Like John Lennon before him, Tyson Ritter has weathered his lost weekend and lived to sing about it.
All-American Rejects fans who've wondered where their favorite little old power-pop band from Stillwater's been for the past three years can find some of the answers on “Kids in the Street,” their lone-awaited follow-up album to 2008's “When the World Comes Down,” which bore their first international hit single, “Gives You Hell” — the No. 1 most-played song on Top 40 radio throughout 2009.
Now, most guys who've been writing and singing songs since they were 17 with a goal of worldwide success in their sights would be fairly busting with joy at the end of such a glorious global run, but by the time that last tour ended in December '09, Ritter's bubble had simply busted. A long-term relationship — also going strong since he was 17 — went bust as well.
“I think it was just a sort of place of necessity for the man tryin' to find himself,” the singer-bassist said in a recent phone interview from a friend's house in Los Angeles.
“You gotta have a lost weekend, as Lennon said. And I think I had mine, and in doing so I think it really helped me find myself. It's a really perplexing thing to be locked in a time capsule from 17 to 25 and not sort of comin' out for fresh air.
“We really work hard as a band, you know? We work our a_ _ off on the road, we'll stay out for two years, and then we'll take four weeks off after that and then start writin' another record. And then two years later we'll be puttin' it out and tourin' it.
“So I think I just really needed to take my two months to myself. And then two months stretched out to nine and I sorta got in 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 result is the most musically ambitious and lyrically candid collection of songs the Rejects have created to date, delving into themes of regret, nostalgia and excess as the band's trademark habit-forming melodies, shiny harmonies and unstoppable rhythmic energy provide the framework, occasionally embellished with uncharacteristic brass and orchestral flourishes and background “gang vocals.”
Songs such as 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.
“And that was a really tough one to write. I've never really written a direct apology on a piano before. I think this whole thing was cathartic in that sense. It's still a Rejects record in the sense that there's a lot of fun moments. But there's a lot of valleys too. There's a lot of peaks and valleys. It's a journey as opposed to just a collection of songs that palate really well.”
Ritter and Wheeler wrote the songs in a variety of locales conducive to creativity, including a cabin at the base of California's Sequoia National Park (where the song “I For You” was recorded), as well as places in Maine and Colorado, then played them for guitarist Mike Kennerty and drummer Chris Gaylor, the other half of the Rejects.
Once there was unanimous approval of the new material, the band was matched up with producer Greg Wells (Adele, Katy Perry, OneRepublic), who served as the guide in helping the band expand itself musically with the aforementioned added instrumentation and effects never before heard in the Rejects repertoire.
“I don't think it's a complete departure but I think it's a case of us finally finding our voice,” Ritter said. “Music and truth have to really collide in order for me to believe the artist I'm listening to. I think there's a lot of truth in this music and a lot of personal investment that I've never given to a record before.”
For Ritter, it was a process of painfully honest self-assessment and growing up, but it also involved going back, and getting reacquainted with the best traits of his younger self.
“‘Kids in the Street' reflects on those moments when I was flyin' down a dirt road with the lights off, singin' songs I didn't even know the words to,” he said. “You know, I learned a lot on a dirt road. And I think it was reflecting on that person I was … before the ride happened. It's sort of finding that person again. It's those moments of naivete, finding that pure moment of light … Going back to the person I was before I left Oklahoma. Before I got on this wild ride. It sort of found its place on the record and helped me find my place in the world.
“… I'm a 27-year-old man now. I'm not a 17-year-old kid anymore. It's nice to feel like an adult now.”
The All-American Rejects
With: A Rocket to the Moon
When: 7 p.m. Friday, April 6.
Where: Diamond Ballroom, 8001 S Eastern Ave.
Tickets: $22 in advance at diamondballroom.net or by phone at (866) 977-6849.