Tyson Ritter is amused when he's asked if he has any “gripping tales from the road” to relate as the All-American Rejects' 2012 tour is about to come to an end on Friday at the Diamond Ballroom.
“We're not the fun fest, I guess, that we used to be,” the Rejects' lead singer, lyricist and bass guitarist said during a tour stop last month in Mobile, Ala. “We're scouting out a lot of sweet gear just in pawnshops around the country. We've just sorta been scouting out a bunch of fun gear to record with as we come across these small towns and some of these shows. They have these gems just sittin' in the windows.”
The once wild young power-pop-rocker from Stillwater now gets his kicks browsing secondhand stores with his bandmates, and he enthuses about rhythm guitarist Mike Kennerty's recent purchase of a '70s model Cruwmar synthesizer, and his own discovery of a vintage Magnatone amp, through which he recorded the bass parts of “Gives You Hell,” the big hit from the band's 2008 “When the World Comes Down.”
“We were just sorta walkin' by, or skatin' down, like, Main Street, America, and I find this Magnatone for nearly next to nothin', you know. And I was like, ‘Man, this is great,'” Ritter said. “So I think we've just become our own little version of American Musical Pickers.”
Quite a different tune from the sad one Ritter was singing at the end of '09, when he faded into what he describes as his “lost weekend.” He'd been going full-tilt since he was 17, achieving a worldwide success other guys only dream about, but at 25, rock 'n' roll was about to roll over him.
Plus, a long-term relationship — also going strong since he was 17 — had run out of steam as well.
As Ritter put it in an interview with The Oklahoman last April, he fell into “this wild little abyss of Los Angeles and, you know, found a bottle and found another one.”
During that nine-month “weekend,” Ritter would spend a lot of time lying on the floor talking to himself, not knowing what time of day it was and not caring. He simply didn't know how to function as a human being outside of the Rejects, and he didn't want to deal with that problem.
But finally, Nick Wheeler, his best friend and bandmate since Stillwater high school days, stepped in and took a hand.
“You know, Nick definitely has always been the levelheaded cat of the two of us,” Ritter said. “I'm sort of the fire, he's the water. And he said, ‘Ty, you know, it's time to start writin' this record.' And I sort of found my bit of savior and solace in New York City. And that was sort of the overview journey of, I guess, the locations of where this record was sort of found.”
The record is “Kids in the Street,” the All-American Rejects' fourth major-label album, released in early 2012. It is the most musically ambitious and lyrically candid collection of songs the Rejects have created to date, delving into themes of regret, nostalgia, loss and excess as the band's trademark habit-forming melodies, shiny harmonies and unstoppable rhythmic energy provide the framework, occasionally embellished with uncharacteristic brass, orchestral flourishes and background “gang vocals.”
Album-opener “Someday's Gone” finds Ritter lashing out at a person who tried to destroy him emotionally, while the first single release, “Beekeeper's Daughter,” tells all about a guy who thinks he can get away with behaving badly and still get the girl in the end.
There are also a couple of songs that address the breakup of that six-year relationship.
“There's a big apology on that record called ‘Heartbeat Slowing Down,'” Ritter said. “I think it's probably one of the more grand songs we've written, and I think once we get to it, as far as the record is concerned single-wise, I think it has a chance to sort of really open up a new audience for us.”
The push has already begun on this latest single release, which Wheeler says is the first song all four members have ever agreed upon as their favorite album track.
“It's sort of a bookmark on ‘Kids in the Street,'” Wheeler said. “It's like the dividing line for me where I remember we were up in the mountains of Maine when I was just sort of secluded and this song came out ...
“So this song, although lyrically it's about loss and sort of trying to overcome that, it's probably the song that we as a band first collectively actually agreed upon as being our favorite song on the record. We always picked our own favorites on our past records, but this was the favorite of us all and we're really excited to get that song playin' (on the radio). That'll get the Rejects back out for another year.”
Meanwhile, it's home for the holidays, where they'll headline the KJ-103 “Jingle Jam” at the Diamond Ballroom, with special guests Shiny Toy Guns.
“We're really excited to be playing that show,” Ritter said. “And there's no place like home for the holidays. Our folks haven't seen us at all this year ... A month at home is like a year for me. So I'll feel pretty good (when it's time to hit the road again).”
After all, there are lots more treasures to be found in the pawnshop windows of the world.