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Rejects For Life

(Interview With Tyson Ritter Taken From Black Velvet 37 - Aug 2003)

By Shari Black Velvet

There's something about The All-American Rejects that sets them apart from other bands. What is it? Well, they're not mimicking anyone else for starters, and have come up with their own unique sound. It's a sound that may have been created through necessity. Tyson Ritter and Nick Wheeler began writing songs together when their former band fizzled out. They kept the name they'd come up with, The All-American Rejects, and began writing as a duo with guitar and bass and a bit of programming to supplement the sound. Throughout their album there are electronic beats, most notable during 'Don't Leave Me', a funky little number you'll want to dance along to as soon as you hear it. It's this electronic sound coupled with rock guitars that sets them apart from anyone else. Black Velvet was so impressed with the self-titled All-American Rejects album, that we knew we had to feature the band as soon as possible. On June 5th we spoke to Tyson Ritter on the telephone from his home in Oklahoma. The band, now a four-piece, had just completed a successful US tour.





Discussing how they originally came up with the sound they have, Tyson begins, "The first beat we did was for the song 'Don't Leave Me'. It starts out with this techno beat at the beginning. When we did the demo for it, it was just Nick playing on a drum set, and it wasn't fake drums, but then we incorporated the synth drums into the beginning of 'Don't Leave Me' and then after that we kind of got addicted to it. We said 'that's cool' so we added these little breaks in 'My Paper Heart' and 'Happy Endings'. It was our thing. We moved on from the beats. We pretty much got addicted to the Korg Triton - it's this keyboard that does everything and has all these great, great synth sounds - and just kinda threw them in where we thought they were necessary in our music."
It must have been quite hard converting the sound of the album to the live setting though, especially when people took the place of programming.
"Oh yeah, it was definitely a different thing but so far it's worked out. The album was recorded by Nick and myself. Two guys recording an album, I think that's definitely the reason for the poppiness of the record and the tightness of it, 'cause Nick and I were the only two dudes recording it."
Tyson and Nick have since recruited Mike Kennerty on guitar and Chris Gaylor on drums. Tyson talks about their first show as a four-piece.
"Our guitarist Mikey came with Nick, myself and the drummer. This was before we got Chris, our new drummer. Mike our guitarist… Nick gave him all the written-out guitar parts and he hadn't even practiced with us once. He rode out with us for five days to see how we toured and stuff and we just threw him up onstage and he totally slam dunked it. It was amazing.
"But it's definitely more rock live, which I think is definitely cool 'cause kids come expecting to hear maybe a more poppier sound but we try to rock their faces off. We do our best!"
Are Mike and Chris official members now or are they still just touring members?
"Oh they're definitely official members but as far as writing it'll always be Nick and I in the studio. Just 'cause it's our style."

Tyson and Nick both started playing bands in junior high, although Tyson was brought up on rock music long before. The culprit who introduced him to music - his dad.
Tyson says, "We used to drive up and down country roads and listen to 80s rock and I dunno, I got addicted to it. He'd let me stay up late at night if I could sing some AC/DC on the coffee table with my friend. It's funny."
Despite liking bands such as AC/DC (he says if he could meet anyone in the world he'd most like to meet Angus Young, he thinks he's amazing and 'the frontman of that band') and INXS, Tyson's first show was Bad Religion. "That singer is amazing in that band. I appreciate good live bands definitely. I love that show."
Despite discovering punk, Tyson still likes some of the bands that were around in the 80s.
"They're just now starting to tour again. At least now I'm old enough to go I guess. I don't remember seeing anything. The Stiff Upper Lip tour didn't come through the lower mid-west either. I really wanted to see that tour. So far I haven't gotten to see too many of my favourite bands because they're probably dead or dying or something. Oh, wait wait wait, I got to see Def Leppard. They came to the city. That was a dream. A two hour concert, jesus."
Did it inspire you?
"Oh they inspired me when they threw down 'Hysteria' and 'Pyromania'. Those were fabulous."
Tyson's partner-in-crime, Nick, is also a well-known fan of 80s rock. Def Leppard, Bon Jovi and Poison are just three of the bands he has been influenced by. Phil Collen and Richie Sambora were his guitar heroes.
"Nick's a huge hair band fan," Tyson confirms. "I like the good ol' rock n' roll bands. But we come across for Thin Lizzy. I love Thin Lizzy and so does he.
I tell Tyson I just saw Bon Jovi in Europe.
"Nick would die if he got to see Bon Jovi."
Hasn't he seen them then?
"No, he's not got to see them. The first band Nick saw was Alabama. His parents made him go to an Alabama concert when he was eight. But no Bon Jovi yet."
Oh, he's missing out!
"I know. That's what sucks when you live in Oklahoma. The good tours never come through here. I think everyone's just afraid of us! We're too rowdy."

Tyson's family were supporters of their son's ambition to be in a band. His dad bought him a bass when he asked for one for Christmas one year.
"I said 'dad, I want a bass for Christmas'. It was a week before Christmas and he got me one. That's all I got but still, it was enough."
So with bass in possession, it was time to knuckle down and get to work on some songs.
"You have I guess your whole life to write your first album," says Tyson. "There will be times when Nick and I write a song a month. The way we write is just layering tracks. Drums will go down first then the bass will go down. Nick will sometimes have 50 guitar parts on one song. We just layer on top. We never knew what the song would sound like until it was completely done. It's kinda like adding on top of something until it's done. We weren't quite sure until we were at least on vocals as to how it was going to sound."
Lyrically, The All-American Rejects' album follows one particular relationship. Tyson wrote about the break-up of his relationship with his ex-girlfriend.
Does she know that the songs are about her?
Does she know that the songs are about her?
"Yeah, she does, and what sucks is that I live in a small town so the whole town does too now! Yeah, so I'm an asshole I guess. I didn't mean for it to happen like that."
When asked what he thinks of everyone knowing about his personal life, he replies, "At the time I guess I didn't think that much about it. At first I was like "ah, whatever", 'cause some people used it as a sword at me, to throw at me. "Haha, Tyson wears his heart on his sleeve" and stuff like that. But it definitely didn't discourage me. A lot of kids came up to me after a show saying how much some of the lyrics have helped them through a relationship. Knowing that is definitely worth it and I definitely don't mind."

The first single from the album was 'Swing Swing', a delightfully catchy tune that reached no. 23 in the Billboard charts and no. 7 on alternative radio.
"That was exciting. Fun times," says Tyson about the success.
What do you think it was that grabbed the public's attention?
"I don't know… Probably four boys coming out of Oklahoma. I know that in America, KROC LA started playing it. "The Midwest are still writing songs!". Nothing's really come out of Oklahoma in a while. I guess if you wanna count Hanson but Jesus! The video helped too. It happened kinda quick.
More recently the band have released 'The Last Song' as a single. Tyson calls 'The Last Song' his baby. It's his favourite song. "It was the last song we wrote. Tim O'Heir and I, we were actually stuck on that song towards the end. We didn't know how long to finish it. We really wanted to make it sonically huge. It didn't explode as much as we wanted to towards the end. I sat down there. Nick hates when guitar parts aren't pre-written… Nick's the anal of the two of us. Nick makes sure everything gets done. I'm the eccentric guy that will think of something catchy right off the fly. I really like just sitting down, pressure cooking, so I started riffing out all these guitar parts and the violins. It's definitely my favourite. And it's the only one that's pretty much not about that girl. That's probably another reason why I like it so much!"

The album is out now on Dreamworks, but originally it was released on the independent Doghouse, just two months earlier. Tyson says he was a bit wary at first of the major label, but they soon won him over.
"I was reluctant at first. I was like 'yeah, let's do this' and then 'wait, let's not', 'cause I heard all the horror stories. And then I met the people at Dreamworks and honestly they stand out as people. 'Cause we went and saw every label. We flew 30,000 miles last Summer just to go and see all these labels. None of them really stood out as real people except the people at Dreamworks. So we said 'ok, if we're gonna do this, we might as well just give it a shot'. You only live once, right? I knew it was a big gamble. I definitely know how big the gamble is going from indie to major because indie is so pro-artist. Doghouse Records sets up everything, you have total direct creative control of your record whereas Dreamworks or any major label, you're taking a risk. You're definitely being told what to do a lot more."
Well, even if the guys are being told what to do, it seems that they're having a great time doing it.
"The tours have been amazing. I've had so much fun on these last tours, especially the tour with Home Grown, Riddlin' Kids and Flashlight Brown. It's probably been the best tour we've been on. And honestly, going to play Europe was insane. We did five dates with Millencolin. Those guys are so rad and they sound so good live, I just had a blast playing with them.
Also, just prior this interview, the band shot a live DVD in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
"That was insane," Tyson reminisces. "It was awesome, so rad, I can't believe we had crane cams and stuff."
Do your family go to your local shows?
"My dad and my mom both come out and watch us and they can't believe it. Every time they come to the Oklahoma show it's doubled in size. It's been crazy."
Asked whether they are seen as local celebrities in their hometown, he says, "We're definitely homestate boys. Our state loves us because we've always loved them. I guess a little bit. We can still go out so… I don't really notice anything."
How have your family and friends coped with your success?
"Friends outside of the band? I don't really have any friends outside of the band, just pretty much everyone who's riding round with us is coming up with us so we're all having a good time."

Since its release, the album has done amazingly. The band decided to celebrate by getting AAR tattoos. "We got the tattoos at the end of February when we found out our record went to number 25 on Billboard. We were like "we sold 40,000 records first week! Oh my God!" and we had to freak out, go out and get tattoos right when we could."
What if the band splits up?
"If the band splits up… I don't think the band will split up. I know Nick and I won't ever. Regardless, I'll still be writing music. See if I can get a deal with Doghouse Records if the shit hits the fan."
More recently the album has gone on to hit gold - a fantastic achievement for these early 20 year olds from Oklahoma.
So, what next? What are Tyson's wishes, hopes and ambitions for the future?
"I just wanna be happy and be in this band… Long term, I dunno. I wanna be able to do this for the rest of my life."
Well, I think he has the talent to. Let's see...

Visit www.allamericanrejects.com for more info.



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Please note that all articles, photos and other items on this Black Velvet website are owned and copyrighted by Shari Black Velvet/Black Velvet Magazine unless otherwise stated and must not be used elsewhere under any circumstance. Articles in Black Velvet Magazine should not be put online without the express permission of the editor.

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