The old cliché “slow and steady wins the race” doesn’t apply as often as it used to in the music biz, but emo/power-pop outfit Mayday Parade proves the formula still works.
The Tallahassee, Florida-based band first garnered attention on the 2006 Vans Warped Tour — but not for its live show. The group had at that point only been together for about six months, with most of that time spent writing songs for a debut EP. That disc — called “Tales Told By Dead Friends” — was delivered from the manufacturing plant “just a week before the tour started,” lead singer Derek Sanders tells Billboard.com.
Sanders says the production of the EP was rushed because Mayday needed to make it to the first Warped show of the summer with CDs in hand. The plan? To follow the entire tour, selling the disc out of backpacks as the band members roamed venue parking lots and accosted kids standing in line.
Egging each other on with a contest to see who could sell the most CDs, the guys in the group sweated it out day after day for two months over the course of fifty cross-country dates, only getting inside the gates a few times with the help of sympathetic security guards.
Traveling in a cramped van and getting little sleep, Sanders says the experience was “unbelievably tiring.” But the long days paid off: By the end of the summer, Mayday had sold more than 10,000 copies of “Tales.”
Sanders explains that during the tour, the band’s MySpace page lit up with hits thanks to all the kids who’d taken home a copy of the CD, and labels started to take notice.
Fearless Records was one. The California-based indie — which helped launch the career of Plain White T’s, among others– invited the band to stop in to its offices mid-tour to perform a showcase.
Label president Bob Becker recalls that the band members looked “filthy” when they arrived: “They hadn’t changed their clothes and they clearly hadn’t showered in a while. But by the second song I knew we were going to sign them. They were really believable, they were obviously good musicians, and they were really tight sounding. And we already knew they were hard-working.”
Originally a six-piece, Mayday Parade rose in the winter of 2005 from the ashes of two local bands, Defining Moment and Kid Named Chicago. Sanders and guitarist Brooks Betts had been playing in bands together since seventh grade. Toward the end of their high school years, they hooked up with bass player Jeremy Lenzo and evolved into Defining Moment. Later, DM toured with Kid Named Chicago, a band that included three other future Mayday members: vocalist/guitarist Jason Lancaster, guitarist Alex Garcia and drummer Jake Bundrick.
Lancaster would leave the band in April 2007, but not until after Mayday had signed to Fearless and put the finishing touches on its debut full-length, “A Lesson In Romantics,” which was released in July of that year. The album debuted at No. 8 on Top Heatseekers and — in contrast to what often happens — stayed on the chart for a good long while.
Following an initial six weeks on, “Romantics” refused to fade away, re-entering Heatseekers several times. It wasn’t until after the chart dated March 1, 2008, that the album finally took an extended hiatus.
But in June 2008, Mayday Parade was invited back on the Vans Warped Tour for the second time as performers — and for the first time as a summer-long act. With that news, Fearless and Warner Music’s Independent Label Group — which, among other things, provides marketing and promotion support to Fearless — convinced Target to put Mayday’s full-length in stores. Shortly thereafter, MTV signed on to begin airing the video for the album’s second single.
On July 12, “Romantics” re-entered the Heatseekers chart yet again, this time at No. 44, and slowly climbed its way back up the chart. It hasn’t fallen off since, now having notched 29 weeks on and counting.
Stu Bergen, ILG’s executive vice president and general manager, says the band’s chart longevity and recent resurgence is the result of several factors: “the band staying on the road, Fearless investing in a second video where another label may not have, and our effort to attack the retail opportunity again when the band went back out on Warped tour this summer.”
Sanders says Mayday was thrilled to be a full member of the Warped Tour roster this summer. “We finally felt like one of the real bands on the tour. And we had a bus for the first time this year — I can’t tell you how much better that is than a van.”
After another couple of months of touring in the fall, Mayday will break to write new songs and plans to be back in the studio early next year to record a follow-up to “Romantics.”
Sanders, in award acceptance-speech mode, concludes, “Everything that’s happened has been a dream come true. I just want to say ‘thank you’ to everyone who has supported us. It’s been amazing so far.”