My Rock and Roll Heart is the debut solo EP from Mayday Parade frontman Derek Sanders. 2020 has proven to be full of surprises thus far, and Sanders stepping out on his own with a solo release is definitely one of them. Due for release Friday February 14, 2020 via Rise Records, this EP came as a surprise to even Sanders himself. On Valentine’s Day 2017, he gifted his wife a cover of “But Lauren” by the Tallahassee-based band Goodbye Love, whom he cites as a personal influence. Both Sanders and his wife have been fans of the song since they were in high school and he thought it would make an excellent gift, especially since his wife shares the song’s namesake.
Although the cover was originally intended for only his wife’s ears, he later shared it with Goodbye Love’s mastermind Mike Hanson, who loved the cover and told Sanders he should release it and things “snowballed” from there. With “But Lauren” being a product of that era, Sanders decided to revisit his teenage years and cover others songs that helped shaped his youth and now it’s all together here in My Rock and Roll Heart.
My Rock and Roll Heart consists of five acoustic cover songs from the aforementioned Goodbye Love, Saves The Day, Jimmy Eat World, Something Corporate and The Juliana Theory. The EP opens with the song that started it all, “But Lauren.” According to Sanders, Goodbye Love never made it outside of his native Tallahassee and hopes covering the song will both introduce and reintroduce people to the band’s music. I would say mission accomplished as listening to Sanders’ rendition of the song made me want to explore more of the band’s music. It’s a beautiful song with lush acoustics that really complement Sanders’ voice.
The next track is “Rocks Tonic Juice Magic” by Saves The Day from their seminal album Through Being Cool. Here, the angsty post-breakup track becomes a rich acoustic cut with Sanders still capturing the pure frustration of the original through a different channel. We’re then treated to Jimmy Eat World’s “A Praise Chorus,” which is one my favorite Jimmy Eat World songs. Sanders is joined by long-time associate Daniel Lancaster of the band Stages and Stereos (he is also the younger brother of Go Radio frontman and former co-lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist of Mayday Parade Jason Lancaster), who sings the bridge and harmonies of the track. The cover is excellent and one of my favorites on the EP. It truly does justice to the original.
The track is followed by “Punk Rock Princess” by Something Corporate, converting the pop punk banger to a slower acoustic ballad while still retaining the grinny vocal inflections of the original. The final track, “August In Bethany” by The Juliana Theory, has to be my favorite off the effort. From the vocal harmonies, infectious piano, to the haunting lyrics Sanders gives it his all to deliver such an incredible cover. The strain of emotion in his voice when he sings “Don’t Go!” really hit me. It’s really that good.
My Rock and Roll Heart is a short and sweet EP showcasing Sanders doing what he does best behind lush acoustics and grand pianos that’s sure to warm the hearts of many this Valentine’s Day. Sanders’ minimalist approach to each song proves that less can really be more. The rich soundscapes of the covers alongside Sanders’ signature vocals are certain to please Mayday Parade fans as they eagerly wait for the band’s next release, listeners looking to hear new takes on various emo classics and couples looking for something to vibe to this upcoming holiday. I hope this is the first of many solo offerings from Sanders. I would love to see him either continue to dive back into his youth and deliver more covers from that era or even songs that helped shape him as an adult. Either way, it’s sure to be one hell of a release.