When The All-American Rejects released a new 2-song EP titled SWEAT , I was more than excited. The two tracks on the EP, "Sweat" and "Close Your Eyes" marked the long awaited return from one of Alternative rock's most successful hit makers of the last 15 years and displayed a new chapter in the band's history. Welcome back frontman Tyson Ritter, guitarists Nick Wheeler and Mike Kennerty, and drummer Chris Gaylor
The two songs are given to us together in a powerful new 11-minute short film. The film, having the same title as the EP, officially titled "Sweat", was shot in Los Angeles and directed by Jamie Thraves (Radiohead, Coldplay, Sam Smith etc.), and tackles an array of complex themes dealing with one's identity.
I wasn’t the only one excited about the short but powerful product. One of our writers said he was dying to cover the newest All-American Rejects release. I pulled rank and exclaimed via Facebook messenger, “NO! I want an interview!” Three reasons propelled my desire to talk to front man Tyson Ritter; 1) I’ve had a crush on this guy ever since the band made its first video, 2) I was a little troubled that most if not all the other gay news sites were covering the videos based on Tyson’s cross-dressing. There was more there. I saw it and most would if they weren’t just looking for the cross-dressing angle, and 3) Did I mention I have a huge crush on Tyson?
Bfore we jump into the interview, here is 'Sweat' and 'Close Your Eyes' for your viewing pleasure.
INSTINCT: ‘Sweat’ and ‘Close Your Eyes’ are combined into a 11-minute short film directed by Jamie Thraves. Was this your first time working with him?
RITTER: This was the first time working with him, but I knew his work before through Coldplay and Radiohead. Radiohead’s ‘Just’, I appreciated the video, his work with that video was memorable.
What were some of the driving forces behind the creation of this elaborate and moving 11-minute film?
This time, to me, the visual offering (of the songs) is so important. The last five years of learning my craft as an actor and really developing that side of being a visual artist in that way has made me realize how important that really is — to put the eyes to the ears. This is going to be more of a visual experience. This record is going to be about your eyes and the headphones.
When I watched the film for the first time, I was focused on the visuals for they were very powerful. Do you feel the lyrics and the imagery of ‘Sweat’ and ‘Close Your Eyes’ align or are they four different stories?
Betsy [Tyson’s ‘female’ persona in the first video] is a fearless fantasy. ‘Sweat’ is lyrically written in defiance of expectations around me. It’s an empowering song about withholding things in a relationship, especially within a relationship that wasn’t as fun as it was supposed to be. It’s about some of our dirty little secrets. On its own is a cute fun experience. When they are married the visual with the dark confessions … Sweat is unnerving, where there is a challenge, a fight of visual opposites. The film is a story about this functioning identity crisis and expectations on how we're supposed to be in a public place. Some may not have known this, but the girl Betsy hooks up with, the john, is my wife in the second video, she is played by my wife in the second video.
‘Close Your Eyes’, that’s a confession of how easy it is to give someone yourself, how easy it is to let your tongue and slip and let go, it’s about that vow dissolving through time. And with the creation of Robert/Bob for this film, some personal back stories [of the band members were] injected into Roberts back stories.
From another interview this year we hear the statement, “Kids in the Stree' was this perfect example of the Rejects experimenting, lost kids, finding their way. My question is, “Will this new culmination of songs show more experimenting or have you found the way with age and experience?
I think if musicians quit looking, if they found their way, you’ll notice and that won’t be good for anyone. Artists need to have that music in your head and in your moment (We talked about creativity and how it is continuous and should never stop. To paraphrase more of Ritter’s response – if you find your way in music and you’re done experimenting, then you and your fans will notice and it actually wouldn’t be a good place to be).
Who taught Betsy how to tuck and wear heels? (I don’t think he heard the word tuck)
My wife taught me. There would be a pair of heels at the door and I would put them on and walk around them. [I had a friend] who told me that when he prepared for his role of King Lear, he would use a room full of mirrors. [Similar to the] naked fantasy of Robert.
House Bunny. How did he get involved with that movie?
It was simple as Adam Sandler wanting to bring me in last at the last minute to read, it was me and Zac Efron. Even though I stumbled all over the read, apparently they liked me for the role.
Do you feel some artists and musicians are going after the LGBT crowd just to increase the number of fans and their popularity? (He answers this question in relation to his creativity and subjects within ‘Sweat.’
Crossdressing was present in ‘Sweat’ but it speaks to the fact that we are all hiding. The phrase – many shadows maketh the man – comes to mind.
I think it is topical right now, the LGBTQ community. But we are all searching for ourselves, being able to wake up and world is not trying to swallow you.
This film as well is about finding themselves, the balance of Betsy and Robert. I’m a momma’s boy, there is strength in your femininity, we all have the balance between within us.
We batted around some other Qs and As. Tyson elaborated on the last question about performers catering to the LGBT community to increase fan base. He said if fans see this video as that kind of attempt, it is not. It is about all of us, and how we deal with finding ourselves and trying to survive day to day and dealing with all of our challenges. I had brought up at the end of ‘Close Your Eyes’ you see a naked Ritter go into the closet where there are male and female wigs, fake mustaches. Before that you see Robert/Bob paying the actors in his live. There’s so much pain, happiness, layers, depression.
Thank you Tyson and the rest of The All-American Rejects for adding to culture both visually and aurally. And you’re still one of my biggest crushes. Swoon!
The All-American Rejects "Sweat" EP
About The All-American Rejects:
Known for stadium-size sing-alongs steeped in pop panache and rock 'n' roll danger, cheeky wit, and raucous concerts that border on religious experiences, The All-American Rejects confidently waltz against the grain. Their 2017 EP and fifth full-length album continue a near two-decade tradition of ballsy, brash, and bold pop rock anthems. The band first shook up the scene with their 2003 platinum-selling self-titled debut. Its double-platinum 2005 follow-up Move Along spawned the platinum smash "Dirty Little Secret," while 2008's gold-certified When The World Comes Down yielded their biggest hit to date: the quadruple-platinum "Gives You Hell."