All-American Rejects: Tyson Ritter Talks New "Chaotic, Polarizing" Music
Tyson Ritter, frontman for the All-American Rejects, has been living life at a frenetic pace since before he could drive.
Having grown up, in his own words, "in front of a record button" since the age of 17, Ritter spent the next 15 years recording and touring nonstop. Following their 2012 album, Kids In The Street, the group went on a much-needed hiatus. They've reemerged in 2017, this time with a new single, "Sweat." And there are more single releases in the works — the Rejects' future plans hinge upon releasing tracks in pairs over the course of several months, then compiling them into a full album offering.
Ritter stopped by the Recording Academy's Santa Monica offices to talk a bit about his band's new music, their recent Rejected short film and why touring with Dashboard Confessional was surreal, among other topics.
After about five years away from the grueling pace you've been keeping for most of your adult life, how does it feel to be back with new All-American Rejects music?
It feels great to be back after five years of nothingness, musically. The man I've partnered with in this band, Nick Wheeler, we'd been at each other's feet, or ankles, since we were 17. Technically, I was 14 when I started playing in bars with him, and we became the All-American Rejects when I was 16. Fifteen years on the road solid left us with this sort of desire to taste life in its real form, instead of 10 feet above everybody every night on a stage. It feels great to be back.
You've used words like "chaos" and "polarizing" to describe the upcoming record. Anything else you can tell us about the new material you've been working on?
I use words like "chaos" and "polarizing" to describe the new record because I don't want anyone to hope for something that has been. I understand how certain fans, especially younger fans, get this chip on their shoulder. … Because [they] want [their favorite band] to stay pure in this time capsule. But this isn't 2002 anymore, and I'm not 17. I like to say I've grown up in front of a record button since I was 17. Whenever anybody goes, "How have you changed?" I answer that question with, "How many different people did you turn into from 17 to 29 to 30?" That's like trying to calculate madness in a condensed form. This new offering [is] going to be a kaleidoscope because I don't want anyone to be able to be like, "Oh, this is All-American Rejects." There's some of that, but then there's the adventure of going beyond that.
Is there a particular track on the record you think fans are going to be most surprised by?
We're getting ready to put out two more. We're doing this in-pairs release [strategy]. Every time we put out more music, instead of putting out a full record or putting out an EP, we're going to do two songs at a time until there's [enough for] a record … and then [we'll] kind of put it all out together.
There's a song called "Send Her To Heaven" [that's] like this tribute to the Pixies, because it's in the chord progression of "Where Is My Mind?" But we kind of sent it through a Rejects lobotomy, and you get this song that is kind of the chaos that I'm speaking about. That song, we're pairing with a song called "Demons," which we recorded with this kid named Justin Raisen. Sonically, [it's] probably the most confused landscape we've ever designed because you hear guitars, you hear all sorts of things that sound like there could be a band in there. But to me, it's kind of a revelatory song; it's pushing the sonics for us.
Let's talk about the short film Rejected. What do you think the film captures best about the kind of transition you've been going through personally and with the band?
When I watched the documentary, I went through many feelings about it. I was always worried it was too self-indulgent, but I think the thing that it exposes, that I'm proud of, is that there's a bit of a reckless desire to kick the archetypical band — in the terms of having to fall inside these lines of "a band can do this" or "a band can't do this."
You did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit recently, which attracted a pretty cool outpouring of fans from all over the world. Was there any memorable story from a fan saying how they'd been affected by your music that you remember picking up from that?
I always love hearing about people passing our music to their children. There was a really great story about this lady who said she'd listened to us growing up, and then one day her kid was like, "Play the All-American Rejects!" That's such a surreal thing to me. That makes me feel completely touched, but also completely mortified — knowing that something I wrote laying on the floor when I was 17 is now getting passed down to children.
You guys just wrapped a tour with Dashboard Confessional. Did you come back with any particularly fond moments from that run of shows?
Touring with Dashboard Confessional, for me, was surreal. That was my first show that I paid to go see in Texas. This guy named Chris Carrabba in Dashboard Confessional was opening. And I was like 16. If you would have told me then that I would have been playing with him 20 years later, I'd have been like, "Screw you, man. That's not happening."
This was a tour where I felt like I was on a tour with a bunch of musicians. And every night people would be out there standing, watching or supporting. It felt like a community of musicians. That was a tour of gentlemen.