The stakes are decidedly high for the All-American Rejects this time around: Their last album, 2005's Move Along, sold more than 2 million copies in the U.S., spawned a trio of hit singles and established the band as one of the nation's foremost purveyors of radio-ready rock. Frontman Tyson Ritter is painfully aware of all these things, which is why he's adopted this ethos for the follow-up:
"I don't want to have any regrets, dude. I worry about stuff like, 'Is this song the best thing we've ever done?' " he laughed. "There have been points where we've had a bunch of good songs, but good doesn't make the cut for this record. I find myself going, 'Sh--, if this isn't a good song, I'm gonna kill myself.' "
Now that's commitment to one's craft. And though he was kidding (we think), there's no denying the fact that Ritter and the rest of AAR are currently standing on the precipice of something really huge with album number three, which they've been working on in earnest since June of last year.
"I think we all realized that we had a pretty huge opportunity here," Ritter said. "When we were making the last record, we were staying at a $30-a-night motel, and I would think, 'F---, if the label doesn't give us approval to go into the studio, am I gonna be working at Blockbuster?' This time, we don't have to worry about that, so we're really taking advantage, you know? We've put in the work on this one.
"We started out writing at this cabin in South Carolina, on the same mountain where they filmed 'Deliverance.' We did about five or six songs there. Then we went to Vancouver, did another five or six there. Then we ended up in San Francisco, staying in the Haight-Ashbury," he continued. "Then we went into the studio, didn't like what we had and put the record on hold for three months. Then [guitarist] Nick [Wheeler] and I got in a bus, drove from Portland, Maine, to Yellowstone National Park, and wrote more songs. We were like, 'We got a couple of good ones, where are we gonna find the next ones?' "
Luckily, they did, and they've settled down in Atlanta with producer Eric Valentine (Good Charlotte, Maroon 5), to put the finishing touches on the album, which Ritter says may be called either Hope This Gives You Hell or Mona Lisa, both of which also happen to be the titles of songs on the record.
"There's a lot on the record, man," Ritter said, before listing the highlights. "We got a song called 'The Real World,' and it's f---ing heavy and a little bit political. ... It's very obvious what we're getting at on it. 'Mona Lisa,' we're gonna track that one live, all acoustic. Um, what else? 'Another Heart Calls,' 'Hope It Gives You Hell,' 'Damn Girl' — that one I've talked about before, but it's still the jam, man! 'Believe,' which is this really heavy rock song, 'Breaking's What the Heart Is For.' There's a ton of stuff, man."
As such, the Rejects are still wrapping production on the album. Ritter finished vocals two days ago and said he hopes the entire thing will be done by August. They are currently working on a cover concept, which the frontman described as "crayons making the AAR logo, only it's melting. ... It's kind of like a metaphor for where we're going for with this record. ... We love the kids, but hopefully we're gonna melt the crayons."
And just when will fans be able to hear this crayon-melting album? Well, in theory, "around Thanksgiving," though to be honest, Ritter couldn't care less. He's just glad that the whole thing is about to be finished.
"I don't worry about that stuff. It'll be great, and people will get to hear it. And since labels are sucking right now, because we're one of the few bands that were actually doing real well before the sh-- hit the fan, hopefully they'll give the record the push it deserves," he said. "It's like everything is working out for this one. This record is like fate falling into my lap and giving me [sexual favors]."