This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
In the middle years of the previous decade, The All-American Rejects were poised to be the next big thing in alt-rock.
After that, though? Not much happened.
And since their last album release in 2012? Well, nothing much at all, really.
The band was technically more "dormant" than on hiatus during that time, playing one-off shows here and there, while sprinkling in the occasional mini-tour.
Now, though, they're back. They just released a new two-track EP featuring the songs "Sweat" and "Close Your Eyes," and issued an 11-minute video to accompany them. Meanwhile, they just began a tour on Thursday with fellow ex-alt stars Dashboard Confessional, and will be visiting the Sandy Amphitheater this coming Tuesday.
Drummer Chris Gaylor spoke with the Tribune to fill people in on what AAR's been up to the past five years, and what's up next.
What have you guys been up to for the last few years?
Like, the last five years?! [Laughs]
Yeah, yeah. It seemed like you guys were on an upward trajectory for a number of years, and then you kinda disappeared completely. So can you take me through what happened?
Well, we did have that upward trajectory, and we were very active for about 10 years. When we did our last record, "Kids in the Street," we toured extensively, we'd been on the road for so long. Especially with that record I wanna say we played, like, 240 shows that year. We played more live shows that year than any other band. And we were just tired, to be honest. So we wanted to take a little time to have personal lives, and a life outside of the band.
Well, that's selfish of you, don't you think?!
Yeah! Come on! What were we thinking, you know?! But we wanted to do that, and start creating music again when we felt like creating music again, as opposed to, "This is what we should do." So that's kinda what we did. And then recently, well, relatively recently, we had the inspiration to make and record new music again. So that's what we're doing. You know, Tyson got married in that five years, Nick moved, you know … we're in our 30s now, so we're doing 30-something stuff!
I guess it's only fair to allow that.
Yeah, come on we gave you 12 years, you can give us a five-year break!
So tell me about the new music. I know you just released the two new songs. What can people expect going forward?
Yeah, we just put out the "Sweat" EP, and we did an 11-minute film for it, and today is actually the first day of our tour with Dashboard Confessional. Really, just kind of gearing things up again. The five-year break has left us a little bit stiff, so we're just loosening the muscles, as it were, and taking it back out there. We're all really excited. We've recorded a handful of songs over the past year or so, and I think we're gonna release songs here and there, here and there, and just get the whole thing going again. … You will be continuing to get new music.
There are a lot of bands that are doing that these days, where rather than taking 2 or 3 years to drop a full LP, they'll put out two songs here, a single there, a three-song EP, and so forth.
We're taking it back to the '50s, man. You know? That's how they did it back then. Think about it even though it's really gratifying and fun to write and release a full-length record, most people are just buying and listening to one or two songs now. And so, we were like, "We're just gonna write and record our best songs and then release them like that." It's honestly more fun for us and inspiring for us because we're not in the studio for months. We go in and track a song, and there's much more room and freedom and flow to the whole thing that way. We're all excited and we come in with fresh ears every time we record a song.
What goes into getting ready to go back on the road after taking five years off? You used the expression, "loosening the muscles," earlier; what exactly does that encompass?
Well, we got our vaccinations for smallpox and tetanus, and stuff like that! Safety first! No man, it sounds funny, but it's writing new songs, coming up with the conceptual artwork, we got new managers, there's new people at the label a lot of people at the label we weren't working with five years ago. It's not really starting over again necessarily, but starting over again! Even a few weeks ago, we were in our storage space where we kept all our gear, going through gear, seeing what we were gonna keep and what we were gonna get rid of trimming a lot of fat.
It's interesting. I think a lot of people take it for granted that it's easy to go through this write-record-tour cycle, but taking five years off and having an honest-to-god life and then picking it all back up again where you left off is perhaps more difficult than they might imagine.
Honestly, we wouldn't want to make the same record and just be the same band again. We've all grown, we're different people than we were in 2002. We needed to grow as people, as well as musicians and artists.
So how have you grown during that time? Looking back at the early days of the band and comparing it to where you are now, what's been your personal evolution?
Wow, it's funny because it happens in such small steps that you don't really notice until you look back, right? I don't know. I recently moved out of Oklahoma, moved to San Diego kind of just uprooted myself and moved. I was ready for a move, and some big changes in my life. So I made that happen. And then, I'm doing this. It's actually a really good question I'm gonna be thinking about that later! I haven't really noticed, I've just been putting my head down and moving forward, I suppose.
How did the conversation go when the decision was made to get back together and move it along? Who called who first, what was said?
We never broke up. We were still playing shows, and we had done a small tour last summer. It was just I don't know. Tyson had written some songs and we just kinda started. He texted me a demo for this song, "DGAF," that we played last summer on tour with Blink-182, and we ended up recording that, and it just kind of sparked us. We didn't really have a conversation of, "Let's get the band back together! Let's get going again!" We just kind of toured and recorded that song. And we've been doing one-offs the entire five years. It's not like we completely stepped away from our instruments, or weren't talking or anything like that. It was just kind of a natural move. It was just right. When the timing's right, you do something, and the next thing you know, it's accomplished. It was more like that.
Tell me about the two new songs you just put out. You've obviously got that quintessential sound that's a defining element of All-American Rejects, but at the same time, as you said, you don't want to stand still and do the same thing. So how are these songs different?
For me, "Close Your Eyes" is probably my favorite song that the Rejects have ever recorded. That and "Sweat" are very different songs that seem to complement each other. "Sweat" is kinda like this rollicking, boisterous song with a big, loud guitar solo. And "Close Your Eyes" is such a somber, sad song, really. But they just seem to work so well together as a pair. It just happened, man! I don't know what to say. Especially with "Close Your Eyes" I remember I came up to Tyson's house and just recorded the drums with him one day in his living room with this guy who's become a friend of the band, a producer and writer named Benny Cassette. And we just recorded it and a day or two later, maybe the next day, we go to Benny's and Ty cut vocals and we were like, "Wow, OK we just did a song!" The next thing you know, it was just done. Obviously, we've been planning things, but with more of a natural way to create as opposed to going, "OK, we're gonna get together and we're gonna write some songs, and we're gonna record 'em, and then we're gonna put out a record." You know? I really do feel a lot more freedom and room for movement going about it this way. Obviously, the process of creating is different every time, but this has definitely been … I'd say I've had more movement, more freedom on this, more inspiration. Because of the fact that we were just, "Eh, let's go record a song." And we'll record this one, then wait, then we'll go record another. And there you go! I don't know how else to put it.
Things are happening more organically these days.
Exactly! I don't know if you've ever played in a band or anything like that, but when you were a kid, or younger, and you play and record music with your friends, it wasn't like you thought about, "We're gonna go in and write a record and do this and this and this." You just kinda did it, because you wanted to create something. I that's basically how this went for us.
You guys will be playing here in Utah next week at the Sandy Amphitheater. What can people expect to see out of you guys?
We're gonna put on a show! We're excited to put on a show. You'll have fun looking at it and listening to it it's gonna be a feast for your eyes and ears, I think. We wanted to put on a show that your eyes could digest as well as your ears. So expect that. And we're actually really fresh into the tour, so I think by then we'll have gotten a few shows under our belt, and we're gonna be hitting the groove at that point. Post-first few shows and then pre-tour burnout!
So we'll get you right in that sweet spot between you working out the kinks and having lost interest!
Exactly! Like a good baseball glove, when it's nice and worn in but far from being busted!
Well thanks for your time, Chris. Was there anything else you wanted to add or mention?
No, I think you covered it. I haven't been to Salt Lake in awhile, and I'm excited to go. It's a beautiful state, actually, Utah. We're looking forward to playing!
When • Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Where • Sandy Amphitheater, 1245 E. 9400 South
Tickets • $45-$75; Smith's Tix