Coming off the tour for the 2008 album "When the World Comes Down," All-American Rejects' lead singer Tyson Ritter fell into a bad place - Los Angeles.
"I basically crawled into a bottle of Jameson and didn't come out," Ritter says in a press release.
The move plunged the frontman into a downward spiral that guitarist and longtime friend Nick Wheeler helped pull him out of. They packed up their bags and moved to a cabin in the woods to do what they do best: write music.
The new album, "Kids in the Street," and the tour, which lands in Atlantic City 9 p.m. Friday, April 13, at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa's The Music Box, is the result of that trip.
The All-American Rejects have a long career for an emo-pop band - they reach their 10th anniversary this year. On the new album, the band takes a deeper look at the world and why they are in it. Wheeler offered his take on the experience.
Q. The sound behind "Kids in the Street" is definitely a turn from previous albums. It sounds like the band had a lot to say. Do you think what you were feeling translated in the songs, and how do you think fans will react to it?
A: I think this record, being the 10-year anniversary of doing this professionally, I think we have experienced a lifetime of experiences over the last 10 years, so there is a lot to say. We look at this life like groundhog's day, where we feel like we are reliving every day. We had to dig a little deeper for this album. We just have to keep pushing ourselves to try things we haven't tried before and experiment with sounds, and get out of our comfort zones. I think we've really done something special. I think lyrically Ty dug a lot deeper than he has in the past and we've been able to make something that we're really proud of.
Our fans are great. We just finished the "Shaking off the Rust Tour," because that's literally what we had to do, is shake off the rust. And the people who came to the shows were older. They had grown up with us and they knew all of the older material. It was a lot of fun. Hopefully they evolve and grow up with us for this album.
Q. I heard that Tyson hit a rough patch and you helped pull him out and escaped to the mountains to write the album together. What was that writing process like and do you think it helped?
A. Yeah, I think it always helps to escape reality and focus on what we've been put here to do, which is write and create music. We started doing this at such a young age. When we started touring, Ty was 17-18 years old and he never got to enjoy the college years and doing the whole sowing his oats thing.
It might have been because he moved to L.A. That whole thing came to a screeching halt. The reality is that in L.A. I try not to associate with many of the locals there and all my friends are the people we tour with.
(Ty) just got mixed up with bad people. He had some livin' to do, which I think he did. Our personal lives were a mess so that didn't help things either. It wasn't so much me pulling him out, it was more like telling him "Hey, remember what we do? Let's go do that." So we drove to Sequoia, got a cabin overlooking redwoods, which sounds glorious, but it wasn't.
We torture ourselves on writing trips. We mostly go where there's no cellphone service. That's actually where we wrote "Beekeeper's Daughter," which is about this guy who thinks, no pun intended, that he's the bee's knees. (Laughs) I can't believe I actually said that.
Q. We all hear about Tyson's love life and how it made its way into the songs. Can listeners catch a glimpse of your life anywhere in the album?
A. I have no personal life. I have a dog which I take lots of pictures of and post on Twitter and Instagram. That's about as deep as my personal life gets.
It's weird doing this for so long and being in the public eye now. Like fans haven't just seen my family at shows, but online somewhere. It gets weird, but people can follow me on Twitter.
Q. You guys experimented with instruments and threw synth sounds and some horns in throughout the album. Was this kind of a shoutout to your first album that featured a lot of different string instruments, like the tiny orchestra in "Last Song?"
A. We've never really tried to recreate something we've done in the past. I think all those things are sewn into our DNA as a band. Now we just have the time and money to elaborate on it.
Instead of doing things the same way, sometimes Ty will say, "Let's not put a bass guitar here, let's put a bass synth instead." It keeps it fresh for us. That really makes the live show so exciting and there's dynamic changes from song to song. It's really fun to adapt songs to a live environment. We have the opportunity to do what we want.
On "Beekeeper's Daughter," we wanted a Chicago-style marching band, so we just got one. It was a real cool experience. Before I would've programmed it on a keyboard, but now it feels like we're actual musicians.
Q. Your music videos are very creative and illustrate the songs. What went into the concept behind the newest video, "Beekeeper's Daughter," after not even being sure the song would make it on the album?
A. I think we've come to realize if we are afraid of a song it will end up being our first single. We weren't sure about "Gives You Hell" either, but that became our first single, too, and I'm glad it did!
We were kind of afraid of the song. It challenged us to think out of the box and do something different. As far as the video goes, growing up watching TV, when you hear a song on the radio you think of the visuals to go along with it, and then you see the video and it's completely different than you imagined it. Usually, it doesn't start with our vision for the song as far as the video goes. We had an idea and we were really far down this rabbit hole with it. It felt too dark, it felt too on the nose.
(Director) Isaac Rentz just one day sent this treatment to us out of the blue. It was really refreshing, and we actually wanted him to go a lot darker with the girls dressed as the devils and just the random s--t with old dudes riding scooters with hookers on their laps; that was all us. It was just really refreshing, and it ended up being exactly what the song is. It's a pop song and a pop-looking video but with dark undertones in the video, like the barbershop quartet with blacked-out eyes. It was really cool the way it came together, it was just random and magic.
Q. Is that how Wayne Newton showed up in the video? Just randomly?
A. Oh that happened! No, it was this email chain talking about how we need to make it weirder and more random, and Tyson says in the email, "Oh yeah, we should get Wayne Newton."
A couple weeks later we were in rehearsal and we all got a text saying, "Hey is it cool if Wayne Newton shares a dressing room with you guys?" And then he was just on set. He came with his family and he was the nicest guy.
Q. "Gives You Hell" is your top-grossing song of all time. Do you think you reached a new fanbase with it when they covered it on the TV show "Glee?"
A. Yeah, that show seems to be huge. I've never seen an episode of it. It seems to be all people talk about anymore. The whole idea of this is to get your music heard. So, I know there's been bands out there that have been like "f--k 'Glee'" … but that allows us to reach a whole different audience, and it takes the song and shows you it can be performed in any form and still be catchy.
Any timeless song you can strip it down or dress it up and it still sounds good. I think it's an attest to the songwriting itself and if it opens us to a whole new audience, sweet! We're proud of it.
Q. Are you looking forward to playing in the smaller Music Box theater at the Borgata?
A. I've been there before to see The Bruce Willis Blues Band, but I guess that was in the bigger venue. We love the small shows. That Shaking off The Rust Tour was all 500- and 600-seaters. The shows were so much fun and you're right up close to the audience like face-to-face. That's the perfect size.
Q. Is there a chance we'll hear Britney Spears' "Womanizer?"
A. (Laughs) I doubt it. That was a moment in time captured. One day we woke up and stepped into a little studio and pretty much came up with that on the fly. We just wanted to play our s--t. We have never been a band that plays cover songs, except when we were just starting out because that's how you get gigs. So we kind of came up with that on the fly and it just went viral. If "Gives You Hell" was our No. 1-grossing song, I wouldn't be surprised if that was the second-grossing.
The Return of the Rejects
Q. The band is set to play with blink-182, right, the Foo Fighters and DJ Pauly D May 19 at the Bamboozle fest in Asbury Park. Are you excited to play alongside such a different mix of bands and artists?
A. Bamboozle has become the East Coast Coachella. We're doing several shows with (blink-182). We're spending the whole summer with them in Europe, which is cool because we've never actually gotten to do big shows in Europe; that's a big deal for us.
We've been going overseas for 10 years now, but we're still playing the smaller rock clubs, which is great, too. But hopefully this will open a whole new world to us over there.
Q. A lot of people don't know that you've been around for more than a decade. How do you think your sound has changed since you and Tyson started the band?
A. I think we've lived several lifetimes. We do this almost on a daily basis now. This is our job … we're not so green and we're not just trying to do things like our idols. We're actually trying to be more like ourselves. I think we've managed to find ourselves and our band. We're so entrenched in our music and we've managed to make something different and special.