Tallahassee, FL five-piece Mayday Parade released their self-titled album in 2011. But this self-titled full-length is not their first... The band have been around since 2005 and 'Mayday Parade' is the successor to their major label release 'Anywhere But Here' and debut album 'A Lesson In Romantics'. 'Mayday Parade', the album, is the band (Derek Sanders, Brooks Betts, Jeremy Lenzo, Alex Garcia and Jake Bundrick) having learnt exactly who they are and what they want. They're getting wiser both within the music industry and outside of it. We caught up with vocalist Derek Sanders who tells us how he thinks music is alive and well, what he last did that was outside of his comfort zone, how he'd like to make the world a better place and what exactly is too crucial to ignore.
Watch or read the interview below...
Shari Black Velvet: Your latest album is ‘Mayday Parade’ and you’ve said you chose to call it that because you feel like this is who you are now, and you’ve learned what you want and don’t want over the last few years. You’ve been a band since 2005. When you look back to when you formed and to where you are now, do you think it’s been a good journey? Do you wish you’d learned what you wanted or didn’t want earlier, or do you think it was something you had to go through to get where you are now?
Derek Sanders: Yeah. 1) It’s crazy it’s been this long, it doesn’t feel like it’s been 6 ½ years. I feel, like you said, it’s a learning experience along the way and I don’t think I would change anything about what we’ve done, even though there was a time we didn’t know exactly who we were and we made a lot of compromises, so you learn from that. There’s no point in wishing you could change things like that. Obviously that’s just part of growing up and getting wiser and learning from your mistakes.
SBV: You mentioned that when you were on Atlantic they wanted you to do a lot of co-writes. Do you think major labels press for co-writes hoping to get chart-topping hits, and how do you feel your own songwriting compares with a songwriter who co-writes for a living?
DS: It’s just a different kind of thing. There’s obviously something to be said for hit radio songs that people love, but the problem that I had, that we had, working with co-writers is that you’re basically put in a room with someone who knows nothing about your band or you as a person, your music and you’re just told to write a song together… It feels very forced and it’s not as genuine or real as how it works for us where we enjoy writing music. I like to come up with music and write songs with the guys and it’s a natural thing. We do it because we love it and we want to and not because it’s a forced kind of thing. I think that’s why it didn’t really work out for us.
SBV: You’ve got a song on the new album called ‘No Heroes Allowed’. Do you think there are any heroes in rock music? Either people that fans look up to, or do you think there are any musicians that are saving music and deserve to be heroes?
DS: Absolutely. Definitely a lot of my heroes are musicians… Freddie Mercury, Kurt Cobain, there are tons… there are people that are keeping it alive… People say that rock n’ roll is dying, music is dying or whatever, but it’s always going to be there, people are always going to enjoy listening to music. I think it’s alive and well and it just takes people that are out here doing it, keeping it going.
SBV: What makes a hero to you, outside of the music world? Who are some real life heroes?
DS: I think anybody being selfless… somebody who is not selfish, that’s the best attribute you can have, I think. Overall that’s something everybody can learn from... to try and aspire to be as selfless as you can. At least in my definition.
SBV: In ‘No Heroes Allowed’ you sing ‘My hero, she’s the last real dreamer I know’. Do you think heroes need to dream big?
DS: Yeah, I think everybody should dream big and follow their own dreams… yeah.
SBV: You tweeted on Feb 24th, ‘Do something outside of your comfort zone’. What have you done lately that was outside of your comfort zone? DS: Probably last night! Not in a weird way… Being crowd-surfed in a room full of drunk people for Dan’s birthday last night. In general it’s easy to get caught in a routine of things you do every day and are comfortable with. It’s nice to be spontaneous and do something completely unnatural or do something you wouldn’t normally do, to give you that change in your life.
SBV: Jake’s not been able to speak or sing due to having a polyps on his vocal chord. How did that affect shows? And life on the road? DS: It’s been tough. There have been two tours now… The one in the States, the End Of The World Tour with We The Kings, and this tour, have been the tour tours that Jake’s not singing on. But it’s fine, we’ve adapted. Cabby sings more of the stuff that Jake was singing and I cover some of it. Some of it we just have the crowd sing. It is what it is. It sucks, but hopefully he’ll be better soon enough that he can start getting back at it.
SBV: Have you ever had any vocal problems?
DS: No, thankfully. We’ve never had to cancel a show or anything based on my voice being gone. Luckily it’s held out so far.
SBV: Your mother became vegan a couple of years ago, and your grandmother’s vegan too. Before you became vegetarian, did they affect you in any way? What did you think of vegans and vegetarians before you became vegetarian? DS: My mom has always, even before she became a straight vegetarian and then vegan, always growing up she never ate much meat, and I’ve always kind of agreed with her on … I don’t know if I mentioned this before but even before I was vegetarian I always had this… you’d see people who’d knock it and say “I don’t know why people don’t eat meat” and stuff, and it’s like, “It makes sense to me”. Even though I still ate meat, I would think it was a reasonable thing, I don’t see why… you don’t need to eat meat.. Even before I eventually found out enough to make me want to become vegetarian I always had an understanding of it, and it didn’t seem a weird concept to me as much as it is to a lot of people. And I think a lot of that was probably because of my mom.
SBV:You became vegetarian after reading ‘Eating Animals’, a book by Jonathan Safran Foer. What did it say in that book that made you go veggie?
DS: It’s the whole thing. It basically made me realize there’s really only one reason to eat meat – that is that it tastes good. That is the only reason why people eat meat. And there are dozens of reasons not to eat meat. You realize that whenever you educate yourself on it. Things that you would never have even thought of… Things that most people don’t think of. There are tons of different reasons why you shouldn’t eat meat and the only reason you should is that it tastes good – so for me it became at that point you can’t really justify it. It’s not worth it to me.
SBV: Jonathan Safran Foer started visiting factory farms in his quest for answers when he was on the brink of fatherhood. Now you’re a father, are you going to bring your daughter up as a vegetarian? What sort of things of a compassionate nature will you instill in your daughter?
DS: I definitely want to pass that along as much as I can. It’s kind of a weird subject – my girlfriend, she’s not vegetarian but she lives at home with me and my mom so we eat a lot of vegan/vegetarian stuff all the time anyway, and I’ve told her that our daughter, Grey, doesn’t have to be vegetarian but I’d like for her to eat not very much meat, not be brought up like most people are where every meal of the day has your meat course. I’d much rather it be… until the point where she can decide for herself, whether she wants to or not.
SBV: As we grow up as children our parents give us meals and bring us up a certain way, and we get used to what we’ve been given, like drinking milk, eating fish for example. Do you think kids ought to be educated more about what they eat? And do you think traditions and doing what others before you did doesn’t necessarily mean something’s right?
DS: Yeah, and not just children. I think people in general need to be educated on what they’re eating because most people don’t really know. I didn’t know for a long time. I think having the parents be more educated is the best thing to do, the ones that are feeding their kids. If your whole life you’ve been eating a certain way it’s hard to break those habits… whenever you’re at the point of understanding it on your own.
SBV: You tweeted ‘It would make me so happy if you all watched Forks Over Knives’ on Feb 4th. How did that movie affect you? DS: For me, it’s like you don’t have to convince me, I’m already a huge advocate of not eating meat, but it was just more evidence in the direction of ‘this is wrong, this system that we have now is wrong and it’s being held back from people that it’s wrong, it’s being hidden from people that it’s wrong’, but if you really look at the facts and see what’s there, there are so many bad things about it. The Forks Over Knives one is mostly just about the health of it and how eating meat is bad for you and causes all these diseases, causes cancer and heart disease and multiple sclerosis, and things like that. It’s just another step in that direction of reasons why you shouldn’t eat meat.
SBV: In ‘You’re Dead Wrong’ you sing ‘make my voice brand new’. As a singer in a band, you have a voice – not just for singing but to get messages out to other people. Do you feel you have a message to give outside of what you sing?
DS: I don’t do it as much as I should. I’ve been thinking about it recently, about writing a couple of blogs I want to write, or whatever. We have a unique position to be able to talk to people and be able to reach them and have them want to hear what we have to say. There’s a lot of power in that, I guess, so I’d like to be able to use it for something positive and be able to make the world a better place. That’s why I do try and tweet those things. They have the AP Speak Out articles that they do, I did one on racism a while back and I’ve kind of been wanting to do another one of those on eating less meat. One thing, this is kind of off-topic I guess, but the biggest angle that doesn’t get approached is that we need to eat less meat. Most peple look at it as there’s vegetarians who don’t want to eat meat because they don’t want to kill animals and “I’m going to go on eating meat every single day”, but they feel like they’re not going to completely cut it out of their lives so they’re going to keep on eating it all the time. No-one ever says ‘Hey, it’s fine, you can eat it, but the way that we’re eating it is way too much and it’s the reason these things are going wrong, so cut it out for a couple of days a week or maybe just have meat on the weekends or whatever, because there are plenty of great substitutes and if you don’t want to make the full commitment to completely cut it out you can still do a lot of good by just choosing a few days a week or a few meals a week where you don’t eat meat and then you still get to eat it the rest of the time, so.. Most people don’t ever consider that or do that. That’s something that I think is a message that should be spoken out.
SBV: In the UK Paul McCartney helped start Meat Free Monday. DS: Yeah. Exactly. I’d heard about that and that’s a wonderful idea. I wish that would spread more and we could see more of that.
SBV: In ‘Call Me Hopeless, Not Romantic’ you sing ‘Don’t show emotion, let this go’. Do you think too many people hide their emotion and especially don’t want to look at things that involve cruelty? For example, if you want to show a meat eater undercover footage from a slaughterhouse a lot of the time they won’t want to watch it – because they know they won’t like it.
DS: Yeah, it’s like ‘ignorance is bliss’, right? I’ve tried to have my dad read ‘Eating Animals’ and he’s like ‘Nope! I don’t want to do it, I don’t want to do it, I don’t want to know!’ A lot of people have that attitude and I kind of understand it a little bit. I maybe used to be that way a little bit. But I think it’s too important and it’s too crucial to ignore. That’s the problem – it’s a hard thing to bring up to people. People get very touchy and sensitive about it when you try and tell anybody or talk to anybody about it… I think we have to keep on doing what we can.