The All-American Rejects Talk "Kids in the Street"
Wed, 28 Mar 2012 09:24:41
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"It's confused rock 'n' roll," smiles The All-American Rejects frontman Tyson Ritter as he ponders his band's enigmatic sound.
Listening to the group's latest effort Kids in the Street, there's really no confusion or question though. The All-American Rejects have built their best album yet, and that's fact. Kids in the Street is at times heartbreaking, the acoustic closer "I For You" comes to mind, and at other moments it's strangely invigorating, namely during the shimmering send-off that is "Someday's Gone." It's a rock record without any boundaries, just the way rock 'n' roll should be.
Ritter continues, "We really broke our backs to put together an effort that wasn't going to get lost in a time period."
Mission accomplished on that front.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, The All-American Rejects mainman Tyson Ritter opens up about The Kids in the Street and so much more…
How did you go about making an album that wouldn't get lost in a time period?
Well, I think every record we've ever done has come to fruition by accident. After making our first record, we didn't have "Dirty Little Secret," "Move Along," or "It Ends Tonight" when we started the countdown to go into the studio for the second album. We threw ourselves into ten weeks of rehearsal and writing boot camp in Atlanta. As an artist, I'm unfortunately a terribly tormented person in the real world. When I'm on stage, I love life. When I'm off stage, for some reason I'm a glutton for punishment on my own accord. This album especially found itself by dumb luck of me having a crazy little quarter-life crisis after touring When the World Comes Down.
What's your take Kids in the Street as a whole?
As a whole, lyrically, the record is sort of this biopic of the last three years of my life—from losing myself to finding my way back through reflection on moments in which I felt I had an identity or things that gave me an identity. The song "Kids in the Street" is a call back to that time where you're most pure. It's about reflecting on that moment you had naiveté, but you also had slight bit of footing on the fact life was your own. When I moved out to Los Angeles to do this record, I lost myself for nine months in this wild downward spiral of excess and absurdity. Through reflecting and getting my shit back together, that's how this record found itself. Nick Wheeler [Guitar] pulled me out of that jungle, and he said, "We need to start writing, man." I was like, "Okay. I don't know what's going on with me, but I know there's something happening." Musically, I feel like the change happened organically with coming into our own skin on this album. You have your whole life to write your first record. Writing this fourth record, I felt like I had a lifetime of experience getting my shit back together. That speaks to the peaks and valleys of it. It's fun. It's harsh. It's heavy. I feel like it's the first record we've put together that doesn't just feel like a collection of cohesive material. It feels like a ride.
Is it important for you to tell stories within the songs?
It wasn't something I thought of, but I remember I locked myself in the bathroom writing lyrics until I was satisfied for the first time. I usually just flew into a stream of consciousness right when I was standing in front of a microphone. This time, as we were growing up musically, I wanted to make sure that every time I pushed pen to paper it wasn't just to fill in melody. I've always had a good time with melody, but I felt like I really needed to step up lyrically. "Kids in the Street" and "Walk Over Me" are stories. It was easy for me to tell a story this time. I lived in Florida writing for Move Along. I lived this absurd, domesticated life where I might as well have been another retiree in the community. This was the first time I felt like I landed on my head on the ground, and I had to stand up and survive the concussion through a cathartic journey with this record.
What's the story behind "Someday's Gone?"
Going into the studio with Greg Wells, the demo was totally different. It had these double claps on the two's and four's like The Cars. I just didn't like it. It was one of those points where you take a song from infancy to demo where it got demo-itis as we call it. Everyone was like, "Let's not think. Let's play the song how it is." We came up with this explosive little Pixies meets All-American Rejects vibe. It's really raw. We're really known for juxtaposing happy sonic canvases against tortured love songs. This was the big middle finger opener. This was the "Fuck you" of the record. I didn't feel like the demo said that. We gave it a complete lobotomy. It took me the whole record to find this song. It's the last one we wrote. It's really where the album started from my head. I met this poisonous succubus. I was so out of my mind coming off the road for When the World Comes Down. I was bathing myself in glitter every night, and I was having my "Lost weekend" as Lennon would call it. This girl was the first person I ran into, and it was a car wreck courtship that ended in a ball of flames. I really wanted to write about it. The whole time I would have a magnifying glass on it, and I was like, "I've got to write a song about this. I ruined myself because of this girl. I've got to figure it out." At the very end, this chord progression became "Someday's Gone." The song is the sonic flesh of this ride I had with this girl.
On the other end of the spectrum, "I For You" is beautiful. Is that special one for you?
Yeah, it was. It's actually the same demo we did. We thought there was a moment captured in it. You can hear crickets in the background because we're up in the middle of fucking nowhere in a cabin. You can hear me turn the pages, and Nick's in the room playing guitar. I wrote "Beekeeper's Daughter" the same day. To go from an insensitive song like "Beekeeper's Daughter" about this guy who's got this tortoise shell made of Kevlar that's made him embittered to the world to a song that's reflective in this apology is tough. "I For You" is about a six-year relationship that I completely ruined. There was a lot of regret on this record. Everybody asks me if "Heartbeat Slowing Down" is about somebody dying, I'm like, "No, it's about something I killed." "I For You" is almost wishful thinking. It's a really simple sentiment. I needed to put the last nail in the coffin, but I wanted it to be made of crystal.
What inspires you outside of music?
I've always been completely moved by movies. I get emotionally attached to movies. I'm such an audio and visual person that when you wrap both of those together at the same time, it's captivating. There are some cinematic moments on this record. There's also a song called "Gonzo" that's a nod to a moment when I was absorbing a ton of Hunter S. Thompson and Charles Bukowski. I felt so maniacal that I wanted to attach myself to writers who were sort of at the same place as me at that time. That was a crazy journey [Laughs]. The sentiment of Thompson's quote, "Buy the ticket, take the ride" made me think of the ride we had as a band. "Gonzo" reflects on how we started, all we've sacrificed, all we've gained, and what this band is ten years later. That song is something we've never done before. It's different.
What would be the cinematic equivalent of Kids in the Street?
Shit, that's a good question. Let's see. It's surreal. Somebody said it's like, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory minus the candy." I like that comparison [Laughs]. There are some weird musical departures for this band. I like that we don't know what we are, and I like that a lot of people scratch their heads wondering why we haven't gone away. I feel like we've always come out with songs that have a sticky thing people latch onto. We're lucky and blessed to be able to do it this long. That's for sure.
What rock bands really shaped you?
I didn't really absorb too much musical influence when I was a kid. I remember my dad would pick me up from school, and he'd take two hours to go five miles on a dirt road. I'd be driving and pushing the clutch in the truck. He'd have the six-pack next to him, and we'd listen to The Black Crowes, Stone Temple Pilots, INXS, and AC/DC. It was heavy rock. I loved that experience, and I feel like I got some of my sense of showmanship from that era. As far as music goes, my grandma really started me on musicals. I love the lack of musical rulebook that musicals adhere to. That's what has always really shaped our eclectic sound. We're always trying to break rules musically within the pop rock structure. We don't know what the fuck we are. We just know we're still here.
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Do you like The All-American Rejects?
See our review of Kids in the Street here!