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Yellowcard: a cultural symbol of the human experience

Writen by Jake Steffens
Introduction & Closing By Tre Smith

To every single pop-punk kid that I now know as the doctor that helps the Cleveland Clinic or lays concrete on a hot summer day in the far east side of Ohio, this story is for you. You could even be the friend that is still skateboarding in Wickliffe, blasting the same anthem that was the lining to young adult life for the 2 million music-committed Ohioans in the greater Cleveland area. Yellowcard has been nothing short of a cultural symbol of the human experience of not only the Midwest Americana but also The United States. So, with the utmost gratitude, Ohio, Enjoy.

Yellowcard was formed in 1997 by current members Sean Macklin and Longineu W. Parsons III, with lead singer Ryan Key joining in 2000. It didn’t take much longer for them to shake the punk scene to its core when they released Ocean Avenue in 2003, featuring the double platinum track, Ocean Avenue. Yellowcard has made a name through experimentation, which has been one of its driving factors toward stardom. They brought original influences into the genre with creative songwriting, especially when they feature a fiddle in a hardcore punk band. Their fine-tuned sound translates incredibly to live performance, and the band is well known for relentless touring, even branding their tour bus with an “Always Touring” sticker.

After over a decade of dominating the punk scene, Yellowcard broke up following the release of their self-titled album in 2016, leaving Ocean Ave deserted. They left on good terms, but they believed it was the right time to preserve their legacy as a generational punk band, although many speculate that there were other reasons for the separation. The band members pursued separate paths in the years they were apart. Some opted for corporate life, some fought to continue their music careers, and others settled down with a family. However, through it all, their fans never stopped being fans.
Just because it’s over doesn’t mean it’s over. Those that truly love their craft can never completely stop. Seven years after their final album in 2016, Yellowcard, the band was offered to play a Chicago show celebrating the 20th anniversary of Ocean Avenue. When they got together and finished up their early rehearsal after three songs, it was clear they hadn’t missed a step. Their performance garnered attention from record labels, the winner of the Yellowcard sweepstakes being EQUAL VISION RECORDS. It seems as though the excitement from the band and their fans are at an all-time high, exceedingly even that during their Ocean Avenue days. Yellowcard band members stress how grateful they are for the opportunity. After experiencing the humble life, they are going into this next stage of their career planning to “live like there’s no tomorrow”.

Their national return tour includes acts such as Mayday Parade (who have had a giant stamp in Cleveland culture with countless year of touring here) and Story of the Year, touring count, starting at Milwaukee’s Summerfest on July 1st and a stop at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls on July 12th.

Through a great experience of coordination with Yellowcard’s excellent team, Tre Smith interviews violist Sean Mackin about Cleveland music, Keven Lyman’s Vans Warped Tour (who also covered a previous No Cover Magazine issue in June 2018), Ohio native, Dave Grohl’s influence through The Foo Fighters, golfing, and lastly some great advice for the next generation of music makers in our great city, to move the music culture somewhere positive.

Tre: You’ve performed in various venues around Cleveland & The United States throughout your career. Is there a particular show or memory that stands out to the band?

Sean: I definitely want to share a few of Yellow card’s shows that are special to me. Our reunion show at Riot Fest in Chicago was special. We had zero expectations and there was a massive crowd gathered, with so many of our longtime friends and fans in the audience. The atmosphere was magical. To memory, our finest live performance in Cleveland was Warped Tour visit in 2007. There were so many friends playing that day, the crowd was rowdy under the tent, it was fantastic.

Tre: Cleveland has a rich musical heritage, with legendary spaces like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame celebrating the city’s contributions. What musicians or bands inside the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame have inspired or influenced your sound?

Sean: Yellowcard sound has always been inspired by inductees like the Foo Fighters, but as the violinist, I grew up playing classical music. So, to get a little grit, I would stay up late and learn guitar leads by Slash of Guns and Roses. I thought that made me so cool.

Tre: The Cleveland skyline and Lake Erie provide a beautiful backdrop to the city. Have you had a chance to explore any of Cleveland’s landmarks or attractions during your visits? If so, what are some of your favorite places in the city?

Sean: Just the usual downtown walkabout in search of food or a nice cup of coffee. As an avid golfer, I have been known to sneak out to Ridgewood golf course before a show.

Tre: Is there anything you would want to tell the kids starting a band and advice to give them, to help them navigate and push the genre and love for music forward?
Sean: It takes a lot, and I’m not sure I could “make it” again if I tried…. But I would encourage two things.

1. Have your own sound, something that no one else has or can take from you.
2. Out work everyone. No one will give anything to you. You got to go get it.

To fuel their live performances, along with all the hits we know and love, they are releasing a five-track EP titled “Childhood Eyes” on July 21st. Yellowcard chose the EP format to put a project together for the tour, which leaves room to speculate on a full-length album in the future. The EP reflects their maturity as musicians and individuals, but they still stay true to the iconic Yellowcard sound.
As band leader Ryan Key explained,

“I think these five songs could have just been on that record in 2007. And I love that”.

The title track was released as a single on May 31st, 2023. The song shows that years of life and the music business have not weighed on the band, as they still view the world through “Childhood Eyes”. The idea for the track came to Key “the middle of the night when he woke up with the first lyrics and the melody of the chorus ringing in his head”. The band took the foundation and ran with it, working the rest of the song out together. This isn’t just a single revival tour that ends when the leaves turn. Yellowcard is here to stay for as long as their punk rock is embedded in the should of everyday icons, everywhere.

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