: We have a very interesting set today because our drummer had surgery and he’s back at home, so we have our drum tech Dylan filling in. We might be a little funky because we’ve never played with him before but it’ll be fun.

BB: I think after the first song we’ll be in a groove, and we’ve practised like this anyway. But otherwise expect a lot of your favourites. We’re trying to put together a really good list of songs that people know and expect when they come to a show like this.

CelebMix: You were in the UK earlier this year with The Maine—how was that?

BB: It was good, yeah it was great. It’s always good to tour with them because it’s such a strong package and together we work really well so the shows feel great. The energy is great.

CelebMix: People who know Mayday Parade will know you have a very unique, distinctive sound. But for people new to your band how would you describe your music?

JL: I would say that we’re definitely a pop-rock band, but I feel like we lean more on the rock side than the pop side. We’ve got some pretty heavy guitars, and some really cool lead guitar parts. Not a lot of pop-rock bands have solos in their songs, I feel like that distinguishes us from them. Also switching off vocals, I don’t know, it’s hard to classify ourselves.

BB: It’s a hard thing to talk about, you kind of have to check it out. It’s just rock and roll.

CelebMix: It’s been 10 years now since you released your first EP Tales Told by Dead Friends. As your band gets older do you find yourselves trying to be bolder and more ambitious with your sound?

BB: Yeah, I think we do that naturally as we get older. We’re not the same people exactly as we were ten years ago. A lot of us listen to a lot of different things than we did listen to obviously, a lot of things that weren’t even out then. But genre-wise we kind of reach into different areas and get inspired by different things so I think that all plays into our sound as it evolves.

JL: And as we get older our fans are getting older as well so they’re expecting new and more mature music from us. We’re in our thirties and our fans who grew up listening to us are probably in their mid-twenties now and listening to different music than they were when they were in their teens. I think they’re expecting some different stuff from us than what we originally started with.

CelebMix: I noticed your latest album Black Lines is a little bit heavier than anything you’ve released before. Was that a conscious decision?

JL: It definitely was, I think we were trying to just make it a more rock album because we’re trying to branch out from pop-rock into just doing straight, normal rock. I mean, there are still pop elements in it definitely but I think we want to model ourselves more on what we listen to now, which is more on the rock side of things.

BB: Even just going with Mike Sapone as a producer was a big part of that too. We knew he did things a little rough around the edges so that plays into the sound being heavier, and the songs are just a little darker too, so that gives that impression as well.

CelebMix: Speaking of Mike Sapone—what was it like working with him on Black Lines?

BB: He was great! He did a lot of stuff in the past with other bands that we’re big fans of,—Brand New and Taking Back Sunday—so for that reason we wanted to go with him. And because our previous albums got a little stale; we were doing the same thing every time. We needed a little switch up in there, and he was great for that. 

CelebMix: You’ve always been really great at helping out younger bands in this scene, interacting with them on social media and even taking them on tour with you. What advice would you give to someone starting out in the music industry today?

JL: Well it’s definitely a different world than it was when we started. When we first started our band Myspace was the only form of social media, and labels weren’t doing 360 deals. I think social media nowadays has a way bigger impact on getting a band out there than when we started. It definitely was important for us back then but especially nowadays with so many outlets it’s very important for bands to be active in the social media world.

And then, if you want to get noticed by a label you need to get out there and tour. Even if you don’t make any money, you just need to prove to a label that you can and are willing to sacrifice your time.

BB: There’s no perfect way to do it, or a formula necessarily. There are some basic things that you need to be doing. You have to do those things, that’s the world we live in with the social media, and bands need to be on the road and in front of people. I think the biggest thing is to take those things that you know you have to do and do them well, for one, and then think outside the box a little bit and figure out how to gain an edge.

You have to figure out how to be put in front of people over the thousands of others that are going to do the things you’re already doing. And having great music is a big part of that, but we’re going to assume you have great music, and that you have to use all these tools to get it in front of people. We thought outside the box when we started out, but I think if we told you to do the things we did it wouldn’t work out for you ten years later. You just need to find out and take advantage of your surroundings and every opportunity you have, and if you do that, you’ll have a chance to succeed. Maybe.

CelebMix: The last few years have been really great for new music. Are there any artists you think we should be looking out for?

JL: We’re all getting old now and I feel like we don’t really know a lot of the new bands that are coming out. We hear about them later than most other people find out about them. All Get Out is a good band, I don’t know if people have heard of them or not, but they’re definitely a good band to check out. I’d love to bring them out on the road, but I don’t even know if they’re bigger than us. That’s what I’m saying, I find out so late about these bands that I don’t even know how big they are.

BB: Moose Blood is on this show and they’re cool. We actually looked at them for a tour—it didn’t work out for whatever reason—but that was one of the bands I wish we could have taken out on a tour we have coming up.

CelebMix: What is it about Slam Dunk that keeps bringing you back?

BB: The fans! You come here and you know you’re going to be playing in front of a Warped Tour type crowd, and for that reason you know you’re going to make a lot of new fans. Even though we’ve been around for ten years there are still people out there who need to be hooked with a live show. That’s why we love coming here.

CelebMix: Finally, do you have any plans for new music?

JL: I think everybody’s writing things individually right now. The way our band works is we write individually then we get together for a couple of months to show our ideas and to turn those individual ideas into full band songs. I think we’re at the stage where everyone’s writing things individually. We’re not quite sure when we’re gonna get together to really work on these ideas as a band but that’s where we are at the moment.

Check out Mayday Parade’s video ‘Letting Go’ below.

Tell us what you think of the interview with the band on Twitter @Celebmix!

Written by Faith Ridler

Faith Ridler is a UK based student, music journalist, and twenty one pilots aficionado. Follow her on Twitter @FaithLRidler!