New record, same rejects

The All-American Rejects shake off the rust with a stop in Columbia.

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When: Tuesday, Feb. 7

Doors: 7 p.m., Show: 8 p.m.

Where: The Blue Note

Cost: $20 advance, $23 at the door

Goodness knows how our generation could have grown up without The All-American Rejects showing us how to move along, keep dirty little secrets and give some hell every now and then. Ever since, the band has been doing just about everything except living up to its namesake, having sold more than 4 million albums and 16 million singles worldwide. Now that the band is on tour again, Rejects guitarist Mike Kennerty lets loose about the new album, cool collabs and Freddie Mercury.

[MOVE] What preparations did you make before beginning the Shaking Off the Rust Tour?

[Mike Kennerty] It’s been a year and a half since we’ve actually done any touring, so that’s the longest break we’ve ever taken. We did a lot of rehearsing to get our bearings back, and on top of that, we just finished our new record, Kids in the Street. … We wanted to take the time, which we’ve never been able to, where we could sit and figure out how to play all the songs live before hitting the road. Before, it’s always been (that we would) learn the three or four we know we should play and kind of figure the rest out as we go. This time we actually had the opportunity to play our new album front to back, which is what we really love to do because we’re actually very, very proud of this record.

[MOVE] That’s your fourth studio album, Kids in the Street, to be released next month. What can you tell us about it?

[MK] We took a lot of time to really evoke a mood with this record. Like with past records, we’ve kind of gotten bogged down with technical aspects, you know, playing perfectly and just getting everything to a technical perfection that sometimes inhibits the mood. With this record, we really wanted to focus on catching the vibe and spontaneity over perfection. So there’s a lot of mistakes on the record that add to the fun feel of it. We recorded a lot of songs live…there’s a real vibe to it as opposed to a sterile perfect recording.

[MOVE] How does it compare to AAR’s previous albums?

[MK] I think each record represents us at where we are at that moment. It’s kind of a good thing that we definitely take our time making records. We’ve never been one to think like, “Oh crap, we just had a hit! We’ve got to poop out another record really fast!” We always take the time, and with that I think it makes every album more of a snapshot of where we are at that time and makes each album have its own personality. I feel like this one’s no different, but there’s a cohesiveness to this one that I think was missing particularly from When the World Comes Down ... I think it’s possibly our best record. And I’m not one to blow that around very lightly.

[MOVE] You’ve been able to work with some really awesome people in the music industry, including Wells, Howard Benson and Danny Elfman. Who would you like to work with in the future?

[MK] Ooh, that’s a good question. I don’t know. We’ve kind of just stumbled into everyone that we’ve gotten to work with. It’s been an amazing ride and journey. We’ve learned so much working with all these different people.

[MOVE] They could be dead or alive.

[MK] Honestly, if we could collaborate musically with anyone dead, I think we could all agree on Freddie Mercury. We’re all huge Queen fans. That would be incredible.

[MOVE] Speaking of collaborations, can we expect any guest vocals in Kids in the Street?

[MK] There’s a couple songs that the singer/songwriter named Audra Mae, who also is a total Oklahoman, lends her voice …She did an amazing job. We loved her. Have you heard of Mika? Greg Wells had produced his record, and we were a fan of his stuff on that, and he sings in one of the songs. Oh, and the singer Alex (Kandel) from Sleeper Agent.

[MOVE] There’s a mustached dude who keeps appearing in the Kids in the Street preview video. Who is he?

[MK] Tyson (Ritter, lead vocals and bass), when we were touring a couple years ago in Amsterdam, found a shop selling all these paper masks that only cover half the face, and they were just so creepy and weird and cool. We bought dozens of them, and a couple years later, it just kind of came to be like… this could be a good thematic thing. The record has a lot of themes about being a kid and when you have no care for consequence, and you’re just living to have fun but in the most innocent, genuine way. There’s something about those masks that’s like, that’s something you’d wear when you go to do something mischievous that you probably shouldn’t be doing.

[MOVE] And then there’s that Kids in the Street Movement fan contest you’re holding on the AAR website where you ask kids to submit their “favorite moments in life” in paintings, interpretative dances, videos or whatever. What’s that all about?

[MK] To have kids give their take on what it’s like when you’re a kid in the street ... it’s just a way of connecting with our fans more. There’s so many ways to do that these days that are kind of superficial, and you don’t really get to know the fans as much. This is a way for us to connect and get to see their point of view rather than just seeing ours.

[MOVE] What’s in it for the winners?

[MK] We’re going to do an art show. We’re going to pick the best ones that we like and then actually have a full-on showing. I don’t know if we’ve decided which city we’re doing yet.

[MOVE] Some people might think Kids in the Street sounds like a charity. Doesn’t Tyson Ritter have his own nonprofit, Don’t Hate on Haiti? What is the band’s relationship with it?

[MK] It’s his brainchild, but we do what we can to help it out. He’s been very successful with it. I think it’s up to like, over $50,000 that he’s been able to give.

[MOVE] How does the band help out?

[MK] At Warped Tour, things like signings at our booths and anything we could do to get kids to be aware of the cause ... Tyson, on stage actually, had a suit that he wore that he spray-painted with the logo of the charity and then had a bunch of bands sign it. He auctioned it off on eBay and raised like, $1,000 doing that.

[MOVE] Ritter’s also done some acting (“House Bunny,” anyone?) on the side, and you are the owner of Edmond Records. How do you balance The All-American Rejects with everything else?

[MK] It’s tough. We don’t get much off time from doing The All-American Rejects, but we’re so used to always just being ongoing that when we do get off time, it’s tough for us to just sit still ... the band is always our main focus, but it’s fun when we have time to do other things.

[MOVE] Tell us more about Edmond Records.

[MK] It’s a label that we started to put out friends’ bands, so it’s not something super active. When something comes along that we really like or a friend of ours is making a project, and we have the opportunity to help them out, we do.

[MOVE] Are bands on the Edmond label along the same vein that AAR runs?

[MK] It’s whatever we like, and we’re kind of all over the place with what we like. We put out a record by this guy Ben Weasel, who is the singer of a band called Screeching Weasel, and he was big in the pop-punk scene in the early '90s.

[MOVE] As a band formed in 1999, you must have had some crazy fans over the years. Any particularly memorable ones?

[MK] I remember there was one kid who came up to Nick (Wheeler, guitar)... and he goes, “Do you know what a unicorn is? It’s a horse with a seat on its head!” And I’m like, wow, you can’t get much more of a distinct point than that. [laughs] It’s very flattering to get so bluntly hit on by people like that.

[MOVE] How have band members changed over these past 13 years?

[MK] With us all being from Oklahoma, I think that helped ground us more than a lot of bands. 'Cause you know, anytime we go home, we’re humbled by our friends and family. I honestly feel like we are pretty much the same guys we were 10 years ago. Our lives have drastically changed, but I feel like we’re still the same people.

[MOVE] What’s next after this tour?

[MK] We’re going to keep touring. That’s the plan for pretty much the rest of the year. The album comes out March 27, and we’re touring the U.K. in the summer with Blink-182. We’ll probably be on a U.S. tour in the spring before that.

[MOVE] What can we college students expect from an AAR show?

[MK] We play a little bit of everything from all our records. We still believe in putting on a good show. There’s a lot of bands that kind of infuriate us in how little effort they put into actually putting on a show. We’re a band that believes in bringing energy, and we try to feed the crowd and get the crowd to feed us back with that energy. We’re playing a handful of new songs ... Our new single is called “Beekeeper’s Daughter.” We’ve been playing that one, and it’s been getting a good response. So that’s always nice. People like a song they’ve never heard before, which is a tough thing to do live.

[MOVE] Ever been to Columbia before?

[MK] You know, we played there in 2003, I believe? … There were about eight people there. It was us and Motion City Soundtrack. I can definitely remember the show… On that tour, we played like, seven shows, and there were maybe a total of 150 people that came out, if you combined all seven shows.

[MOVE] I’m sure it’ll be a little different this time.

[MK] Yeah. [laughs] We’re looking forward to the show. Can’t wait!

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