Yellowcard

author TL date 14/09/11

Right, so a couple of you readers may remember that I reviewed Yellowcard's show in Copenhagen recently, and while I was at it, I actually also had the chance to sit down for a chat with one of the longest standing members, drummer Longineu Parsons III (from here on referred to as "LP"). I regret that it has taken 2+ weeks to type the whole thing up, but as you are about to discover, Parsons was considerably more eager to talk than most guys who have been in the business as long as he has (he likes to start a lot of sentences without finishing them too, but we'll let that slide), so hence transcribing it all was quite the little task. Here it all is finally though, so read on to find out what he thinks of "Lights And Sounds", the band's hiatus and his job drumming for Adam Lambert:

RF.net: So obviously you guys are touring right now in support of the first album after your reunion, so please just tell us how things are going with the tour and the reunion and so on.
LP: Aww man it's a blessing in disquise you know. We had taken three years off.. We'd just been on tour for so long, and when you tour for so long without taking a break, just like we did - and that's what you have to do to maintain your fan base, especially in the US where I feel like people have such a short attention span.. You know, one day you're here, the next you're gone and if you try to come back later you'll just disappear.. Touring the way we did, we were doing 267 shows a year and our time off was spent writing and recording the next record, so we could go out and do it again. By the time all of that was said and done, there weren't very many days out of 365 days a year that we were just on our own time. It just didn't happen. So finally after so many years of just touring hard we just said to ourselves that we needed to take a break for a time, just so we could come back with a fresh mind and write the way we used to write. Yellowcard is a very happy band. We're built on a lot of passionate writing. We write from the heart and everything that we do is because we want to do it. We don't write to write a single and we don't write to like, necessarily please 8 million people. We write to please ourselves and to please the people around us who listen to us for what we do. We all have such diverse backgrounds, so taking that break and coming back together again, it was like rejuvinating ourselves. And now I feel like this is the best line-up we've ever had. We've got a new bass player, Sean O'Donnell who is an amazing bassist, he used to play for a band called Reeve Oliver - They're an amazing band too - but yeah we have him as a bass player, and as a drummer I click with him a lot on stage, and all together the vibe is perfect. We're all happy, we hang out together and we're all best friends, so it works out that way and our music is back where we want it to be. So I'd say I love the break that we just took, and I love that we're back together and out touring now.

RF.net: So do you feel like you can make a schedule that's less taxing on you this time around, maybe reserving a little more time to stay grounded?

LP: You know what? No actually, we are hitting it hard. I think we've taken enough time off - That it's time for us to get back to work and be with our fans again and really, really just kick ass and take names.

RF.net: Speaking of your fans, this is your first time playing in Denmark - What are your expectations for this show, being the first one here?
LP: Man, hmm, expectations.. From what people have been telling me, this place goes off pretty hard.. It's a very embrasive place to be.. Everywhere we've toured in Europe have been just mindblowing. Things that we haven't expected have been happening like.. In Germany we were expecting 500 kids, and then 3000 kids showed up. Things like that have been happening, and the way that fans have been talking and responding to our music on stage has been mindblowing. There's been a couple of times that were like tear-jerkers because all these people listen to our music, singing our lyrics and are requesting songs that we've written 10 years ago. It's a great feeling to have and you know, I love being here personally because I've never been here before. Denmark's been a place that's been on my 'check-list' of places to go in my life and it's a beautiful place.

RF.net: So do you feel like all these fans that are seeing you for the first time have embraced the newer material as much as the older stuff - like, at least my friends and I have been waiting to see "Ocean Avenue" material ever since that came out.. So do you feel like people have welcomed the new stuff as well?

LP: Absolutely. I feel like.. Just like "Ocean Avenue" was like 'talking to people', I feel like this new one is talking to people as well and we've always been a band of a good message. We did "Lights And Sounds" and it had a darker approach, and it's all a lifestyle, so like how I said this is the best line-up we ever had, us all being happy, in the end that translated on our record. And with it translated on our record I feel like the fans are really catching that and they're feeling good about it to. I feel like this is a time in life when people need to have something positive put out there, because there's enough negativity in the world right now between the recession, the depression, the war, people hating each other... I feel like there needs to be a positive message out there somewhere for people to take home and really feel good about themselves.. Instead of going out and feeling down and depressed about the way life is, because life is always going to be that way and as long as we're out there, we're going to try our best to be a positive band that can sort of 'uplift' people's inner selves. I think that's really important because I think that's what music is to me and to all of us - Actually I know that to all of us it's more important and more powerful than our own government at times.. And I think that people really take onto music in a big way.. From the first show I saw, which was Miles Davis and which changed my life, and then seeing Green Day.. Pantera.. Those are shows that really impacted my life in a big way and I really took to it and I listened to it and I think that's what people are doing now with what we're doing and I embrace it - I love it!

RF.net: Okay I want to go way back for a bit, because obviously you guys have been around for like 10 years...
LP: 17!

RF.net: Shit, that long?

LP: Yeah, haha, it's been a while!

RF.net: Can you tell us for starters how you came up with the bandname Yellowcard?

LP: Well okay, a yellow card obviously is a soccer term for a penalty, and we came up with the name because - you know we all hung out in high school together, we're all best friends for literally those 17 years PLUS - and we used to hang out and party all the time, and then Sean - our violinist Sean Mackin - his parents' house is in Marsh Landing, which is this place in Jacksonville, Florida where all the rich golfers live in like, million dollar homes - We were partying in his house where there was a white couch, and someone dropped red punch all over this expensive couch, and we weren't supposed to be there in the first place so someone at the party said "man, you just got a yellow card for that!" and we were like: "hey.. I like that! I like where that went.. Let's call the band Yellowcard!". We'd called the band so many different names back then.. We were Purgatory.. We were.. You know we had so many different names and then finally we were like, Yellowcard, that's what we're gonna stick with, and we've been that ever since.

RF.net: Speaking of Sean, you see a lot of rock bands these days using either violins or violin samples on their records, but you guys kind of made it your trademark including Sean as a member and having his violin on every record. What gave you that idea? What made you choose having a violinist in a rock band?
LP: Well, it all started like.. We had tried different things.. We had a horn player, we had a trombone player, we had a cello player, and Sean would always come and hang out, he'd be a part of everything and he was always on stage whether he was doing something or not, just full of energy.. Finally.. Like they had a group years ago, Ryan Key, Sean, Ben Harper and all them, they had a group called String Suit (Ed: I think that's the name - Can't make it out on my recording).. Or no, Ryan Key wasn't part of that, it was Ben Harper and a few other people.. I can't really remember, but they had a group called String Suit, which was like an acoustic thing where Sean played violin.. Finally, from him hanging out and being friends with all of us we were like "well, pull out the violin and let's try this". Next thing you know, he's with us on a song and then it went from one song to a few songs to the entire record to he is Yellowcard with us.

RF.net: One of your fans (Ed: okay, it was PP) wants to know: When you write your songs do you start with the violin melody and then build the guitars around it, or is it the other way around?
LP: Erhm, we.. With writing usually Ryan will come up with some melodies and then usually we'll write off those and just try to construct it from there. A lot of times it also comes from the rhythm section and then we build the melodies from there. It all depends.. Like you never know with the band because we're all equal in this band, so when an idea comes up we all just kind of write to it. It can go from the bass, it can go from the drums or the guitar, you know, it's no telling where it starts. So it's important with us that we keep our ears open to each other..

RF.net: So it's not like one person comes in with a lot of stuff already done..

LP: No no no.. I mean with this last record - because we were coming off a three year hiatus - Ryan Key and Ryan Mendez had come up with a lot of melodies.. I think Sean was a part of that too.. They'd come up with a lot of melodies and things in pre-production while I was touring with Adam Lambert. While I was on that tour we started getting the band back together again and passing songs around, and I was writing while on the road and they were sending me material, so that's how we did that record. This next record that we're gonna do is gonna be us all in a room, just like we did "Ocean Avenue", doing pre-production together, writing from scratch together which is the way it should be done.

RF.net: I'm going to get back to the hiatus and the Adam Lambert job in a little bit, but first another fan question - When you released "Lights And Sounds", you were quite vocal about it being a different record for you, and that it didn't matter if a lot of the fans didn't get it. As far as we could see that record didn't get as good a response compared to the previous one.. Did that discourage you in any way and did that have anything to do with you going back to that slightly more positive sound on the next two records.
LP: Erhmm.. No. I mean we write music for us and for what we feel, and it wasn't by any means our fault that record didn't do well. We feel that we all had written very good material.. Great material that we love as a band.. And in the end, what I would tell anybody in the music industry.. or in anything really, if you're happy with what you've done then that's what matters. At the end of the day you have to be happy with what you're doing because the music is going to outlive us and what you do is going to outlive you. Our whole thing is that there's a difference.. There's the kind of music that's written based on what's hot right now.. Like a single.. And then there's timeless music.. You know, I look at timeless music like Miles Davis, John Coltrane.. Metallica, Pantera.. Music that can live beyond the years of the band that people still have a connection to.. As long as you're happy with it and it's what you do from the heart then it can become timeless music, and to me, whether you have one person who loves your music or whether you have a million people loving your music, then there's someone in that world that you're making happy and who you're giving a push of encouragement. That's very important and I think a lot of people forget that when they start getting in the industry because they start focusing on like: "Oh wauw, I need to find a way to sell a million records" - And they just set themselves up for disappointment, especially in this day and age where it's the hardest thing to do to sell records, because there are so many other ways to get albums now. Ways to get them for free, ways to get them where you pick out a track instead of an entire record.. There are so many things out there keeping bands from doing that like they could in the old days.. Back in the old days.. The 90s.. Back then it was 'easy' for a band to go out and sell 10 million albums, but that same song that sold 10 million then, if you released that today, it would sell maybe one million.. I believe that you can't write based on that, so when we wrote that record.. You know, "Paper Walls" was one of my favourite records that we put out because I felt like.. That was it.. But at the time, the label we were on had taken a dump and we were left in shambles and that was kind of what made the whole hiatus happen..

RF.net: So while you were on this hiatus, you personally started drumming for (Ed: American Idol runner-up) Adam Lambert - Can you describe your experience with that job, maybe comparing it to your drumming in Yellowcard?
LP: Awh man, it was different! I never had to audition for a gig, and I auditioned for that gig, and it was crazy because I walked into the place and there were about 150-200 drummers that were there.. And I had a time-slot so in and before all those people I played the two songs which were "Hysteria" by Muse and a song by Led Zeppelin.. And when I'd gone in there and played they sent all the other people home and said like: "okay, let's have you do this".. But really I didn't know till two months later if I actually had the gig, but I got it and I got to jam with Monty Pitman, who is one of the greatest guitar players I've ever played with. I mean he is literally amazing at the guitar and he played with a group called Prong, which I'm also a big fan of and then he also plays guitar for Madonna. Getting the opportunity to perform with him was pretty big for me, plus he had taken some lessons from one of my all time favourite guitarists - Dimebag Darrell from Pantera (Ed: Longineu points to the tattoo he has of Darrell on his calf).. So that was a treat, and Tommy Ratliff who plays bass is a nice guy and.. Adam is.. He's an amazing vocalist.. He's one of the best vocalists I've ever performed with. Every day he was perfect and he's a nice guy too. He knows what he's doing, he's got a vision and he's following it. It was definitely different because it was a pop world. Real pop, not like pop-punk. It was real pop and I got an opportunity to perform with a lot of acts that I had never thought that I would, in a million years, perform for. It was definitely a big shock, but it was also cool, because it kept me in the loop, and performing with him was inspiring in a lot of ways. Like: "So this is what this world is like.. okay, cool".. And it was nothing like what I'm used to, with a band being a band, as opposed to here where we're backing Adam Lambert. It was cool because he's an amazing singer, and even though a lot of things were written, we were still writing together, changing little things. We kind of became his band and that was really cool, so I wish those guys the best.

RF.net: Back at the time I remember people talking about online how that was probably a really financially secure job for you to have and yet still you decided to come back to Yellowcard. Can you tell us about that decision, was it hard for you or...
LP: No no no! Erhm.. I started the band Yellowcard those 17 years ago with Ben Harper, our old guitar player and Sean and.. We started the band then and it's literally a piece of my heart. It's like.. It's who I am. It's what I do. We write together, live together, and we've been doing it for so long I couldn't see myself anywhere else. Being in another group is not the same. We'll never have the history of being a band together for so long and literally starting from scratch and then coming to where we are now. That's a feeling that you just don't get with any other act. Playing with Adam was cool because that was actually also sort of from the ground and up too, because we became his band and then we went on tour and he sold a million records and that was cool but still, Yellowcard is like family to me. It's something I've been doing for so long, and I've actually written material with the guys, so it's a little different because I have a connection with the music.

RF.net: Okay, so you guys came back together and then started working on "When You're Through Thinking..". Can you tell us what sort of things or experiences influenced you in writing that record?
LP: A lot of things.. Playing with the Adam gig definitely did.. I listen to a lot of metal.. I'm very big on metal like Pantera, Chimaira, Soilwork.. Metallica.. A lot of metal and then I turn around and listen to.. Like, for instance A Life Once Lost is one of my favourite bands.. I'm very big on time changes and stuff like that.. But then also Miles Davis, John Coltrane.. Those really do a lot for me too.. Papa Jo Jones.. When I write a record I don't look at one.. It's hard to decribe.. I don't look at one thing, instead everything comes out in different parts. Everything has a part whether it's jazz, fusion, funk, rock, metal.. It all comes out and I have to say.. The best way I can put it so that someone can understand what I'm trying to say is that it's a jambalaya of everything that I am.

RF.net: Here's another fan question - You have two of the songs from the Big If project making it onto the new record, "Hide" and "Hang You Up". Can you explain why those songs made the record and others like "Empty Street" and "Bunny And Me" didn't?
LP: Well, "Empty Street" did, it's just called "Be The Young" now.. Once we heard those songs we loved them so much and we thought that there was something with those songs.. Like, "let's redo it and do it this way".. And then we did and we liked it even more so.. When we put something on the record that's because we all love the song, and we all feel like the song needs to be heard. That's how we ended up picking those songs. If you have a front man who's so into those songs, then it's good to listen to it, because there's something about that, and when we all put some work into the songs they became even greater to us and that's why we picked those songs.

RF.net: That makes me think of one final question before we reach the end actually. Are you guys the kind of band that come into the studio and do just about the amount of songs that go onto the album, or are you the kind of band that has like.. 50 to 100 songs written.. and then you decide which ones are good enough to go on the album?
LP: We have tonnes of songs and a lot of them become b-sides. We just record whatever we know, and out of those ones we figure out which ones make the cut, which ones turn into b-sides and which ones.. I shouldn't say go into limbo, but we kind of keep them out there and then maybe one day we come back to them.

RF.net: Well that's okay, I'm sure nobody can make 'gold songs' in every single try..

LP: Yeah but you can't focus on that. You have to write for yourself because you never know. Because you don't know where other people are. The world has a big impact on what song and what music is going to be popular at a time. How people are feeling.. You know music is emotion.. And.. A lot of people say 'emo rock' or 'emo' but truthfully music is always emotional. Every style of music is emotional and if it's not then it's not good. You write through a feeling and that's why it comes out the way it does. If you're mad then you write through that, if you're happy you write happy, if you're depressed you write depressed. Those are the things that people take in, so that's an important fact. An important factor of music is putting the emotion into it, so I always tell people like - You know, a lot of people sort of fear this emo term, but emo is emotional and emotional is music. That's what it is.

RF.net: Well, that's it for today actually. If you have any final words for the fans that you want on record, here's your chance:
LP: Alright, I have two 'solo' albums.. One album I have out which is going out for charity. It's from my side-project LPMD and the record is called "Off The Record" and we have a couple of songs on itunes that you can pick up - pretty soon they'll all be up but not yet - right now it's just "Prop 19" and "I Do It All" and we have a video called "Float On" which is out on absolutepunk.net right now. So please check that out. Then I also have a jazz record that I put out with my father called "Defining Me". The record is my name, it's "Longineu Warren Parsons III" and my father is also on that record playing trumpet. We just finished that and we're getting read to release that pretty soon. LPMD's "Off The Record" is actually available if you go to our website www.lpmdmusic.com you can send us your information and then we send us a copy of the record. Everything that you buy from LPMD, all the proceeds are going to Japan and their cause and also for anti-shark finning and anti-whaling.

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