Traveling Salesmen

Mayday Parade worked to earn an audience one fan at a time (literally)

Nov 12, 2008 at 2:06 pm

It’s been demonstrated time and again that the Warped Tour provides great exposure for Modern Rock bands. My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy and the All-American Rejects are among the bands whose stints on Warped served as a springboard to major success.

It turns out that even groups that never step foot on the stages also can get a real boost for their careers out of the Warped Tour. Mayday Parade can attest to that.

In the summer of 2006, the then-newly formed group hit the road to follow the Warped Tour on its cross-country trek. The band left behind the guitars, amps and drums, but brought along a pile of freshly recorded EPs and an ingenious idea to create awareness about the band.

By the time the tour finished its two-month run, Mayday Parade had sold some 11,000 copies of its six-song EP, all without ever playing a note on any of the Warped stages.

“It really just gave us a great head start for the band because we had never even toured or anything. We had only played local shows and stuff,” singer Derek Sanders says.

The band’s approach was as grassroots as it comes. Every day on the tour, Mayday Parade would arrive at the Warped venue early in the morning, and as the lines of ticket holders began to form around 8 a.m., the band members would spring into action.

“We’d all put the backpacks on and fill our backpacks up with CDs,” Sanders said. “We each had CD players and headphones and we just walked around straight up and down the line and talked to every single person, and (said), ‘Hey, here’s our music. Do you want to check it out?’ They’d listen to it. (We’d say) ‘If you like it, it’s five bucks,’ and just do it that way.”

It could be a frustrating experience, Sanders recalls.

“You can go a long, long time without anybody buying, and it’s really discouraging,” he says. “But then you’ll hit a group where everybody in the group would buy one and people were really into it. You just really had to work hard all day long.”

The effort and the frequent rejections from fans was worth it, though. In addition to reaching thousands of potential fans, Mayday Parade’s Warped tour EP sale paid off in one very important and tangible way.

“Because we started getting a little more recognition and people started to hear us and word got around, that’s actually how we ended up getting signed by Fearless (Records),” Sanders said. “The Warped Tour was coming through L.A., and they told us while we were there they wanted us to come do a showcase for them and hang out at their headquarters for a little bit and talk to them. That’s how we got in touch with them and ended up, maybe a few months after that, getting signed by them.”

Since that point, Mayday Parade has continued to make steady progress with its career.

The group has been able to tour steadily — including actually performing on the Warped Tour, both in 2007 and again this year. In July of last year, the group released its full-length debut CD, A Lesson In Romantics.

Making the full-length CD was a markedly different experience for the band members — Sanders, bassist Jeremy Lenzo, guitarists Alex Garcia, Brooks Betts and Jason Lancaster (who left the group after the CD was recorded) and drummer Jake Bundrick.

“The best thing about it was we had so much more time,” Sanders says of the full-length recording project. “With the EP, it was really kind of rushed. (It was) just like the first six songs we wrote, we recorded. We didn’t have a lot of time in the studio. Like the entire EP, I think we recorded it in one week.”

For A Lesson In Romantics, the band had an entire month for songwriting and then a month in the studio. The result is a more cohesive album with catchy Pop Rock songs that even Sanders acknowledges prompt comparisons to groups such as Fall Out Boy and Jimmy Eat World.

Fortunately, on songs like “Black Cat” and “Take This To Heart,” the group crafts guitar riffs and vocal melodies that are clever and memorable enough to stand above much of the music of like-minded bands.

Such songs should help Mayday Parade’s cause in a live setting, where, on a festival bill like Warped, the band faces the task of making an impression on audiences that may be largely unfamiliar with the group. Sanders said the band also commands attention from audiences with its approach to performing.

“We definitely think probably the overall most important thing is to keep a lot of energy going and keep it entertaining,” he says. “We don’t ever want to have like a dull or boring moment in the set. We want to just constantly have stuff going on everywhere, everybody moving around a lot and just keep the energy going and try to get the kids into it as much as possible.”

MAYDAY PARADE plays Bogart’s on Nov. 19 with All Time Low, The Maine and Every Avenue. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.