The All-American Rejects ‘Move Along’ through Villanova

Paul Martucci

Stillwater, Ok. has many claims to fame. Home to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Oklahoma State University and the birthplace of James Marsden who is famous for his role as Cyclops in “X-Men,” this rural, average-sized town has a lot to proud of. Another one of Stillwater’s most successful inhabitants blew the rafters off the Jake Nevin Fieldhouse this past Tuesday and they took the time to speak with The Villanovan after doing so.

In describing Tuesday night’s concert, band member Nick Wheeler found himself positively reflecting on the appeal of a small show, comparable to the band’s Villanova performance.

“The smaller shows, the hot and sweaty ones, like [Tuesday night], they just make you feel it,” he said. “You see those pictures of big rock bands playing in the day to thousands and thousands of people at some festival. We’ve been fortunate enough to play at a couple of those, and I just don’t feel it at those.”

Despite the experience that Wheeler now has in giving concerts, he admits that nerves play an aspect regardless of how large or small the show is. Tuesday night at the Jake Nevin Fieldhouse was no different.

“I get nervous before any show, no matter how many people there are. But once you’re up on that stage, it all disappears. It’s just fun. The scary part is hearing people chanting or yelling stuff before you go on and you just think, ‘I hope everything works.’ That’s the nervewracking stuff, but once you get up there it’s the best job in the world.”

The All-American Rejects, consisting of lead singer Tyson Ritter, guitar player and backing vocalist Wheeler, fellow guitar player and backing vocalist Mike Kennedy and drummer Chris Gaylor, formed in the mid to late 1990s. After creating a large local following, the band got in a van and headed to New York City to meet with their producer, Tim O’Heir in order to record a record in 1999.

“We didn’t have enough money for plane tickets, so we got in our little van and drove there,” Wheeler said. “It was the first time we had ever been farther than the southwest, so that was a pretty big deal.”

Wheeler claimed the band trekked to New York confidently, believing that their music was good enough to make it. He admitted, though, that the trip was challenging.

“It was the surviving there for three months on hot dogs and really bad coffee … And we had some tuna fish,” he said.

After meeting with O’Heir, the band was eventually able to create its first major album. The self-titled album was released on October 15, 2002. Four singles were released from this album, but the most popular was the first, “Swing Swing.” The single reached No. 8 on the U.S. Modern Rock chart and No. 60 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. “The Last Song,” “My Paper Heart” and “Time Stands Still” were three other singles that were released between the album’s release date and 2005.

After the album was recorded, there was some debate among the band members as to which song should become the band’s first major single. According to Wheeler, while “One More Sad Song,” “The Last Song” and “My Paper Heart” were considered, “Swing Swing” became the clear choice.

“If a song was gonna do it, it was going to be ‘Swing Swing,’ so we decided, ‘Let’s come out swinging,'” he said. “We went out with guns blazing. Fortunately, the song became the biggest song on the album.”

After the release of the self-titled album, The All-American Rejects entered what appeared to be a record-making hiatus. Three years came and went without a new album. Wheeler explained, though, that there never actually was a hiatus.

“We toured our asses off on the first album, and we kept touring even after ‘Swing Swing,'” he admitted. “We took a year off to write ‘Move Along’ and we didn’t know it would take a year. We had never written for a major label, since we had written the first album for ourselves. We wanted to write the second one for ourselves too. We wanted to take what we learned and what we had grown into, and then apply it to doing our thing again.”

To write, Wheeler and Ritter moved to a town in Florida similar to, but more laid back than, their Oklahoma hometown. It had a beach, which the two used as inspiration to help write song lyrics to about a dozen songs over the four months they spent there. Coincidentally, the last three songs written for the new album became the first three singles.

On July 12, 2005, The All-American Rejects released “Move Along,” the band’s sophomore album. That summer, the band released its first single from that album, “Dirty Little Secret.” Far surpassing any previous success, “Dirty Little Secret” launched to No. 9 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart for three consecutive weeks. The second single, “Move Along,” was released in 2006 and peaked at No. 15 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart.

As the band’s music in the sophomore album found more popularity within the mainstream market, some critics complained that band has strayed from its original mission. Wheeler dismissed this theory, though, and claimed that the band merely plays what it wants to play.

“We play rock music, but it’s definitely pop oriented, so people can sing along to it and a lot of people get it,” Wheeler said.

“But whatever. I mean, we have fun doing what we do and I think if you were to ask me if I’d listen to my band if I wasn’t in it, I think I’d like to say yes. We have songs that are fun to play and, in our opinion, fun to listen to.”

In regard to makes his band as popular as they are, Wheeler cited his and his band members’ efforts to be true to themselves.

“We’ve always been ourselves,” he said. “We showed up wearing jeans and t-shirts and nobody thinks we should change.”

“Everybody’s been like, ‘Hey man, just be yourself’ the whole time,” he added. “So we say what we wanna say, wear what we wanna wear and play the music we wanna play. We just stay true to ourselves.”

Despite becoming one of America’s most popular pop/rock bands, Wheeler admits that at times, simply playing on stage can pose quite a challenge. Specifically, he admits that he’s lately had a problem during concerts.

“I’ve had a streak where I’ve been falling a lot,” he lamented. “There have been several times where I’ve actually fallen off the stage, but I played off it real well though.”

“We played at a college in Queens recently and the stage was horrible,” he added. “It was like playing on a bunch of card tables butted up to each other. So it’s all unlevel, and I’m running across to sing in Mike [Kennedy]’s microphone with him, and I hit this lip where two pieces of stage were together, and I just slid halfway across the stage. I took Mike out, leg-swiping him with my guitar at the very end of ‘Move Along,’ the last song we play usually.”

Despite these minor difficulties, Wheeler admits that the feeling created while performing a concert produces an almost indescribable high.

“The highlight of life would probably be the VMAs,” he said. “I just remember being home recently. I was sitting there and I had finally, after living there for a year, just gotten cable hooked up. So I’m flipping through the channels, and I’m like, ‘Oh, the VMAs are on!’ So I turn it on and it’s us playing, and I was just like, ‘Woah.'”

“That’s when it really sets in, just like by yourself, having just cooked breakfast and doing all domestic things, then I turn that on and realize that’s what I do,” Wheeler added. “Being on stage is just the best thing in the world.”

After all the accolades and attention that The All-American Rejects have received, Wheeler was unable to forget the band’s Stillwater roots.

“I miss Oklahoma,” he reminisced. “All of my family is still there. Mike and Chris are still living there. In Florida, we’ve found a town that still reminds us of Stillwater, but with a beach.”

Sticking to these roots, The All-American Rejects will continue to rock at venues all over the country. They have become the pride of a small, thriving Oklahoma town.