All-American Rejects: Red, White And So, So Blue

Oklahoma band lands DreamWorks deal, radio play on tastemaker stations.

Though some artists have been known to exaggerate a broken heart for the sake of art, the All-American Rejects have no need for such artistic license. For them, the truth is often sadder than fiction.

“There’s rarely a happy ending in any of my songs,” singer/bassist Tyson Ritter said. “As far as the guy getting the girl in the end, it’s all fictitious. It’s all made up in my mind, I guess; all wishful thinking.”

Such weighty fare fills the self-titled full-length debut by Ritter, 18, and multi-instrumentalist Nick Wheeler, 20. Two kids from Stillwater, Oklahoma, shouldn’t know so much heartbreak, but then again, they also shouldn’t know so much about crafting a dynamic, organic and forward-thinking album.

“Nick and I were both influenced by ’80s rock, like Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and [Iron] Maiden — can’t forget Maiden.” Ritter explained shamelessly. “And AC/DC and INXS are my two favorite bands of all time. I really don’t know from anything that came after. The ’90s, I’m not really into. I just kind of waited for the time to pass, and now [music] is cool again.”

Inexplicably that hodgepodge of influences spawned 11 songs, each connected but hardly identical to the next, that fall somewhere between Jimmy Eat World’s brazen guitar rock, Blink-182′s fun-loving bounce and Dashboard Confessional’s plainclothed sincerity. The times that it sounds like a bedroom indie-rock project give way to sharply produced power pop soon enough, so listeners are never left tasting the same flavor too long.

The somber, emo-leaning “Paper Heart” balances tinny bells and a drum machine with a fuller and rounder chorus, and “Your Star” marches amidst oscillating piano tinkering. “Time Stands Still” begins sparse and acoustic, mounting until layered vocals cascade into cacophony, and then ends by recovering and coming full circle. “Too Far Gone” flashes all the duo’s charms: chunky riffs, a wavering synth undercurrent, programmed staccato beats and lulling atmospheres.

It’s “Swing Swing,” the album’s first single, however, that’s roping fans in like cattle. Fuzzy Weezerian guitars surround Ritter’s lovelorn plea to “help me find a way to carry on” after the singer reveals his “heart was crushed by a former lover.” The new-day-dawning optimism has already been embraced by influential radio station KROQ-FM in Los Angeles, which has been spinning the tune for a couple of weeks, and its traditionally conservative New York counterpart, WXRK-FM (K-Rock), added the song to its playlist Tuesday.

“My ex-girlfriend and I had a rough relationship, and that was written when it sucked real bad,” Ritter explained. “I liked this other chick, so that’s what the second verse is about, moving on to a hotter chick — no I’m just kidding. Moving on to another girl … or just moving on.”

The band will shoot a video for the song later this month in Los Angeles with Marcos Siega (Papa Roach, Weezer). A director of such caliber doesn’t come cheap, and the Rejects and indie label Doghouse Records, which released The All-American Rejects in October, probably couldn’t afford him were they to foot the bill themselves. Enter the checkbook of DreamWorks Records, which will provide the LP with broader-scale distribution beginning February 4, according to a label spokesperson.

The band signed with DreamWorks soon after Doghouse released the LP. Not an uncommon process, but consider that just a few months before they released the Same Girl, New Songs EP in summer 2001, Ritter didn’t know how to play his instrument — which is kind of a problem for a kid wanting to join a band.

“I desperately wanted to be in a band,” Ritter recalled. “Back then, I had picked up a guitar but [had] never even heard the word bass, let alone played it. But I lied to [Nick's previous band] and told them I could play bass. They said I could be in the band, and I worked my ass off practicing during a Christmas break. We downsized every year after that until it was just the two of us left.”

Ritter and Wheeler, along with a touring band composed of guitarist Mike Kennerty and drummer Chris Gaylor, will hit the road in support of their debut with Homegrown and the Riddlin’ Kids January 9 in Tempe, Arizona.

All American Rejects tour dates, according to DreamWorks:

  • 1/9 – Tempe, AZ @ Bash on Ash

  • 1/10 – West Hollywood, CA @ The Roxy

  • 1/17 – Portland, OR @ Meow Meow

  • 1/18 – Seattle, WA @ Graceland

  • 1/20 – Chico, CA @ Brick Works

  • 1/21 – Orangevale, CA @ The Boardwalk

  • 1/23 – Las Vegas, CA @ Huntridge Theatre

  • 1/25 – Pomona, CA @ Glass House