Yellowcard’s William Ryan Key is Seeking to Escape the Past on New EP

Former Yellowcard frontman William Ryan Key found himself in the sudden solitude of isolation at the start of the pandemic. Having just moved back to Los Angeles from Nashville at the beginning of 2020, he was quarantined with his lifelong friend Patrick.

While the Los Angeles area came to a violent standstill, they sat with no contact from the outside world, locked in the house together. Patrick encouraged Key to center himself during what we’ve begrudgingly come to call “unprecedented times” by using meditation. At first hesitant, Key found the exercise eye-opening after returning to his childhood home later in the year.

Home for Key is sunny Florida, and after 23 years of being away, he found that not even the brightest skies could shield him from the need to process the past. He also found he needed to figure out how to move through it. It is in his healing journey that he revealed his latest EP Everything Except Desire.

“When I first got there, I was so full of pity and like just wallowing in it,” Key tells American Songwriter. “And I wasn’t keeping up with it daily. And I can see so clearly the shift in my energy and like my drive and my creativity and all the things that started from when I picked it back up again.”

Key revealed in an Instagram post that he thought releasing music was over for him following the end of his former band Yellowcard. Yet, after a grueling year, Key put out two acoustic EPs—Thirteen and Virtue—with help of his Patreon community. Both projects are different from what he previously released with Yellowcard.

“It was a huge weight off my shoulders to start creating again after months of self-doubt brought on by mourning the loss of the band,” Key said. “Most importantly, the support I felt from fans around the world was a bright light at the end of a tunnel.”

The ambient and otherworldly EP, Everything Except Desire, is a testament to Key’s self-exploration and growth. Released February 11 via Equal Vision Records, the new album is what Key calls an album “for driving at night with nowhere specific to go.”

Detailing his mental health journey, this album is permission to get lost in your feelings but eventually let them go. It encourages the fluidity of human emotion and acknowledges the journey, even if it hurts.

In addition to his mental health journey, the EP tackles the subject of “expunging emotional toxicity. Key says he allowed himself to be vulnerable for the wrong reasons and needed to understand why.

“I think there’s something to be said for the fact that it’s not always good to allow yourself to be vulnerable,” Key says. “Sometimes you do need to put up a wall and kind of protect yourself from an unhealthy, unhealthy situation. And I wasn’t doing that.”

With each song clocking in at over five minutes on average, the album renders itself more like a musical score, allowing listeners to get lost from movement to movement of each song.

The EP begins with the instrumental track “The Swim Back.” Shimmering patches of synth and wind chimes blowing in the breeze evolve into flowing cello features, allowing listeners to glide with the music and get lost in the stream of sound.

The song title and the album name itself stem from the ’90s dystopian sci-fi film Gattaca, starring Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, and Uma Thurman. The film imagines a world where human beings are optimized, genetically modified to display the best traits from their parents.

“The idea of ​​putting yourself so far out that you’ll never make it back to do either, make it where you’re going, or you’ll die trying because you don’t have enough to get back to the shore.”

Playing God, however, comes with its consequences. There’s bound to be a glitch in the code when humans try to take divine creation into their own hands. As the line from the film says, “He had everything except desire.”

“Once I stumbled upon that, I was just digging through the script. And I came across that line, He had everything except desireand I was like, ‘Yes, that’s it,’” Key says.

“The Swim Back” is featured on the album with previously released singles “Face in a Frame” and “Brighton.” The first singles were released with great hesitation as Key worried if they were too far removed from what fans and listeners would expect to hear from him.

“I think this song is a manifestation of my desire to set myself free from the constraints of what I’ve created in the past,” Key says about “Brighton,” released January 5.

“The baseline of this song bounced around in my head for days,” he adds. “The verses are rhythmic and complex while the chorus just soars. This one is for driving at night with nowhere specific to go.”

This neoclassical EDM-inspired style isn’t a genre Key thought he would find himself working with. Key’s first introduction came from fellow collaborator and former Yellowcard guitarist, Ryan Mendez back in 2009. Ever since then, Key began to explore this newfound musical world.

“It opened a window into a world of music that I had no idea I would ever be so passionate about,” Key explains.

Mendez and Key—who would begin exploring the neoclassical ambient genre within their own project Jedha, in June 2021—released their first song “Dividing Pair” to officially commemorate their entry into the ambient world of neoclassical EDM.

This introduction to a new genre has opened up a world of possibilities for Key. Now able to see the world through a different lens, one that is cinematic and full of potential, he has opened himself up to other projects he didn’t think he would pursue.

In the future, Key envisions himself writing scores for movies and television. His approach to creating music, while putting the EP together, was that of a composer choreographing instruments and parts to compile a score of sound.

“Outside of the EP, all the work I’m doing is attempting to score for film and television,” Key says. “I hope that I look back 10-15 years from now on the last year or so being the beginning of a successful journey and that I’m working full time towards scoring. It’s pretty much my sole purpose in life.”

Key is continuing his endeavors with independent creator platform Patreon and launches his next offering beginning in March. Rewards for memberships vary from access to early releases to handwritten lyric sheets.

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Stream Everything Except Desire below:

Photo courtesy Reybee Inc.

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