Backstage with a couple of ‘Rejects’

There is nothing like having a pack of fifteen-year-old girls practically tearing down the backstage door because they think you are making out with a guitar player. Sorry to disappoint all of you darling high school students, but I was interviewing Mike Kennerty from The All-American Rejects, not making out with him. I didn’t even need to slip him so much as a little tongue as a bribe – he just sat down and chatted with me. I didn’t even have a press pass this time.

On the beat-up, retro couch in the cold, dark unused lounge at The Birch Hill Night Club in Old Bridge, N.J., I fumbled through the depths of my purse trying to fish out my ultra-professional tape recorder. During the awkward technical difficulties, Kennerty remained attentive and didn’t give me any antsy rock-star attitude.

Just as the tape started rolling, the textured glass door squeaked open and a young girl screamed out,”He just took a chick back there and they are on the couch together!” This adolescent outburst was the perfect segue for my first question, “before you guys were on MTV, what was the difference between your shows? Which do you prefer?” Kennerty said, “It is definitely better now. Before the shows were definitely not even a third of the size of the shows now. It is still a lot of the same kids, just a lot of other kids, too. It is still awesome though.”

Awesome, indeed. The tiny venue was packed to the risers with teenagers, their parents and grown-kids like myself. At one point, I made my way to the front of the stage, and though I have been to many a show in my day, this crowd was out of control. The good looks of all the band members, but in particular lead singer Tyson, drew a crowd predominantly composed of screaming girls. Nothing can calm down a female when she is five feet away from a sweaty and attractive rock star.

As the band played crowd favorites, “Paper Heart” and “Swing, Swing,” the audience involuntarily swayed. At this point, I was looking on from the upper bar-type area and every centimeter of the lower level was crowded with a person or two. Though I asked him to be honest and not flatter my home state of New Jersey, Kennerty said, “Here (Birch Hill) was definitely one of the best. Like, in the top three of the shows. Kids were so into it, it was so cool.”

Unfortunately, some kids were a little too into it. This was not a show I was expecting to see mohawks and Doc Martens at, but I was wrong. By the looks of the crowd, any outsider would think kids had gathered to see some kind of hardcore band. After listening to The All-American Rejects’ set (and album for that matter) it was obvious the spiky haired youths were clearly confused. Kennerty agreed with my assertion that they are not a punk band. He described their sound as, “Pretty much just pop-rock, power pop”.

The Rejects most certainly have a different kind of sound that is hard to pin down. They play all of the typical instruments, guitar, drums, bass, but they also have a techno programming element that sets them apart from just any other rock band with a catchy single. Kennerty said they always get compared to Reggie and The Full Effect, but only because of the programming, musically their songs are totally different.

Reggie may be a logical influence, but the list of music preferences Kennerty gave me for each band member was very unpredictable. “Nick is all into 80s metal and 70s rock. He loves Thin Lizzy and Def Leppard. Ty likes INXS and ACDC a lot. Chris loves Rush and like all the punk stuff.”

Kennerty likes the punk stuff all right, if you define punk stuff as Avril Lavigne singles. “That song, ‘Damn Cold Night,’ it is a good song. The slow one.” Tyson (lead singer) interrupted, correcting his band mate, “It is called, ‘I’m With You.'”

The band has been touring steadily for eight months now and for Kennerty, who is 22, “(Touring) is pretty much our job now.” It is crazy to think that a little more than a half a year ago Kennerty was working at Guitar Center in Oklahoma.

When they are not on tour or messing up titles to Avril Lavigne songs, the boys go back home. Surprisingly, these good ol’ midwestern boys don’t get sighted by fans when they get a chance to go back home. Going to the grocery store is still an easy thing to do.

In a few more months, I doubt that will still be the case. Their video for “Swing, Swing” has regular airplay on MTV and is making its way onto Total Request Live (TRL). I just hope when all of the fame a spot on the TRL countdown could their way, they won’t become too cool to talk to cute female journalists.