Nick Wheeler Interview – All American Rejects

17th October 2009
Rock City, Nottingham

Website: http://www.allamericanrejects.com/

How’s the tour going so far?

The tour has actually been going really well, we’ve been going really hard since October, so we’ve been going for about a year now promoting ‘When The World Comes Down’. It started getting a little hairy so we took a couple of weeks off to clear our heads, so this will be our third show and we’re looking forward to getting back out after spending that time at home because you start to get that itch again. Our attention span is about 2 weeks long now because after 2 weeks you want to go home, but after 2 weeks at home you want to get back on the road again.

So what’s it like being back in the UK?

Well we’re playing bigger venues which is great, and after the UK we go to Europe and we get to play bigger venues there too, but it seems like we’re solidifying a fan base over here. We’ve been coming here since 2003 so almost 7 years now and it’s nice to see new faces of course, but it’s nice to see people grow with us and the fan base expand, but it’s something that hasn’t happened everywhere. We’re from America and we tour America a lot, and sometimes we play a single city 4 or 5 times a year, so between the radio and the amount of touring that we have done some of our fans maybe feel a little force fed or maybe they take it for granted, so it really feels good to come over here and have a more rabid, territorial fan base. I mean in Germany for example this is the first record that anyone has cared about, in a pop culture kind of sense, so for all they know Gives You Hell is our first song.

We have these 2 records that we’ve been touring over here in the UK and also Germany for 6 or 7 years now so we have this cult following that is really strong for the band. I think now with music in general it’s all about the songs, which is good because people like good songs, people are attracted to a song if it’s good. Unfortunately that’s all it is anymore, there’s no albums, no being fans of a certain band, unless for some reason it’s some lifestyle band and you want to dress like them, or wear eye liner like them. You know what I mean? It’s not even about the music with those bands anymore, you read about them in tabloids and that’s why their music is popular.

We’ve had really great success because we’ve had some good songs, but some people don’t connect the dots and realise that all those songs were written and performed by the same band, but over here it feels like we have a really strong foundation with the fans, so it’s always good to come back over and see all those faces and see it expand.

So you’re playing with Taking Back Sunday, they’re supporting you guys…

Its co headlining, we’re closing some nights and they’re closing others.

I think our guys saw you as main headliners, and that’s why we didn’t think much about the others

Haha, well thank you very much.

So you’re playing with those guys tonight?

Well that’s actually a tour we’re doing in the states. Tonight is a band called Upwelling, which is a band that is signed with Mike and Tyson’s record label, and also American Steel who are another American band. Immediately after this we go back to our US tour and tour with Taking Back Sunday.

Well I was on your MySpace page and I saw that you challenged them to a beer drinking contest, but I haven’t seen a response so I wanted to know who won.

It’s one of those things cause we know a couple of those guys like just in passing, because we’ve stayed in the same hotel and we crossed paths in the lobby once, and that’s the extent of my relationship with these guys so far, but I think Mike might know a couple of them better but I wouldn’t say they were friends of ours yet, so we’re kind of going about this whole battle of the bands things you know, and it’s the first time we’ve done a true co headlining tour, so we thought it would be fun to start a, well we don’t want to start trouble with them of course because we like them and are taking them out on tour, but you know it’s just like to have some fun with it.

They made this video where 2 of them were lying on the beach and one of them had their head laying on the other ones stomach going “hey what you thinking?” and the other guy was like “I was just thinking what it will be like to go on tour with the All American Rejects” and they were being cool, but making a joke out of us at the same time. So we called them out on the response and said alright, let’s have a beer drinking contest, so we’ll see what their response is.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UsEfNlQcVo

I was looking through some of the other videos as well and I saw one for the 15th September 2009 where you opened up the New York Stock Exchange, and I just wanted to ask how you guys felt about doing that?

I guess any press is good press, and it’s like we’re not one of those lifestyle bands trying to get kids to dress and act like us, we just make music because we like doing it and that’s how we’ve always done it. We’ve written songs in my bedroom and recorded them you know, like just for us and at the end of the day we’re doing this for us, but obviously we wouldn’t have got this far if it wasn’t for the fans. We’re not trying to re created a record like, oh Move Along was a great hit lets do that again. I feel some bands do that and it just gets watered down until it’s over, and it’s not why we do this. It pays the bills, thank god and I do this for a living.

Anyways, I guess I’m veering off but my point is that because of that it’s kind of like there’s more mass appeal. We’ve played with bands like Fall Out Boy and we’re going to play with Taking Back Sunday, but we’ve also opened for Journey, Bon Jovi… and we opened the New York Stock Exchange. But it was pretty fun, although that whole week was surreal. We’re in New York for the VMA’s, the MTV awards, and they’re doing this new thing where the performances are either an artist or artists from a band playing with the house band, and they had P Diddy or whatever his name is now, 303 did a tune with them and then they wanted us to do Gives You Hell. So we did this different Jamaican, reggae’ish, which was weird because we just got in there with all these amazing musicians and played our song totally different to how we usually do, but it was really fun. We also played an acoustic show on a boat that was floating out on the Hudson river right in front of the statue of Liberty, it was the most surreal thing in the world. Then the next morning we opened the New York Stock Exchange. It was just so weird. This career has forwarded us very interesting, very awesome, very different opportunities that I would never have thought we’d have otherwise.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Joau2PLIohE

Well my next question was going to be for Tyson, but I don’t know whether it’s something you could answer for me?

Well I’ve heard Tyson do a lot of interviews, so I can take words out of his mouth.

OK, well it’s basically just a rumour going about him teaming up with Rihanna. Do you know anything about that?

Erm yeah, I think after 3 records of writing all of our own material I think people are starting to take notice and wanting to pick our brains a little bit. The first thing Tyson and I did together outside of this band was with Rivers from Wheezer and we wrong a song that was for their new album, which again is another opportunity that we never thought we would have had. We show up to his house and hang out in his music room and he’s got all these Kiss records on the wall, and it’s small, but we all just sat in there and Tyson had the piano and me and Rivers has guitars and I have this demo of us all playing this scratch version of this song, we geeked out like so much when we left. We recently got the final copy, and we were on the set for our new video I Wanna and we played it in the trailer on loop, just this same song that we created with a band that we grew up worshipping.

I have my strong suits, but I think Tyson’s strong suits are melody and I think melody can be universal and he’s done a couple of other things on his own, one of which is talking to Rihanna, I don’t know if anything’s happened yet, but they’ve thrown the idea around and it’s a true rumour.

So there’s a chance something might happen?

Yeah

How do you feel about that, do you think it’s a good thing for the band?

I think so, it’s great to always stretch your creative muscles. We’ve been so focussed and one track minded and trying to figure out what the All American Rejects is and I think it can be counter productive at times. It’s just stretching your creative muscles and always being creative. I would love to produce other bands records but I have been way to busy to do that, ever. But it’s something that I’m interested in doing as well.

Are there any bands in particular that you would like to produce for?

Not necessarily. I really flourish in the studio and I feel I would really enjoy hearing something basic and then painting a big picture. I feel that’s what I do for the band and that’s what I do for other people too. In the same way that Tyson creates a spark and comes up with the melody or lyric and then usually take it from there.

I’ve been listening to the new album and what do you think are the major differences between your three albums?

Like I said before we’ve never thought about it too hard and never tried to force anything, or make a concept record. It’s more about hearing a melody and a song in it’s basic form and saying, alright where can we take this. Especially with When The World Comes Down, there are a lot of different flavours that I feel. There’s a common thread with the voice and the people playing on the record, but I think there’s something to be said if the song is good and you can take it anywhere and kind of get away with it, and I feel like we did that a lot on this record. Gives You Hell sounds nothing like any of the other songs on the record. The song When The Wind Blows, which is going to be our next single here sounds nothing like anything we’ve ever done, and the reason for that is because we actually wrote that song for Gwen Stefani. We’ve never set out to make a certain type of record; it’s more about where we’re at and what comes out. It’s just a natural progression of us aging 7 years and capturing these moments.

With this album we did what we did with Move Along and wrote a bunch of songs, and we encorporated more of the synths and drum loops back into it. Then all 4 of us got into a room and had these acoustic demos and thought, OK where are we going to take this, and this time we didn’t just focus on guitars or voices, we were like “OK we’ve sold 3 million records and we have some money to play around with in the budget to make this record” so we went out to Sky Walker Ranch out near San Francisco where George Lucas scores all of his movies, and it’s the biggest live room in America, and that’s where we cut the drums for The Wind Blows, and for a couple of other songs, just because the room is cavonius, and you can actually hear the delay on the drums, it’s really insane. We got to do the full on 18 piece orchestra and we got to bring in a choir.

On a side question, are you a Star Wars fan?

Well if I had to pick between Star Wars or Star Trek it would be Star Wars, but I don’t know everything about it like some people do, but I really enjoy the movies and I really got to geek out going up to Sky Walker Ranch. What I was really excited about was the Indiana Jones stuff, we got to see the whip, the three stones from the Temple of Doom. BUT what I was especially excited about was the wand from Willow and the red guitar from Howard the Duck.

Oh dear, you watched that?!

Hey, I watched it, George Lucas made it! Think about that.

Tell me about tonight’s set list, is it going to be more of the new album?

We play a lot of the new album, and we’re playing a song today that we haven’t play since we recorded it in sound check, but we’re not going to play it tonight because I’m sure we’ll butcher it. We go back to our other records and see what we haven’t played in a while and pull some of them out. There are a couple of songs on the new record that we haven’t tackled yet, but we’re playing for an hour and half tonight and we’ve never done that, we’ve never been a band that can pull that off. I mean we’re not one of those bands that are not going to play Swing Swing, you know what I mean, we’re not Radiohead! So we do play all the stuff that everyone wants to hear, but we focus a lot on the new record because we’re proud as hell with it.

Is there a favourite song that you enjoy performing?

Yeah, Believe is really fun to play; it’s the second to last song on the new record. Real World is fun, and the songs that get a good reaction are always great to play like Dirty Little Secret and Swing Swing, but right now I’m really geeking out on the new stuff.

Before you come out on stage are there any band rituals, maybe some sort of hand shake that you guys do?

Well I sometimes do some stretching, Tyson paints his body with glitter and it’s not left field he’s been doing that for a little bit. Everyone has got their own little thing and then we all come together on stage and it happens and it works, but nothing too ritual.

OK, so just one final random question. Tell me one thing that people don’t know about you that they should know.

(Thinking about it) Hmmm…

You know I think this is the only thing I’m good at so it’s just trivial stuff. I wake up every morning to the song Maggie May by Rod Stewart, the part with the mandolin break down.

Do you want to listen?

Maggie May starts playing…

It loops too, and just keeps on playing!