Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Yellowcard violinist talks about tour, new EP ahead of July 16 Chicago show

Photo credit: Jason Hackett / design: Mara Bearcat



After not playing together since 2017, beloved pop-punk band Yellowcard reunited during last year's Riot Fest in Chicago.

Yellowcard is headed back to Chicago to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its album "Ocean Avenue" along with this month's release of the band new's EP, "Childhood Eyes."

The band will play at 7 p.m. July 16 at Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island. 

I had the chance to talk to Yellowcard violinist Sean Mackin about the upcoming show and the new EP.

Q – Great talking to you. Of course, Yellowcard headlined last year’s Riot Fest in Chicago and it was the first time you guys had played together since 2017. What was that experience like? Did the experience lead you to decide to go on tour this year?

Yellowcard’s return and performance at Riot Fest was unbelievable. "Ocean Avenue" is a collection of songs that forever changed my life. And to be able to play them again was something I never thought I'd get to do. 

It definitely was the fuel to the fire for a full return. I'd actually give most credit to our fans for showing us so much love.

– During your appearance at Riot Fest, you played "Ocean Avenue" in its entirety along with other songs. This is the 20th anniversary of the album. Do you have any favorite songs off the album and why do you think the album has stood the test of time?

There definitely are a couple stand outs for me. "Believe" has always been a favorite for me, with so much meaning behind it. But a sleeper pick off this record was "Inside Out."

It's fun revisiting some of these songs and thinking, “Oh that's neat, can't believe I wrote that 20 years ago.”

Our fans are the reason this album is getting a second life. They embraced it then, as they are now.

Q – The band’s new EP, "Childhood Eyes," will be released on July 21. In sitting down to make the EP, what were your goals and do you think you exceeded them?

"Childhood Eyes" was a fun concept because we discussed, for the first time ever in a YC release, “Hey, we will probably never get to play these songs live, what do you want to do?" Which is great fun.

It was a great way to write YC songs for the first time in seven years.

Q – The EP features appearances by Vic Fuentes from Pierce The Veil and Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba. What do you think they bring to the table?

Anytime you get a chance to have talents like Vic and Christ to lend over some vocals, you do it. We are so lucky that they agreed to jump on our little project, and really transformed these songs. Thanks men!!

Q – What made you want to pick Jordan Phoenix to direct the music video for “Childhood Eyes”? What was your vision for the video and how do you think it turned out? 

His relationship and work with "Story of the Year." Jordan is a powerhouse with an imagination as big as ours.

When we came to him with the idea of search and rescue, he ran with it. We are so happy with how it came out and ranks among the top for YC cinematic releases.

Q – After the tour wraps up later this year, what is next for the band?

We are so focused on this moment of celebration for "Ocean Avenue," I think just some rest and relaxation. Time to reflect on how wonderful this has all been.

We have the When We Were Young Festival ready in October, and might be working on some more shows in 2024, but right now we are soaking in this moment.

Saturday, July 8, 2023

Precious Taylor – niece of blues legend Koko Taylor – to perform with top Chicago musician Matthew Skoller at The Venue in Aurora


Her raw energy and powerful vocals helped earn Koko Taylor the title "Queen of the Blues."

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as Chicago musician Precious Taylor – Koko’s niece – proved during her riveting show with Matthew Skoller at last month’s Chicago Blues Festival.

Taylor will be performing with Skoller again on July 14 at The Venue, 21 S. Broadway Ave. in downtown Aurora.

The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $15-$20, available at The Venue’s website, themusicvenue.org.

I had the honor of interviewing Taylor about the upcoming show.

Q – Of course you performed recently with Matthew Skoller at the Chicago Blues Festival. How did you connect with him?

Well, I've known Matthew for many years. We go way back to the early ‘90s.

He did some shows with my aunt Koko and he played on some of her CDs. We’re working on a CD and a project.

I’m excited about the show at The Venue. I know a lot of great people have come through there and I just feel honored to appear there.

Q – I know you’ve performed with him several times. What do you like about performing with him?

Well, for one thing, he has a good grasp on the true roots of the blues. He has a true sound that makes it authentic. I like that.

And he sings as well. Our voices kind of match.

Q – Did your aunt introduce you to the blues?

Well, she had a big part in that. My granddad, Andrew, played slide guitar and my dad played piano. And my mom sang.

I would go to my aunt Koko’s shows and just admire her from afar. 

Q – What things struck you as you watched her perform?

It was her stage presence. She just had a good way to get the audience involved.

I liked how she worked the stage and also her unique vocal ability, which I never tried to imitate because I never could in a million years. She had her own sound.

Right until she passed, she was still performing and she still put on a great show. I pray to have that type of stamina.

Q – Yeah, Buddy Guy says he’s on his last tour, but I doubt that. I think in a couple of years, he’ll be back out on the road.

If you’ve been doing it your whole life, it’s like having your arm cut off, to me. One time, I had a vocal problem where I couldn’t sing for almost six months. And I almost lost my mind.

Music is uplifting, it’s motivating, it’s universal. If you are able to continue to perform, why wouldn’t you want to share that for others and for yourself?

Q – Yes, people like John Primer and Lil’ Ed Williams, they’re not spring chickens either and they are still performing.

That’s a good example. But they still get up there with the same fire. They are still doing it.

Q – Given that Koko Taylor is your aunt, do you feel pressure to live up to her name? When you step on stage, do people expect you to sound just like your aunt? And do they start yelling out, “Wang Dang Doodle”?

Yeah, all of the above. I have been singing since I was eight years old.

I majored in opera and was going to be an opera singer. Instead of that, I wound up doing a lot of jazz, which is my first specialty.

For a long time, I didn’t want to perform on the blues circuit because I knew that I could never be her. But then people were telling me that I was just as good in my own right.

And that kind of encouraged me just to do it my way and not try to be like her.

I’ve done some shows in Spanish. I’m not fluent, but I can pull it off. I just finished a CD in Swahili. It’s a jazz CD.

I amazed myself with that one.

Q – I understand that you began performing in a band with your brothers when you were eight years old. It seems like that music has been a family affair for your whole life.

Yes, absolutely. My mom would be singing while she was cooking. It was just a good atmosphere.

Q – Will you perform “Wang Dang Doodle” at The Venue if asked?

Oh yeah. I’ll be doing a couple of her songs.

We’re also going to do some of her more obscure songs. They are some really good songs that people aren’t up on.

You’ll get to hear some of that stuff too.