Pop Punk/Alternative Rock Band
For their seventh studio album, Lift a Sail, Yellowcard had a simple but ambitious goal: to outdo everything they’d ever done before. The guitars and drums had to hit harder; the songwriting had to cut deeper; the choruses had to reach heights only hinted at on their previous outings. Frontman Ryan Key believes he and…
For their seventh studio album, Lift a Sail, Yellowcard had a simple but ambitious goal: to outdo everything they’d ever done before. The guitars and drums had to hit harder; the songwriting had to cut deeper; the choruses had to reach heights only hinted at on their previous outings.
Frontman Ryan Key believes he and his bandmates—guitarist Ryan Mendez, violinist Sean Mackin, bassist Josh Portman and guest drummer Nate Young (Anberlin)—succeeded on all those fronts. “We really feel like we got where we wanted to be, and made a proper rock ‘n’ roll record,” Key says proudly.
Recorded with longtime producer Neal Avron at The Casita, his studio in Los Angeles, Lift a Sail is Yellowcard’s first album for Razor & Tie and by far their most dynamic, full of massive rock anthems and haunting ballads shot through with Mackin’s evocative violin and string arrangements. Young, who recorded his drum tracks at East West Studios, gives songs like “Transmission Home” an extra hard rock kick, over which Ryan Mendez’ guitars have never churned with more intensity.
After two of the most eventful years of his life, it’s the kind of emotionally cathartic record Key needed his band to make. In 2012, while on tour in Europe, Key met the woman who would become his wife, Alyona Alekhina, a professional snowboarder from Russia. By the end of the year they were engaged—but just a few months later, while training in California, Alekhina suffered a spinal cord injury, causing paralysis below the waist.
In the end, the tragic turn of events brought Key and Alekhina even closer together. Key was at her side for months in intensive care and through the beginnings of physical therapy. They were married in the ICU. “It’s been an unimaginable challenge for us both,” Key admits, but his wife’s will and determination through it all has been an inspiration. “She’s incredible. She is by far the strongest human being I’ve ever known, and I know she will walk again.”
Key’s whirlwind journey with Alekhina inevitably influenced the lyrics on Lift a Sail, as on the ballad “Madrid,” named after the city in which they met, and album standout “One Bedroom,” which Key wrote about the apartment the couple shared in Denver during the first part of her rehabilitation. Over acoustic guitars that gradually give way to an anthemic power ballad, Key sings, “You’re the one for the rest of time.”
“It was just the two of us most of the time and that apartment seemed to be the only safe place on Earth for us both,” Key remembers. “We went through so much, we shared so much there. So the song is sort of a love letter…letting her know what she means to me.”
“Obviously that was a massive life event,” he adds, “and as a songwriter, it’s hard not to put that down on paper. A lot of the record is about she and I and what we’ve been through.”
Another of Key’s favorite songs on the record, “My Mountain,” is about another important person in his life: his grandfather, a poet who passed away earlier this year and who Yellowcard fans will know as the voice on “Dear Bobbie” from 2007’s Paper Walls. His dying wish was to have his ashes scattered on a family property in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, next to one of his daughters, Key’s aunt, who passed away two years earlier. “As my grandfather was passing, in hospice, he kept asking my mom if he was on the mountain yet. And my mom kept saying, ‘You’ll be there soon.’” Key’s lyrics to “My Mountain” imagine his grandfather looking out from his final resting place: “I have found my mountain/I can be with her/When I finally came across/I recovered all I lost.”
To match the most profound lyrics of Key’s career, Yellowcard had to step up with some of their most risk-taking music. “MSK,” in particular, stands out with a sparse arrangement that sets Key’s emotive vocals against a backdrop of Mackin’s swirling violin and atmospheric keys and electronics, the latter programmed by Nate Young. It’s one of the few Yellowcard tracks ever to feature no guitars or drums at all. “It’s a bold leap for us,” Key declares.
Elsewhere on Lift a Sail, Yellowcard returned their early ‘90s alt-rock roots, finding inspiration in the dense guitars of bands they grew up listening to like Nirvana, Filter, Foo Fighters, and Smashing Pumpkins. Ryan Mendez’ raging guitar parts on hard-charging anthems like “Crash the Gates” and “Illuminate” channel those ‘90s influences into songs that push Yellowcard’s sound well beyond their pop-punk origins—especially when Sean Mackin’s increasingly sophisticated strings come swooping in to take the songs to another level.
“We really changed lanes, I think,” Key explains. “It’s still a massive rock record, but there were a lot of choices made while we were writing the songs that were new for us. We continued to challenge ourselves throughout the writing and recording process.”
The song that perhaps best sums up that attitude is the anthemic title track, whose resilient lyrics (“If a storm blows in on me/I am ready now”) reflect both the inspiring determination of Key’s wife and Yellowcard’s increasingly fearless approach to making music. “It’s the one song that really encompasses this whole experience,” Key declares, looking back on everything he, his family and his bandmates have been through over the past year. “It’s saying, we’re ready for anything now.”
Ernie was perfect for our Elders Conference at Little River Casino Resort in Manistee, Michigan. We will definitely be using PDA again!
LITTLE RIVER BAND OF OTTAWA INDIANS
Our speaker was great and the crowd enjoyed her! She was very engaging. Thank you again PDA for the great list of suggestions!
Everything went great! and our speaker was wonderful! Thank you so much for all your help PDA! Looking forward to the next one.
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI – KANSAS CITY
I hope that this message finds you well. We had a phenomenal time with Atsuko this past Thursday. We wanted to just let you know how amazing she was. All those that were in attendance thoroughly enjoyed her and had nothing but amazing things to say about her. Thank you for working with us to make sure this happened!
BAYLOR UNIVERSITY CAMPUS
We had a fantastic day with Inge! She was very engaging with all those that attended. Her personal stories about the holocaust were very special and we were moved that she was willing to share them with everyone. Thank you again, PDA for all your hard work and dedication to make this program such a success!
SALT LAKE COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Dear PDA Group, Thank you so much for your hard work in scheduling our speaker! From the moment we reached out to you the first time, you worked with us on all details and logistics and kept us up-to-date on the progress. Thank you for all your hard work on making our event such a success! We couldn't have done it without you and your team!
Thank you again, Dr. Kimbrough, for a great presentation, our attendees are still talking about it!
Dr. Henry Lee's presentation was entertaining, insightful and wise. I, and everyone at Pfizer, especially appreciate the remarks you directed about following your passion and preparing yourself to excel. Thank you, everyone, at PDA for helping to make this happen!
The event was successful! I received many messages expressing how awesome, outstanding and inspiring Ms. Webb-Christburg's speech was."
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. MEMORIAL BREAKFAST, BOSTON, MLK SPEAKER
Everything went well. Atsuko was very easy to work with and the students enjoyed her performance! Thank you again for your recommendation and I hope to work with you again in the future!
CENTRAL MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY
Dr. Novello left this morning after a very successful event on our campus! Thank you PDA Group for your help from the first phone to the last you were with us every step of the way.
GRAND VALLEY STATE UNIVERSITY
Jordan Carlos was very very entertaining! A majority of students who answered the event survey indicated they really enjoyed Jordan and definitely will bring him back!
WESTERN CAROLINA UNIVERSITY
On behalf of myself and my organization Entertainment Unlimited the Campus Programming Board of Ferris State University, we thank you PDA and Dan for a successful event!! Dan was magnificent! Students really enjoyed the presentation. I know I did. Can't wait to bring in more programs with PDA Group.
FERRIS STATE UNIVERSITY
It was a great pleasure to work with PDA Group! The communication was always prompt, friendly and helpful. We loved the speakers and events we booked through Mr. Peter Walker (PDA Group).
WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY
Thank you, Peter, for all your help, you'll be happy to know that the event went incredibly well! Aneesa Ferreira was by far one of the best speakers we've ever had!
An Evening With Yellowcard
1 HOUR OR LESS