Yellowcard is an American pop punk/alternative rock band formed in Jacksonville, Florida in 1997, and based in Los Angeles, California since 2000.Their music features the use of a violin, unusual for the genre. They are best-known for their songs “Ocean Avenue”, “Only One”, “Lights and Sounds”, and “Light Up the Sky”. The band went on to a two-year hiatus then announced their return in August 2010 and released their latest album so far, When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yesin mid-March 2011.

Put aside the usual pigeonholes, things like style and genre classifications – it takes much more for a band to really make a personal connection with people. Yellowcard understand this. The Ventura-based punk quintet (by way of Jacksonville, Florida), have made that direct musical connection in each of the hundreds of shows they’ve played at all-ages punk nights, rock dives, school events, suburban VFW halls, living rooms, back yards and any of the other places they play over 200 nights a year. It’s a mature insight for five young guys who don’t take themselves too seriously, but then Yellowcard – Ryan Key, 23 (vocals, guitars); Sean Mackin, 24 (violin, vocals); Benjamin Harper, 22 (guitar); Longineu Parsons III, 23 (drums); and Pete Mosely, 24 (bass, vocals) – aren’t your typical young punk band — starting with the classically-trained violinist in their ranks. And they’ve now created a powderkeg of affecting, personal and explosive rock on their new album, Ocean Avenue.

Yellowcard formed in 1997 but quickly made some lineup changes. Current singer Ryan Key was friends with most of the band from their high school days in Jacksonville, Florida. He and Sean Mackin, in particular, were close friends and both enrolled at Florida State University after graduating.

Key dropped out of college after only half a year, moving to Santa Cruz to follow his heart and make music. He played with a couple of punk bands in California and Florida but nothing really stuck. Yellowcard guitarist Ben Harper saw one of Key’s band practices and quickly extended an invitation to him to jam with the rest of the band – as luck would have it, they had jettisoned their current singer and were looking for a replacement.

“We started playing some songs I had written,” remembers Key, “and it all just clicked. Sean and I had always been really tight and I had a good relationship with the rest of the guys. It just seemed to work very naturally somehow.”

Yellowcard were now a complete band and Key convinced the band that they needed to move from Florida to Southern California to have a real shot of catching their aspirations. They would move to Ventura County and quickly find their collective voice together, playing many of the songs Key wrote on his own before joining the group. Most of these were recorded on their debut album, One For The Kids (Lobster Records), released in 2001, and the 2002 follow-up, The Underdog EP (Fueled By Ramen Records). Both releases received favorable reviews and genuine buzz, particularly for the group’s upbeat, honest music.

Ocean Avenue, Yellowcard’s debut for Capitol Records, was produced by Neal Avron and mixed by Tom-Lord-Alge. On the album, themes of self-empowerment and self-awareness reveal themselves throughout the 13 songs on tracks like “Believe” and “Inside Out.” And there is a conspicuous lack of irony or sarcasmƒsincerity rules. “We’re definitely a positive band,” says Key. “We want to take experiences in our life and use them in a productive way, to encourage people not to let anybody tell them what to do with their life.”

Ocean Avenue offers a passionate brand of upbeat punk — but with a twist, complementing the standard band setup with the exotic (by rock standards, anyway) inclusion of a violin as a rhythm instrument, played by Sean Mackin. It makes their songs stand out, says Key. “I write the verses and the chorus and then let the band take it from there. They come up with any new kind of rhythms or chord structures that they can to just make the songs more interesting, to make them better. It’s a very equal-parts thing that comes out really strong.”

Ocean Avenue’s opener, “Way Away,” finds Key speaking to the idea that people are ultimately the masters of their own destiny. “We’re talking about really owning up to what you want to do in your life,” he explains of the song. He cites his own personal journey from dropping out of college to pursue his dream of being a songwriter, and the band’s decision to leave their hometown of Jacksonville for California. “It’s like, I’m not going to stay here just because you tell me I have to. A lot of those people who say that are doing the 9-to-5 and they’re not happy. You have to do what you want to do.”

On other songs, Yellowcard cull directly from their lives. On “Only One,” Key talks specifically about the recent breakup with his girlfriend. “I can’t stand albums where every song is about some chick who broke your heart,” laughs Key. This song is different, though, he says. “I made the decision to end the relationship because it was the right thing to do, even though I’m not sure exactly why, and this song is about knowing it was right but still trying to understand it.”

On “Miles Apart,” Yellowcard reflect on the divergence of friends’ lives after seminal periods like high school. “Twentythree” is about youthful idealism giving way to maturity. And the frenzied pace of the song stands out on Ocean Avenue, as do the vocals, done not by Key but by Mackin. “It’s amazing how Sean can sing a song and it still sounds like Yellowcard,” says Key.

By design, the end of the album feels like arriving at the end of an emotional journey. The final song is “Back Home,” a counterpoint to the album’s opener, “Way Away.” If that opener is about the brash pursuit of personal dreams, “Back Home,” is a sentimental reflection on what was left behind. “Sometimes when you’ve gone out to do what you want to do, you miss what you left – home, security, friends, family, safety,” explains Key. “We wanted to end the record with that kind of reflection.”

Indeed, it’s that kind of wise-beyond-their-years sensibility that has helped Yellowcard stand out from the pack. In 2002, they joined the West Coast leg of the famed Warped Tour, a breakout stint for the band, and they soon used their newfound buzz to land spots on tours opening up for revered punks like No Use For A Name, Lagwagon and Less Than Jake. This summer, they’ll be featured again on the Warped Tour, this time on the East Coast leg.

“It’s awesome to know we sacrificed and followed our hearts to end up where we are right now,” says Key. “We definitely feel lucky, but we’ve worked hard as hell to ma ke that luck happen.”

Early years (1997–2002)

Yellowcard was formed in 1997 in Jacksonville, Florida after meeting at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. The band released its first album, Midget Tossing, in 1997. The original members were vocalist Ben Dobson, guitarist/vocalist Todd Clary, bassist Warren Cooke, guitarist Ben Harper, and drummer Longineu W. Parsons III (“LP”). While vocalist/violinist Sean Mackin was featured on some of the songs, he was not a member yet, as he still objected to many of the band’s messages.

Where We Stand, their second album, featured the same lineup as Midget Tossing, and Mackin was featured on more songs. Soon Ben Dobson was replaced by Ryan Key (vocals and rhythm guitar). Ryan Key was formerly in the Californian Tooth & Nail Records band Craig’s Brother. This changed the band’s music style drastically, from hardcore punk to pop punk. It also changed most of their fan base, leaving them with a new beginning and a fresh start as a band.

In early 2000, the band recorded the Still Standing EP. Soon after Still Standing EP was released, Todd Clary left the band. Key then filled both Clary’s and Dobson’s duties, guitar and vocals respectively. After sending the new EP to friend Steve Lubarsky at Lobster Records, the band signed their first recording contract in June 2000 and by November had headed west to Camarillo, CA to begin working on another full length album.

The group released their third album, One for the Kids (Lobster Records), in 2001 and followed up with The Underdog EP (Fueled by Ramen Records) in

2002. Both of these were well-received by fans. However, soon after The Underdog EP was released, Warren Cooke left the band due to personal reasons. The band then asked an old friend, Peter Mosely from Inspection 12, to play bass for them. Before Warren Cooke left, the band filmed an unreleased music video for the song “Powder”. The video was later put on the enhanced version of the band’s next album, Ocean Avenue.

Ocean Avenue (2002–2005)

Shortly after releasing The Underdog EP, Yellowcard signed with Capitol Records, which was looking to sign pop punk groups at the time. Yellowcard began recording their major-label debut in late 2002, and the production of the record was finished in the spring of that year. During the recording of Ocean Avenue, Mosely left Yellowcard, devoting his time his first band, Inspection 12, and putting the finishing touches to their upcoming album, Get Rad. The band again began the search for a new bass player and found Alex Lewis, whose sister, Alieke Wijnveldt, contributed vocals to the Ocean Avenue track, “View From Heaven”.

The band released their first single from the album, “Way Away”. The song did well on MTV2 and rock radio, peaking at #25 on the modern rock charts. The song created enough buzz to cause the band’s mainstream explosion. In the middle of the band’s first headlining tour, Peter Mosely decided to leave Inspection 12 and asked if he could rejoin Yellowcard. Because Mosely had been an integral part of the writing for Ocean Avenue and had also been friends with most of the band’s members since high school, Lewis was asked to leave, and Mosely was reinstated as the bass player.

In late 2003, the band finally broke through with a hit single, “Ocean Avenue”. The song premiered on MTV’s TRL program, and quickly shot up the charts to #1. Radio eventually picked up on the single, and the song made it to #37 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song “Empty Apartment” was also featured on an episode of the TV Show One Tree Hill. Suddenly, Yellowcard was everywhere from the covers of Alternative Press, to headliners of the 2004 Warped Tour, to on stage at the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards, performing “Ocean Avenue”. The band took home the MTV2 award as well. Yellowcard featured on an episode of MTV’s Real World/Road Rules Challenge, performing “Way Away” while cast members trashed a mock hotel room in true rock star fashion. The album’s first track, “Way Away” appeared on the soundtracks of SSX 3 and Madden NFL 2004. The album’s second track, “Breathing”, also appeared in EA’s Burnout 3: Takedown and FlatOut 2. Following “Ocean Avenue”‘s success, the band released the single “Only One”, a rock ballad which also did fairly well on TRL and radio. The Ocean Avenue album sold over one million copies in the US alone.

As Ocean Avenue’s popularity began to decrease, the band spent some time contributing songs to various soundtracks. The first, “Gifts And Curses”, appeared in the hit film Spider-Man 2. Another, a cover of Lagwagon’s “Violins”, was featured on Rock Against Bush, Vol. 2 compilation album. At the 2005 MTV Movie Awards, Yellowcard performed a cover of the song “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” during a special tribute to the movie The Breakfast Club.Lights and Sounds

After almost two years of touring, Yellowcard took a few months off at the beginning of 2005. Ryan Key and Peter Mosely moved to New York City to write the songs for their upcoming album. The rest of the band remained in Los Angeles. The band regrouped in LA in the spring and began pre-production for the follow up to Ocean Avenue in March. Recording and production was finished in September and advertising began for the album. The band had originally announced that the album was expected for August 2005, but production and other delays pushed the release date back several months.

In the months following, many problems had arisen between the band mates, mainly involving Ben Harper. Ryan Key has made many comments since then stating, “The fame went to their heads.” After two months of court appearances, Ben left the band. He was eventually replaced by Ryan Mendez from the band Staring Back. Up until the announcement of this, Harper’s record label was about to record Staring Back’s next album. After leaving Yellowcard, Ben Harper joined the band Amber Pacific, but he soon dropped out. Harper is now in the band HeyMike! and runs Takeover Records in California.

Lights and Sounds was finally released on January 24, 2006.

A loose concept album, the theme centers around the band’s negative feelings towards Los Angeles. Prior to the release of Lights and Sounds, Ryan Key said that this ambitious album would probably alienate a large portion of their fan base, and that he was 100 percent okay with that. 20 songs were recorded for the album, 14 of which are on the CD, plus a B-side available on import versions, CD singles, and at the iTunes Store, called “Three Flights Down”. Lights and Sounds is also the only Yellowcard album to contain an instrumental track (“Three Flights Up”).

The title track, “Lights and Sounds”, was the first single, released a week before the album. It peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks. It is also featured on the video games Burnout Revenge and Guitar Hero: Modern Hits. In its first week of release the album sold just over 90,000 copies, but it only went on to receive gold status. High first week sales are most likely the result of high anticipation of the album, as it was the follow-up to the highly-successful Ocean Avenue; low total sales backup Ryan’s statement about the album being very ambitious and different in sound from Ocean Avenue. On May 6, 2006, the second and final single and video of the album, “Rough Landing, Holly”, was released. The single wasn’t as well received as the first, and after its first week of release it quickly dropped on the charts.

In May 2006, Ryan Key had surgery on his vocal chords done after having problems with his singing. He had started having problems in December 2005. He was mute for a week and couldn’t sing for more than a month. The band, after canceling some shows and receiving some time off from touring, joined the Virgin Mega Tour for Summer 2006.


Yellowcard with new member, Sean O’Donnell.
Background information
Origin Jacksonville, Florida, United States
Genres Alternative rock
Pop punk
Punk rock
Melodic hardcore (early years)
Years active 1997–2008
Labels DIY (1997, 2000)
Takeover (1998–1999)
Lobster (2001)
Fueled By Ramen (2002)
Capitol (2003–2008)
Hopeless (2010–present)
Associated acts Reeve Oliver, Craig’s Brother, Big If, Inspection 12
Ryan Key
Sean Mackin
Ryan Mendez
Longineu W. Parsons III
Sean O’Donnell
Past members
Ben Dobson
Todd Clarry
Warren Cooke
Alex Lewis
Ben Harper
Peter Mosely

Yellowcard Lyrics

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