The All-American Rejects have sold 10 million records worldwide and are one of the highest selling artists of the 2000s.
Regardless of the pop-punk band’s commercial success, the past couple of years have been tumultuous for lead singer/bassist Tyson Ritter, and some of his uglier moments are documented on The Rejects’ forthcoming fourth full-length album, “Kids in the Street.” Rejects guitarist Matt Kennerty talks about watching his band leader wrestle with personal demons, Ritter’s writing retreats, and fussy fans who want every album to sound the same as long as they don’t sound anything alike.
IJ: The lyrics for “Kids in the Street” are pretty candid about a dark time for Tyson. What was that like for you to see his life unfolding in the form of this new album?
MK: Tyson had his months of finding himself as he was also finding the songs. It was weird to get to watch that from an outsider’s perspective. It was an interesting thing to talk to him and see how he presented himself at that time and get more insight when I heard the songs. He really puts himself out there in the songs and as chaotic as his life was, he put together a pretty great set of songs. He’s still the same dude he was before having a quarter-life crisis but he’s found his footing as a person and not just as a lead singer.
IJ: Tyson and rhythm guitarist Nick Wheeler take writing retreats for every record. How did that play out for this record? Did Tyson come back changed in any way? How bad was it before he left?
MK: It’s always equally stressful and helpful for Tyson. For him to be out in the mountains somewhere with nothing to do is pretty maddening, but it’s pretty productive, too, especially at a time when he was in a bad place. It was forced therapy, to make himself sit there and struggle while having to come to terms. That helped him find his path, to be more settled to do the record and get on with his life. It wasn’t an intervention. He was definitely imbibing a lot of drinks, but it was not to a critical point. He saw it before anyone had a chance to.
IJ: The album’s narrative is centered on a character who is this excessive jerk. Does he ever come around, or does he just go on celebrating his own selfishness?
MK: He is a selfish jerk in the story telling, but by the end of the record, he finally comes around. It’s kind of a journey, and there’s a lot of reflection on childhood and what it’s like for us. We’ve been in a band and on the road all of our adult lives. In a lot of ways we’re still in the mindset of a 17-year-old and we’re adults now. The record culminates on that revelation.
IJ: How is the instrumentation different on “Kids in the Street?”
MK: This is our most varied record to date. “When the World Comes Down,” which was our last album, was pretty varied itself and this is even more so. And it’s more cohesive. We’ve always pushed ourselves to try different things whenever we could. The new record has horns, keys, strings, but it’s all based around making it work in a way where you don’t think about. Our first single, “Beekeeper’s Daughter,” has our first horn section and we’re really excited about it. The way it all blends together, you forget it’s there. It’s veiled.
IJ: If you poke around the message boards, the consensus seems to be that people are surprised that “Kids in the Street” doesn’t sound like “When the World Comes Down,” and that it sounds more like your first album. What is your response to that?
MK: I agree that it doesn’t sound like “When the World Comes Down,” but I don’t think it sounds like the first album either. We’ve always had funny fan backlash. Every record sounds different and we always have fans who say, “Why can’t it sound like ‘fill in the blank.’ ” With this record, maybe we’ve come full circle with first-album fans. Anyone who liked a previous album will like this one, too.