Yellowcard Survives Turnover and Label Trouble to Keep Fighting

Brian Manley
For those who came of age after Y2K, we remember the heady days of heart-on-sleeve pop punk, defined by bands like Fall Out Boy, Cartel and Panic! at the Disco, radio-ready acts that were as relatable as they were kitschy. However, few records encapsulated this timeframe with the honesty of Yellowcard's Ocean Avenue.

Ocean Avenue, the 2003 Capitol Records release that thrust Yellowcard into the Top 40 spotlight, was an album that managed to define the wide-eyed wonder for a generation of teenagers. With a 17-year career under their belts, Yellowcard has gracefully managed the pitfalls that come with being a longstanding pop rock band.

They're one of the last vestiges of the Total Request Live generation, bands that peppered the early '00s with the pop punk that's etched into the after-school memories of millennials all over. When Yellowcard plays the Nile Theater in Mesa on Saturday, January 18, they'll be bringing some of those early glory days with them, touring behind last year's acoustic treatment of Ocean Avenue.

Though he joined up with the band after their platinum ascent, Yellowcard guitarist and Tempe resident Ryan Mendez has been on board for almost nine years, having worked with the band for over half of their career and contributing to Ocean Avenue Acoustic. "It definitely wasn't easy at first because that's kind of a tough situation to walk into, into a band that's already blown up, but nowadays it's totally fine," he says.

But Mendez's inclusion into the band came at a slightly tumultuous time, following the band's decision to excise founding lead guitarist Ben Harper due to conflicts within the group. It was a chance phone call to violinist Sean Mackin, a longtime friend of Mendez, that led to his joining Yellowcard.

"I actually called Sean in 2005 to invite him to my wedding because he had been good friends with my wife and I, and he's like 'Sorry, I can't come to your wedding, but do want to come play shows with us? We're looking for a guitar player,'" Mendez laughs. "So it was kind of a funny, one-two type of thing."

Yet Mendez wasn't initially welcomed by diehard Yellowcard fans. As with any band with a following garnered from anthemic pop albums and TV performances, like prototypical Little Monsters or Katycats, Mendez's relatively sudden appearance as a member of the band after a platinum-selling record could be seen as shocking.

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