Yellowcard's Ryan Mendez on cancer, comebacks, and Warped

Yellowcard's Ryan Mendez on cancer, comebacks, and Warped
Photo by Megan Thompson

Depending on how old you are, the name Yellowcard might bring to mind high school nostalgia, but they're still evolving and reinventing themselves. The band recently went through a shakeup with their violinist Sean Mackin learning and getting treated for thyroid cancer, and their bassist Sean O'Donnell leaving the band to focus on family. Despite what may seem as trials for the band, they have never been as ready for the next step in their career as right now.

Gimme Noise caught up with guitarist Ryan Mendez before the band's Warped Tour stop on Sunday in Shakopee.

Late last year, prior to going into the studio, violinist Sean learned of his thyroid cancer that eventually affected his voice and ability to talk. Ryan affirms that he is doing well while still having regular doctor visits and radiation sessions. "The treatments messed him up, but right now compared to then, he's completely a different person. He's doing significantly better now that six months ago." When asked how the band has rallied around him, Mendez says, "We love him like a brother, and we do everything we can to support him. We understand his limitations that he might have. So far he has been a champion at not allowing it to affect him in a negative way and contribute what he needs to for the band."

Soon after, bassist Sean O'Donnell announced a message on the band's website stating he was leaving the band because he was getting married and wanted to focus on his family and not be out touring all year. The position was filled by a friend, Josh Portman, who had stepped in to help out the band before. "When [our former bassist] Pete left the band in 2007, Josh came in and filled in for the last half of the tour and finished they year with us. We have all known him for years and are familiar with playing with him for years, so his coming into the band in a more permanent role was a natural fit. It's been totally great."

To prepare for summer and their decision to be on all dates for Vans Warped Tour, the band released a single aptly called "Always Summer." Intended for their album being released this August, the song seemed fitting to release before their Warped dates. Ryan says, "The vibe and feel of the song if uplifting, fun, and energetic, so it seemed like a great summer single."

After a hiatus, the band is making up for lost time, releasing two albums in a little over a year and touring nonstop. Mendez continues, "We've been looking for a chance to play Warped for a few years. Since we came off our hiatus, last year didn't make sense because we had just come out of the gate. Coming back after being gone a couple of years, we wanted to be where we had been as a band in the past." The tour is a brutal 41 dates, running from June 16 to August 5, but the band declares that they are ready to take it on. "We've all done it many times. It's definitely grueling, but at the same time, we're experienced in doing it. They take such good care of us on tour, and we couldn't be happier to be out here."

There is often a disconnect between the fan and artist at shows, but Warped has always done a good job at bridging that gap. The majority of the bands performing hold meet and greets at their artist tent to connect and show appreciation to their fans. Ryan says, "We are doing the official meet and greet, then one of us is hanging out at the merch booth for part of the day." That's some major dedication.

When asked about his favorite part of the tour, Mendez answers, "It feels like summer camp. You're hanging out all day, everyday for two months with some of your best friends. Everyone plays for half an hour, and everyone's watching each other's set. There's a lot of camaraderie." So how burnt out will the band be at the end of the tour? (laughs) "I don't know. You'll have to ask me then."

Yellowcard will be performing at Vans Warped Tour on Sunday, July 8, 2012 at Canterbury Park in Shakopee.
Click here for full lineup.
AA, $39, 11:30 am

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