Pop-punk band riding high for Saturday's Surfest at Kualoa
|||The rest of Surfest|
By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
"I do get some love ... actually I get a lot of love from not just the violinists, but cellists ... and all these band nerds," said Sean Mackin.
"They say, 'You inspire me. You make what we do cool. You give us all hope that there's stuff to do outside of orchestra or band.' That stuff is always awesome!"
Mackin knows from band nerds. Growing up in Jacksonville, Fla., packing a violin to weekly lessons, he was once a card-carrying band nerd himself.
"I started playing when I was about 7. My mom sort of made me do it, and it was a pretty miserable experience," said Mackin. "I liked the violin. But the kids at school made it really tough on me."
"Kids are just mean. And I had a particularly (lengthy) ugly duckling period with the glasses, the braces and the big hair," said Mackin. "Throw the violin on top of that, and that made it even more exciting."
Puberty and the ever-shifting moods of pop-punk fans have changed things.
These days, the classically trained 25-year-old is more often recognized as the bow-flexing centerpiece of every Yellowcard show. At September's MTV Video Music Awards, Mackin surprised the Yellowcard unfamiliar with a furious, show-stealing stage workout reminiscent of someone who didn't know he wasn't Eddie Van Halen or lacked a guitar but was just as good.
"When I was growing up, I had a cat we raised with three dogs, and he started to think he was a dog," said Mackin. "I guess that's how I've always thought of myself. I was always like a guitar player."
Yellowcard may not be the headliner at this weekend's Bud Light Surfest at Kualoa Ranch. (That distinction goes to violin-less pop-punk peers New Found Glory.) But the Hollywood-by-way-of-Jacksonville-based band is, arguably, the Surfest act with the biggest handful of current zeitgeist.
The five-member group, who first struck up a friendship while classical music students at a performing-arts school, moved more than a million-and-a-half copies of its debut CD "Ocean Avenue" this year. Its melody-rich, punchy guitar-fueled songs title track "Ocean Avenue," in particular became summertime staples of modern rock radio. Yellowcard even managed to snag the MTV2 Viewers Choice video music award from a lineup of acts that included Franz Ferdinand, Modest Mouse and Twista and Kanye West.
If you're counting at home, that's a score of three for the band geeks. But Yellowcard is hardly an overnight success story.
"We've been on tour, basically, since 2001," said Mackin. Early on, that meant "hard-nosed touring in a van, driving 16 hours, pulling into clubs, barely making door and playing shows on no sleep, free Red Bull and cups of ramen."
In the midst of all that, Yellowcard went from barely making rent on a shared home in California in 2001 to a Capitol Records contract and first Vans Warped Tour in 2002, to the release of "Ocean Avenue" in summer 2003 and the CD's slow-build success this year.
"We toured so much that we didn't really see what was going on around us ... radio, MTV," said Mackin. "All that stuff was really cool to see happen. We never thought we'd be that band."
Mackin almost didn't make it into that band himself.
No surprise, Mackin's friends and future bandmates saw little reason to include a violinist in their ranks when putting together Yellowcard between choral and composition classes at the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in 1997.
"I was just always hanging out," recalled Mackin. "I was at band practice. I went to all the shows. I helped with equipment."
Asked to jam on a mid-tempo rock song the band was experimenting with, Mackin seized that day and a few others.
"I started learning other guitar songs and other guitar parts," said Mackin. "I would play (guitarist) Ben (Harper's) guitar solos and write songs on violin."
Soon enough, the band was composing its melodic punk with apropos spots for Mackin's violin contribution.
"We didn't want the violin to become overbearing, so it was very frustrating, at first, trying to find the right place or part to put in violin so it wouldn't annoy our listeners," said Mackin. "We now have a fairly good idea of what to do with each song. There's a better understanding of how to use every instrument properly."
Post-Surfest, band members will separate for the first time in three years for some much-needed individual relaxation. Plans are to regroup in April for pre-production and writing of Yellowcard's second disc.
"Our biggest concern is just to write good songs," said Mackin. "There's a lot of naysayers out there ... who put us in this sort of 'Good Charlotte' (musicianship) category."
Though he insisted otherwise, Mackin seemed particularly perturbed by any comparison to pop punk's latest fashion-conscious whipping posts.
"I want to show people that we're serious musicians," said Mackin. "I've been playing the violin for 18 years. (Longineu Parsons), our drummer, has been playing for 22."
Asked if the world or at least, poison-penned critics have yet to hear everything Yellowcard is capable of, Mackin turned humble.
"The coolest thing is that we don't know everything we're capable of yet."
Reach Derek Paiva at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8005.
New Found Glory
|New Found Glory headlines Saturday's Surfest at Kualoa Ranch. The popular punk-pop band was last here in August 2003.
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On their second trip to Honolulu this year they played the Pipeline Cafe in January The Vandals are celebrating making Kerrang magazine's list of the 50 Greatest Punk Albums Ever and a pending trip abroad. The veteran Los Angeles-based punk band's 1998 disc "Hitler Bad, Vandals Good" recently ranked No. 26 on Kerrang's reader-voted list. And post-Surfest, The Vandals head east for holiday-season troop concerts in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
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A Huntington Beach, Calif.-based punk quartet with two independently released full-length CDs under its belt, Over It is touring tracks from its soon-to-be-released "Silverstrand" CD.