MUSIC REVIEW: ‘Way Away’ from pop-punk

Paul Tenorio

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It isn’t easy finding a band in today’s music scene that is able to encompass punk rock yet still remain unique. With an array of eerily similar bands ranging from Sum 41 to The All-American Rejects, teeny-bop punk pop has taken over the world of TRL and so-called rock radio. Music fans can rest assured that all of that is about to change.

Five down-to-earth guys from Jacksonville, Fla., are set to transform the face of popular “rock” culture as we know it. Yellowcard has soared through the world of indie-punk, and after signing with Capitol Records and releasing the LP Ocean Avenue, the band is preparing to take the world by storm.

Led by lead singer Ryan Key, the group also features violin player Sean Mackin, guitarist Ben Harper, drummer Longineu Parsons (L.P.) III, and base player Alex Lewis. Several of the members went to the same high school in Florida, where the band formed. “We’ve been doing this since high school,” said Harper. “This is all we know. We’re very much attached to this band. This band is our life.”

Yellowcard made an interesting journey to become the band it is today. Key convinced the band to make a move from Florida to California, where it released its first album, One For the Kids, on the indie label Lobster. “We’ve followed all the steps, we fucking moved across the country,” said Harper.

After the popularity of One For the Kids and the successful release of the five-song EP The Underdog, bigger labels began to take notice. Ocean Avenue shows a growth in the band since its last full-length album, and features a more colorful song selection.

The album starts off with a more hard rock sound with “Way Away,” Avenue’s first single. “‘Way Away’ is about our band and facing the people who didn’t believe in what we were doing,” Harper says. “That’s kind of like an ode to disbelievers.”

The record continues with more emotional songs like “Empty Apartment,” about the departure of a former band member, an ode to Key’s father in “Life of a Salesman,” and even a country-esque song, “View From Heaven.”

This diverse style has prompted Yellowcard to avoid the “pop” label that has fallen upon many of its punk band compatriots. “We’d just rather be called a rock band because of all the different types of songs we have,” said Harper. “We’re not a three-chord band. We try to craft our songs more than a ‘punk’ band. We’re just not into labels.”

Whatever classification Yellowcard falls under, its success has seemed inevitable. The band, which played with Less Than Jake at the Riviera Theatre Nov. 6, recently gained airtime on MTV, Fuse, Fox and the WB, and will make an appearance on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” Nov. 21.

The newfound fame has left the band preparing for an aftershock of “sell-out” accusations. “Unlike a lot of bands we’ve heard about going from an indie world to a huge ‘getting big’ world, our fans have been really supportive,” Harper says. “I think they want us — now in the day of these bands being huge and on TV and stuff — they want us to be huge and represent.”

Not only has the band been “representing” for fans on TV and radio, Yellowcard has made sure to give back to fans whenever possible. The band has a unique way of doing that, playing free shows at high schools close to venues where they’re slated to perform. “The reception we got with a lot of people watching us creates a buzz in the high school.”

Since the shows in California were such a success, Key suggested the band add more high school appearances to its tour schedule. “It starts a wildfire through that region and the kids are appreciative of it,” said Harper.

At the Riviera, Yellowcard’s set included Ocean Avenue tracks as well as some from earlier records. On stage the band ran in circles demonstrating how to mosh, and violinist Sean Mackin did backflips and even a little stage diving. “I would say high-energy shows are one of our trademarks,” said Harper. “Something different happens every night.”

It is that unpredictability that makes Yellowcard intriguing. Since it’s impossible to predict the sound of future songs, what the band will do at a show, or where it will show up next, the California-based quintet keeps everyone in anticipation.

“[The success is] definitely well deserved,” said Harper. “But we feel like there is more to be done, better songs to be written and better performances to be played.”

The rock world will be waiting. A