Derek Sanders thinks he’s pretty aware of the lifespan of a band. When Mayday Parade formed in 2005, the singer and songwriter wasn’t quite sure how things would progress. Now, 15 years since the band released their debut A Lesson in Romantics, Sanders is in awe of their resiliency, something penetrating Mayday Parade’s seventh album What It Means to Fall Apart (Rise Records), and the band’s celebratory tour around the 11th anniversary of their third album Mayday Parade.
“It’s crazy that we’re still able to do it,” Sanders tells American Songwriter. “We’re just grateful that we’ve been able to make it this long and continue to keep moving forward. Obviously, it won’t last forever, so we’re just trying to appreciate it and make the most of it while we can.”
What It Means to Fall Apart chronicles the life and times of Mayday Parade the past 15 years, while addressing the varied waves of mental health, and an unending plague, bookended by reminisces of more carefree days and early beginnings around the Warped Tour on the anthemic “Kids of Summer” and the heartfelt close of “I Can’t Do This Anymore,” a grimmer track absorbing the uncertainty of the pandemic. “The idea of ‘I Can’t Do This Anymore,’ there’s not a lot of hope in that, but it just felt right,” says Sanders. “I think it’s a beautiful song, and it’s a powerful song, and was the right close for the album.”
He adds, “There was a lot of frustration with the way the world has been the last few years, and I think that made its way into the songs for sure. I’d like to think that a lot of it is hopeful, looking towards the future with hope, and for better days ahead. I feel like it’s a balance of those two things, dealing with the pain and the frustration of everything that’s been happening in the world but not dwelling on it too much.”
A more tender ode on making the most of time with loved ones, “One For The Rocks And One For The Scary” falls in line with the revealing “Bad At Love.” Breaking through the more affecting tracks, “Heaven” ripples through a more digitized soundboard. Started as a demo written by guitarist Alex Garcia, the song evolved for Sanders around the lyric it feels like Heaven, the way you put me through hell.
“I really grabbed on to it, and I took it and reworked an idea revolving around that,” says Sanders. “The idea originally was that it’d be a transition song, like a short in-between kind of thing.”
Part of the more experimentation nature of the track, which shifts into a more frenetic synth by the second half, is the result of a Jimmy Eat World livestream, where they performed their 1999 album Clarity.
“Personally, that’s my favorite album of all time,” shares Sanders of the transformative performance they watched while in the studio. “One of the things I loved about that album is that it is so experimental, and it has so many different instruments and sounds and styles and in particular. The last track [‘Goodbye Sky Harbor’] goes on for like 12 minutes. Watching them do that live with the loop pedal and the xylophone, by the next day we were just inspired and wanted to try some of those ideas with ‘Heaven.’”
Reunited with longtime producers Zack Odom and Kenneth Mount, who have worked with the band on every album since A Lesson in Romantics—with the exception of 2009 release Anywhere But Here and Black Lines in 2015—the band pieced together What It Means To Fall Apart with no direction in sight, leaving recordings open to a single, an EP, or whatever formulated, and ended up with 12 tracks, reflecting their past, present, and future.
For the most part, all of What It Means to Fall Apart are newer songs, written towards the tail end of the band’s 2018 album Sunnyland, which were given more time to develop as the band worked around the thick of the pandemic in 2020.
“Some of these songs formed not too long after that album was released, so it’s been three years in the making,” says Sanders. “Obviously, the pandemic disrupted this whole industry and all of our plans for the last two years, so we spent a good amount of time just writing songs and working on music and making demos and bouncing them back and forth to each other.”
All band members now living in different states, the album initially started out remotely, with the band popping in and out of the studio to record batches of songs in three separate sessions.
“I’m super proud of the album,” says Sanders. “It’s another step forward for us, and for me. My goal with our new music is to build upon what we’ve established as our sound, our feeling as a band and also build on top of that and go into some new places as well, and try out new things and experiments. I think this album accomplishes that pretty well. Now that we’re all in different cities, that makes some aspects of this tough, but whenever we do get a chance to all get together, it’s really this magical thing.”
Ready to work on new material and hit the road to revisit Mayday Parade again, Sanders says all the songs of the past 15 years still resonate deeply regardless of the time and place when they were written.
“Obviously, there are things that that change, but they definitely still resonate,” says Sanders. “I think that’s [‘Mayday Parader’] probably my favorite album. I had gone through a really difficult breakup about a year or so before that album came out, so much of that album is about that specific time and those events.”
He adds, “Now, that all seems like such a long time ago. I don’t feel it exactly the same way, but I do love those songs and love what it’s done for us and how many people it has impacted.”
Photos: Rise Records