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Yellowcard Challenges Punk Norms

As Yellowcard’s 2003 Warped Tour commitment winds down (its East Coast-only stint ends Sunday (Aug. 10) in Asbury Park, N.J.), singer/guitarist Ryan Key tells Billboard.com the hardest adjustment for the band has been the repetition of travel.

“It’s like ‘Groundhog Day,’ where you just kind of wake up and go outside and you are in another parking lot but next to the same bus you were yesterday,” says Key. “It is kind of like a dream that you never seem to wake up from. It’s cool.”

With its Capitol Records debut, “Ocean Avenue,” having debuted this week at No. 99 on The Billboard 200, the Florida quintet is working hard to separate itself from the plethora of bands that make up the trendy power pop/punk pack. Key points to Yellowcard’s musical diversity, including dalliances with bluesy guitar sounds (“Empty Apartment”) and even a country twang motif (“View From Heaven”) on the new disc, as an important counterpoint to its supposed punk sound.

“I discovered punk rock in the mid ’90s when Fat Wreck Chords was really booming and No Use For A Name and NOFX were putting out, what I consider, some of their best records,” says Key. “That was a big influence on me when I started sort of trying to become a songwriter. But I don’t think we are a punk rock band. Whatever you want to call punk music nowadays, I think the lines are so blurred, you can’t really tell anymore. [We’re] definitely influenced by punk rock, yes. We grew up listening to that, but I don’t think we are trying to emulate that or duplicate it in any way.”

Along those lines, Yellowcard’s use of a violin player is both compelling and confusing. While violinist Sean Mackin plays on all 13 tracks of “Ocean View,” there aren’t any Dave Matthews Band-esque solos for this string player. In fact, odds are upon first or second listen, one won’t even be able to discern the violin from the guitar.

“That’s kind of what we are going for,” says Key. “It’s almost like he’s an extra lead guitar. It’s not as if we’re putting these huge symphonies of music over our songs.”

The rest of 2003 is rather busy for Yellowcard, which will depart the Warped Tour for its own two-week headlining jaunt across the States later this month. A week of opening dates for the Used is on tap September. “We’re just getting started,” says Key.

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