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Ryan Mendez: Influences, Touring, and Life with Yellowcard

On November 7th at the Crofoot Ballroom in Pontiac, MI, AltRocklive member Patrick Marion caught up with Ryan Mendez of Yellowcard to learn more about him and the tour he’s on with Memphis May Fire and Emarosa.

PM: Patrick Marion (AltRockLive)
RM: Ryan Mendez (Lead Guitar/Backup Vocals)

PM: What were your influences growing up?
RM: It’s funny actually, last night we were hanging out with some friends in Toronto and just kinda hanging out in the FrontLiners listening to music and listening to a lot of 90’s stuff. We were listening to Nirvana ‘Nevermind,’ just like a song or two and then the whole record. I was just thinking about how ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was the song that made me want to play guitar. So that kind of stuff, definitely like, when I was 13 or so. That and Green Day ‘Dookie,’ Offspring ‘Smash.’ Then when I started playing guitar after a couple years all the 90’s rock stuff like Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins and all those types of bands came in.

PM: So going with the harder stuff like Nirvana, what inspired the heavier direction ‘Lift A Sail’ took?
RM: I’ve always gravitated more towards heavier music. I listen to a lot of metal and a lot of heavier stuff. When I was growing up I just resonated with that stuff more than pop stuff. I do like pop stuff, but I was always super into Led Zeppelin, Zakk Wylde, Pantera and Van Halen and just that kind of thing. For ‘Lift A Sail’ we wanted to do something a little different and wanted the sound to be a little bit bigger. One way we kinda wanted to accomplish that was tuning a little lower and making a bigger, fuller, sound. So we tried that and in terms of heaviness, like I said, I’ve always loved heavy stuff. Riffing is always fun and heaviness is always something I like with a bit of aggressiveness too.

PM: So I bet you had a blast making this album then?
RM: Oh yeah! It was fun. It was really really fun.

PM: So besides your hometown, in Jacksonville…
RM: The band is originally from there, but I’m actually from here. I was born in Dearborn, MI.

PM: Really? Nice! Well, whoops, haha, what’s your favorite place to play than?
RM: In the states, it’s pretty much hands down Salt Lake City, UT. Like no matter what, always. I think part of it is because in 2004 when Ocean Avenue, the song, was blowing up the station in Salt Lake City was the first one to get on board with it. They were just all about it and played the hell out of it and all the other stations took suit and that’s kinda where it started. So ever since then, every time we go there, no matter what without fail, it’s like the best show of the tour. So now we don’t wanna be like let down and think it’s gonna be that way, but somehow it’s still just always the best.

PM: Where’s a place you’ve always wanted to play, but you haven’t had a chance to yet?
RM: For me personally, it’s New Zealand. Although I know these guys have played there before I was in the band. I joined in 2005, so it’s been a while, but we haven’t been back there and I think that might be happening this coming year. Yeah, I really really want to go there.

PM: If you could put together any tour, your dream tour, the bands could be dead or alive, who would you want to tour with?
RM: It might sound a little cheesy, but I feel like just touring with the Foo Fighters would be amazing because they are one of our favorite bands. I think as a tour that would actually work and we could actually gain something from that. As opposed to me saying like I would love to tour with Metallica before 1988, you know what I’m saying? Haha. Even if that was possible, that would not go over well for us. Even though I’d love watching them every day, the tour itself, we would probably have bottles thrown at us I’m sure. But Foo Fighters, that’s kinda like the dream tour for us. We just love them so much and they are a good rock band. I think that people coming to see the Foo Fighters who haven’t heard of us would actually maybe digest what we were doing.

PM: What’s your favorite song to play live that you rarely ever get to play?
RM: There’s a song off of ‘Southern Air’ called ‘Rivertown Blues.’ It’s a fast song and there’s just something about that song. We played it on one tour for that record in the Fall of 2012. We played it on that tour and that was it. There’s something that’s really fun to me about that song and it’s obviously very energetic. I get to have a guitar solo at the end of it. But! That’s not the only reason why I chose that song because we play other songs, but that particular solo is really fun for me to play.

PM: At what point in your life did you know that music was going to be your passion? Was there ever a point where you thought this was something you didn’t want to do?
RM: No. I think when I started playing guitar when I was 13 I really enjoyed it for a couple years and started really getting into punk-rock. I started getting into melodic pop-punk and going to a lot of shows and that’s when I really loved to do that. I think that’s when I knew what my passion was. I kinda didn’t really think about doing else. That’s all I did.

General advice for that type of setting would be, if you’re a rock band of any form: move to L.A. I mean, you just have to. That’s the center of the rock and pop-rock universe for the most part. Just play any and every show you possibly can because ideally you have to establish a local fan base and then get somebody to notice that and want to invest in the band. There’s a million bands in L.A, which sucks, but that’s where all the labels, agents and management firms are for the most part. That’s what these guys (Yellowcard) did. They moved from Florida and played every show they could and started building up a local following at a local venue called ‘The Chain Reaction’ in Anaheim. Then they got the attention of a booking agent and kinda took off from there.

PM: I know this tour is a little different because you’re touring with Emarosa and Memphis May Fire, which don’t exactly fit the bill of who Yellowcard normally tours with, but how’s it been touring with bands that are completely out of your genre?
RM: It’s awesome! Ryan (Key) has been talking about it on the mic during our set, but the thing about Memphis is we’ve been friends with the guys for a couple years. We met them back at Warped Tour in 2012. Josh (Portman) and I in particular are huge fans of them because him and I are the harder edge guys of the band. I love their band and we’ve actually become huge fans of the other guys as well.

We hung out with them a bunch and then did Warped Europe a year ago with them at the end of 2013 and started talking about it. The thing is musically, yes, they may not be right in the same realm, but it’s actually not as different as most people would think. What Ryan (Key) would say on the mic is about how the vibe of both bands is very uplifting and positive. There’s definitely an energy you can latch onto with both bands. Even though the music might not sound the same there’s still a ton of melody. Matty (Mullins) has an incredible voice and sings a ton.

There is something that can also be said about not doing the same tour over and over again with the bands people expect us to tour with. I know for a fact now that Memphis has gotten some of our fans. Our super die-hard fans that come to our shows are now fans of Memphis May Fire and vice-versa. People aren’t leaving every night either. They are staying the whole show and everyone is interacting and it’s going really well.

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