Over the course of the last decade, Mayday Parade has sold more than a million albums. Four of their releases have sold over 100,000 units each, with their most successful album (2007’s A Lesson In Romantics) selling more than a half-million copies. They have 60+ videos on YouTube with over 1 million views, and their songs have amassed over 350 million streams in the US alone. That’s pretty impressive for any band, especially one who is navigating the ever-turbulent waters of today’s music industry.
The Tallahassee, Florida-based band (consisting of lead vocalist Derek Sanders, bassist/vocalist Jeremy Lenzo, guitarist Brooks Betts and drummer/vocalist Jake Bundrick) stands ready to unleash their 6th studio album, ‘Sunnyland,’ on June 15th via Rise Records. A powerful follow-up to 2015’s ‘Black Lines,’ the new album serves as Mayday Parade’s most ambitious to date. ‘Sunnyland’ not only teams the band with longtime producers Zack Odom and Kenneth Mount, but for the first time, also unities them with Grammy nominated producer John Feldmann (blink-182, Panic! At the Disco) and Howard Benson (Of Mice & Men, My Chemical Romance). The result is an album built on impassioned vocals, sing-along choruses, and deeply heartfelt lyrics. Ironically enough, Mayday Parade got their start selling CDs in a Warped Tour parking lot, then went on to headline the tour five times.
From the album-opening ‘Never Sure’—a tortured love song driven by blistering riffs and pummeling drumbeats—Mayday Parade instill all of ‘Sunnyland’ with unbridled energy. Whether they’re taking on a folk-infused ballad like ‘Always Leaving’ or channeling brutal punk fury into tracks like ‘If I Were You,’ the band sustains an undeniable intensity. While much of the album explores personal matters like loss and love (as on the stirringly romantic, piano-laced ‘Piece Of Your Heart’), songs such as ‘It’s Hard to Be Religious When Certain People Are Never Incinerated By Bolts Of Lightning’ emerge as an outward-looking burst of anger. “That song was written within months of Donald Trump being elected and came from feeling upset that something as horrible as that could happen,” says Sanders. “But even though there’s a lot of negativity on the song, there’s still a hopeful chorus, because I think we need to try to stay hopeful.” And to close out ‘Sunnyland,’ Mayday Parade delivers the album’s stripped-back title track, a melancholy midtempo number that unfolds with graceful acoustic guitar work, delicate harmonies, and subtly detailed storytelling.
A few days after the album’s release, Mayday Parade will hit the road to headline this year’s final Warped Tour, which kicks off June 21st in Pomona, CA. Having gotten their start selling their CDs in the parking lot of Vans Warped Tour, Mayday Parade has now headlined the tour five times, and will play the main stage again this summer for the tour’s final run. For the band, each live show offers the chance to personally connect with the dedicated following they consider more like a family than a fanbase. And with the release of ‘Sunnyland,’ Mayday Parade’s mission is to continue strengthening that connection through their uncompromising honesty and boundless emotion. It’s sure to be a whirlwind summer for this band on the rise!
Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with bassist/vocalist Jeremy Lenzo for a quick Q&A to discuss the band’s longevity, the creative connection the band members share and the making of ‘Sunnyland.’
It’s pretty inspiring to see what you have accomplished and how you have grown musically. Going all the way back to your humble beginnings, what went into finding your creative voice early on?
We grew up in a small city, with a small music scene. So everyone knew everyone, and we all hung out in the same circles. If one of us wrote a song about something that was going on in their lives, it was easy to connect with because we all were in the same circle so knew where those emotions were coming from. It made the songs real and made it easier for everyone to collaborate on an idea because we all knew what was going on.
What are some of the lessons you learned in your leaner years that impacted the way you’ve approached your career going forward?
One of the first big tours when we were just starting was with the Plain White T’s. We saw how they treated us with respect and made a point to hang out with us even though we were the opener and I’m sure they had other things going on. That really stuck with us, and we tried to make it a point to do the same with other bands whenever we are in that position.
I’m sure it’s changed through the years, but speaking from the point where you stand in 2018, what fuels your creative fire and keeps you so driven?
No matter what stage of life you’re in, we are all dealing with something. We try and pull inspiration from all of life’s events, even the most mundane things can make a good story. We are always writing, and trying to outdo the things we’ve done before.
Mayday Parade has been together for over a decade and is about to release its 6th studio album. Those are huge milestones for any group. What do you consider the keys to longevity when it comes to this band?
You have to love what you’re making, and the people you’re making it with. We all went to high school with each other and played music in the same scene. After being together that long, you learn when to give people space and time to themselves and respect that time when it’s needed.
What can you tell us about the headspace you were in heading into the creative process for ‘Sunnyland’?
We wanted to go back a little to what our fans were comfortable with. Black Lines was a darker departure that was hard for a lot of our fans to grasp, so we wanted to make this album a little lighter and more traditional while still having a few songs that would be reminiscent of the Black Lines album.
Did you have any goals or aspirations or a vision so to speak for this record?
Our goals for our records are always the same, to push ourselves to make a better record than the one before.
How does the finished record differ from what you might have envisioned at the start of the process?
We ended up using some songs that we were originally going to leave off the table because they didn’t fit the vision of the record, but decided to include them in the end to make a more diverse album.
What can you tell us about the songwriting process for ‘Sunnyland’ and how it compares and contrasts to previous albums?
This was our usual writing process. We all write individually and then we get together a few months before we start recording to show all the ideas we have been working on individually. We then choose 15 of the best ones by majority vote, and try and hone in on those to make them the best they can be. Then a month later we repeat the process again right before we go in to record to make sure we all still feel the same or work on new ideas with more potential. With this album we had over 80 songs we were choosing between which was very difficult and maybe a little more than we needed.
What were the biggest challenges you faced in bringing this album to life?
We tried out a lot of producers which we don’t normally do because we wanted to see if it would help bring a different direction to the songs we were working on. While it was a good learning opportunity, I think we were happy to go back to Zack and Ken in the end.
What was it about “Piece of Your Heart” that made it the right choice for a lead single and introduction to this new record?
“Piece of Your Heart” was the last song we recorded and almost didn’t make the album, but I really love that song and I’m glad it did. I think it’s a good opener because it has a good message and also shows people the direction the album is.
You’ve been able to live with the songs for a little while now. Which ones resonate the most with you on a personal level?
I really love “It’s Hard To Be Religious When Certain People Aren’t Incinerated By Bolts Of Lightning”. I think it has a very powerful feel to it.
Which songs came easy and which ones were harder to nail down?
I don’t think anything is hard to nail down as we do a lot of Pre-Production within the band to make sure when we get there the structures and everything all makes sense. Really, we spend a lot of time to just make sure we get the best tones and sounds for everything.
You and the other guys in the band have been making music together for years. What do you bring out in one another creatively?
I think because we all have known each other for so long we can give constructive criticism without the other person taking offense. So, if I show an idea and someone says the verse is cool but that chorus isn’t good and needs to be scrapped, I will scrap it without thinking twice about it. Sometimes you get attached to what you’re writing and think it’s the best, when really you just need someone to honestly tell you it’s no good.
How do you feel you have most evolved as an artist over the course of your career?
I think we have evolved the most in our musician ship, I think everyone in the band is ten times better than they were when started. We have grown so much in how we play and what we write, it’s crazy to go back and listen to old demos.
I think a lot of people might take for granted what you do to keep things moving forward. Can you talk a little bit about what goes into keeping a band like Mayday Parade on the rails and moving in the right direction?
We try and actively listen to what our fans are wanting from us, and take that into consideration when making decisions. We write what we love and always will, but it’s important to know what your fans are wanting and try and incorporate that in what you’re working on. Also, social media is something that didn’t exist when we started the band but plays an important role for every artist nowadays, so having a photographer on tour is a must.
What’s the best way for fans to help support your band in this day and age?
Come to a show and buy a t shirt, but only if you like the shirt because I wouldn’t want you just buying something you won’t wear.
You guys are about to head out on the final Warped Tour. What are your favorite Warped Tour memories from days gone by?
Just hanging out with the bands and crew after the sun goes down. Doing warped for ten years now it feels like a big family and it’s bittersweet to know this is the last one.
Mayday Parade is no stranger to being on the road. How has your approach to touring changed through the years?
We always try and stay out as much as we can, but now we try and route our tours in such a way that we can have a day off in this city or that city just to break up the monotony of it.
The career you are carving out for yourselves, along with a solid body of work, definitely serves as an inspiration. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey?
I’m not sure, maybe just be kind to one another and be grateful for what you have and where you are.
Set for a June 15th release, SUNNYLAND is the band’s 6th studio album and first with Rise Records. Fans who pre-order the album by clicking HERE will receive “Piece Of Your Heart,” “It’s Hard To Be Religious…” and “Never Sure” as instant downloads.