After more than 3 million albums sold, thousands of miles traveled around the globe and some dizzying highs and lows, an energized Yellowcard returns with their new album, Paper Walls.
Yellowcard emerged from Jacksonville, Florida with a completely infectious and original blend of rock and pop that made them a sure thing to break out of the pack, but even the band could not have imagined how far.
With a string of successful indie releases, a tireless touring schedule and a steamrolling fan base the band made their Capitol Records debut with 2003’s Ocean Avenue. The album was a smash, spawning huge hit singles, sold-out tours in the U.S. and abroad, an MTV Video Music Award and has sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide. 2006’s gold-certified Lights and Sounds – a more expansive and harder-edged album – was released to rave reviews, showcasing the band’s diversity as songwriters.
Drawing from both the universal, buoyant, hook-filled style of Ocean Avenue and the tougher edges of Lights and Sounds, Paper Walls takes it all a step further with a powerful, anthemic and forward-looking set of songs. The album was produced by Neal Avron, who produced the band’s previous two albums, and also marks the recording debut of guitarist Ryan Mendez, who joined the group during the Lights and Sounds tour.
“If Ocean Avenue was about finding your place in the world and Lights and Sounds is about realizing that you’ve gotten lost, Paper Walls is about what happens when you find yourself again,” Key says. “Before we started this record everything in our lives was changing, but after a bit of struggling I finally found a place where I’m comfortable in my own skin. We know who we are and who we want to be.”
“For the first time in a long time we were in our own little world making a record that we were having fun with,” Key says. “There was no pressure. There was nobody waiting to see what Yellowcard would do next. This record was a totally positive experience and it reminded us of why we started doing this in the first place.”
The album title Paper Walls comes from the song of the same name, which begins “Let’s burn a hole so we can climb out of these paper walls in this empty house.” It’s a reference to the barriers that built up between the band members over the years and everyone’s desire to tear down the obstacles and heal old scars.
“If you really love each other as much as we do, you want to knock those walls down and get back to the place where you enjoy being with each other and making music together,” says Key. “The song is basically saying let’s get back out there and remember why this is important to us, why we love being on stage and why we love making records.”
Album opener “The Takedown” starts with a shot – an indelible guitar hook and ferocious drums charge forth as Yellowcard’s trademark mix of airtight vocal harmonies, entwined guitar lines and flourishes of violin crackle with energy. “Fighting” brings together the band’s many strengths – tight, melodic, propulsive riffs gather steam before launching into an epic, undeniable chorus. And bruised but beautiful lead single “Light Up the Sky” has an even more massive payoff, its refrain won’t leave your head in this lifetime, but allows for some ringing dissonance beneath it all.
One of the most touching songs on Paper Walls is “Dear Bobbie,” a wistful song about the 58-year relationship between Key’s grandparents which features recordings of his 87 year-old grandfather reading a love letter to his wife. “The words I wrote to go with it seem to pale in comparison to hearing him speak. It’s coming from a man who has been in World War II, traveled the world and seen and done it all. He’s been married and in love with the same woman for 58 years, and you can hear it in his voice,” says Key.
The personal investment Key put into “Dear Bobbie” is emblematic of the rest of Paper Walls. Call it a rebirth, a reinvention or even an epiphany, there’s no question that the album is a genuine expression of renewal and hope. “At the end of the day there’s a collaborative energy again, that feeling of what Yellowcard was in the beginning when we didn’t have the distance that success created,” Key says. “We feel like we’re the luckiest guys in the world to still be able to do this, and I think that shows.”