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Tyson Ritter

Ahead of The All American Rejects tour Tyson Ritter chats about making a long-lasting musical impression, what inspires him to continue making art, and more.

2023 seems to be the year of ‘getting the band back together’ – Blink 182 just wrapped their overwhelmingly successful US tour with all of their original members. Paramore is currently on their first headline tour in 5 years. Boys Like Girls are in the midst of releasing their comeback album ahead of a tour. However, it could be argued that one of the most anticipated tours of the year is the comeback of The All American Rejects with their Wet Hot All-American Summer Tour with supporting acts New Found Glory, Motion City Soundtrack, The Starting Line and The Get Up Kids, filling the void of every ex-Warped Tour goer’s hearts. This marks The All American Rejects’ first full headline tour in nearly 10 years, which still feels surreal for The Rejects’ iconic frontman, Tyson Ritter. 

Ritter’s vocals can easily be recognized by anyone who’s ever heard a Rejects song – from the first line in their 2002 debut single “Swing, Swing” to later singles like “Beekeeper’s Daughter.” This is also true for Ritter’s other musical ventures – just last year he introduced a passion project with friends and musical collaborators Izzy Fontaine and Scott Chesak (who also plays keys for The Rejects) Now More Than Ever, and with his latest solo venture. Now More Than Ever dropped their debut album Creatrix this spring, a collection of nine songs that create their own fusion of pop and rock mixed with elements of electronic – timeless music that could easily be playlisted with current music or the hits of the 80s and 90s. 

Ritter especially shines in his solo music – he just recently dropped his single “Easy Come, Easy Go,” co-written with Chesak. The cathartic single’s cover art features Ritter’s own work, one of the many paintings you can see displayed on his Instagram. Listening to his songwriting, it makes sense he’s a painter –  he speaks about painting similarly to how he sits down to write a song, both of which he states create themselves when he’s feeling inspired. In “Easy Come, Easy Go,” the lyrics paint a picture of heartbreak as if they were brush strokes on a canvas. If one thing rings true for Ritter, it’s that he is an artist in every sense of the word, and he will always be creating. 

Ahead of The All American Rejects tour – which is running now through October 14th – Tyson Ritter chats with 1883 about making a long-lasting musical impression that is multigenerational, touring the country again with some of his favorite bands, and what inspires him to continue making art. 

 

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You released The All American Rejects debut album over 20 years ago. How does it feel to be going back on the road with this great roster of bands that came up around the same time as you guys?

I’m just so surprised that this is happening like this. Like, we’re a band that has branded ourselves with a moniker of being rejects, four guys from Oklahoma, we never felt like we fit into this scene. We were the pop rock band who were sort of swimming around the emo pools that we really never, I don’t know– we were the emo band that got played on pop radio. So we’ve always been like the ugly duckling, or just the rejects. We’ve always said anytime something would happen with our band, we’d be like, “that’s the fucking rejects man.” So for this to happen like this, for us to be playing with bands like The Get Up Kids, a band that we listened to when I was like 15 and the back of their record had a record label called Doghouse Records. 

And we sent our demo to Doghouse Records because we listened to that record, and we figured it wasn’t a major label, and maybe they would happen to listen to it or give it a chance, and they signed us. And everything about this tour is bizarrely entrenched in some sort of etymology of our genesis. New Found Glory was another band that I played in bars when I was 13. I played their cover of “Never Ending Story” with Nick, my partner in the Rejects, and their opening for us this summer. So this is like a surreal tour from top to bottom that we’re playing the biggest rooms we’ve ever played in our career for headlining, that we’re playing with bands that were the chemical makeup of the reason we even got to be. It’s a very pinch me sort of moment for this band.

 

Well, I think it’s kind of a pinch me moment for the fans too. So, just so you’re aware, I was at the All American Reject Show in 2005 at Reliant Arena in Houston, Texas with Motion City soundtrack and The Format. So I was definitely excited when this tour got announced!

That’s so crazy you were at that one. That’s so wild. Unreal.

 

This tour is special because I feel like a lot of the early 2000s Warped tour era bands have continued to tour over the years, whereas I think I read that the last time you guys toured was around 10 years ago?

The last time we did a real tour where we actually like, you know, we’re on cycle with an album and gave it a good run, yeah, it’s been a decade.

 

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What inspired you guys to do this again?

When We Were Young was a festival that happened in Las Vegas a year ago. We kind of approached it like really, really lackadaisical and half-hearted– and not half-hearted in our sincerity, but just half-hearted in our expectations. We’re like, you have to really understand the air of self-deprecation that has really, at least as a singer, which I guess that’s my job, is to sort of silently hate myself more than the rest of the band. There’s this sort of air of like, I’ve always felt very displaced being in this band in the sense that I feel like, you know, we were the bionical band and we were in Kids Bop records, and we made a lot of choices that people probably at the time thought was like, “these guys are fucking wack.”

And the fact that years can pass and we can walk into a place like the When We Were Young Festival, where we felt super intimidated because we were, again, the populist act on the bill. You know, all these cool bands that were our contemporaries at one point, still sort of like putting out records and relevance. We were just the Rejects playing the side stage. And when we got up there, you know, I did it in old man makeup. I was really taking the piss. And there were like 40,000 people standing in front of this side stage while, you know, Death Cab for Cutie was playing. And I was like, what the fuck is happening? 

I think that was a huge moment for us to be taken aback and say like, oh my god, people care. And I guess we didn’t know people still would. You know, especially as an artist, it’s really easy to put yourself down and say that you’re not worthy. But that was a moment where we felt like people were out there in front of us saying like, no, we’re into it and that really meant a lot for me personally. So that was definitely the reason why we were like, hey, maybe we should polish off the old instruments and try to try to do a dance around this country one more time for old time’s sake.

 

People definitely do still care! I had a few friends at your performance at David Dobrik’s party this weekend and everyone was singing along in the videos I saw on Instagram!

What the hell is happening? Honestly, the last two months for this band, like, it’s bizarre. The last two months of this band has gone from like – we’ve had like a TikTok meme for “Swing, Swing” with some girl dancing on a filter that I guess went and then David Dobrik, and then the kids that were out in front of us on Saturday are singing every fucking song. And it’s really surreal to me. It really makes me feel like I missed something, you know what I mean? I’m like, what happened? What is that tangible thing that we can’t actually hold onto that is the power of music? And I’m absolutely humbled and eternally grateful to see something that this band started when we were 17, turned into something that has now become multi-generational for a whole different audience.

 

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It really is multi-generational when you think about it. I mean, we’re seeing it all over the place. You know, we saw it with Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” in Stranger Things.

Yeah, that’s a vehicle man. It’s Kate Bush and it’s arguably the biggest television show in the world, right. So you cross the streams like that, and you can defeat Gozer, like that is a full on Ghostbusters like reference there if you didn’t catch it. It’s great. But like that is a juggernaut that is willed by the practicality of hugeness. This is something where it feels just far more surreal and subtle for a band like us. Like, we didn’t keep going like Paramore and Fall Out Boy and Panic!. We didn’t do a features album. We didn’t do all these things to sort of like try to keep our neck out there in this relevant cycle of life, so it means a lot more for us, I think.

 

Sure. I totally get it. But also the bands that you just named, it’s the songs that came out around the same time as “Swing, Swing” and “Move Along” and “Dirty Little Secret” that are still the ones that people are latching onto today. And like you said, yes, it’s a huge vehicle, Stranger Things, but so is TikTok.

I guess it is. I guess I kind of missed that. Like, I just got on TikTok this year, and I’m like, this is a lot.

 

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I have to bring up your latest endeavor – Now More Than Ever. I was so bummed I missed your show at the Echo, but I’ve been listening to the record and it’s so good. What inspired you to start this project?

You know, with The Rejects, it feels like a really sacred time capsule that to disturb it, it would have to be with the purest of intentions to approach. And I think I do judge that sort of juxtaposition, like with, Now More Than Ever, these are three people that contribute equally to a project. Whereas with The Rejects, it’s really more me and Nick, and it’s a very sort of like, it’s a dual contribution. Whereas this is like the first band I’ve been in where we’re all jamming live on the floor, and we write this music. And so I think just that the approach was completely different that this band just kind of naturally happened. It was three guys who were studio musicians, just kind of like trying to find the joy of why we liked to write music in the first place again.

Because to be honest, I’d been pretty disenfranchised by the major label system as it kind of chewed up and spit out Rejects records. I remember when we were getting off Interscope, it was like, prime Imagine Dragons, and we’re The Rejects, and they’re like, “hey, why don’t you guys write a record like Imagine Dragons?” And we’re like, “oh, well, we have to go now.” And so that really left a bitter taste in my mouth about just the machine, the ivory towers. And so this was like something pure, we just started this in our bedroom. We were going to put it out on DistroKid. And I love this music, like, it feels fresh. And to be able to pull out a record that feels inspired 20 something years into this, Now More Than Ever feels like it’s an offering that I’m genuinely excited and proud of. So I’m really happy to be able to have that.

 

The songs on your debut album Creatrix sound nothing like any of your collective past records – how did the three of you come to find the sound for Now More Than Ever? Were there any specific records you were listening to at the time of the project’s birth? I personally hear hints of 80s – 90s pop and rock. 

I think it was like, you know, Izzy, our guitarist is a product of nineties fanfare. He loves Guitar Gods, and he loves Shania Twain and he loves the nineties Mutt Lang sort of like era. And Scotty, he’s more of a contemporary guy. He got cuts with a lot of current cool artists. And for me, it was just about finding a way to take what we were in the moment, regardless of, like, honestly, I listened to like Harry Belafonte and like you know, like Charles Mingus, when I paint. I can’t really say like, I’m not like a music head. Like I operate in a lot of quiet. And I guess the world kind of, maybe at that point when we started writing this was, I was kind of vibing off Izzy and Scott, honestly. And so what they brought to the table was kind of where I played with.

 

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It’s interesting that you say that because I feel like a lot of projects that were kind of born over the pandemic have been inspired by things outside of music, whether it was a piece of art or a film, or a story, a book that they read. So it’s interesting to hear you say that, especially, this project wasn’t specifically inspired by a musical body of work.

Yeah. I’ve always been a visual songwriter, with songs like “Heels Up+Head Over.” I remember when I approached it, I was like, this is about a werewolf and a vampire and like, I think because lyrics kind of spill out of me before there’s a lot of sense involved. It’s just kind of songs how they’ve always kind of hit me have always started singing themselves before they started thinking about themselves. And so sometimes you’ll get a song that makes a lot more sense than others because once it started asking me to think for it, I could actually make sense of it. But sometimes songs don’t even have to think as long as they feel, you know what I mean? Like, as long as you have the heart, the head doesn’t always have to be attached. So that’s kind of how I’ve always approached everything. I think that’s why my first record with The Rejects that I wrote has the word cry in it like a thousand times, because I was like 17 and nursing a broken heart.

 

On Now More Than Ever’s youtube channel there’s a video of you talking about where you came up with the band name – I caught something you very cleverly said – that the album name was from a vision you had at The Madonna Inn and a voice told you what the band was going to be called, and you said “I’m not saying it was god, but it could have been her.” Obviously the album title is Creatrix, which is a female creator. Was that meant to be an easter egg?

No. I mean, yeah, kind of. I mean, it’s funny, like going through life in your thirties, if you’re lucky, or if you’re unlucky, you have this weird awakening of your consciousness a little bit that makes you sort of start asking yourself who you are. Whereas I feel like in my twenties, I was just so impulsive and just all from this, like my root, you know, it was all pure. Even if I was flawed, it was still pure, right? But when you’re 30, you know better. And I think there’s something that happened whenever I crossed that benchmark moment in my life and I finally have a little bit of a connection, I think, to a higher existence for myself.

And yeah, I think that Creatrix is, you know, back in the day, the Romans talked about the Demon or the Genie, or this thing that was outside of you. And I always told people who ask, “oh, how do you write a song?” I’m like, “man, I don’t do it.” And I’ve heard a lot of musicians, Michael Jackson, I think he said, “you know, you have to let God in the room.” I heard Jack White say that quote, I don’t know if it was Michael Jackson, maybe it was Quincy Jones. But I think there’s something kind of really humbling about knowing that what we do as artists is bigger than us because it’s actually outside of us that we do it, you know. So that wasn’t an Easter egg, you know, I’m a child of a broken home, and I stayed with my mama and the feminine energy has always been something that has been the complete backbone to my sensitivity and existence. So I think we honored her a little bit on this record.

 

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Just a few weeks ago you released a solo single “Easy Come, Easy Go” – I LOVE this song from you. And the music video is beautiful. Just off the release of Creatrix and right when you’re about to head off on tour with the Rejects, what inspired you to write this song and put it out?

It came out of me right after my son was born. It was like 11:00 PM, sitting in the kitchen, I had this instrumental and it just spilled out of me. And I haven’t felt that in probably like, maybe, 20 years. I’m not saying that I full on had an Emily Dickinson purge here. You can judge it for whatever you want, but for me, lyrically it was some of the best I’ve written because every word seemed to pair well with whatever the next phrase was saying. And I’ve always prided myself in my clever little things and this was just chock full of really clever imagery, and it’s a beautiful feeling when you can surprise yourself, right.

And I remember just sitting there and telling my wife, oh, like just making these hilarious sounds as these words were just coming to me like a gift. And I’ve recently started painting and sometimes paintings fall out like that. I’ve noticed that in a different way where I’m like, “oh, this feels kind of the same,” where you kind of look up when you didn’t realize you’ve been lost in something for an hour, and maybe it’s been actually five hours, and the sun’s down now where you feel like you still have your coffee that’s gotten lukewarm on your counter, and it’s dinner time, and you’ve traveled through time.

And on the other side of it is this piece of art that you don’t remember even creating, but you know that it was your hand that did it. And that was like that for this song. And man, as you know, speaking to anybody out there that’s an artist, like, if you can catch a moment like that in your life, you understand why you want to be here. It’s the closest to the sense of purpose that I get to encounter. And that’s also a dangerous thing to say, because you’re chasing that sense of purpose.

 

It definitely seems like you’re the type of creative that strictly makes art when you’re inspired to do so, so this question may be difficult to answer, but is this single the start of something bigger for you?

I think I’m playing around. Like, I absolutely am starved for the company of my gifted guide of music. Like I’m ready to purge something. I don’t know if it’s a solo record. I’ve kind of quietly been playing with the idea for the last five years. I’ve kind of written a musical, and I’m trying to see if it’s going to be a Rejects musical, and it’s something that I’m really trying to take a big swing at to do. So it’s something that I’m trying to tamper with my expectations about, because it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, and I think I might’ve done it. So these songs that I’m spitting out right now are kind of me killing time until I figure out if this is going to actually be a thing or not.

 

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I watched your podcast interview with Ted Stryker and something you said really stuck with me – you said “I don’t do this for relevance anymore.” I feel like that is a very strong statement, especially in today’s world flooded with social media and influencer culture. It’s so rare too and you really have to dig to find true artists. So, I have to ask, what drives you to keep creating, more than 20 years later?

It’s probably appropriate for me to say, I need to know that I’m supposed to be here and creating something that I know is supposed to be here makes me feel like I am supposed to be here. And I know that’s super heavy to say, but you’re catching me on a very vulnerable day. You know – you see an artist like Sinead O’Connor who just passed, who was such an antenna and a sensitive one and often misinterpreted or just, you know, you could tell when she put it out there. Like they’ve been replaying that moment that she ripped up the picture of the Pope. And you can see how afraid she was when even she did that because she believed in it, but she’s also a human being who is feeling at a level that is fucking incomparable to the average human being.

And as artists, we want to put on Kevlar every day to protect ourselves from everyone and from everything, because we feel so, so much. But the only thing that makes us feel truly open and fearlessly naked and powerful is when we connect to what we’re here to do. And that’s why I continue to do this, and it’s the most intimidating thing to know that I have the means of time and freedom to do it, because it’s all on me to do it. As opposed to when I was a kid struggling with, you know, I was a poor kid from Oklahoma, man. Like, I was bumming rides off friends. I wrote my songs in the solitude of my trailer house that my dad kind of abandoned me in at 15.

Like, I always had the real world to ground me with struggle and now, I’m the guy from the All American Rejects, and I have a life that’s been afforded to me that is comfortable. It makes it even harder to find your truth in comfort so I think we’re always searching for discomfort in order to place ourselves in a vulnerable opportune position to let truth flow from us. That’s like the longest, like, wordy answer. I’m so sorry.

 

Please don’t apologize! It was beautiful. I enjoyed every second of your answer, so thank you so much for that. Thank you so much for your time. I am so excited for the upcoming Rejects tour, and I will continue to support every project that you release.

Oh, you are so kind, Rachel. I hope we’ll see you at a show.

The All American Rejects are on tour now. Buy tickets HERE.

 

Interview + Production Rachel Martin
Photography Anna Lee
Styling Edwin Ortega
Grooming Virginie Pineda
Photo Assistant / BTS AlexAnn Hopkins
Special thanks to Flashaus Inc

 

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