Interview with Yellowcard guitarist Ben Harper
Skate & Surf Festival 2004
Asbury Park, NJ
S&S: What is the funniest thing you have ever seen or done on tour?
Ben: There’s so much. There are millions of things. I don’t know what would be the funniest. Last night was really funny because during Something Corporate, the Chief of Police shut down the show because too many kids were passing out, and it was like 11 o’clock at night. They started by turning the lights on, and they kept playing. It was really awkward playing the show with all the lights on. Then, they cut the soundboard. So, you couldn’t hear the vocals, but you could hear all the instruments still. They kept playing “If You C Jordan” because they couldn’t finish their set. Then, once the vocals got cut, the crowd kept singing. They just kept going on and on and on, until they actually cut the stage power that turned the amps off, and all that was left were drums and piano. The kids were just going crazy over it! They finally finished the song, and Andrew was just rallying the kids. They were chanting, “Fuck police!” It was really, really cool. It was a big display of band-crowd power. A fan in Oregon one time was adamant to give us this big ass Michael Jackson poster with a weird, young picture of Michael Jackson with a teenage mustache. It was just his big head on a poster staring at you. We put it up in our bus. It was kind of weird.
S&S: What is the most memorable thing a fan has done for you to show their admiration and respect for the band?
Ben: Drive like eight hours every time we’re in town and come to like three shows in a row. Stuff like that. They always show up. This one girl is always shows up. She’s the first in line, she’ll drive eight hours, be the first one there, and she’ll spend the whole day in front of the line. She’s just obsessed with coming to see us play.
S&S: Were you excited when you found out that your video for “Ocean Avenue” was on MTV? What did you do the first time you saw it on television?
Ben: Yes, very excited. We’ve gotten a lot of MTV2 play and Fuse play before we could go to the next level like that. It was pretty crazy. The first time we all saw the video on MTV2, we were in the front of the bus, last year sometime. We all just started screaming, and we were drinking already and we were just like, “Woo!” We had our friends on the bus with us. It was awesome. It was on satellite tv when we saw it.
S&S: Have you ever considered your fans’ advice about releasing some old songs?
Ben: Yeah, but some of it’s sucky. We don’t really play it anymore. It’s just old stuff from when we were in high school – before Ryan was in the band, before Yellowcard.
S&S: Do you remember the first time you felt famous?
Ben: Well, it was very gradual with us. We were happy quitting our day jobs and just playing music. There were all these little steps. Of course, there’s the radio and tv thing and actually having big records sales, and you have the gold record. It really wasn’t overnight like, “Wow, we made it.” But definitely recently in the last month, with the MTV play, and we went to Baja Fresh today and just everybody knew who the hell Ryan was. It’s starting to be so obvious now just because we get so much video play and stuff like that, and we’re on tv shows. It was never like an overnight thing.
S&S: Are you into that or do you just want to play your music?
Ben: I really don’t care. It happens. It comes with it. We just want to play music. It’s cool but we’re like, “Whatever.” We’ll definitely look at each other and be like, “Oh my God.” We always say, “Earth, well, we’ve left it.” Who knows – it’s gone.
S&S: If you had to choose one band that you could tour non-stop with for the rest of your life, who would it be?
Ben: Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, or the reunion of Ben Folds Five.
S&S: Did you go to your senior prom? If so, how was it?
Ben: I went to my junior prom. My high school girlfriend wanted to go, and it was such a bummer of a time. We decided not to do it the next year. We were still dating the next September.
S&S: What has been your favorite tour that you’ve been on so far?
Ben: We’ve done so many. This tour right now, the Something Corporate tour, has been great. It’s the biggest tour with lights and soundboard. It’s the most professional tour. We’re co-headlining, and it’s awesome.
S&S: Did you teach yourself to play guitar or get lessons, and how long have you been playing?
Ben: I started with lessons, but I also taught myself to play. I only had lessons once a week. I started lessons when I was 12. But then I ended up auditioning for an arts high school, and that’s where we all met. That’s where we really started to learn about music. It’s like a magnet school.
S&S: If you could have known someone as a child that you know now, who would it be?
Ben: That’s a weird question. Our booking agent Cory Christopher. Don’t ask me why.
S&S: What is your most prized possession?
Ben: This band.
S&S: Describe your most recent dream.
Ben: I don’t really remember. I don’t ever remember my dreams. I’m not joking.
S&S: You probably don’t get much sleep to begin with.
Ben: Yeah, I get some sleep. I just never dream.
S&S: If you could break one world record for anything, what would it be?
Ben: I want to be able to eat the most Mexican food ever in one night.
S&S: Ok, this is the last one.
S&S: Hey, I’ll add 5 more.
S&S: You’ve definitely all made a lot of sacrifices to get where you are now. Do you have any regrets?
Ben: No, I don’t. Bring it on. Simple as that. Wouldn’t change it for the world.