The sleepy little town of Stillwater sits so quietly in the northeastern quarter of Oklahoma that it is barely a blip on the map. With a population of just 40,000, half of which are students enrolled at Oklahoma State University, it is hardly a cultural oasis in the southern dustbowl of small town Americana.
"But we do have the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum" gushes Nick Wheeler, the 24 year old guitarist and founding member of Stillwater's only known musical export, the All American Rejects.
Wheeler is speaking to me from his hotel room in Las Vegas, where the band has been busy shooting their new video amidst the bright neon lights and big city sounds. Tonight, he and his band bring their fiery pop-rock to Dalhousie University's all-ages MacInnes Room for their first ever gig in Atlantic Canada.
"Stillwater is a typical country-bumpkin kind of University town smack in the heart of the U.S southlands" says Wheeler, "Not much happens there, but we seemed to have made it out alive."
The All-American Rejects planned their escape in the late 1990s, when Wheeler hooked up with high school friends Tyson Ritter (vocals, bass), Mike Kennerty (guitar) and Chris Gaylor (drums).
The band released their first independent album in 2000, and fared well enough to have their music used on then-hit MTV show Undressed. The following year, the band released the EP Same Girl, New Songs and hit the road hard, eventually singing with Doghouse Records. It wasn't until AAR teamed up renowned producer Tim O'Heir and released their self-titled major label release in 2002, featuring the smash single "Swing, Swing", that the four friends found themselves moving away from the confines of home and closer to the big time.
Last year's sophomore release, Move Along, was produced by metal master Harold Benson and saw the band explode onto the charts with the massive hit, Dirty Little Secret. Since then, AAR have released several singles, made countless television appearances, lent their songs to video games and toured in places they had never even heard of.
"And here we are in Vegas" continues Wheeler "And there are still months of roadwork ahead of us. Who would have guessed that four goofy guys from the middle of nowhere would get the chance to be traveling across the States, Canada and Europe, doing what we love to do? "Who knows? Maybe we can even help to put Stillwater on the map."
For more information on All American Rejects visit: www.allamericanrejects.com.
Writer: Stephen Clare