"Kids in the Street," the All-American Rejects' new album, is the result of frontman Tyson Ritter's "lost weekend" that led him "far out in every aspect to make this record."
"Self-discovery is such an important thing," Ritter tells Billboard.com. "I feel like in music you're a virtual Magellan as you discover new, vast territories, sonically and lyrically. If you're not discovering something new, you're not doing it right. I knew we needed to find a different place, and I guess in this accidental sort of...I don't know man, in the journey I found a different way and a new voice for our music and even a new voice for me to sing with."
Ritter moved to Los Angeles after the group finished touring in support of 2008's gold-certified "When the World Comes Down" and acknowledges he fell quickly into "a quarter-life crisis" marked by "women and excess... getting into trouble... pouring too much Jameson's into the ol' noggin, a lot of people I could've done without. Of course it was destructive, but it wasn't really intentional. I was just having fun. It WAS fun, and coming out of it...thank God for the piano. Really, the music helped me out of it through this cathartic experience of writing the songs."
He also credits guitarist and co-writer Nick Wheeler with "pulling me up to the Sequoia mountains in northern California" for the album's first writing session, but Wheeler downplays any role in Ritter's "recovery."
"Y'know, I think a lot of us went through our own little quarter-life crisis. (Ritter) just got caught up in the wrong crowd," Wheeler notes. "It wasn't so much me pulling him out of it. It was just, 'Hey, let's do what we do. Let's get out of here and write some music.' That was therapeutic for him, and for me in a different way. We just kind of shifted into torturing ourselves, which we always do when we write, and figuring out what to say."
The result on "Kids in the Street," out this week, is the darkest and most autobiographical of All-American Rejects' four albums to dates. It's also the most sonically expansive, with producer Greg Wells (Adele, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, OneRepublic) helping the group achieve a bigger, denser and more layered sound than it had previously pursued. "Our goal on this record was to push ourselves into making a sound that was original, beyond, I guess, the other records that we've created as far as not limiting ourselves to just the four-piece rock band instrumentation of two guitars, bass and drums," Ritter explains. "I think when we stepped up to a big wall of keyboards for the first time, I was just like a kid in a candy store."
Wheeler, however, adds that the Rejects are "still a rock band. There's still guitars all over this thing. We just found a few different ways to use them, different ways to make guitars not sound like guitars. The songs were there, so we had to the time experiment and use all our time and energy in the studio just figuring out how to paint this picture." The guitarist says his "personal win" was using a talk box on the album's first single, "Beekeeper's Daughter." "I'm surprised anybody let me do that," he notes, "but I got a talk box back on the radio, which is cool."
Wheeler estimates that the Rejects recorded nearly 25 songs for "Kids in the Street;" 11 are on the album, while others will be used as B-sides and bonus tracks. "They'll all eventually surface and get out one way or another," he says. Ritter adds that the album's next single will either be the title track or "Fast & Slow."
The Rejects kick off a spring tour on March 31 in Flagstaff, Ariz., which includes five opening dates for blink-182 in May and a spot on the Bamboozle festival May 19 in Asbury Park, N.J. The group will tour Europe with blink-182 in June and July and hopes for another North American run in the fall. "We'll see how long it keeps us out there," Wheeler says. "It's a lot of fun to play these songs. We're excited to do it every night. Hopefully we'll get a good, long run out of this and then go away and figure it all out again."