In the sea of post-Blink-182 success, numerous cookie cutter pop-punk bands gained notoriety in the early 2000s. But the young Ventura, California quintet Yellowcard has been able to stand out from the masses and top the sales charts with the help of a very unusual sound never heard in the genre—a violin, played by a classically trained violinist. The band's major label debut, Ocean Avenue, was released via Capitol Records in 2003, debuting at number 99 on the Billboard 200, and their positive anthems reach out to a youthful generation of music fans that like catchy melodies with a punk edge. But it's Sean Mackin's violin, used as a rhythm instrument, that has given the band the most attention. "It's almost like he's an extra lead guitar," singer/guitarist Ryan Key told Billboard. "It's not as if we're putting these huge symphonies of music over our songs." Blender 's Josh Eells went so far as to describe Yellowcard's sound as a mix of "Stratocaster and Stradivarius."
Formed in 1997 in Jacksonville, Florida, Yellowcard today is a far stretch from its early stages. As students at the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, original singer Todd Clory, bassist Pete Mosely, guitarist Ben Harper and drummer Longineu Parsons began playing together after school for fun. In an interview with the Warped Tour's official website, Mackin said the Yellowcard name comes from their affinity for drinking games. "It's a warning in the game of soccer. A couple of us used to play soccer back in the day. But where it really came from is when we were at parties and stuff, say a beer would spill or someone would do a party foul, we'd be like, 'Dude, you got a yellow card. One more and you're out.'"
The quartet soon asked violinist Mackin to join the group, got more serious about their music and released the independent albums Midget Tossing and 1999's Where We Stand on Takeover Records. Shortly after, Clory left the band, and in 2000, was replaced by current singer Key. It was then Yellowcard truly began to take shape. After studying at Florida State for a mere half a year, Key, a former theater major in high school, dropped out of college to focus on the band. He felt their unique style of positive mentality, melodic nature, and violin would be taken more seriously in California. Keys told Annie Zaleski of Cleveland Scene, "We grew up in a really creative environment when we were learning how to really make music. We were just surrounded by so many creative people and so many different ways to learn about new music and new bands and stuff because there were so many different kinds of people at our high school. It developed us into eclectic songwriters."
With a renewed sense of pride, Yellowcard recorded a demo and sent it to indie label Lobster Records. Four weeks later, they had a deal, moved to California, and put out One for the Kids in 2001. Tours with like-minded punk bands kept the band busy when Capitol Records began showing interest. Kids began to pick up on the band's dynamic sound that blended the handful of genres that Yellowcard's members collectively grew up on. Keys told USA Today 's Edna Gundersen that the band's collective high school studies in jazz and classical music, "…allows us to expand on a style of music that's sometimes pigeonholed as three-chord rock 'n' roll that all sounds the same. We can manipulate a lot of standard chord progressions and turn them into something cooler. At first, we tried to emulate punk bands like NOFX, but as we got older, we found our niche in melodic pop-rock with really heavy beats." Yellowcard eventually released 2002's The Underdog EP and joined the Van's Warped Tour festival across the country before returning to California to record their major label debut, Ocean Avenue.
In the meantime, the band took advantage of the popularity of the pop-punk genre that had given them so much love by recording an amusing cover of Michelle Branch's "Everywhere" for a Fearless Records compilation titled Punk Goes Pop. They appeared alongside other emo-friendly pop-punk bands Further Seems Forever, The Starting Line and Thrice.
Brimming with bouncy pop, serrated by punk guitars, emotional lyrics, and an overall optimistic sound, Yellowcard used their smiles to their advantage. "We're definitely a positive band," Key said in the band's official biography. "We want to take experiences in our lives and use them in a productive way, to encourage people not to let anybody tell them what to do with their life." Staying in touch with the kids has always been important to Yellowcard; a few months before Ocean Avenue was released, the group played free lunchtime concerts at various high schools throughout the United States.
In a roundabout way, Ocean Avenue was named after Ocean Boulevard, a road that runs down the entire east coast of Florida. The title and title track aren't the only references to the group's childhood home. Even though they currently reside in Santa Cruz, Yellowcard continually honor their humble beginnings. Key told MTV.com, that the entire record details the changes the band has gone through. "[Ocean Avenue] is the story we have sort of been through as a band in the last couple of years, moving from our hometown in [Jacksonville] Florida out to [Southern] California and starting to tour really hard and just sort of following our dreams."
For the Record . . .
Members include Benjamin Harper , guitar; Ryan Key , vocals, guitar; Alex Lewis (left group, late 1990s); Sean Mackin , violin, vocals; Pete Mosely , bass, vocals; Longineu Parsons , drums.
Group formed in Jacksonville, FL, 1997; released Ocean Avenue on Capitol Records, 2003; won MTV Video Award, 2004; released DVD Beyond Ocean Avenue: Live at the Electric Factory, 2004.
Awards: MTV Video Music Award, MTV2 Award, 2004.
Addresses: Record company—Capitol Records, website: http://www.hollywoodandvine.com. Website— Yellowcard Official Website: http://www.yellowcardrock.com.
Produced by Neal Avron (who also produced hit tracks for punk-pop bands Everclear and New Found Glory), by the close of 2004, Ocean Avenue charted three highly successful singles including "Way Away," "Ocean Avenue," and "Only One." The band became regulars on MTV's popular vote-in show, Total Request Live, pushing Ocean Avenue into platinum status. Landing the cover of Alternative Press in March of 2004, and guest starring on an episode of MTV's Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Inferno were only the beginning of the band's success in 2003-04. In November of 2004, the band released their first DVD, Beyond Ocean Avenue: Live at the Electric Factory.
Midget Tossing, Takeover, 1997.
Where We Stand, Takeover, 1999; reissued, 2004.
One for the Kids, Lobster, 2001.
Ocean Avenue, Capitol, 2003.
Beyond Ocean Avenue: Live at the Electric Factory,Capitol, 2004.
Cleveland Scene, April 14, 2004.
USA Today, May 3, 2004.
"Some Meatloaf, A Scoop of Peas, and Yellowcard?," MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1479838/10202003/yellowcard.jhtml (October 24, 2004).
"Yellowcard Challenges Punk Norms," Billboard,http://www.billboard.com/bb/daily/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1952524 (October 24, 2004).
Yellowcard Official Website, http://www.yellowcardrock.com (October 23, 2004).
Warped Tour 2003 Official Website, http://www.warped2003.com/banddetails.asp?bandid=103 (October 22, 2004).
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