Everybody's All-Americans 

The All-American Rejects
w. Motion City Soundtrack, The Format, and Gym Class Heroes
Sat, Nov 25
Freeman Coliseum
3201 E. Houston
Funny story. Well, sort of. About two years ago, maybe a month after I got it into my head that I should become a music journalist, I found myself waiting in one of Detroit Metro Airport's baggage claim areas for a friend of mine who, for the sake of a cheap ticket price, was flying in at 5:55 a.m. There were six people filling up this wide, empty space: Me, a janitor at the far end of the room, and four lanky guys with tight jeans, tight tee-shirts, and carefully untidy haircuts who were busily stacking instruments onto a cart. These, I thought, are rock stars. One problem: I didn't recognize them.

"So, who are you guys?" I asked, ambling up.

The pretty one looked at me and I swear he sighed. Not an annoyed sigh. A tired, I-don't-give-a-shit sigh. This, I realized later, was Tyson Ritter.

"The All-American Rejects," one of the other guys answered, smiling more politely.

"Cool. I just got your album," I said, which I had. For some reason, I had bought their eponymous debut. (It turned out to not be very good, in retrospect.)

"Excellent," the polite Reject said, and nodded. A great-but-move-along nod.

For the life of me, I can't remember which one of the Rejects this was, but, for the sake of this article, I'm going to imagine it was guitarist Mike Kennerty, since that's who I got to talk with on the phone recently.

When I tell Kennerty my story, he laughs and admits, "I don't remember that, but it sounds like us. We're actually shy dudes. It's still a little weird to us when people ask us about the band. We don't know what to do."

The Rejects' sophomore release Move Along has been out for more than a year, gone platinum, and spawned a few reasonable hits like "Dirty Little Secret" and the title track. It also represented a significant leap forward for the band, incorporating a degree of musical craftsmanship that was largely missing from their contrite debut. I'm not lying when I tell Kennerty that I was really surprised by their new stuff.

It almost didn't happen, though. When their label, DreamWorks, collapsed and sold off their bands, the Rejects suddenly found themselves on Interscope Records, with Eminem and 50 Cent as labelmates. "When it first happened, we had no idea what it was going to mean for us," Kennerty says, "Aside from we knew, at that point, all promotion for the first album was over. We were kind of freaking out, but we turned out to be one of the lucky few to make the transition."

And did suddenly becoming an Interscope artist make the Rejects nervous? "There's a lot of pressure when your labelmates are Eminem and No Doubt," he concedes. "We just did our best to fit in with the big boys."

Even after the dust settled and the Rejects started work on what would become Move Along, the label consistently rejected their demos, though Kennerty disputes that assertion and blames it on inaccurate journalism. "`They` weren't necessarily rejected," he says. "It was a let's-keep-waiting-and-see-what-else-comes-out-thing." In fact, he adds, "Out of the original demos that were supposedly rejected, we still recorded five songs, four of which are on the album."

Kennerty attributes this fact to Interscope, and especially to their A&R rep, who kept insisting the Rejects had a lot more in them than the initial ten songs they delivered. The concept of overwriting and culling from a pool of songs to make the best album possible had never entered the band's collective mind. In fact, it's changed the way they record all together, and Kennerty anticipates the new method to have a big impact on their next album.

Recently, I was on a date and, when I mentioned to her that I had just interviewed the All-American Rejects that day - probably hoping this would impress her enough that she might at least give me some action - she laughed and said, "I remember them. They had that stupid song, 'Swing Swing.'"

"Yeah, it was kind of a small hit a few years ago."

She kind of snorted. "Yeah, well, all it made me want to do was swing swing a bat into my own head."

I do not tell Kennerty this, but I do reiterate my firm belief that Move Along is some of the most solid pop-rock to come out of mainstream rock in the last few years - even though I doubt most would agree with me. Especially my date (who gave me no action, it turned out).

Since I try to also be a fun music journalist, the kind who doesn't take himself too seriously, I thought I'd ask him something inane, too. Something I was sure - given the fact that Move Along's first single was called "Dirty Little Secret" - that he and the rest of the Rejects would've been asked time and time again by now.

Turns out, my lame questions are more novel than I thought.

"So, Mike, what's your dirty little secret?" I ask.

Kennerty hems and haws. Then laughs.

"I'm a big Carpenters fan, and people always make fun of me for that," he confesses. "I'm not afraid of not keeping it a secret either."


More by Cole Haddon



Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.