Monday, April 13, 2009

All-American Interview

So for those of you who don't know, this past month i secured a position as a freelance writer for the Chicago Tribune's RedEye. The RedEye is a daily free newspaper which highlights national news stories as well as local Chicago news, music, arts, and entertainment. Most people grab it on their way to work in the morning hence the name "RedEye."

As a special contributor to the RedEye, i will be writing mostly about local Chicago music and events, such as, record releases and promoting upcoming shows for bands and musicians that are seeking press. However, last week was a different story. Now, for you hip kids that are current with today's popular music scene will either love or hate my latest assignment.

Usually on Wednesday afternoons, i end my day around 1:30 PM and i head home for a nice lunch and some Jeopardy. Last Wednesday was a different story. At 2 PM i received a call from singer/bassist and resident teen heart throb, Tyson Ritter, from the nationally acclaimed pop-rock quartet All-American Rejects. So like i said before--you either love them or you hate them.

I will be honest to say that I'm not a true fan of their music, and before this interview, i would usually judge this book by its cover. But after everything was said and done, i realized how passionate he and his band mates were about their music. For them it was more about creating something that they would be proud of rather than just knocking out another 45 minute collection of tunes that would get them their next summer home in the Hamptons. I may not be their number one fan, but after talking with Tyson for 15 minutes, i learned that he's not concerned with what other people think as long as he and his band mates are happy with the end result.

It was definitely a lot of fun as we chatted and exchanged laughs as i learned about his true feelings regarding record labels, the story behind their impressive cover of Britney Spears' "Womanizer" and Tyson's favorite flavor of Big League Chew--which was a random question i asked based on my brother Joe's suggestion on ending the interview on lighter note. (its grape by the way...duh!)

So without further ado, here is the "Director's Cut" of the article that was published in today's (4/13/09) RedEye for all of Chicago to see. (edits were made due to length of the article and explicit language...damn the man!)

All-American Dreams
By Matt Kuhnen
For The RedEye

With a name like All-American Rejects, you would think this quartet of twenty-something pop-rockers would be nothing more than a group of slackers--breezing in and out of the studio when the record execs, and the radio, are yearning for another three and half minute masterpiece. This is not the case for these Okalahoma boys who aren’t trying to impress anyone, but themselves.

For the past four months or so, All-American Rejects have been hard at work finishing their third full length release, shooting music videos (TRL may be dead, but bands still make videos) re-inventing Britney Spears’ “Womanizer” for a Yahoo campaign (YouTube that one) and rehearsing and organizing their first national headlining tour. So when I asked lead singer/bassist Tyson Ritter how he was doing hours before hitting the stage in Kansas City, he replies nonchalantly, “Just uh…relaxing.”

The band has earned relaxation time after spending 2 1/2 years on the road while writing their follow up to their multi-platinum selling album Move Along, in addition to spending another six months in the studio bringing to life their new work of art, When The World Comes Down.

Smashing onto the pop-rock scene back in 2003 with their hit single “Swing, Swing”, AAR continued to win the hearts of its generation in 2005 with “Move Along”, “Dirty Little Secret” and the prom-themed rock ballad “It Ends Tonight.” Switching record labels in the process, AAR felt they needed to approach the new album a bit differently than past efforts.

“We had to push ourselves to a brink and it definitely teetered on this whole thing imploding--and I feel like you have to go there every time” he said. “With Move Along, it was kind of us versus the label—this time it was kind of us versus ourselves.”

The Rejects’ first single off the new record “Gives You Hell” is #1 on Top 40 radio and is over 1.7 million in digital downloads. Plans for dropping the next single are in the works having just finished shooting the video for “The Wind Blows.”

“Yeah we just did the video and it’s gonna be a sexy bastard” Ritter said laughing. “Its gonna be the video where the Rejects show a little bit of their “chesticles”…it gets pretty hot and heavy.”

When The World Comes Down really shows a different side of their music--infusing orchestral arrangements; acoustic guitars paired with auxiliary instruments, Choir inspired backing vocals and a first time male/female duet.

“Our producer Erik Valentine has such an eclectic nature which melded great with our eclectic nature, and I think that’s what some people don’t know—because people really haven’t figured out the Rejects yet” he said, in reference to comparison to other mainstream pop-punk acts such as Good Charlotte, Panic At The Disco, and Fall Out Boy. “This is the record we put every bit of our life source into and it’s finally happening…it’s finally our turn.”

The Spring/Summer tour kicked off in Albuquerque, NM earlier this month and is scheduled to hit cities across the country through May with more dates to follow. “The I Wanna Rock Tour is going to be up close and personal. We hope this is the tour Rejects fans will brag about seeing for years to come!” says Tyson Ritter.

“This is the best production we’ve taken out. We’re primed and we’re just killing shows every night and I think this is gonna be a concert the kids will tell their kids about” Ritter explains. “They’re really getting a show, it’s not a concert that has peaks and valleys—this is a show that just flows. We’ve got a solid half hour worth of hits, so when you spread that through out seventy-five minutes, you get one hell of a rock show.”

The Rejects will be swing, swinging through Chicago on their “I Wanna Rock” tour to blow the doors off the Aragon Ballroom with support from Shiny Toy Guns, Ace Enders & A Million Different People, Vedera and The Upwelling. Ritter went on to comment on his favorite part about playing Chicago.

“The kids man—the kids are different, it’s the Midwest vibe and we’re from Oklahoma and it’s the Midwest to us. In the Midwest people will give their seats up for anybody and it’s just a kinder atmosphere” he said. “You guys are the biggest city with the least head up your ass—New York has a big head up its ass, L.A. has a big fist up its ass, and Chicago just has a big boner.”