POZ Interview: Derek Sanders and Lauren Wilhelm
It’s easy to forget when we’re singing along with our stereos, but there’s a lot more to our favorite musicians than what they show us on stage. PropertyOfZack Senior Writer Jesse Richman spoke with Mayday Parade’s Derek Sanders and his long-time girlfriend Lauren Wilhelm, who performs as Dazy (The Girl), for an in-depth look at the real lives behind rock stardom. In Part I below, we talk about growing up in Tallahassee, the beginning of their relationship, life at home with daughter Grey, and the practical realities of launching a career. Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow!
by Jesse Richman
POZ: Let’s start with the story of you two. I want to spend some time just talking about what life is like for the two of you behind the scenes. How did you meet?
DS: Well, we met over ten years ago. We met when I was sixteen and Lauren was fifteen, actually, at a show that an old band of mine in high school was doing that Lauren was… It’s kind of a long story.
POZ: I’ve got time! Go for the long version.
DS: Yeah, well, it was a friend of a friend’s birthday party kind of thing that we were playing, Lauren was there and we became friends. We dated back then, over ten years ago, and have always kind of just been real close throughout the years. Even when we weren’t dating, we were still really good friends. We’ve just always found our way back to each other.
LW: Aww, yeah.
POZ: Did you guys go to the same school? Did you hang out in the same crowds?
DS: We went to a different school but had the same group of friends, once they all met.
POZ: Did you click instantly when you met? Did it take some time?
LW: One of his other bandmates was pursuing me all night! I had just moved to Tallahassee and I didn’t really know that many people. He gave me his screen name, and we started talking. So I started hanging out with him, but I thought Derek was hot, I was into Derek. I was not into the other guy.
DS: Yeah, we just had, you know, mutual friends, and we all became closer throughout the years. We all went to shows together, played in different bands together. We were all connected through the music scene a lot, for sure.
POZ: Derek, you’re from Tallahassee right? Did you grow up there?
DS: Born and raised.
POZ: Ok, that’s what I thought. Lauren, you said you moved there when you were fifteen, is that right?
LW: I moved there when I was thirteen.
POZ: Where were you before that, and what brought your family to Tallahassee?
LW: Clearwater. My parents are from that area, born and raised down in Clearwater. My dad grew up with fishing and going all over on dirt roads there, so once it got really populated he was over it. We started looking at charts and stuff — my dad has always been into boats, he’s a sailor, so he was looking up in the Tallahassee area, so we drove around and eventually found our way up to Tallahassee. And I really like it, I love Tallahassee.
POZ: Did you like it right away? Was it an easy transition for you or was it tough?
LW: I didn’t not like it. I was kind of ready. I wanted to move to Tallahassee, I kind of encouraged my parents, I really wanted to. And then when I got here I didn’t know anybody, but that’s never been a problem for me, I can always keep myself entertained. Actually, the summer when we moved here, I taught myself how to play the piano, that’s when I started messing around with getting good at playing classical and pop, 90’s pop music on the piano.
POZ: What were you guys into back then? Were you scene kids? Were you art kids? What was your thing?
LW: Emo. Dashboard Confessional. [Laughs].
DS: Yeah, I’d say we were scene kids, basically. We went to a ton of shows. I, at the time, was playing in local bands and stuff, playing all the shows. That was a big part of who we were for sure, at school and everything. Yeah, we were scene kids, emo kids, whatever you want to…
LW: I was a chorus emo kid!
POZ: You were singing even back then eh?
LW: Oh yeah, in high school.
POZ: I assume with chorus you weren’t singing rock and pop, you were probably doing more showtunes-kind of stuff?
LW: I did, actually! We had the first pop a cappella group in our city, or our area, at all. You know how they do Glee, stuff like that? It was pretty much like that. It was called the Main Event, and so yeah, we’d sing a ton of current pop music, and I had several different solos in that. That’s where I really… I loved chorus, but I really loved doing Main Event, pop a cappella is awesome. I still love it. It gives me chills every time, watching people.
POZ: Do you still play around with any of that stuff?
LW: Oh, I definitely, when I write music, write tons of vocal stuff, and I think it’s probably because of that. I would actually mess around with my own arrangements of stuff. I was really nerdy in high school when it came to music. Instead of doing my whatever homework, I was studying sheet music for my chorus class so I could play it if I needed, on piano or whatever. I was really nerdy.
POZ: So you have some of that classical training then.
LW: A little bit, yeah.
POZ: Were you just singing at the time? Were you playing as well?
LW: I was playing piano. In high school I would write songs about my friends and, like, joke songs. One of them got huge in my high school at the time. It’s very perverted and provocative. I ended up playing it for, like, a school showcase. It was really funny, everybody knew it.
POZ: Were you playing piano from an early age?
LW: Yeah! I started playing piano at… I did a couple lessons, and I didn’t really… I don’t want to say I didn’t like my teacher, I feel mean saying that, but he just wasn’t very encouraging. I don’t think I wanted to learn it at the time. But when we moved here and I didn’t know anybody, I had learned the basics. My mom played piano. I had a really good ear for piano. So it didn’t take very much for me to pick it up and go from there. That’s all I was really doing.
POZ: Is it still your instrument of choice?
LW: Yeah. Definitely.
POZ: So lets talk a little bit about when you guys got together. Is there a story behind your first date, or your first kiss?
DS: Actually, our first date was in Tallahassee on Valentine’s Day of 2003. We went to a show in Tallahassee, it was the All-American Rejects, and I forget…
LW: Was it Rufio?
DS: No, I don’t think it was Rufio. Home Grown maybe? I don’t remember exactly. I just remember it was the All-American Rejects headlining and it was Valentine’s Day. And that was our first date kind of deal.
POZ: That’s so perfect for what you’re doing now. So how long were you guys together that first time around?
LW: Almost a year.
DS: Yeah, we dated for almost a year, and then broke up. We still were able to be close even though we weren’t dating and were still really good friends for a long time. And then, just kind of eventually, things just fell back into swing, and here they are.
POZ: When did you guys officially get back together?
LW: Well, we dated another time before this, in between.
POZ: Oh, so it’s really been on and off!
LW: Yeah. We dated again, actually, right as Mayday formed I feel like.
DS: We dated for about two years that time I think. So it’s been kind of a back-and-forth kind of thing. And then now it’s been over three years that we’ve been back together again. It’s been, what, almost three and a half years. So a grand total of over five years of dating in the over ten years I’ve known you. Sorry, I know it’s kind of confusing!
LW: It’s very confusing!