In the months leading up to the release of Lights and Sounds, Yellowcard frontman Ryan Key was fond of saying that the ambitious album would probably alienate a large portion of their fanbase, and that he was 100 percent OK with that.
But now, more than five months after the album's release, he might want to reconsider that statement (see "Yellowcard Move To New York, Write LP About Hating Los Angeles"), because Yellowcard wouldn't mind those extra record buyers.
Since it hit stores in late January, Lights — Yellowcard's bid for artistic maturity — has struggled. The LP debuted at #5 on the Billboard albums chart, selling just 90,000 or so copies in its first week, and then began a precipitous drop down the chart, exiting the top 50 within four weeks. It has since disappeared from the top 200 altogether. Its two singles have failed to take off on radio — a situation no doubt exacerbated by Key's near-constant battles with his vocal cords (see "Yellowcard Postpone Gigs, Singer Due For Throat Surgery"), which led them to cancel many gigs around the album's release.
To date, the much-anticipated album has sold a little more than 315,000 copies, a far cry from the breakthrough success of 2003's Ocean Avenue, which approached sales of 2 million.
In short, it's been a rough six months for Yellowcard. And they'll be the first to admit it.
"We have all these theories as to what happened, but basically it comes down to the fact that we don't have the momentum that we had at the height of Ocean Avenue," violinist Sean Mackin said. "I think some people in the band felt the need to rebel from where we were and the kind of acts we were grouped with. A lot of people in our band thought we had a lot more to offer. And that's how we've ended up where we are."
While it may sound like Mackin is making a thinly veiled jab at Key's arguably grandiose aspirations for Lights and Sounds, he assured us he's not. He thinks the whole band bears responsibility for the album's performance.
"I think that the band went on ... maybe not a tangent, but we had a goal in mind, and at the end of the recording process, we were so proud of how artistic we were," he said. "And I think we showed too much. I think maybe we were a little too jaded and a little too dark, and I think that the lack of hope and faith that we put on this record made us a little less sparkly and light to people.
"But I think that it's all part of our evolution," he explained. "We all went a bit too far, Ryan included. He's a very powerful lyricist, but I think that even he was in a dark period after Ocean Avenue. He was very confused as to why — all of a sudden, out of nowhere — there was all this attention on him. It put him in a weird place and that's what he wrote about."
Mackin insists the bandmembers don't view Lights and Sounds as a mistake — "It's more of a learning experience," he laughed — but admitted that everyone is anxious to put the past behind them. And with Key's vocal ailments finally cured, YC may be able to do that, launching a full-scale tour in support of the record — they hit the road June 10, with Matchbook Romance supporting on most dates — and lobbying their label, Capitol Records, to release a third single from Lights.
"I don't know if we're going to get another single. We've canceled almost three months of touring in the past in the last eight months. [And] 'Rough Landing, Holly' went to radio and was the most-added song, but everything just sort of fizzled out," Mackin said. "In the meantime, there's all these other artists getting airplay, so we need to try to build momentum.
"And if we can't get it back, then we're just going to make a new album and come out swinging again," he resolved.
While there are no firm plans to begin work on a follow-up to Lights just yet, Mackin wants fans to know that Yellowcard aren't going to let any of this stop them from making the music they love. However, next time out, they may try to dial back the darkness a bit.
"Ryan is definitely looking for a fresh start. He's learned a lesson from all of this, and you can see it in his eyes and in his step. Lights and Sounds is definitely not what Ocean Avenue was — not to say it's a failure — but we've learned a few things, for sure," Mackin said.
"And I'm a fighter, and I want to go out there and show people just why these songs mean so much for us. And regardless of what you may think, I still love being in this band. It definitely beats serving and cooking at Chili's."
For more on Yellowcard, check out the feature "Split Decision."