Volume 96, Issue 99
Friday, April 4, 2003

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Rejects rock out the All-American way

By Megan O'Toole
Gazette Staff

Gazette file photo
LOOK AT US - DO WE LOOK EMO TO YOU? The All-American Rejects take a break from the pop-rock world to pose for a pic.

They may call themselves rejects, but Oklahoma's pop-rock quartet The All-American Rejects are gaining ground as America's newest pop sensations.

After releasing their self-titled debut on the independent Doghouse label late last year, the Rejects recently re-released the album with Dreamworks in February.

"We just want to get our music into as many hands as possible," vocalist Tyson Ritter says.

"An indie label can get out maybe 3,000 copies [of a record] in six months; with a major label, it's more like 300,000."

Close on the heels of their new major label deal is the Rejects' first headlining tour, which kicked off in Toronto last Sunday.

"We're just starting to get the kinks out of our set," Ritter admits. "It's really cool to have the kids right there, listening to everything we say. [Playing a live show] is like being one big heart, us and the crowd."

Though fans and critics have compared The All-American Rejects' sound – both live and in the studio – to all things emo, Ritter emphatically refutes any association with the genre.

"We're not an emo band; we play rock music. We have a good time onstage instead of screaming and telling people to cry," Ritter asserts. "We want to totally set ourselves apart from emo – the crappiest genre ever made. It makes people sad, and we don't want to do that."

These are tough claims to defend for a vocalist who specializes in songs about heartbreak, tears and the never-ending quest for love.

"I was just being myself," Ritter explains as he discusses lyrics from the band's first album – lyrics inspired by relationship troubles. "I didn't want to try to be someone else. When I wrote those songs I was 17 and in a relationship, and it sucked."

Ritter's brand of heartbroken lyrics can certainly be exemplified in the band's first single, "Swing, Swing," which juxtaposes Ritter's gloomy words with an energetic, peppy beat. The band has also completed a video for "Swing, Swing" – their first video ever.

"It was so much fun," Ritter enthuses about the videomaking process. "We were freaked out. We got up there and we only shot for a day. They had a trailer for us and shit. I asked for a cigarette and they brought me a carton. We had never experienced anything like that before."

The video features The All-American Rejects rocking out in a California junkyard.

"It was the neatest, cleanest junkyard I've ever seen; there was all this weird shit everywhere," Ritter recalls. "It reminded me of being 'back in the woods' – back in Oklahoma. That's why we chose the place."

The Rejects also had the opportunity to work with Marco Siega, who has directed videos for such mainstream acts as Blink 182 and Papa Roach.

"Marco really cared what we thought," Ritter notes. "We had total input in telling him what we wanted [in the video]."

Like the majority of the Rejects' songs, "Swing, Swing" is extremely radio friendly.

"We believe in songs that hit, songs that hook you in," Ritter says. "We try to write every song like it's going to sell our record. We want kids to sing again."

In addition to energizing crowds across North America, the Rejects have proven their devotion to the music by inking themselves: the band recently got matching All-American Rejects tattoos.

"When we debuted at 25 on the Billboard chart, we just freaked out," Ritter explains. "Our lives were changed forever, and we knew we could never sit behind a desk and work nine to five. [The tattoos] show our commitment to this lifestyle, forever. I'll never regret getting it."

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2002 THE GAZETTE