In the beginning it was all teen angst and punk rebellion.
But over the years, with each long stretch on the road in a tour bus and every album painstakingly crafted in the studio, the All-American Rejects have grown up.
A sign in that direction: On their latest album, "Kids in the Street," the band brought in a 30-player-strong string section for the ballad "Affection."
"For some reason we had the bright idea that we were going to play live along with them doing our parts, which only made it that much more stressful for us," says Rejects guitarist Mike Kennerty. "But it was a blast. It was definitely one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences. We were stoked to get to do it."
Don't expect to see the strings tonight, when the band plays Casino del Sol's AVA - their first Tucson show since they played a multibill show at Tucson Arena in 2006. But Kennerty, speaking by phone during a short visit to his Oklahoma home in July, said they have arranged the string parts for piano.
"It definitely has a whole different feel than the record, but it's melancholy and beautiful. I think we pull it off," he says.
It's not surprising that the band members have started to mature musically and emotionally, Kennerty says. After all, most of them are in their early 30s now. And after spending their 20s living out the rock 'n' roll fantasy - the band got started while they were still in high school in 1999 and released their first album a few years later - they have become more comfortable in their adult skins, he says.
We chatted with Kennerty about the band's maturity, the new record and their tour, which includes gigs this fall with Boys Like Girls.
New album looks backward and forward: "With 'Street,' the new record, Tyson (Ritter), even though he's the youngest, I think he's caught up in the pressure of aging the most. We've spent our whole adult lives touring and not exactly establishing home lives like most people would. For him, especially, he was feeling kind of lost when we were writing the record. Feeling like he had no identity outside of the band. I think that kind of permeates as a theme for the record, a reflection on who we were as kids and who we're growing into. Trying to be a good person despite living in this like essentially fantasy world that we live in. We got blessed at an early age with this amazing job."
The turning point: "That song (2009's 'Gives You Hell') was our biggest hit. That took us around the world to places we'd never been before, like Southeast Asia. It broke through in a lot of countries in Europe where we kind of slummed, playing 200-seat clubs. Suddenly we were playing bigger venues. It was an amazing experience, and it's something you don't expect to happen seven years in. ... That was amazing to actually grow in our career."
Delivering the goods live: "We grew up admiring bands that really had showmanship and put on a show. There's an epidemic of shoe-gazing bands now. It's cool for them to look bored on stage. We really beat ourselves up trying to put on good shows. We come off stage sometimes bruised and beat up. That's what you're supposed to do. That's what people are paying for, a good show."
Still living the rock 'n' roll dream: "We're still really in love with it. Something else that has happened over time: We have really learned how to coexist on tour and not drive each other crazy and have fun with it. We just did seven weeks in Europe with Blink 182. Several weeks out of the country is pretty daunting. ... Where in the past we took it out on each other, now we respect each other, which makes the whole experience much more enjoyable."
If you go
• What: The All-American Rejects in concert.
• When: 8 p.m. today.
• Where: Casino del Sol's AVA, 5655 W. Valencia Road.
• Tickets: $20-$40 through tickets.solcasinos.com