Talking Star Wars with the Hosts of “Thank the Maker: A Star Wars Podcast” (at Star Wars Celebration 2022)

Adrian GarroCategories:Latest News

Rock Cellar Magazine

This past May 26-29, scum and villainy from across the galaxy convened at the Anaheim Convention Center for Star Wars Celebration, a massive convention celebrating all things Lucasfilm (and Lucasfilm + Disney, if you’re into more recent Star Wars content).

Among the nerf herders and scavengers throwing down credits on elusive Kenner action figures and Grogu memorabilia, arguing with strangers about the merits of Jar-Jar Binks and lining up in massive queues in hopes of attending panels featuring huge news announcements and Lucasfilm celebrities was the trio behind Thank the Maker: A Star Wars Podcast.

A spirited (and thoroughly detailed) discussion of all things Star Wars, it’s a podcast from Adam Russell, bassist of the band Story of the Year, Ryan Key, longtime vocalist/guitarist of pop-punk band Yellowcard and Nick Ghanbarian, bassist of the band Bayside.

The three took a few minutes out of one of their jam-packed days at Star Wars Celebration for a discussion of Thank the Maker, being back at Celebration and just what it is about Star Wars that has captivated millions around the world for almost 50 years and counting.

Rock Cellar: Please introduce yourself with your name and what band or musical project folks might know you from.

Ryan Key: I’m Ryan Key. I was the singer for a band called Yellowcard for many years.

Adam Russell: You still are right now, since a recent announcement.

Ryan Key: I recently am once again the singer of Yellowcard.

Adam Russell: I’m Adam Russell, I’m from a band called Story of the Year.

Nick Ghanbarian: My name is Nick Ghanbarian, and I play bass in the band Bayside.

Rock Cellar: It seems like you all like Star Wars. You’re here at Star Wars Celebration, the first one since 2019. Some stuff happened since then. What brings you here? What brought you together to form a podcast?

Adam Russell: It kind of evolved. So before The Force Awakens came out [in 2015], Ryan Key and I had a no-spoilers pact with Ryan Mendez from Yellowcard and Sameer Bhattacharya from Flyleaf to go into The Force Awakens like it was the old days. You know, you see the trailer only in the theater. You only see the poster in person, no messing with the Internet. And I had the idea to do a podcast, just a two-episode thing, like a before and after expectations and review thing. That never happened because of some life stuff. But that seed, that kernel stayed with us.

So Ryan and I talked about doing a movies podcast in general, about, like, all of our favorites go back and do Star Wars and Top Gun and Goonies and Indiana Jones, all the big pop culture stuff. And then literally the day before we were supposed to record the first episode, Ryan calls me and he’s like, “Dude, here’s an idea. Just Just hear me out. What if we just make it a Star Wars podcast?” And it kind of went from there. We had Nick a few times pretty early, and then Nick joined. And here we are two years later, 115 episodes in. We like Star Wars.

And this is our second field trip. Yeah, overnight field trip, which is awesome.

Rock Cellar: This one’s on Earth, though. [Their previous ‘field trip’ was a stay at the Galactic Starcruiser hotel in Disneyworld].

Ryan Key: Yeah, that’s true. But I hope we get to do a lot more of this now that things are opening up and the world is … well, you can’t say “getting back to normal,” because it’s very abnormal still. But, you know, conventions and things like that are happening. So I think we’re all really very much hoping that traveling to these with the podcast, and doing interviews of our own with guests and stuff, is something we’ll get to do.

Rock Cellar: Back in the day, when your bands were all touring at the same time, did you run into each other in that capacity and talk about Star Wars? Or did it all kind of evolve in a different way?

Nick Ghanbarian: My and Ryan’s only connection to Star Wars was when we saw Solo together in Pittsburgh when it first came out, like opening day. But you guys have more of a history, right?

Ryan Key: Story of the Year and Yellowcard toured a lot together via festivals, Warped Tour, overseas-type stuff. We never did a tour together just in venues, but we did a lot of festival-type stuff over the years. So we found out that we were both huge fans long ago.

Adam Russell: But still, funny enough, it was late into knowing each other, like 2010 or 11. But we once we made that connection, it was like, “Dude, why haven’t we been bros this whole time?”

Ryan Key: Do you want to go the garage and do karate?

Rock Cellar: What is your favorite thing about being back at Celebration? What did it feel like when you walked in today? What was the first like, “Oh, shoot, it’s great to be back” moment?

Nick Ghanbarian: My first one was 2019. 2020 Celebration went on sale, like within the next week, and I bought tickets immediately. And there hasn’t been like, a day or two that passed since Celebration 2019 when I haven’t thought about being there. It’s a room full of people who love what I love and what we love just as much, and you feel it. Everyone here is happy. And the fact that we’ve not had this for three years is insane. So everyone’s happiness and joy is like through the roof right now. It’s been a good start already.

Adam Russell: Same vibe for me. I went years ago, Celebration 4, maybe, around 2007. And I didn’t quite understand cons yet at that point. I didn’t know about panels or anything. I just kind of like loitered and looked at stuff. And then as my fandom kind of grew and I realized what the stuff was, when I went to 2019, same thing as Nick. I was just like, “Oh my God, these are my people, this is where I belong.” And once we started doing the podcast and everything kind of came together, it’s made this experience something like walking in with an awesome kind of “Damn, I can’t believe we’re all here together,” kind of vibe. That’s the biggest thing for me.

Ryan Key: It’s my first time I’ve ever been to any con of any kind, which is crazy, with what a dork I am. I just walked in and felt a strange heat on my left butt cheek where my wallet sits in my back pocket.

Rock Cellar: You mentioned the community aspect with Star Wars. You guys also have a special Star Wars-themed Emo Night event, Mosh Eisley, that you’re throwing at Chain Reaction, the legendary punk club down the street here in Anaheim.  Tickets sold out pretty quickly. That speaks to the community nature of it all, doesn’t it?

Nick Ghanbarian: For sure. I did a little kind of Emo Night thing in Chicago in 2019 on a Sunday night with our friends who run the Black Series Rebels podcast, and it was cool. It was a Sunday night, it was snowy. It was far from the convention center. So when I brought up the idea here, I’m like, “it’s going to be a Saturday night, it’s going to be sunny, and it’s about three miles from the convention center. I feel like we could do something bigger and better than that.”

The result of it was us selling it out in like four or five days. It’s, like, a weirdly hot ticket this weekend. People are constantly asking us if they could get in or if there’s any extra tickets. We’ve been planning it for a while, it’s going to be really awesome.

Adam Russell: And it’s already completely taken on a life of its own. Seeing people’s posts on social media of what costume they’re putting together or the emo Star Wars mashup, already the fandom is taking and running with it. That kind of Venn diagram that we live in of music fans and Star Wars fans. It’s so much cooler than I ever expected it to be. There’s the hope that it could be something sweet, but the fact that it’s actually coming together in this way and like Nick said, sold out, people blowing up the inbox trying to get tickets. It’s a pretty cool feeling.

Nick Ghanbarian: You know you’re part of a good fandom when the fandom kind of takes control. People are starting to put together like emo, punk rock, rock and roll Star Wars costumes, which … we didn’t tell them to do that. We said “please dress up,” we wanted people in costumes and cosplaying and bringing their lightsabers and stuff, but there’s been a handful of people who really took a little more literally than we did, where they’re putting together like My Chemical Romance Kylo Ren-looking outfits and stuff like that.

Rock Cellar: Is there anything in your respective musical careers you want people to know about that you have going on?

Ryan Key: My good friend, Ryan Mendez, who was also in Yellowcard for many years, we’ve been working on a very non-punk rock project for over four years now. It’s called Jedha. If you know, you know. J-E-D-H-A. You can find it everywhere. We put our first EP, which is just a couple songs, but they’re seven, eight-minute ambient electronica. It’s almost a full EP just being two songs, and a remix by a really talented artist named Jives.

So we put that out and it’s streaming, and then we just dropped the song from our first motion picture soundtrack which comes up next month. We have a single out for that right now. It’s been fun, man, it’s something we talked about with with Thank the Maker, how we started this as “guys in bands,” with air quotes, but are we going to transcend that and actually just just become integrated into the Star Wars fandom? And we did, we accomplished that goal somehow.

I think the podcast is more well-known in the Star Wars community than it is in the band community at this point. And it seems like Ryan and I’s EDM passion project is starting to reach listeners who aren’t just doing us a favor, like Yellowcard fans being like, “OK, fine, I’ll play this even though I don’t know what it is.” It’s starting to happen. Every listen counts these days.

Adam Russell: My band, Story of the Year, is finishing up — literally right now, my band is going to Nashville to finish the final mixes for our new album, which will drop … there’s there’s a rough date, but I can’t say it yet. There should be a new song out at least in the next couple of months, I would say. Like every new album, you know, every artist will tell you it’s their best album ever. But this might be objectively the best shit we’ve ever done, for real. It really brings back the earliest sound of Story of the Year, but very up to date, very modern.

It kind of picks all the best elements from the past five albums and dude, I just I can’t wait for the world to hear it. We’ll be doing a bunch of shows, we’re doing festivals later in the year, we’re doing When We Were Young in October as well, with Bayside. So it’s gonna be a good year.

Nick Ghanbarian: Bayside has a new single called “Strangest Faces,” we’re heading on tour all June co-headlining with Thrice, and then we have a bunch of festivals all September and October. Also, this doesn’t have to do with music, but I did write a children’s book. It’s called That’s O.K., and it’s up for preorder right now.

Rock Cellar: And how can people hear the podcast?

Adam Russell: Yeah, you can find it on pretty much any pod catcher, as they say, but you can go to our Instagram will lead you to everything, the link tree there. So we’re @ThankTheMakerPod on Instagram and TikTok, @ThankTheMaker on Twitter, Follow us there.

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