By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - After a decade of carefree, feel-good pop-rock, the All-American Rejects are finally growing up and embracing their softer side in their new album, "Kids In The Street," out this week.
Despite ten years of making music and touring together, it wasn't until recording this fourth album that the Oklahoma quartet -- frontman Tyson Ritter, drummer Chris Gaylor and guitarists Mike Kennerty and Nick Wheeler -- finally learned their identity as individuals and as a band.
"This (album) is definitely the bravest thing we've done, but it's also the first time we felt brave enough to do it," said Wheeler.
"Kids In The Street" sees the Rejects move away from the carefree pop-rock sound of their past three albums, reserving their trademark sound only for the record's cheeky lead single, "Beekeeper's Daughter," and the country-rock inspired "Walk Over Me."
The rest of the album marks a coming of age for the band, especially frontman Ritter, 27, who drew on his own relationships and life experiences on tracks such as "Bleed Into Your Mind," "I For You," and the second single "Kids In The Street."
"That reflection really brought back my identity of who I am, as a man who has crossed that 25 mark. The quarter-life crisis is something I think can cripple us all, but to find out what life's about, you have to go through it," said the singer.
The band have recruited a few other artists to collaborate with them on their latest record, including British singer Mika on "Heartbeats Slowing Down" and fellow Oklahoma musician Audra Mae on three of the tracks including "Fast & Slow".
But they dislike the current trend of musicians collaborating for what they feel are purely commercial purposes.
"We found a couple of really unique voices that had a home on those songs, and it was because we come through a lot of people, and unfortunately, we've picked the ones that aren't your Taylor Swifts, but they're great talents," said 31 year-old Wheeler.
"We're into something that we believe. And when the opportunity arises where we believe in the collaboration, then we'll embrace it whole-heartedly," added Ritter.
A DECADE OF THE REJECTS
The All-American Rejects emerged into the music scene at a time when the mainstream industry was dominated by alternative rock bands such as Limp Bizkit, Blink 182, The Offspring and Sum 41 - bands which have faded from the spotlight in recent years.
The Rejects however have maintained a steady output of music and tours, producing a new record every few years and finding themselves with a hit single from each of their albums -- 2002's "Swing, Swing," "Dirty Little Secret" from the 2005 record "Move Along" and "Gives You Hell" from their 2008 album "When the World Comes Down."
"Gives You Hell," a raucous post-breakup song, gained the largest chart success for the band and propelled them into the mainstream.
"We take our time to write another great record, that's why this is four records in ten years," said Ritter.
"If we were going to chase some kind of success, we would have jumped on it right after 'Gives You Hell.' But we wanted to make sure we were finally writing a record that people could listen to from top to bottom and feel like it was a journey."
Over the past decade, the band have seen the music industry evolve drastically, especially with the impact of online mediums that allow artists to be discovered in new ways outside of a record label.
"Every time we put out a record, everything's different. There's more social media outlets and radio's totally different," said Wheeler.
The band have embraced the growing number of social media platforms, but say there's nothing like the "rock and roll decadence" of forging a following the hard way.
"I would have been bummed if we didn't get to experience what we have back in the day, getting an event, playing shows, going out to sell demo tapes, cause that was the only way we could gain fans," said Wheeler.
With more than 2.3 million fans on Facebook and 52,000 followers on Twitter, All-American Rejects have built a steady fan base on social media but are hesitant to expose themselves completely.
"We didn't start this because we wanted to open up our personal lives, we just wanted to open up our hearts in our songs and that should be good enough," said Ritter.
(Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy: Editing by Jill Serjeant)