Warped Tour Main Stage Is A Long Time Coming For Yellowcard

Punk-rock festival braces for air violin-playing hordes.

While being well-prepared is almost always advised for a young band in the studio, spontaneous strokes of creativity are usually the moments the musicians remember best.

Of the 13 songs that comprise Yellowcard’s latest album, Ocean Avenue, the band had a dozen of them hashed out beforehand. But while knee-deep in recording, the group stumbled across the riff that became the foundation for “Only One,” which is slated to be the album’s third single.

“We discovered a riff for it by accident,” singer Ryan Key said. “We were testing something else out and just tracked it right away. We then added a drum loop to it and just kept adding tracks. We built it track by track in the studio, and we’ve never really done that before.”

Key would rather talk about the technical process of the song’s creation than the impetus behind his lyrics. “It’s just one of those songs: I broke up with my girlfriend … blah, blah, blah,” he said initially. However, when pressed further, he owned up.

“It was a weird breakup,” he said. “It was one of those where I felt like I had to do it, even though she didn’t do anything wrong. I just needed some space to figure life out for a while on my own. And I think that’s what the song says. ‘You’re still a great person, but I gotta go on my own.’ ”

The contemplative, beat-driven ballad, which follows previous singles “Ocean Avenue” and “Way Away,” is expected to surface in mid-June, according to a Capitol Records spokesperson. A video for the track, to be filmed with director Phil Harder (Incubus, Liz Phair), will be shot shortly, before the band takes off for a string of European tour dates.

Upon their return to the States, Yellowcard will spend the summer on the main stage of the annual Vans Warped Tour, which kicks off June 25 in Houston (see “New Found Glory, Bad Religion Get Warped; Itinerary Set” ). Having previously graced the second stage on two separate occasions, the Florida quintet are no strangers to the annual trek, but Key’s relationship to the traveling punk-rock summer camp goes back further than that.

“I volunteered to work at Warped Tour every summer it came to Jacksonville, when I was in high school,” he explained. “I would show up at 6 a.m. and make 50 bucks for the day and be there until three in the morning the next day — working, building ramps and running to get food for people. So to be asked to play on the main stage is probably the biggest accomplishment Yellowcard has ever achieved.

“I hope this year, it’s a stake that we’re putting in the ground that says we’ve earned the respect of the people at the Warped Tour and the bands we look up to, like NOFX and Bad Religion — bands that have been doing the Warped Tour since it started.”

With a couple of singles under their belts and scores of shows in the wake of Ocean Avenue‘s release last July, Yellowcard are probably through surprising their audience with their unorthodox lineup, which includes violinist Sean Mackin. “It was cool to have kids come up and be honest and say, ‘Man, I didn’t think you’d be able to pull it off, but you did,’ ” Mackin explained.

But once the fans got accustomed to the classically trained string player in the group, it was the band’s turn to be surprised. “At some shows, people play air drums or air guitar,” Key said while demonstrating the poser technique. “Now at our shows, people are playing air violin. It kind of freaked us out when it first started to happen.”