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All-American Rejects | interview | Tyson Ritter | Nick Wheeler | rock | Lollipop
The All-American Rejects
by Lauren Bussard
photos by Deb McCarthy
An Interview with vocalist/bassist Tyson Ritter and guitarist/keyboardist Nick Wheeler
Well, it finally happened, folks: The mountains shook, the planets aligned, and we at Lollipop actually got a CD in the mail that was so amazing it made us throw aside our various musical pretensions and wholeheartedly embrace what we all agree is one of the most mind-blowing albums of the year.
How, you ask, your mouth hanging open in disbelief, could we possibly have all agreed on the same CD? It's simple. With their debut album - which was immediately picked up by DreamWorks - The All-American Rejects have created a dazzling mix of synth-pop sweetness combined with adolescent melodies that build into such stunning, rocking crescendos they'll have you yearning for a past high-school love affair. These boys may be young, but they're taking the world by storm - and proving that innocence isn't a bad thing.
Your DVD, Live From Oklahoma - Too Bad For Hell, just came out. What made you guys decide to put out a DVD?
Nick: We just all kind of thought, 'We should put together a live show,' and we were doing the homecoming show (in Oklahoma) of our first headlining tour, so we recorded it. And that was actually only like, eight months after our last headlining show in Oklahoma, which had been our record release show.
Tyson: Basically, if anyone is skeptical about whether or not we're a good live band, this'll give them some insight on what we actually are all about live. We definitely like to rock. The DVD's cool because it has our videos, and a little documentary thing of us taking a tour of our hometown, like where we used to practice, our shitty house...
Nick: It tells you a lot about us, and we think it's cool! (laughs) If other people do too, sweet, if they don't, whatever, we like it.
So you just finished up this summer's Warped Tour. That must've been insane, huh?
Nick: Yeah. (laughs) The day we played the Boston Warped Tour was laundry day for me, and the laundromat was like 20 minutes away from the venue. We were going on in half an hour, and I was still sitting there waiting for my damn cab to take me back. So I was on the phone with this cab company, and this crazy-ass lady pulls up in an SUV, and she's like, (adopts high-pitched nasal hick voice) "Are you in a baaaaand???" And I'm like, "Uhhh... no, not right now," and she's like,"'Do you wanna be in a Rolling Stones cover band?? I'm tryin to put one together! I've seen the Stones 25 times. Anybody ever tell you that you look like Rob Wood???" In the meantime, there's this girl in the passenger seat, probably 15 or 16, just sinking down farther and farther every time her mom says something. This lady was totally Mike Myers from Coffee Talk on Saturday Night Live, verbatim. Seriously, I wanted to see if it was him wearing a wig.
Tyson: (laughing) Tell her about the tattoo...
Nick: Ooh, yeah, she had actually had Steven Tyler sign her, and then before she washed it off, she had this tattoo guy ink over it.
Did she show it to you?
Nick: Naw, she was too busy making right turns onto one-way streets. She was fucking crazy, but we hauled ass, and I got there and grabbed my guitar right before we went on, and played - (Tyson chimes in with a fake British accent) a great show. Uhh, that's from Wayne's World II, sorry.
I saw you guys play on MTV's Fashionably Loud over the summer, and you just looked shocked by everything that was going on... all the models walking around you. Is it totally bizarre to do stuff like that all the time now?
Nick: We look back on it, and we didn't believe it at all. We were totally shocked. Not to mention that we were playing with 50 Cent and Missy Elliott, and then us versus all the really tan spring breakers, know what I mean? We really stuck out.
I imagine that you love it though, the new rock star life that you're living?
Nick: Yeah, but there's not much that we can actually indulge in and enjoy 'cause we're so busy with everything. I mean, honestly, I think that's best because it really keeps us level. We're not sitting around trying to take advantage of what we might be able to take advantage of, you know? Maybe later we'll be like, "Aw damn! I could've done that and that and that, and I didn't," but you know what? Right now I have the best job in the world.
You're still all so young... I read an interview in Alternative Press that quoted Tyson as saying he was 21 (he's actually 19). Do you often tell people that?
Tyson: No, sometimes I say I'm 25. (laughs) Just to see if they'll believe it.
Nick: How old do we look??
I already know how old you are.
Nick: Damn, nevermind...
Tyson: The point is, all of our fans know I'm 19, so I don't care. (laughs)
Nick: You just gave it away!
That's pretty young in the grand scheme of life. Young enough to still have your parents telling you what to do. Do they support you guys?
Tyson: Yeah, Nick's parents definitely supported us from the beginning, more so than mine, but now they're all right behind us, of course. (laughs)
Nick: Now they go to Hastings Books, Music and Video and buy whatever magazine we're in, show it off to everybody in the store, then buy like seven copies so they can show all their friends, and then call me disappointed that I said lots of swear words. My mom'll be like, "I'm so disappointed, I can't show this to my friends!" and I'm like, "Uhh, sorry Mom."
Tyson: It's funny though, we look so much older now than we did in our first promo pics, even though that wasn't that long ago. We've grown up a lot.
It used to be just the two of you in pictures. When did you hook up with Chris (Gaylor, drummer) and Mike (Kennerty, guitarist)?
Nick: The band originally started as just a songwriting venture between the two of us. I mean, in high school, everybody else there wanted to do the whole "high school" thing, but I realized I wasn't going to be cool so I wanted to do the whole band thing. So Tyson and I started writing and recording songs in my bedroom. We just wanted to do something with it... We had a friend of ours go on the road with us over the summer, we sent out some demos, then we got a record deal, so we went and made this record, then we got a couple more friends of ours (Chris and Mike) to tour the record with us, and now, we're a band. Just on the road, fucking having a good time. We all rock out on the same stage.
Tyson: But honestly, the only reason we were ever taking pictures by ourselves was that it was just me and Nick. We would never've been like, "Hey guys, can you stay out of this picture? Thanks"' (laughs)
Is there a new CD coming out any time soon?
Nick: Contractually, we can't until 18 months after this one, which is sort of a good thing, 'cause right now we're working our asses off for this record. But we're trying to pump out some new stuff, because these kids have been hearing the same songs for a few shows now, ya know? We threw a new song on the playlist for tonight, hopefully the next time we come through, we'll add more. As soon as we can, we'll have a new record ready. Definitely next year.
Are you nervous about writing new stuff?
Tyson: We kind of were at first, but the way these new songs are coming together - in my head and Nick's head - I'm so fucking excited. I can't wait to see what we come up with next.
Nick: I mean really, even though we're on a major label, and we're signed for X number of records, they could get rid of us at any moment. It's the second record that really matters, 'cause they're not gonna give up on you before that, you know? So, all we gotta do is just do the same thing we've been doing: Lock ourselves in our room and write songs, just like we used to.
Tyson: In our boxers.
Nick: Well, that part's true... We're in separate rooms though, I swear. (laughs)
You guys are on tour with a couple very different bands - how did you end up on the road with Hoobastank?
Tyson: Well, if you listen to the whole lineup, you'll realize that it's definitely called the Unwired Tour for a reason; it's a whole bunch of really eclectic music.
Nick: And it's been good for us, just in terms of our fan base... you know, Hoobastank has a lot of fans that we don't, and vice versa, so it works out.
Anything else new and exciting about this tour?
Tyson: We have a new backdrop!
Nick: Yeah, but you won't see it tonight because they don't let you hang up backdrops in Boston, because we're too close to Rhode Island. You have to send in a six-inch square sample of your banner weeks in advance so the fire department can test it and approve it and shit...
At the New Found Glory and Good Charlotte show at the Centrum, they had these huge banners that they kept dropping and changing... it was totally ridiculous.
Nick: That's the cool thing about these kinds of tours, you can be a little more outlandish than usual, because lots of stuff is already paid for.
Tyson: We're definitely gonna hold off on the banner-switching though, 'cause that's kind of gay. Especially when they drop a nice black one, and then there's like this big sequined gold one behind it. (laughs)
Nick: Well, I do agree that you should put on a show... Not only have a good stage presence, but also have a good stage setup. But you can go a little over the top. I just saw Iron Maiden in Houston, and their stage was fuckin' dope.
Do you guys listen to metal?
Nick: Not metal metal, more like '80s pop-metal. Definitely anthemic metal, not the really fast, hard, unlistenable stuff.
I watched the video on your website of you guys getting tattoos, and I was surprised because I didn't know you all had Southern accents, then I realized you were faking it...
Nick: Yeah, sometimes we do that... You know, when we're in Oklahoma, the last thing we wanna do is blend in, but when we're away from home, we start talking liiiike thiiiiis. (adopts strong hick accent)
Tyson: And when we driiiiiink... and especially after a tattoo... (laughs)
So you guys are off to tour Europe soon, are you pumped?
Nick: Definitely. We did a small tour in the UK with Millencolin in March, and we've been back twice since then to do a small club tour and a bunch of promotions, but we haven't done our own tour there yet, so this is gonna be our first headlining tour in the UK.
Tyson: And what's funny is that in London, we seem to have a better draw than anywhere in the world.
Nick: Yeah, we have two sold-out shows in a row at the Astoria. We couldn't believe it... (laughs) That's better than our home state.
Your latest video is doing awesome everywhere. Who came up with the concept for the video for "Time Stands Still?"
Nick: That one was actually the first one that we weren't as involved with creatively... Basically, because videos are such a pain in the ass, and they're right in the middle of everything else you're trying to do. For example, for "The Last Song" video, we had to fly to L.A. immediately after a show in Virginia, shoot the video the next day for about 20 hours straight, then fly from the video shoot to Florida to pick up the rest of the tour.
Tyson: And play a show the next day. We were going 48 hours straight.
Nick: We were really involved in our first two videos, and then with this one, we were like, "Oh shit! We gotta do another one." The guy who did "Time Stands Still" did the U2 videos, he's got like all kinds of awards for "With or Without You" and shit.
Tyson: So we were like, "Well, this guy's the shit and it's an honor to be working with him," so he came up with the idea, and then we saw it, and now it's my favorite of our videos.
Do you know what your next single is gonna be?
Tyson: Depends on how this one does.
Nick: Yeah, if there is one. (laughs)
Do you guys decide on the singles?
Nick: Well, somewhat... I mean, we're biased because we like all the songs. We wrote and recorded all of them, and we wouldn't have put them on the album if we didn't like them, so honestly, we'll support any one of the songs to be a single. A lot of times, we have to go to outside opinions, whether it's our friends or our management or whatever, just to say, "What do we do next?"
Tyson: But we definitely thought that "Time Stands Still" was the best next move for us, because the concept sets us aside from, you know, the Good Charlotte's and New Found Glory's.
Nick: Everybody said it was a more mature song, so we said, "Alright, cool."