All-American Rejects ‘Had To Step It Up’ On New LP — Or Else

Stillwater, Oklahoma, band grows up for second album, due July 12.

The All-American Rejects’ second album is truly a work in progress. There are still so many nails exposed and the paint is still so wet that if this album were an episode of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” Ty Pennington would be bellowing stuff like “Come on, guys! Let’s take it up a couple of notches!” into his megaphone. He would also probably be shirtless.

The point is, for a record that’s been in the works for eight months, there’s a whole lot that needs to be done. Like, for example, choosing a proper title. When Interscope Records mailed out promo copies, the album bore the title Change Your Mind, but apparently, the All-American Rejects did just that. The LP is now officially called Move Along. We think.

“No, it’s true. The record is done! We finished it a month ago, it is called Move Along, and it’s out July 12,” Rejects frontman Tyson Ritter laughed. “This had been a process, for sure. During the first half of the songwriting process, we got shut down. The first 10 songs we wrote represented us warming back into things, and Interscope wasn’t too happy with the first batch, so they made us start again. And then the next 15 we wrote were the best things we ever did.”

In early 2004, Ritter and guitarist Nick Wheeler — who co-founded the band in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and wrote and recorded nearly all of the Rejects’ self-titled 2002 debut by themselves — began working on tunes for the band’s second album. Over the previous two years, they’d scored a radio hit (the summer tune “Swing, Swing”), played the Warped Tour and had been the subject of hyperbolic media praise. They had also been away from home for longer than ever before, and the songs they began to crank out reflected that whole dizzying, manic, tiring ride.

“When we made the first album, we had barely been on the road ever,” Wheeler said. “And from the minute the first album was finished, the second album started. [Move Along is about] the time from that point until the minute we entered the studio to record [it]. We’ve just grown that much as a band.”

Interscope was less than pleased with the new, darker songs and ordered the duo to crank out a batch of more-focused tunes. So they took drummer Chris Gaylor and guitarist Mike Kennerty (who had toured with the band for the past two years, and were now full-fledged Rejects) with them and headed to Atlanta, where for the next six weeks — working in a self-imposed bubble — they did nothing but churn out song after song. And Move Along was born.

“In Atlanta, we hashed everything out. We wrote for six weeks solid, and the best songs of the record came out of that because we were so removed from everything,” Ritter said. “We didn’t listen to any music at all. The only thing I listened to was classical music when I was cooking.”

“The last record was written and recorded part by part, because it had to be,” Wheeler added. “On this album, we got in a rehearsal room and made everything solid, as a whole band. And we made whole songs.”

He’s not kidding. If there’s one way to describe the songs on Move Along, it’d be “whole.” The title track is all jittery synths and over-processed guitars, mixed with an honest-to-goodness children’s choir and a harmony that bites Sonic Youth’s “Diamond Sea.” “It Ends Tonight” starts off with a somber piano line and builds to a crescendo with rousing power chords, strings and multi-tracked vocals. And the first single, “Dirty Little Secret,” is three minutes of over-the-top guitar frippery and an Ebola-catchy chorus. It’s obvious that the All-American Rejects have grown up. And gotten better.

“The change was natural; it was where we needed to take this band,” Ritter said. “This was the record where we had to bring all we had, because if it tanked we’re screwed. So we don’t have any regrets about anything on this record, and we’re so proud of it. We had to step it up, and we did.”