We caught up with The All-American Rejects' Tyson Ritter to talk their comeback, new music and redefining what his band is in 2017.
FIVE YEARS AFTER YOUR LAST ALBUM ‘KIDS IN THE STREET’ WAS RELEASED, YOU’RE BACK! WHY NOW?
Says Tyson Ritter (vocals / bass): “I guess I was never really conscious about when we would be coming back. I just knew that when we started the writing for this record it was time.
“It started about a year and a half ago when I was writing with other people in Los Angeles. It was all about curiosity really, which is a beautiful and pure way to reapproach music because that is how you approach it in the first place.
“We had all agreed on hiatus to get our lives back in order. I’d been on the road since I was 17 and I’m not 17 any more, so during that hiatus I spent a lot of time developing my craft as an actor and not really paying attention to music.
“What’s cool about that is that when I wrote my first record I wasn’t paying attention to music either. It all just hit. So it was never this forced feeling or recreating where you’ve been. It was like a new discovery.”
WHAT HAS YOUR TIME DOING THINGS THAT AREN’T MUSIC TAUGHT YOU ABOUT MUSIC?
“I think the biggest lesson going back into music was that when I’m not sitting in front of a piano and asking a song to come to me is when I’m writing the best. So when I’m away from it and not forcing it, yet I have a guitar in my living room in Calgary when I’m shooting a HBO miniseries, it means I could grab it whenever a song was actually in my head.
“All these songs that I have written now were in my head rather than forced. Even going back and listening to ‘When The World Comes Down’, I can tell which songs were written while I was sat in front of a piano or not. I learned that I couldn’t force it, because that’s what kills everybody.
“The death of creativity is when I force it. At this point in our career sitting down in front of that piano because we feel like we have to will only bastardize what we do.
“We live in the age of, ‘Sample this, sample that’ to make a song. We are a band in 2017 with guitars on our bodies making pure art for ourselves and I’m really proud of that.
"There’s this soul selling moment for a lot of bands where they go, ‘Here’s the easy way let’s go do it’. They see the shiny dollar or whatever the fuck they are trying to get out of it and they go for it.”
EVEN WITH THE HALF-DECADE AWAY, THE NEW SONGS SOUND LIKE A BIG DEPARTURE FROM WHAT CAME BEFORE. WHAT’S THE THINKING THERE?
“I want to wake up Lazarus. I wanted to bring Frankenstein back to life. I knew we couldn’t go down any avenue that we had been down before. Sonically, and even our approach visually, I wanted to make sure we were seen as fucking adults.
“‘Gives You Hell’ was really the last time that people, especially in England, had heard from us and that was attached to a cheeky and fun look. I was 27 when that came out and that was probably the last year that I could really get away with that.
“Now, looking back to when everybody was submitting and commissioning music videos for ‘Sweat’, they were all ‘Gives You Hell: Part.2.’ I was like, ‘No, this is not that aesthetic’. I like to think that with a song like ‘Sweat’ we have come back with a superhero version of what we are or what people know us as.
“It’s still very cheeky but it’s got a pretty twisted, ‘Fuck you’ underneath it all. It’s something that I’m really proud of.”
THE VIDEO IS SOMETHING TOTALLY NEW FOR YOUR BAND. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT IT?
“Once I met [director] Jamie Thraves I knew we were with the right person. He understood me, and very few people can do that. I’m an eccentric and navigating with other artists can prove to be a battle for me.
“With him it was a beautiful marriage because he got that there was growth here within the band. He knew this wasn’t the same band as before, so we had the character of Betsy in ‘Sweat’ and Robert in ‘Close Your Eyes’, and I wanted to make sure that we moulded the visual aesthetic with the songs themselves.
“To me. ‘Sweat’ was a little deeper than what it sounded like and I wanted to make sure that we had a visual that exemplified that. Thinking back I felt as though these characters we created were like what this band actually was to me.
"We grew up in this business and for so many years put ourselves through Betsy’s night. Almost feeling like we had been led by people who didn’t really fully understand us.”
HOW ABOUT THE REST OF THE RECORD? WHAT’S IT GOING TO SOUND LIKE?
“It’s going to be a kaleidoscope. We’ve done each song with a different producer so you should expect a completely different sound out of every song. That was really what I was going for.
“The true kaleidoscopic approach that when you twist the wheel it all starts to change and look beautiful. At this point, all we can do is wake up people up or they are just going to stay asleep to us. We’ve got one wave to come back on, so why not come back brave and fearless?
“I wanted to make sure with offering these two new songs it was the A and Z of what is to come from this new Rejects record. ‘Sweat’ is kind of the starting point but ‘Close Your Eyes’ is where we want to end off.
"I think we are bringing a lot more of a different edge to this music yet still hopefully maintaining a sense of what we are.
“I feel like we had to grow, especially considering we are almost the godfathers to a sound that has been copied and ripped off, we couldn’t go back there. Others have already done it and we’ve done it before ourselves, so we thought, ‘Where do we go?’”
“It was when I met Benny Cassette, who produced ‘Close Your Eyes’, and he sent me this bare bones track and immediately wrote the melody and chorus over it, and me and Nick [Wheeler, guitar] felt like it was special. It felt really easy and just came to us. The good ones always do.”
AND NOW YOU’RE ON TOUR WITH DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL. RIGHT BACK TO IT!
“I’m excited! I think it’s a really good way to get our toes back into the water. Not a lot of people really know us as a live band. It’s been 15 years and now I feel as though a lot of people are going to come out and see us for the first time.
"The nostalgia factor mixed in with the cocktail of us putting out new tunes is really going to bring back Rejects fans that haven’t come out before. I think it’s going to be a really fun awakening.
“We never toured with Dashboard before either, so I’m really glad that we’re finally doing it. Chances are we are going to jam out with each other on stage every night as well so it’ll be a lot of fun.
"We’ve also recorded some covers of each other in preparation. We did this crazy trippy version of ‘Hands Down’ and Chris did ‘Move Along’. I’ve never heard a band do that for tour before so I thought that we should just go and do it.”
AND… YOU’RE PLAYING A WEDDING, RIGHT?
“It’s funny. I didn’t actually reply to that tweet myself. It was somebody who was part of my management team. I didn’t even know about the tweet in the first place so I woke up the next day and saw that this kid had 60,000 retweets and my feed was absolutely blowing up. Honestly I was blown away by how it happened so quickly. Like, it was overnight. It’s on like 75,000 or something now. It’s amazing.
"I like to think that people have grown up with our band whether they like it or not. Even back when you were eating mac and cheese in TGI Fridays and getting in fights with your parents, we were there with you. It’s a beautiful feeling as well to think that now someone is getting married who was probably 12 when ‘Swing, Swing’ came out is wanting to share that good will with us.
"So yeah, guess I’m playing a wedding now.”
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE ABLE TO SAY WHEN YOU LOOK BACK AT 2017?
“Simply put, I want it to be the year that I put every bit of myself in to this band. I’ve never really tried this hard to steer the ship. Once I got the music done I was pretty passive on the way that the label would put the rest together.
“Over the last two months I’ve been in rooms with people trying to let them know that this is exactly how I see this and that this is exactly I want things to be done. For me, it’s the first time that I’ve ever controlled every single bit of my art.
“For that I will always look back and be proud that I went for it and out something that I believe in without looking back and wincing. 2017 was about going for it and regretting nothing.
"I put all of me in this. There’s a lot of me in this record. In the past it was always just a collective effort with the Rejects because we were living together. Now we are geographically disbanded as a group so this was the first time that everybody let me grab the reigns. It’s a really empowering moment when you can stand without 50 opinions swatting you down all the time.
"So yeah, 2017 is the year of no regrets.”
The All-American Rejects' two-track 'Sweat' EP is out now. The band tour North America alongside Dashboard Confessional this summer.