Spinning Sunnyland for the hundredth time, it’s clear that this is some of Mayday Parade’s best work. The sixth studio album from the alt-rock outfit, Sunnyland is very much an album of nostalgia for Mayday Parade – for their youthful antics and for exploring love and loss. Naturally fans will ascribe their own experiences to the music and remember their own past, with vocalist Derek Sanders already having heard a few of fan stories himself.
“What’s kind of crazy is we’ve been a band for so long – 13 years – that now when we go on a tour, we see people we’ve known for ten years or more, who’ve been with us many, many years,” he says. “A lot of people have grown up with us. A lot of people have talked about how this album is looking back on the last 13 years of this band, [on] everything we’ve done, and it’s been amazing to hear people’s stories, ‘I heard this band 11 years ago, all this stuff has changed in my life since then,’ how we’ve helped them get through tough times. It comes around full circle. We’re lucky to still be here doing it.”
Rife with nostalgia, longing, happiness and sorrow, ‘Nowhere’ stands out on Sunnyland. In the song, Sanders sings of ‘music being the only escape but not hearing it anymore’, a powerful thread of words with a bittersweet story behind them. “It’s therapeutic for me,” says Sanders. “I feel like I’m a pretty happy, optimistic person, but a lot of the songs we write are dark songs.
“It comes from somewhere that means I don’t have to write a grimy and hideous feeling as that song would portray. It’s kind of getting out from a negative emotion. It’s healthy to put it into a song.”
Sadness runs riot in many of the songs on Sunnyland, offering a degree of closure and a likening to Mayday Parade closing the lid on a particular part of their life. “The title itself and a particular lyric sums it all up,” says Sanders. “‘I left something important back in Sunnyland and it’s something I know I’ll never find.’
“Sunnyland was an old abandoned hospital in Tallahassee we used to go explore. [We] just had so much fun there. They tore it down about ten years ago. A lot of it is about coming to terms with ‘That’s part of your childhood, part of your past. That’s forever gone.’ There’s no way to get back.”
Mayday Parade saw a place that meant so much to them torn to the ground, an action that Sanders says feels even more sad as time goes by. “It hit me soon after writing that song. I was driving by where Sunnyland used to be and, I don’t know, it hit me pretty hard.”
Nevertheless, Sanders has his memories and his music, and that’s what’s important. Mayday Parade are still moving forward, thankful for their success and the opportunities their friendship and passion has afforded them. Sanders has said previously that it was his intention with Sunnyland to help people feel better through hard times – as much as the album has helped him, he wanted it to mean something just as powerful for the fans. Music, after all, is still the best medicine.
“Especially in some of those teenage years, music has helped me a lot,” he says. “That’s a time so much is changing in your life. You’re getting ready for the real world. It’s kind of funny – it never was a goal of ours in the beginning, we just loved playing music, and as we toured as much as we have, we’d meet people who our music had helped. Now we try to help as many people as we can.”
Mayday Parade haven’t excluded Aussie fans in their mission statement, bringing Sunnyland to the Good Things festival stage this December where fans will hear the album live for the first time. Though it has its punk-laden riffs and beautiful ballads, Sunnyland has a particular kind of intensity to it, something Sanders says Aussie fans will witness. “We definitely shoot for that. I feel like we have a pretty energetic set and try to be as entertaining as possible.
“We’ll play deep into the Sunnyland stuff and we’ll play songs from the very beginning. We try to make everybody happy and have a good time, just feeding off of each other’s energy.”
Mayday Parade will perform as part of Good Things Festival as well as headline shows in Perth and Adelaide. Sunnyland is out now via Rise Records.