It's a good thing for Ryan Key that there's no age requirement on nostalgia. His band, Yellowcard, is on the brink of a bright future thanks to a hit single that reminisces about the past.
"It covers a broad, general topic without being too cheesy about it," Key said of "Ocean Avenue." "It's one of those songs that kind of just captures that feeling of nostalgia and missing home and trying to get somewhere in your life that you can't find anymore, because you're all old and everything sucks and you're not with your friends anymore."
Those sentiments seem better suited to a crotchety old coot than the vibrant, 24-year-old singer of a band that has been on a hot streak since "Ocean Avenue," the second single and title track from Yellowcard's major-label debut, took off a few months ago. As the song increased its presence on airwaves, Ocean Avenue steadily made its way up the Billboard albums chart, taking measured strides from #182 in early February to #137 a month later to its current resting place at #50. As for the song's reflective-beyond-his-years theme, Key attributes that to the hard-knock life of a band that's been on the road almost continuously since releasing its first LP, One for the Kids, in 2001.
"Being on the road definitely matured us as people," Key said. "You experience so much stuff you would have never had a chance to experience. Going overseas three times a year and all that crap ... who else gets to do that at 24 years old? It's totally a maturing experience."
It also helps him value some qualities of his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, that he may have otherwise dismissed or taken for granted after relocating to Southern California to start the band.
"In ['Ocean Avenue'], it sounds like I'm singing to some girl somewhere, but in actuality what I try to do is sort of make the person I am singing to a metaphor for our hometown. I kind of turn the place we're from into a person to sing to," he explained. "There was definitely a time when we wanted to get out of there and go on and do what we're doing now, but at the same time there was that feeling that I'm going to miss everything [back home]."
With no end in sight on the road ahead, Key and his bandmates won't be seeing too much of Jacksonville anytime soon, at least not until the annual Vans Warped Tour pays a visit to the Fairgrounds on August 1. The band kicked off a co-headlining tour with Something Corporate last week which will keep it busy through the end of the month. After that, it's off to Europe before the Warped Tour begins June 25 in Houston.
Still, Yellowcard found time to write and record a song they hope will be included on the soundtrack to "Spider-Man 2."
"We were like, 'Let's make this song huge,' " Key said of the untitled tune he facetiously referred to as "The Tentative Song for Maybe the 'Spider-Man 2' Soundtrack." "We had a goal in mind and I think it came out rad. Lyrically, it's really cool for me, because I wrote it about Peter Parker's struggle to be a superhero as opposed to being with the girl he loves."
Label politics may get in the way of the song making the soundtrack's final cut, but if enthusiasm and passion for the radioactive web slinger counted for anything, the job would be in the bag.
"I have a Spider-Man tattoo on my shoulder," Key said, "so I'm really excited. It would be one of the coolest things ever for me if we got to have a part in this."