Mayday Parade's 'Sunnyland' is brimming with nostalgia and loss

It’s clear Sunnyland is some of Mayday Parade’s best work.

The sixth studio album from the alt-rock outfit is very much a record of nostalgia, youthful antics, exploring love and loss. Naturally fans will ascribe their own experiences to the music and remember their own past; vocalist Derek Sanders has already heard a few of the 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 – 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, 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, now we’re lucky to still be here doing it.”

Rife with longing, happiness and sorrow, ‘Nowhere’ stands out in among Sunnyland. Sanders sings of “music being the only escape but not hearing it anymore”; a powerful thread of words with a bittersweet story behind them. Finding the words to explain the tales, Sanders fumbles. “It’s therapeutic for me. I feel like I’m a pretty happy, optimistic person, but a lot of the songs we write are dark songs.

Sadness runs riot in many of the songs on Sunnyland, offering a degree of closure, Mayday Parade closing the lid on a particular part of their life. “The title itself and a particular lyric sums it all up – ‘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 part of your childhood, part of your past, that’s forever gone. There’s no way to get back to [it].”

Time to grow up, another chapter closed, Mayday Parade saw a place that meant so much to them torn to the ground, something that Sanders says feels even more sad as time goes by. “It’s actually less than five minutes from my house – now it’s an apartment complex – 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. And 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 as powerful for the fans. Music is still the best medicine.

“Especially in some of those teenage years, music has helped me a lot. That’s a time [where] so much is changing in your life, you’re getting ready for the real world,” he says. “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 have been helped by our music. Now we try to help as many people as we can.”

Aussie fans aren’t excluded from Mayday Parade’s mission statement; the band will bring 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 come to Good Things Festival at Flemington Racecourse on Friday December 7. Tickets via the festival website.