Still swinging, swinging 

Tyson Ritter

Ten years ago, The All-American Rejects were wide-eyed kids fresh out of Stillwater, just inking a deal to rerelease their self-titled debut album with DreamWorks Records after a limited release through an indie label.

The humble pop-rock act had a standout single in “Swing, Swing” on its hands, and the rest is history.

“We just wanted to go for a ride. It’s turned out to be a hell of a ride,” said lead singer and bassist Tyson Ritter. “I wanted to make something of myself and let the world hear our music. I’m in disbelief, because that’s exactly what’s happened.”

A decade later, The All-American Rejects get a little misty-eyed reminiscing about those early years and all the opportunities that totally unexpected debut brought.

“It’s a surreal existence when you realize what you did 10 years ago feels like 10 minutes,” Ritter said. “It’s overwhelming. You’re proud, nostalgic … just really happy that four records later, you are still playing shows.”

Ritter and company have enjoyed nothing but steady success since that breakout. 2005’s Move Along found the band skirting the sophomore slump, and the four-piece hit gold again with 2008’s When the World Comes Down, thanks in part to “Gives You Hell.”

Many of the groups they opened for over the years have gone kaput, but AAR is as strong as ever, laying the tracks for the likes of Neon Trees, Fun. and Foster the People.

“Maybe it’s where we are from, [but] we were never brought into that sort of mess that some of those other bands get into, trying to chase the coattails of their last record,” Ritter said. “We always waited to release something that meant something to us. We do what we do. So far, it’s been so good. We’ve just been true to ourselves and not follow any sort of trend. That’s what’s made us the black sheep of this pop-rock world.”

The band feels much the same way about its latest record, Kids in the Street, which hit shelves in March. It covers lots of ground, matching signature AAR classics (“Beekeeper’s Daughter”) with electro anthems (“Heartbeat Slowing Down”), delicate folk ditties (“I for You”) and even Queen-esque standards (“Affection”).

“We’re collectively pleased, thinking it’s our best record to date,” Ritter said.

The Rejects make no promises as to when another album will come, although they continue to write and hope to put out an EP in the first half of 2013.

“It’s the natural progression of growing up with a guitar in your hand,” Ritter said of the new material. “You evolve as a person and evolve as musician. It never stops.”

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