the AU interview: Derek Sanders of Mayday Parade (USA) reflects on band's journey, tour life and more

Teaming up with Yellowcard in July, Mayday Parade are coming back to Australia to do a leg of shows whilst showcasing their tug-on-your-heartstrings kind of songs that have made fans fall in love with the band around the world. The alternative rock band from Tallahassee, Florida have gone through challenge after challenge but it’s safe to say that they've developed a thick skin and have moved forward, continuing to make the music they love.

Frontman Derek Sanders shares his insights on touring with the band and reflects on his past musical ventures that have helped shaped Mayday Parade. He also tells us what he’s looking forward to most about the upcoming shows.

So back in late 2013, you guys released Monsters In The Closet. What was the story behind the album title?

I suppose the best way to sum it up would be that it's a lyric from one of the songs and this was before we decided it would be the album title. We thought it was kind of a key lyric that brings up a lot of imagery. It's very visual and we thought it'd be cool to do things artistically with it and we just kind of thought it was a cool summary of the album.

I find that the band have very empowering and emotional songs. How do you guys write songs with so much emotional depth?

We just try our best to make music that is meaningful to us and we try not to fake it. Musically and lyrically we always wanted it to come from the heart and to just do something we love. We don't really think about it too much or overanalyse it really; we just try and do the best we can and it comes out the way it does.

Is it often about personal experiences or do you just write things based on how you're feeling and then turn it into a song?

A little bit of both I would say. I'd say the majority of it is from personal experience but that’s not always the case for a handful of songs. For example, "Terrible Things" is kind of a song about a father talking to his son about his mother’s passing and it's quite a heavy topic. It's not from a personal experience in my life or anything but it's just something that I wanted to write a song about. There are a handful of songs like that where, you know, it's kind of just the story, then there are songs based on personal experiences while growing up as well.

So how does it feel knowing that your music has brought such a powerful force towards your fans around the world?

It's really amazing; it's a very humbling thing especially because we didn't really set out to do that. We all just set ourselves to make music, play music and see what we could do with it. Seeing how far its come and the effect it has on some people is just amazing to hear - it’s a very humbling experience. We're grateful that we're able to have a positive impact on people's lives through our songs.

You also play piano as well. Being in an alternative rock band, do you find that the piano adds elegance to your songs?

I suppose so, yeah. It's the first thing I started doing when I first started playing music. I ended up taking piano lessons and I got to learn how to play guitar. I've always loved playing piano and love what it adds to the music. It's funny because I feel like in the beginning when we did, "Miserable At Best" from our first album, I felt like it was okay to keep on doing these piano kind of songs just cause it worked so well and we just stuck with it.

It must be a beautiful thing to be on stage and have fans singing lyrics back at you. Has this given you perspective as a growing musician?

Oh yeah, it absolutely has. I mean, it's probably the best part about all of this. It's an amazing job that we have that we're able to do all these incredible things but probably the most fun I have is when I hop on stage and when we're playing new songs. When people are singing along and just having a good time - it's an incredible feeling.

As a teenager, I went to so many shows and it was just such a fun experience for me; being in the crowd, singing along and whatever. Now that I’m on the other side of it, it's amazing. It's tough to say whether or not it's changed us necessarily but I think that we've just hoped that it's helped us grow as a band. Overall, we're very grateful to have many opportunities to be on stage.

Yeah because I think it was last year you guys did Soundwave and I also went to your sidewave show as well and there is such a massive difference between your festival performance to an actual intimate gig. I feel like people are so much closer and there's a sense of togetherness in the crowd when it does come to your intimate shows.

Yeah, absolutely. It's so strange because there is such a big difference between a festival show and a club setting and I love being able to do both but the club setting is a much more intimate thing and it's like magic, you know.

Following up on that, the band is teaming up with Yellowcard in their upcoming Australian shows. What do you find most challenging while on tour?

Well, I'd say the only really challenging part of it is that there's people that you don't get to see everyday that you miss. My daughter is back at home and whenever we have long stretches when we're away for a while, of course I miss being with her and that's probably the most difficult thing about it because we have people that we love and that we'd love to see everyday. Otherwise, tour is just so much fun and I couldn't have asked for a better lifestyle.

I love the fact that the five of us as a band grew up together and that we're all best friends. We have the opportunity to travel the world and play shows all the time and experience all these new things and meet new people and it really is such a blast. Other than that, the distance can sometimes be tough if you're gone for a long time but apart from that, it's all pretty great.

Musicians are away from home a lot and obviously they don't see loved ones as often. Whenever you're at home, do you make the most of your time there when you know that you're going on tour soon?

Yeah I try to, you know. It is tough because right now for example, we've been gone for a month and then we have two weeks off and then we leave again for about two months so it's tough to kind of do everything you wanna do in those two weeks off that you have and see whoever you wanna see. At this point, it's been almost ten years for us now and I find that we can all balance it out. We don't necessarily spend so much time on the road like we used to and we do try and find more time to spend at home which is nice.

So when you first started as a band, how did you find the commitment to push yourselves to get to where you are now?

Well, that's kind of the story of how we came together. Each of us played in different bands while growing up and we went to different high schools. We all kind of knew each other and and it really kind of worked out that we found ourselves in the position where there were two bands; some of us really wanted to take it seriously and take it to the next level and there were some members that weren't quite on the same page.

In the other band, some of the guys were totally in for it and we just got together and had a meeting about it and we all just had the mindset of going at it hard and try and make this happen and that was the goal from the start: to dedicate as much time and energy and effort as we could into this band. We followed Warped Tour in 2008, and sold CDs and that’s how we jump started the band and the rest just happened.

Was there a moment in time where you felt lost and you didn't know where you were going? How did you get through that?

Yeah absolutely. I'd say that kind of happened and luckily it was early on and it was during our recording of our second album, Anywhere But Here. There were a lot of things going on. To begin with, there were six members in the band and Jason left so it was our first album without him. We were on a major label at this point and we had just signed to Atlantic and it was a whole different ball game being on an independent label where they wanted us to do all these things and jump through all these hoops and we weren't really sure what to do from there.

We did all these things that we really didn't want to do but we didn't want to rock the boat too much; we were kind of aimless on where to go but I think recording that album kind of made us realise that we needed to just do things our way and make the music that we wanted make so that kind of helped us solidify our band. I feel like we're in a much better place because of it and we learnt a lot from doing that record.

Since Jason left the band, you guys came back with Anywhere But Here but that was a really solid album, however people still seemed to make a huge fuss over him leaving. I think it's awesome that you guys have adapted to change very easily. Would you say that resilience played an important part as well?

Yeah, absolutely. I mean we kept on being as strong as we could even after he left, you know. I think the biggest thing for us is that we don't hate that album; we just felt like that there was lost potential and that we could've done better.