After meeting Derek Sanders of Mayday Parade backstage last week at Warped Tour, I knew I had to interview him for Journey of a Frontman. I was able to work out an interview with him later in the week after his performance in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, one of the many stops on this year’s Warped Tour.
Derek and I had a fun discussion about Warped Tour, blink-182, the first concert he ever attended, and more.
Alex Obert: What does it mean to you to be on the twentieth anniversary of Warped Tour?
Derek Sanders: It means a lot. The first time I went to Warped Tour was in 2002, which was twelve years ago, and I knew it would be an important thing to me. And ever since then, from going and being inspired by it to following it and Mayday Parade sold tees to kids in the line and we eventually played it in 2007 for the first time. We worked our way up to now playing the main stage for the first time this year. And it’s incredible, we’re just having a blast.
Alex Obert: What is that feeling like for you being on the main stage?
Derek Sanders: It’s really wild. I think about it every day. I think back to the first time that I went to Warped Tour and just how in awe I was of all these bands playing the main stage, and also just following the tour and begging people to listen to our music outside. To be on the main stage, it’s such a good feeling.
Alex Obert: When you went for the first time in 2002, who are you most excited to see on that tour?
Derek Sanders: New Found Glory was a huge one, that was one of the main ones that I wanted to see. Finch and Good Charlotte. I went in 2002 and 2003, there were a lot of awesome bands. I heard a lot of bands for the first time. I actually got into the band, Shai Halude, from seeing them play Warped Tour in 2002 and I’ve been a huge fan of them ever since.
Alex Obert: What led to Mayday Parade continuing to come back on Warped Tour?
Derek Sanders: We always try to stay as positive as we can. I appreciate what we have, being on the tour, and I try not to cause any problems or drama or anything. It’s tough to say, but we’ve kind of been in a cycle of doing it every two years since 2008 up to now. Hopefully we can continue that cycle and keep coming back.
Alex Obert: What was your initial reaction when you were told you would be on it for the first time?
Derek Sanders: It was just amazing. It was one of the major goals for this band. When I was in other bands before this, I always thought how incredible it would be to be on Warped Tour. Everybody knows about Warped Tour. And when I tell people that we’re doing Warped Tour, even those who don’t know much about bands will be like, “Oh yeah, I know what that is!” I can’t imagine a summer without it.
Alex Obert: Which bands are impressing you this year?
Derek Sanders: There’s a lot honestly. Real Friends have been killin’ it. And they’re really good dudes to hang out with. Neck Deep is really good. State Champs. Bad Rabbits. I know Bad Rabbits have been around for a while, but I never really listened to them much. But they have an incredible set. Four Year Strong, Story So Far, there’s a whole lot. It’s all good times this year. Everyone’s having a good time. I knew more people ahead of time coming into the tour than I have for any other tour ever. We’ve played with so many of these bands before. And then I’ve also made a lot of new friends. That’s how it usually goes, everybody loves to hang out and have a good time.
Alex Obert: Next month, you’ll be going over to the UK, what’s that going to be like for you?
Derek Sanders: It’s going to be incredible. We’re going to be doing Reading and Leeds, it’s a huge deal. It’s something I’d heard about as a kid, and so it’s exciting to be a part of it for the first time. There’s some huge bands on it. I’ve never seen blink-182 life before and they’re on it. I hope I get to check them out. Macklemore too. Some huge stuff, it’s gonna be unbelievable.
Alex Obert: How were you introduced to blink-182?
Derek Sanders: Back in the day, I used to have a boombox/tape/CD player/radio kind of deal and we would listen to the radio with a tape loaded and ready. When a song came on that we liked, we’d record the song on the tape. So What’s My Age Again? came on and we recorded it, we’d listen to it forever and didn’t even know who it was for six months or so because we didn’t have the name, we just had the song on tape. I eventually got the album and I’ve been a fan ever since.
Alex Obert: Regarding all the touring that’s going on this summer, what was it like celebrating your birthday on a Warped Tour date in New Jersey?
Derek Sanders: It was incredible. From doing several Warped Tours, I’ve a handful of birthdays that have fallen in line with Warped Tour. My family was there, and so were my girlfriend and daughter. I couldn’t ask for more than that. We got to play an incredible show, I got to see family and friends and everything. My girlfriend and friends made a really cool posterboard card that they sat at the merch table and by the end of the day, it was just completely covered with pictures and messages and everything. That was really sweet, that was really special.
Alex Obert: So what music do you listen to to hype yourself up for shows?
Derek Sanders: It depends. Maybe New Found Glory sometimes or Saves The Day. Or some newer bands like The Story So Far or Real Friends. Any of that kind of stuff gets me goin’.
Alex Obert: What would you say is the best show you’ve ever seen live?
Derek Sanders: It’s hard to pick an all-time favorite, but I’ll tell you the most recent show that I went to that was certainly up there in the running was a twenty one pilots show. I had actually never really listened to the band at all, I guess I maybe heard the name and that was it. We got put on the guest list for show they did in Long Island, we had a day off so we went. I had no idea what to expect, but it was most amazing live show. There were all these set changes and costume changes, they were doing backflips and running around stage, doing backflips off the piano, climbing into the crowd and playing, just all kinds of amazing stuff. I would highly recommend it to anybody.
Alex Obert: From your standpoint, what’s the most important factor for a live show?
Derek Sanders: It has to be genuine. The people on stage should be genuinely happy to be there, having a good time and enjoying playing the music. I think people can kind of tell when you’re faking it. I feel like there’s a connection that happens whenever you’re just having so much fun and the crowd’s having fun. You kind of feed off each other’s energy.
Alex Obert: What was the first concert you ever attended?
Derek Sanders: First concert I ever went to was SR-71, Nine Days, and American Hi-Fi. They were all on tour together in Tallahassee, Florida. At the time, I had started sort of playing music with some friends and family and whatever, but I had never seen anything like an actual show like that. I remember looking at the side of the stage and seeing all the guitars lined up. I was just like, “Wow, they have like seven guitars!” And all the people doing set changes in between sets and everything. I was just taking it all in, just having an incredible time and it was a big influence. It just kind of threw me even further towards wanting to play music.
Alex Obert: Something I’m curious about, what led to you growing your hair out?
Derek Sanders: When I was in high school, maybe like eleventh grade, I decided I was just gonna try growing my hair out. I’ve just always preferred having longer hair. And I don’t really do anything to it, I hardly ever brush it or anything or put anything in it. It’s a lot of fun to have on stage. When I cut my hair shorter, I miss being able to throw my hair around on stage.
Alex Obert: For readers who are considering going to Warped Tour, what do you have to say to them?
Derek Sanders: I think the most important thing about going to Warped Tour is that you have to drink lots of water. I think if you drink lots of water, you’ll be fine. Then there are those who don’t drink lots of water. And people pass out every day from heat exhaustion and dehydration. I think they only let you bring in one bottle of water, so keep the bottle to refill or bring money to buy water throughout the day. You gotta make sure that you stay hydrated. But other than that, just have a good time. It’s an all day thing and you’re out in the sun all day, it gets to be exhausting by the end of it. Most people need to wear sunscreen. And that’s about it.
Alex Obert: Last question, what is the one band you hope to see on Warped Tour in the future?
Derek Sanders: Maybe I’d say Jimmy Eat World. I’m not sure if they’ve ever done Warped Tour before, but they’re one of my favorite bands and I’d love to see them on Warped Tour. That’d be awesome.
Alex Obert: Well I’d love to thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.
Derek Sanders: Yeah, anytime! No worries.