For the better part of two years, My Chemical Romance have played just about every type of club, basement, house party and industry showcase in North America, Europe and Japan. But they haven't taken the stage beneath the banner of one of the world's largest video-game manufacturers — until now.
Since the middle of September, they've been part of the Nintendo Fusion Tour, a traveling road show that pimps Nintendo products in between sets by emo-punkish acts like Story of the Year and Lostprophets. But the corporate sponsorship isn't the only thing that makes this tour different for the band. It's also the first batch of shows that lead singer Gerard Way has attempted to play completely sober.
"A lot has changed since our last tour. I got clean and sober. And it made the shows change dramatically, because my singing got a lot better," he said. "I used to drink pretty heavily in general and before shows, and that stopped. Alcohol is a depressant, so it was putting me in a really bad spot, mentally. I couldn't really tour anymore if I was going to be depressed and drunk."
It's a pretty big step for a guy who lists "liver damage" as one of his ailments on his bio page at MyChemicalRomance.com. But with the help of his bandmates — guitarist Frank Iero, bassist (and brother) Mikey Way, guitarist Ray Toro and drummer Matt Pelissier — Way decided to give sobriety a shot.
"I came to them and said, 'Look, I have a problem, and I think it's been affecting the band,' " he recalled. "It was becoming a normal thing for me to drink before the show. And it was something I was very defensive about. But they were really supportive."
It's no secret that Way was in a pretty dark place — literally and figuratively — when the band was making its latest album, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. At one point, the group actually recorded vocals in an attic (see "The Devil And A Dark Attic Lead My Chemical Romance To Sweet Revenge"). Meanwhile, Way was trying to deal with his drinking. But at least the band had the sunny California skies to keep things cheery as it recorded, right?
"We actually drove to Los Angeles with all our stuff, and we lived in these apartments called the Oakwood Apartments," Way said. "Oakwood is basically home to child actors, out-of-work bands and porn stars. We saw a lot of child actors hanging out by the pool, constantly drinking. They were like 15 years old, wasted and having these crazy Hollywood parties. And I couldn't be around that, either."
So the New Jersey bandmates were basically outsiders living in L.A. And it's that feeling that pervades Sweet Revenge, particularly the first single, "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)," a story of high school alienation and loneliness. It's even more apparent in the song's video, a clever take on a trailer for a movie set in a high school.
"[Director] Marc Webb came up with this idea to make a fake movie and have the video be the trailer for the fake movie," Way said. "I love it. He put us in prep school. The school from 'Donnie Darko' is in it. The whole thing feels like 'Rushmore.' The first time we all saw it on TV, we sh-- ourselves."
So with one video garnering major airplay, there's got to be another one coming down the pipe any day now. Way has ideas, but it's just a matter of finding time to set up the cameras. Because between now and the end of 2005, My Chemical Romance have another Japanese tour, two European tours, two headlining tours and next summer's Warped Tour on their plate. But when they finally do film another clip, Way is confident that it'll be plenty dark.
"We are talking about 'Helena' for the next single, and we're discussing videos now. But we'll see," Way said. "I always wanted to do a video in a funeral home, at a wake. A funeral in reverse. Show the burial and then go to the wake, and from the wake to the morgue, from the morgue to the hospital, from the hospital to the person being alive. We would be the band playing in the funeral home. Or the mourners."