On Oct. 11 winter formal gowns and tattered Converse combinations were all the rage amongst the wrap-around line waiting for the doors of San Francisco’s Regency Center Ballroom venue to finally open. Rumor had it that the craziest outfit would be granted backstage access. A brunette with bright blue streaks in her adolescent hair, proudly clad in the Forever-21 sales rack interpretation of a bumble bee (knee high striped socks, obnoxiously yellow skirt, and miniature disco balls dangling from each ear), was one such hopeful amongst the gaggle of barely-teens that stood ogling Mayday Parade’s big black tour bus. Lead guitarist Alex Garcia encouraged the frenzy by making faces from behind the tinted windows.
The inside of this Tallahassee-grown pop rock caravan was remarkably tidy and smelt distinctly of holiday spice candles. Even the 5-man-band’s stock of water bottles and unopened vodka was neatly stacked in the corner.
The band has received innumerable letters from adolescents like the kids waiting outside who say that Mayday Parade’s music has helped them overcome thoughts of suicide, get through a break-up, and make new friends. “We write music for whoever,” said lead singer Derek Sanders. “We write songs about things that we’re going through.” This consists primarily of dramatic heartache, according to their lyrics. “They think it’s the world,” said Sanders. “We feel the same.”
Since the departure of openly disgruntled former singer, lyricist, and guitarist Jason Lancaster in 2007 “crazy rumors” have circulated through the web. Much of the fan base, which once made their Florida hometown the biggest show of the tour, took Lancaster’s side and accused Mayday Parade of “selling out.” “It’s weird…it makes you never want to play (there),” said Sanders.
San Francisco on the other hand, “is my favorite city in the U.S.,” said Betts. The band acknowledges that they still have a loyal fan base and they’re grateful for all their listeners. They’ve still got stars in their eyes and hope to become like the rock stars they once idolized.
The members of Mayday Parade range from the ages of 23 to 27; only two members of Mayday Parade (Garcia and drummer James Bundrick) have ever even been enrolled at a college. Sanders and Brooks Bett, rhythm guitarist, have been in a band together since the 7th grade. Mayday Parade’s indistinct radio-friendly repertoire reeks of youth’s symbiotic amateurism and sincere intent. “It’s hard to say if we really do a good job of setting ourselves apart,” confessed Sanders. “Originality is not our main goal,” Garcia agreed. “As long as we express ourselves and we make music,” Sanders said.
The band was big on this notion of expressing. “Express,” once uttered, instantly became the band’s smile-and-nod-along mantra. But with the success of being signed by a major label the band has sacrificed some of its cathartic creative autonomy. “I Swear This Time” and “The End” are the only songs not co-written by the label off of the band’s newest album, “Anywhere But Here.” They don’t seem to mind what Sanders called the commercialization of the band.
Mayday Parade insisted their flat-ironed and strategically tousled image is not another aspect of that marketing. “We grew up wearing tight jeans,” said Garcia. “We were those kids,” said Bundrick in reference to their young fans. They still are; just add stubble and a contract. The band’s only plans for the future are to keep touring and making music. “You’re doing it for them [the fans] and to see them singing along and how much it means to them,” said Sanders. “It’s the only thing I’m any good at,” he shrugged. “Video games,” Garcia corrected him. The group nodded. Sanders rephrased his statement, music is the only thing he is “passionate enough to be good at.”
That passion of the band is their redemption. That night the band thrashed, jumped and blew kisses from the stage with an entrancing vigor. That energy breathed vitality into otherwise formulaic music and gripped the enamored audience by the throat; the whole venue sang along.
“San Francisco, you sound amazing. Thanks for signing with us,” Sanders said, smiling to the crowd. Sanders asked who had been at their last show in San Francisco a year ago and the venue was suddenly brimming with arms, young and not quite so young alike, waving in the air with the eagerness of a schoolboy yearning to blurt out an answer. Mayday Parade and their fans share a mutual infatuation so frivolous and so ardent it could be nothing other than first-love.