All-American Rejects' Nick Wheeler on Starting a Band Today: "It's Not Cool"

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Last time we saw power-pop punkers All-American Rejects, they brought Spanglish, mini-moshpits, and scores of 18-year-old girls to West Palm Beach's SunFest. This time, they're singing at Febrewary, a beer-based fest at Mizner Park Amphitheater, taking place this weekend. On top of all the beer that's going to be there, the band hasn't played since mid-December, so this should be quite a sweaty show.  

Lead guitarist Nick Wheeler spoke with us beforehand about interviewing Def Leppard and "farting around on the computer" while gaining inspiration.

New Times: What excites you most about performing the Febrewary fest this Saturday in Boca?

Nick Wheeler: Well, we haven't played in Florida in a while. It's been almost a year, so that's exciting. We were also off for six weeks because of the holidays. I just got an email with all the details and found out that it's also a beer fest -- that's definitely a front-runner for the weekend [laughs].

What song do you think gets the best reaction from fans, and why do you think that is?

The ones that they know. Fortunately, there are handfuls of those. I mean, you go see a band that you love and want to hear songs, and we play most of those. One of the songs that has been getting mainstream attention lately is "Heartbeat Slowing Down." It's cool to see more people cling on and start to follow along. It should be exciting.


How would you describe the difference between your new music and your old music?

We don't really plan on making our music different. We grow as people and as musicians, so how we play changes. We push ourselves to play and approach songs. How we present our songs is different [than before]. There are not a lot of people out there who can say they have been doing this for ten years and like it. If you're playing for that long and you don't like it, it shouldn't be good. 

So I read somewhere that when you write songs, you go into a cabin with Ty [lead singer, bassist, and songwriter], one of the cabins being in Maine, and you kind of go in like... 

Yeah! That was a really successful trip for us. Sorry for cutting you off. "Heartbeat Slowing Down," "Kids in the Street," and "Walk Over Me" were three of the big songs [Kids in the Street] that were written there. We removed ourselves from the responsibilities for a while. We were up there for three days. Actually, one night I'm upstairs farting around on the computer and Ty was humming the beat to "Heartbeat Slowing Down." I was like "That sounds good, let's go from this" [laughs]. "Walk Over Me" took 15 minutes to write.

What advice would you give to aspiring bands or songwriters out there?

I don't know why anyone wants to start a band now; it's not cool [laughs]. For Christmas, kids now ask for DJ equipment. When I was a kid, I asked for an amplifier or distortion pedal. There was barely any internet when I first started out -- no MySpace, no Facebook. We were just trying to get gas to go to our shows. [My advice] is being good at what you do. Don't just record and put it online. The first band I saw online that didn't play a show and put it on the internet. It's kind of sad.

And why do you say that?

We had so much fun playing at bars and birthday parties and other shows.

So it's more of the interactive part they're missing out on. 

Yeah. All those things let fans into our lives more, and it's kind of cool, but it's also kind of creepy, like it makes them feel entitled to more. I don't know, I like them as sort of a mystique and just going to their shows to learn more about them instead of just going online to see what they ate that day. 

What is your "Dirty Little Secret"?

Oh boy, I haven't been asked that in a while. Going back to the previous question, nothing is private anymore. Everything is public. You want to know something, go to www.internet.com.

Is there a particular band that you followed as a kid or that influenced you with your music?

I was a total '90s child and listened to Smashing Pumpkins and Gin Blossoms, and I still listen to them on the treadmill. I need background music to numb my mind. Three and a half miles later, you don't realize how fast time went by. 

Def Leppard. I met them and interviewed them; it didn't involve the internet. It was forMetal Edge Magazine. This is the only instance a band like mine would end up in a magazine like that [laughs]. It's always a pleasure when you meet an idol and they're really nice people. They are all really nice dudes. It would've been heartbreaking if they weren't. 

Any additional comments? 

Recently, it's been that when you get out of school, a lot of people don't grow. We push ourselves as musicians to grow. I took a guitar lesson when I went home, and I'm a musician! As musicians we want to push ourselves to try new things, not get stuck in old things, grow and change and just have fun. When it's dull and you keep doing the same things, it's not fun anymore. We're just stoked to play again and just excited to do what we do best. 

All-American Rejects at Febrewary, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, February 23, at Mizner Park Amphitheater, 590 Plaza Real, Boca Raton. 

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