Curiocity: Q&A With All-American Rejects, Before Mpls. Show
There was certainly a time when you couldn’t turn on the radio — or TV, for that matter — without hearing The All-American Rejects song, “Gives You Hell.”
The band’s biggest song yet took them on an incredible journey — touring the globe and taking in all the success of a No. 1, chart-topping hit. But when it was all over, lead singer Tyson Ritter didn’t really know where to go.
Ritter has said he was in a dark place, partying with the wrong crowd and feeling a bit lost. In an effort to find himself — and find inspiration for a new album at the same time — he and fellow band mate Nick Wheeler went into seclusion and wrote what eventually became the band’s latest album, “Kids in the Street.”
The result was a solid collection of songs, with deeper and more meaningful lyrics than ever before.
Before the band continues their tour, which includes a stop in Minneapolis this month, we chatted with guitarist Mike Kennerty about the new album, how the band has evolved and yes, getting the “Glee” treatment.
So, how’s the tour been going so far?
It’s going great, we’re probably like a third of the way through, I think. And it’s been great so far. It’s a very like homely feeling tour – everyone gets along great, everyone hangs out, there’s no egos, it’s great.
It sounds like the album, “Kids on the Street” was basically created in remote spaces without a lot of distraction – and then presented to you and drummer Chris Gaylor. What were your reactions when you first heard the music?
I was actually very impressed. I felt like Tyson, in particular, really dug deep with these songs, lyrically, and really presented himself in a way he hasn’t before, really stretched himself to write the best lyrics he has. And on top of that, vocally, he’s never stretched his range as much as he has on “Kids in the Street.” It makes me very proud to be in a band with that guy.
Do you know what his motivation was behind writing this album?
Yeah, after we got off touring for “Gives You Hell,” which kind of kept us out for a couple of years, took us around the world, it was kind of like the crash after that. We all went home to our respective places but Tyson kind of – he was sort of a nomad these days. He didn’t really know where to go and he ended up in Los Angeles and sort of had, I don’t know, he got mixed up with some people that weren’t the best people in the world and he spent a couple years trying to find himself. That took him through some dark alleys at times, but I think that’s really where the catalyst for this record, especially lyrically, came from – just a soul-searching record.
With everything Tyson went through and this resurgence of inspiration, where do you see the band going from here?
You know, it’s a tough question. Every time we write a record, we always tour it until we’re exhausted and then we go home and it’s like a separate entity from the touring. That allows for us to – when we actually do start working on new stuff – it puts us in a different mindset, we’re different people, we’re older so that allows us to be … We have four records that I’m really proud of that don’t sound alike at all, much to the critics of some of our fans, but we can never predict where we’re going to go. We just kind of let the songs lead us and when we’ve grown, the songs have grown into different directions and it’s always fun to explore where our own imagination will take us every couple years.
Since joining the band about a decade ago, how do you think the music has changed and evolved?
You know, we’re older people and we’ve always prided ourselves on not painting ourselves into a corner and feeling like we have to deliver a certain style of record. I think a lot of bands get scared to stretch out or are afraid they’ll alienate their fans, but we’ve always just kind of dove in and said, ‘We’re proud of the songs we write and we know they’re good songs’ so we feel like people will follow us, even if it’s not exactly the same style they’re used to. And – knock on wood – it’s worked so far.
Yeah it seems like you guys have very loyal fans who, really, are growing right along with you.
Yeah, it’s actually been really nice. Like touring this past year for “Kids on the Street” and seeing the age group of our fan base has really grown – all from young kids up to people who are in their 40s and up. It’s an amazing spread. It makes us really proud and makes us feel like we’re doing something right.
The title track (“Kids in the Street”) conjures up a lot of nostalgic feelings. What was the inspiration behind that?
I think that in particular was about growing up in Oklahoma, how back then, especially where we came from, there was a lot of places where you could go off in the woods, or in uncharted places where you could be mischievous and … that was something we were very reflective of when making the record. Thinking about those times when we were just rambunctious little a–holes, who didn’t care about consequence. So that song’s just kind of a look back at that and where we’ve come since then. We’re all still kind of still those kids because we’ve really been stuck in a van or a bus for 10 years so we’ve not really grown up. We’re still the same kids we were 10 years ago.
With mega hits like “Gives You Hell,” did you know that would be as successful as it turned out to be when you were recording it?
I think I had a hunch. I seem to be the only one that felt that way. But the first time I heard the demo, I was like, ‘Holy sh–, that’s really catchy.’ I felt really good about it. The other guys, I think had reservations to it, because musically, it was kind of a departure for us. I always felt that there was something about that one. I didn’t know it would become as popular as it did, I just felt like, ‘OK, this will at least keep us around for another couple years.’
Well, when you see it performed on ‘Glee,’ that pretty much means you’ve made it, right? (Laughs)
Yeah, that was crazy.
How did that all come about?
That, I mean, they just asked us. And we were like, ‘Sure.’ That was kind of when “Glee” was like, it was still just getting going when they asked us, like we knew about it and we knew it was getting popular but then by the time it actually aired, it had become a phenomenon. So it was like, ‘Sh–, that was a good thing to say yes to.’
And you guys were cool with the way they treated it?
Yeah, it turned out great. It’s always fun to hear how other people interpret songs. There was some kid on ‘The Voice’ the other week that sang ‘Gives You Hell.’ It’s neat to see, though.
You guys are stopping in Minneapolis with Parachute coming up. What are you looking forward to with that show?
I can’t even think of the last time we played Minneapolis so I’m just excited to get back there. It’s going to be fun. Hopefully – our brother band for many years was Motion City Soundtrack – so if they’re in town, it’d be nice to see them, too.
The All-American Rejects will perform at Mill City Nights at 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 19. Tickets ($25 in advance, $27 at the door) can be purchased here.