Covering all topics from the first time they came across one anothers' bands, through to the end of Warped Tour, all the way to fatherhood- this chat goes deep.
Mayday Parade and The Wonder Years are on a co-headline run of the UK at the moment, so we got the two frontmen together for a chat.
As their bands come from the same era, but different parts of the scene, we gave them the chance to chat to each other about their experiences and how they got started. This is Derek Sanders and Dan 'Soupy' Campbell, in discussion.
ON… THE EARLY DAYS
Derek: "When I think back to the early years, it was just so exciting to be doing this. It had been a dream of ours since we were in middle school. Playing in a legit band, touring was proof that you were really out there doing it. It was cool to actually make this whole happen. Seeing the country for the first time, seeing places for the first time, crashing on people’s floors, meeting people and actually seeing growth. You do a tour for hardly anybody and then you come around and do the next tour and there are people singing along. It was so exciting to feel like things were actually happening. I don’t think we ever really had any idea how far this would go. We had no idea we would be doing it a year later let alone 13 years down the road. I was never really looking forward that far. Honestly though, they were some of the most fun years of my life."
Dan: "Yeah- well for us, we started a band when we didn’t really mean to start a band. I had decided that maybe it wasn’t for me. I wanted to play music but felt like maybe other people didn’t want me to play music. We basically started this band as a joke. We were the band at all of the local hardcore shows that our friends would play who would grab their instruments and play our two or three songs and then hop off.
"We did a few weekend tours where I realised that people did care about you when you’re out of your home city. Then we put out a split on my “record label” which, to my surprise, got a load of positive reviews. Remember that all of this was still a joke. Then we got an offer to tour the UK. We flew over, rented a van that held six people from a guy called Dodgy Dave and crammed 10 people in. We crashed at places; slept on the sidewalk a couple of times because we couldn’t sleep in the van, stayed in weird shared communal flats. It was fun but at the same time was still like ‘we aren’t a real band’. Still I spent the next couple of years booking all of these DIY tour across the US and England. It was then that we thought let’s give this an honest go."
ON…THE MOMENT THEY REALISED THIS WAS REAL
Derek: "When we were touring the EP [06’s ‘Tales Told By Dead Friends’] it was all a bit of fun. It was at such a low level that it was hard to see that it was actually going somewhere. Even just having the chance to record an album like ‘A Lesson In Romantics’ and sign to Fearless Records was just so huge for us. We had never taken on recording a full-length album with studios and budgets and everything. Then when we put it out and it started gaining traction it was like ‘oh shit’. It was no longer something that we were just doing for a while until it ran out of steam. It was also kind of hectic because Jason [Lancaster], the sixth member of the band, quit on the first tour that we did just after recording and before it even came out. While it was doing relatively well, we had to learn how to be a band again. It was hectic. We were on the road for 7 months straight after the album came out. That was basically the whole of 2007 for us. It was fast and crazy and so much had happened.
Dan: "Yeah, and we came from a similar stance. There are two distinct memories that I have. One where it was maybe we had a shot and the other was holy shit this is happening. So when I thought maybe we had a shot where we had this one weekend where we did two shows with Valencia and one show with Crime In Stereo. They were the biggest shows we were asked to play. I thought we were doing pretty well and carrying our weight. Two things happened. The first was when I was about to walk on stage and I got an email from Eric Tobin wanting to talk about rereleasing ‘The Upsides’ on Hopeless. Then after those three shows I counted up all of our money, I paid all the debt and said ‘holy shit everybody can have $100’. We had only ever lost money on tour. That was a real moment. That’s when I thought maybe we have a shot."
ON… GROWTH AND EXPERIMENTATION
Dan: "I’ve got to say watching Mayday Parade grow is one of the reasons that I wanted to tour with them. Being willing to push the limitations as a songwriter is one of the things that is always interesting for me as a songwriter. I think it’s really cool for them to do that.
"For us in terms of growing, I think that you should write the most honest songs that you can write and if I was attempting to recreate the songs that I wrote when I was 22 when I’m 33 that would feel ingenuous to me. You need to be writing the songs that you should be writing at the time that you are writing them. You should write what your mind is telling you to and that’s what we’ve always done."
Derek: "Honestly, I was 19 when I started Mayday and I’m 32 now. So much has changed in that time and while we still love the early stuff, we started to feel like we were trying to make the same record over and over again by our fourth album. So it’s a natural thing with what we are into now but it also felt a bit like ‘what if nobody cares about what we are doing and we drop off the face of the earth?’ At that point we felt like we were established enough that it wasn’t all just going to go away. After ‘A Lesson In Romantics’ it was like what do we do to keep this thing going. We had seen it happen for so many bands where it was hot for a second and then it goes away. We wanted to avoid that. After 10 years of being a band, it felt like we had that freedom to make the record that we want to make and that we will love. That’s where ‘Black Lines’ came from."
Dan: "As a songwriter I think there is a fear of a misstep. This is how we feed our family. We make music, we make art but the art has to have some commercial value or I have to stop and start another job. People rely on us. I try to think back to when I was, and still am, a fan of music and think how if someone is making the same album again and again they were kind of pandering and it didn’t feel honest. Then again I think of records where a band completely 360s on me and I think ‘shit’ I’m glad they made a record that they like but it’s not what I signed up for’.
"There’s always this very delicate balance of hanging on to what you but growing. You want to make a record that is still at its core what you have always been striving for and that’s what we’ve always tried to do. Some people are going to say ‘my favourite Wonder Years record is 'The Greatest Generation’ while others are going to go ‘well mine is ‘Sister Cities’’ but as long as our fans understand that we are going to make something that we feel is valuable then I think we have a pretty shot at making something they will like."
ON… FIRST PERCEPTIONS OF EACH OTHER’S BANDS
Derek: "The first time I remember meeting some of the Wonder Years guys was in the Philippines at Super Rocks. I remember I had heard of the band because I loved the show The Wonder Years as a kid and thought that was such an awesome name. I remember thinking then that I should check these guys out but I didn’t do it for a while. The first time I remember listening was when we were in the studio recording ‘Monsters In the Closet’ and our photographer Tom Falcone was there and said ‘The Wonder Years a have dropped a new song, let’s check it out’. I think it was ‘Passing Through A Screen Door’. He played it and I was like ‘holy shit this song rips’. I got super into that album then got into the older stuff."
Dan: "I think the time I was aware of Mayday was 08/ 09. We were doing all of these DIY shows and tours. We would come to play shows in Florida and I swear to god the t-shirts in the room felt like 50% A Day To Remember and 50% Mayday Parade. They were the kings of Florida. I remember thinking ‘what the fuck is it about these bands’. At that time I was so busy with college and tours that I was listening to any other music than the bands we were close friends with."
ON… THE IMPORTANCE OF WARPED TOUR
Derek: "We always did the even years of Warped Tour and I feel like The Wonder Years did the odd years. That’s one of those crazy things so we never got to actually do the tour together. But I can’t state enough how important Warped was for our band. The first tour that we ever did in an old band was following Warped and selling CDs and learned that we could sell so many more doing this than actually touring the country. In a previous band, a month of touring would mean we could sell 50-100 CDs but we could sell a couple of a hundred on one day of Warped just walking around. So when that ended and we started Mayday, we knew from day one that we had to write six songs, record them, get the CDs pressed, get a van and then follow the tour. We played it for the first time in 2008 and then playing every two years after. Playing the main stage was so incredible after starting from the bottom. It’s incredibly sad to think of it coming to an end."
Dan: "The 2011 Warped Tour was really rewarding for us because it was an opportunity to go out and work hard. We had no crew except for two guys but every morning everybody had a job. It felt good to be out in the sun and work hard at it. Though as much as I enjoyed the tour, it’s very isolating. You’re just in a parking lot. It was never super great for me mentally. It was all a little too Groundhog Day and I would start getting pretty depressed. I have these incredibly high memories, like when we played last on the Philly date main stage and I remember just bawling on stage because I couldn’t believe I was standing there. Then I had these other days where I was just super depressed and just wanted to go home. The tour had this sort of counterweight to it but I can’t say that I didn’t appreciate the opportunity to be able to play it."
Derek: "Yeah, Warped Tour in a van is the hardest. In so many ways it’s unsafe. It’s so taxing. If you’re the one driving through the night, you’re up all day out in the sun. You can’t go have a break on the bus with the AC and you’re not going to run the van in the day. You’re dirty, you haven’t showered, you’re tired, you’ve been working all day and it definitely takes its toll."
ON… FATHERHOOD WHILE YOU’RE IN A BAND
Dan: "I’m definitely planning on asking Derek for lots of advice on this tour because four weeks after I get home I’m having my first child. Very much blown away by the whole idea and I’m still getting my head how life and touring is going to be so different."
Derek: "Yeah, it’s a crazy thing. My daughter is seven so it’s been a while that I have been doing this with kids. It’s totally doable when you’re an established band. It would be very different if I had had a kid whenever we weren’t making money while doing this, I don’t think I would have been able to keep doing this. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to have my family and to be a dad while still also being able to live my dream. It’s like having two completely different lives. I’m dad at home and then I live this other life. It can be really difficult because I miss my kids so much and I tear up every single time I leave. It’s a really hard thing to do. For us, we have to do this while we can. If we stop or take a break it’s over and on to the next thing and I don’t think we are ready for that."
ON… LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Derek: "It’s really hard to think about moving forward apart from the motivations are all the same. We are a bunch of friends who grew up together and love playing music together and are incredibly lucky to have been able to do this for so long and are even luckier that we get to continue to do it. Then there are things that we talk about such as the next album. In some ways I even think it makes sense to put out albums anymore. The whole model has changed so much that it almost makes more sense to record singles and put them out. Ultimately we realise how many other things we could be doing with our lives and just how lucky we are that we are actually doing this."
Dan: "I think we have had a very similar thing. We all love each other so fucking much. My band was my best men at my wedding. They are my guys. As long as we love each other and as long we are happy doing this and as long as we feel we are making art that has value, then we want to do it. If it gets to a point where the scales tip and any of us are less happy doing this than we would do anything else, then we should go chase that thing. Touring has got harder physically, emotionally and mentally, and I imagine it will get even harder when the baby comes, but I fucking love doing this. Not everyday is a great day. Some days you are miserable and tired but on balance I still love doing this so much."
Mayday Parade and The Wonder Years are currently on a massive co-headliner across the UK. Check out all remaining tour dates below: