While Daze road-tripped down to Hahvahd with our big bro, the Editor in Chief, All-American Rejects lead guitarist Nick Wheeler gave us a buzz.
Daze: What’s the rock scene like in Stillwater, Oklahoma where you guys come from?
Nick Wheeler: [Chuckles] There’s not really a scene, especially a rock scene. There’s a couple of bars. There’s the world famous Eskimo Joe’s, ever heard of it? [burst of laughter]
Daze: No, actually I have not—
N.W.: Because yeah, okay, there’s that and there’s a couple of bars on what we call the Strip. It’s like on campus, all the bars where everybody goes and drinks. Pretty much a bunch of cover bands, and if you don’t play covers, you’re not going to get a gig in Stillwater. So we played a few of those and mixed in some of our own songs until we weaned people off the covers and just played our own stuff. So we kinda had to work at it, but we were really the only original band in Stillwater that was playing those, on the Strip, I guess.
Daze: How did you guys get from Stillwater to MTV and the top 10 on the Billboard Charts?
N.W.: Um, that’s a long story, man.
Daze: [looking at the window at upstate New York nothingness] I’ve got time.
N.W.: I guess, we just played around for like an hour for like a hundred bucks or whatever, whatever they would give us to get to the next town. In our case it was Kansas City or Dallas or frickin’ Wichita, Kansas. We got a small little record deal with Doghouse Records, that gives us a little bit of money to make the album. We went to New York City where the producer lives, and made the first record. It got around and people liked it. Some record labels liked it, DreamWorks picked us up and put “Swing, Swing” on the radio and on MTV. We’ve been going up and up and up since then, I guess.
Daze: Out of all the bands that you’ve toured with, who has been your favorite, and why?
N.W.: Probably we’ve always liked touring with Motion City Soundtrack. Those guys took us out before we were anything, and we returned the favor. They’re doing great. They’re really good guys, they’re really easy to get along with and we dig their music, so I’m going to go with them.[img_assist|nid=23030|title=Nick Wheeler|desc=courtesy of wikipedia.org|link=node|align=left|width=89|height=100]
Editor in Chief: What do you think of the state of American music nowadays, compared to the scene in London and Britain? What do you think of the general perception of American music versus British music? What do you prefer? And where do you see the direction of American music going?
N.W.: You know, I don’t know. I don’t really watch music right now. I kind of just stick to the rock that I grew up on, and I kinda just put my iPod on shuffle and see what happens ‘cause I got some really random shit on there. I just got my first car since high school, because I’ve been on the road and I haven’t needed one, but I got the radio playing in it, and I’ve been listening to that. There’s a couple cool bands. Normally I’ve been listening to the ’90s alternative station. [chuckles.]
Daze: Your first EP is called Same Girl, New Songs. Are you guys still getting a lot of inspiration from this same girl, or have there been new sources of inspiration for your music?
N.W.: [Chuckles] Some of the songs from the first record were homemade that we made maybe 500 copies and printed the inserts on my computer. There’s a couple songs on that, along with, I think, there’s a few songs on that that made our first album, and that first album was pretty much written about a girlfriend that Tyson had at the time. None of the songs are written about her anymore. It’s mainly with the first album, that relationship.
Daze: So what’s the inspiration for this new album?
N.W.: You mean Move Along or the one we’re working on now?
Daze: Both, actually.
N.W.: Okay, we’ve definitely experienced a whole lot more after touring, the first record, before that a lot more than some people will ever get to experience and there’s a lot to write about. We also want to write about shit that people can relate to. There’s a song that’s like ‘oh man, we’re really into life right now.’ Everybody’s got a real relationship crap in their life, whether it’s good or it’s bad, it’s always good for a song. Da-da-da, da-da-da. The lyrics are bullshit; it’s just relationships. [laughs.]
Daze: [Laughs] Okay, your video for “Dirty Little Secret” included submissions to the website and collective art project PostSecret. So, who came up with this idea? What were your favorite submissions to the website that you came across?
N.W.: Um, pretty much every video we’ve ever made was gonna be last minute. We were like, ‘Aw fuck, what do we do? We have to make a video in five days; we don’t even have a director!’ But that’s when the best ideas come. Marcos Siega did our “Swing, Swing” video, and he did “Dirty Little Secret.” One night, it was real late and I got an email from him, like ‘Dude, check this out,’ and he sent this website. There’s no treatment: usually you get a treatment, like a detailed script and what the video’s gonna look like and how it’s gonna be shot and such and he’s like, ‘There’s no treatment, just look at this website: It’ll be badass.’ So we were like, ‘Alright, cool, man. You did us right the first time.’ So we just stood in front of a bunch of those. And I think some of my favorite ones are, actually we all got to keep one of them, mine was, uh, ‘I flick my boogers,’ and it’s like a picture of a bunch of boogers flying across the postcard. There was also a — it didn’t make the video because it would piss Starbucks off — but ‘I work at Starbucks and when people piss me off, I give them decaf.’ That was one of my favorites.
Daze: How did Tyson end up joining Stephen Coletti from Laguna Beach for the spring break reality program on MTV?
N.W.: No idea, but MTV likes us a lot and we’re very grateful for that because for 25 years now, they’ve been making bands huge so…badass. [laughs]
EIC: What’s your favorite venue to play around the world, and what city or country that you’ve played in has the craziest fans?
N.W.: Craziest fans are probably Japan. They’re wild and they sing every word even though they can’t speak your language. And between songs, they’re just deathly silent. It’s kinda weird. But then, they all know where bands are staying, so show up at your hotel and there will be tons of little Japanese kids running around. Tons of pictures: every time they see you, like you already have seven. They’re rabid and they’re awesome. They’re crazy. It’s overwhelming, but they’re definitely the craziest fans. And Australia’s probably my favorite country to play in just ‘cause it’s like America and England and Japan all together, and they have great food and good wine, and they all speak our language, or vice versa.
Daze: Are you guys still based in Stillwater? And how does it feel to go back there now?
N.W.: When we go back, it’s weird. It’s a small college town and at the heart of it, its an Oklahoma town. We go back because all our families are still there. We go back there a lot, but we can’t really — it’s not the same as when we started. There are too many distractions; there are too many people that claim they were best friends with us in high school and none of them actually talked to us. It’s hard to get in that mindset and create. It’s not the prison that it once was. We were raring to get out of Stillwater so bad, and when we finally did, it’s hard to go back.
Daze: So where are you guys based now?
N.W.: We’re creating a new prison in Florida, now. [chuckles]
Daze: What’s your favorite song to play live and why?
N.W.: It changes. We haven’t played in like three months together, so we’re getting back together after having written a little bit and doing shows along with some overseas stuff. But in the last year, probably “Move Along” just because it’s, I think, our biggest song radio-wise, video-wise, crowd-reaction-wise. Just the way it came together, it’s collectively our favorite song. Live, it’s the last song of the sets. It’s kind of like sprinting at the end. We just fucking go for it.
Daze: What are you guys listening to right now? What are some of your favorite albums, maybe your top 5? What come up if you shuffle your iPod, also, since you mentioned that?
N.W.: Oh god, all kinds of shit. Rod Stewart to Iron Maiden. Everybody hates to put their iPod on shuffle ’cause it’s so inconsistent. Top five albums that’s never what I’m listening to now, but I just got the new Academy Is…, pretty decent. I’m a Butch Walker fan, and he produced that so can’t go wrong there. Like I said, I’m not listening to much, I’m just listening to shuffle.
Daze: So what’s up next for the All-American Rejects? You said you’ve got a new album in the works?
N.W.: We’ve got one song and it’s really good. [Laughs] But we’re just wrapping up the promo and touring for this last record and just trying to find out headspace and remember why we’re doing this and create some more.
EIC: You guys are coming up to Cornell to play next week.
N.W.: Yeah, man.
EIC: We’ve got a lot of history: Barton Hall, the Grateful Dead played arguably their greatest show of all time there. We’re really excited to have you. What’s it like to play in a college environment versus a regular venue?
N.W.: Colleges are kinda hit and miss. I guess if I were to have gone to college, I would have graduated by now, so I feel kinda like my life’s on pause and everybody there is older than me. So I feel intimidated playing colleges. I guess its not much different than a regular show, but more individualized. There would be some younger kids there too if it was just an all-ages show, but sometimes it’s hit or miss. Some colleges, the crowd is just dead…fuckin’ blows. So I mean, it sounds like you guys have had some good shows and appreciate it, so this should be a good one.
The All-American Rejects will be playing at Barton Hall this Sunday. Their album Move Along is available on iTunes, Amazon.com and in most music outlets. Visit www.cornellconcerts.com for information about the show and www.allamericanrejects.com for information about the band.