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Yellowcard has been making music on and off since 1997. However, the group already has more ex-members than current members, which tells you a little bit about the turmoil it’s been through in the last decade-plus. Most recently, the members of Yellowcard took a two year hiatus from band activity. In this fast-moving music culture, such a long break might kill lesser bands. In the case of Yellowcard, however, the time off only made them stronger. The group is back with a solid new album titled When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes, which comes in both an amplified and acoustic version.

Stereo Subversion talked with guitarist Ryan Mendez about the ups and downs of one of the most popular alternative rock bands around and what it’s like to keep secrets in the digital age.

Stereo Subversion: It’s interesting that you have an acoustic version of the new album, and I’m wondering if that means that you really like the songs so much that you can present them in sort of a different way and be just as happy with them. Or do you think that doing them acoustically just brings out something different that maybe the more amplified versions don’t really bring out?

Ryan Mendez: We like to do acoustic stuff. We have some acoustic songs here and there on the other records. We actually did a full acoustic tour back in 2008. Our fans have always kind of liked that side of the band. So it was kind of something where we wanted to do something special for the fans, where we knew that they’d appreciate it. A lot of the songs that we write just for the regular records will start off acoustic; like, the foundation for the song will be written on acoustic guitar. So it’s not too much of a stretch to kind of finish the song and then kind of bring it back down and see how it turns out. We were going to record just few of the songs for acoustic b-sides, and then we finally just ended up recording all of them.

SSv: What kinds of responses have you gotten? Do some like the acoustic versions better?

When we took our break, it was like, ‘You know, we’re done until further notice.’ We didn’t know how long it was gonna be. If bands are having conflicts, I would definitely say take a little break.

When we took our break, it was like, ‘You know, we’re done until further notice.’ We didn’t know how long it was gonna be. If bands are having conflicts, I would definitely say take a little break.

Mendez: I’ve actually read some comments of people saying, ‘Oh, I like the acoustic one better than the regular album.’ There are lot of fans that really, really enjoy the acoustic side of the band, so we knew that people would be pretty happy with it. I’ve spent a ton of time on it making sure that it sounded really good and so I definitely feel really confident in the quality of it, so it’s just a matter of getting it to people. We kept it a secret for many, many, many months. It’s just been done forever, so we wanted to release it privately and stuff. I’m glad it’s finally out and we can talk about it.

SSv: How hard is it to keep secrets from Yellowcard fans?

Mendez: This day and age, with the Internet and all the various social networks, it’s very, very hard. About a week or two ago there was some stuff that kind of came out on the Internet. I think, like, Amazon UK put up a pre-order link to it. But for the most part, it was a surprise. It was hard, but it was very satisfying to finally do it.

SSv: I noticed a lot of the tracks are songs about music. There’s one song called “Soundtrack.” On “With You Around” you name-drop Saves The Day. Then there’s one called “Sing For Me.” How do explain all those references? Coincidental or intentional?

Mendez: No, I think it’s coincidental. I think that music in general is always the biggest part of all of our lives. We’re musicians and that’s our entire life, so I think the bands and songs that we all love and listen to play such a big role in the music that we make, so it’s kinda natural for it to come out here and there. I think lyrically Ryan likes to reference just the idea of music in general. I don’t think there’s anything intentional about it. I think it just kinda happens because of the huge role that music in general plays in all our lives.

SSv: So I have to ask you, have you ever had the name of your band referenced in a song?

Mendez: Um, I can’t say that I know of any situations where that’s happened. I mean, obviously, there’s a lot of younger, up and coming bands and I haven’t really had the chance to go listen to all of them, but as far as I know, that has not happened.

SSv: Okay. But that would be a proud moment, I would imagine.

Mendez: Yeah, that would definitely create confidence if I had that.

SSv: Unless, of course, it was preceded or followed by expletives.

Mendez: Yeah, right. That probably wouldn’t be so good.

SSv: The band has definitely had its ups and downs as far as personnel changes. You kind of had that sabbatical for a while. I imagine readers are gonna wanna know how stable is the band right now?

Mendez: Probably the most stable the band has ever been. I think this is the most solid, most focused, kind of everyone being on the same page together lineup that’s existed in the band – at least as long as I’ve been in the band. We are all pretty happy and we all feel everyone’s on the same page.

SSv: What would you attribute that stability to? Is it just maturity or what? What would say has caused it to be such a good place for the band?

Mendez: I think there’s a couple things. One of these things with this lineup, we have Sean O’Donnell, our new bass player; he’s been a good friend of the band for a long time. He’s been working hard to form a music group for himself and I know that he’s really been playing music for such a long time and that’s all he wants to do, so the fact that he has the opportunity to come and do this now, he’s just so grateful and happy to be here.

In the past with members, there’s always been some sort of drama issue where either someone is distracted with something else or their whole mind isn’t really focused on the band or there are conflicts where they don’t really want to be in the band, but they also don’t want to not be able to play music. So, nothing’s really happening these days. Everyone wants to be here. Everyone wants to be in this band doing this, so it’s really so it really creates an energy and it’s very strong.

And I think also just taking a couple years off also just kind of helps everyone else in the band to really refocus and realize that we all really want to play music and we have a voice that can reach people. I mean, our fans have kinda proven that they still want to listen to us, so that kind of helps us all to be focused and be very kinda stable – if that makes any sense.

SSv: Would you recommend taking time off to other bands that might be having internal conflicts?

Mendez: Um, I would in the sense that, I mean, if you’re having conflicts, you’re having conflicts. If not, then you’re going to keep going forward and not solve the problem. That’s not really gonna help anything. As far as taking off as much time as we did, I can’t necessarily say that I would recommend planning on taking two years off. We didn’t really plan on that happening. We knew we were going to take a hiatus, but we didn’t in terms of, ‘Oh, you know what? We’re gonna take a break for about 2 ½ years and then we’re going to go make a new record and go start touring again.’

When we took our break, it was like, ‘You know, we’re done until further notice.’ We didn’t know how long it was gonna be. If bands are having conflicts, I would definitely say take a little break. But who knows how that’s going to end up? And I can’t really say that I would recommend to anyone to break up or anything. Luckily with our situation it worked out well for us because it kinda refreshed us a little bit.


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