My Chemical Romance
My Chemical Romance
Taking as much inspiration from Gothic-themed comic books, like Neil Gaiman's Sandman, as they did from their emo-core contemporaries, emotional punk quartet My Chemical Romance burst out of the East Coast rock scene with a handful of powerful anthems that tapped into a faction of teenagers who harbored feelings of angst and alienation. With two furious albums full of emotionally charged pop-punk, a Goth-themed look that only included the colors of red, white and black, and a manic singer in Gerard Way, 2005 saw My Chemical Romance break out of the underground, earning headlining status on the Vans Warped Tour while becoming a permanent fixture on MTV's Total Request Live with their singles "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" and "Helena."
Gerard Way was born on April 9, 1977, in the small New Jersey town of Belleville, located ten miles outside of Manhattan. Like many misfits and outcasts growing up in the early 1980s, Way and his younger brother Mikey were attracted to the fantasy worlds created by role playing games, horror movies and comic books. Gerard began to channel his creative mind, finding an outlet with visual arts. He also was attracted to music, and began playing guitar at 10 years old. Way started to get into the darker side of music, and had become enthralled with the metallic sounds of Iron Maiden, and the horror-themed look of bands like the Misfits. Way was soon idolizing the singing style of some of his metal heroes, telling Metalunderground.com his favorite singer was Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden. "He really inspired me 'cause he's a great front man, a great singer and I've always been influenced by the way he sang."
Way was eventually pulled away from music by his growing interest in drawing and comic books; something he felt very passionately about. After high school, Way enrolled into the School of Visual Arts in New York, struggling to make it as a comic book illustrator. But Way's timing may have been off, due to the fact that the comic book buying public was dwindling by the year. He told Crushmusicmag.com, "I feel there was a time when I was in it was what I feel the darkest time in about 20 years of comics—nobody was getting a chance, nobody was getting work. I had dudes that were fans of mine so much so that they would pay me to do stuff for their independent comics but they couldn't give me a job doing major stuff. It's a sad situation when you've got young artists that people really like because they need big names to sell comics 'cause nothing else was selling comics but big names."
By 2001, Way, who had been working in a comic book store, had graduated from the School of Visual Arts frustrated, spending most of his time drawing in his mother's dark basement. Though Way flirted with singing in amateur bands like Nancy Drew and the Weezerish Raygun Jones (both with his brother Mikey on bass), he decided he needed to devote all his time to making music that mattered. He told Spin, "Something just clicked in my head. I literally said to myself, 'I've gotta get out of the basement. I've gotta see the world. I've gotta make a difference!'"
Inspired by his newfound interest in the Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day, David Bowie, Morrissey, and fellow New Jersey-ites Thursday, as well as drawing from his love of comics and movies like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Way and drummer and high school friend Matt Pelissier (of the band the Rodneys) began crafting urgent rock songs that brimmed with unhinged emotion. Cranking out tunes with titles like "Skylines and Turnstiles" the two drafted Pelissier's Rodneys' band mate and Led Zeppelin enthusiast Ray Toro to play guitar, and eventually convinced Way's shy, younger brother Mikey to play bass. The lineup was complete when former Pency Prep member Frank Iero was brought on as the band's second guitarist.
Naming the group after Irvine Welsh's book Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance, My Chemical Romance's first shows were a mess of sloppy, metal influenced riffs, drunken band members, and Way's over-the-top, theatrical performance style. Mikey Way told Spin, "We always had a vision, but we weren't sure if it would translate or just come off as pretentious. We were playing basements, and Gerard would be like straight-up Ziggy Stardust. Kids would be horrified." Though they had a lot to learn, the band trudged on, playing small clubs along the East Coast, quickly earning a reputation for supplying audiences with nothing short of an explosive live show that would eventually find the band donning bullet proof vests and sporting Vampire-esque makeup.
The band eventually attracted the attention of Geoff Rickly (of the emo group Thursday), after Way drew a t-shirt design for his band. Rickly signed the band to his Eyeball Records in 2002, and was also brought on to produce the band's first album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love. Rickly told Spin that he was attracted to the band, and especially Way, because, "We're flipsides of a coin. He deals in the surreal and make-believe and is able to project a confidence that I can't. He has this other place where he can hide and control things. I think he's an antihero." Instead of singing about his observations on simple emo clichés like lost love, Way wrapped his lyrics in the more "Goth"-oriented imagery of blood and Vampires, all the while opening his soul in all its dysfunctional and self-conscious glory.
For the Record . . .
Members include Bob Bryar (joined group, 2004), drums; Frank Iero , guitar; Matt Pelissier (left group, 2004), drums; Ray Toto , guitar; Gerard Way (born on April 9, 1977, in Belleville, NJ), vocals; Mikey Way , bass.
Group formed when high school friends Way and Pelissier began writing songs together, early 2000s; released debut I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me YourLove on Eyeball Records, 2002; signed with Warner Bros. Records, 2003; released Three Cheers for SweetRevenge, 2004.
Addresses: Website—My Chemical Romance Official Website: http://www.mychemicalromance.com.
Because of emo-core's newfound mainstream acceptance (with the success of Thursday, Jimmy Eat World, and Brand New before them) the band quickly gained a rabid fan base, and the critics began to jump on the bandwagon as well. London's The Guardian said, "We find out what's what by the second song, 'Honey, This Mirror Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us', which opens with: 'The amount of pills I'm taking counteracts the booze I'm drinking.' Those pills are singer Gerard Way's antidepressants, and, well, you can guess what happens. The ensuing whinge-athon makes contemporaries such as Korn look the picture of emotional health. Mission statements like 'I think I'll blow my brains against the ceiling now' suggest that what is required is not a record deal but urgent medical attention, and if Way is just acting, he's bloody convincing. The plus side is that the relentlessly frenetic pace, coupled with melodic melodies ('Vampires Will Never Hurt You' is the juiciest tune the Ramones never wrote), leaves you feeling like you've just had the most vigorous gym workout."
The band took right to touring, hooking up with the Vans Warped Tour, as well as opening for the likes of the Used. In 2003, all their hard work eventually struck up a bidding war between Warner Bros. and Dream-Works records, with Reprise/Warner Bros. winning out. In 2004, the band replaced Pelissier with new drummer Bob Bryar and released their second album Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. Way explained to numerous publications that Three Cheers is a concept album about a man and a woman who both die in a gun battle in the desert, and are supposed to be reunited in hell. The woman, however, never appears, and the result is a bloody tale of wrath and revenge. He told the Florida Times Union, "It's a cool fictional concept for how you live your life. It's about willing to die for what you love. It's very ironic; it's violently happy; ironically bleak... very dramatic."
Reviews came pouring in for the album, and, on the strength of the videos for the singles "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" and "Helena" the band became a staple on MTV. Rolling Stone said, "Twenty-plus years after the Misfits terrorized New Jersey, their Garden State descendants My Chemical Romance embrace the Gothpunk revival in style. Sweet Revenge has the same shout-along choruses, speedy drums and horror themes that fueled Glenn Danzig's old outfit, but it also adds cool metal licks and a sneaky sense of humor (see the thrash-cabaret hybrid 'You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison'). And thanks to front man Gerard Way's endearing warble, standout tracks such as 'Helena' and 'I'm Not Okay (I Promise)' come off as more emotion-driven than shock rock. In any case, Revenge is a hell of a good time."
Soon the band's profile saw a huge increase, as they went from being the opening act for MTV2's Headbanger's Ball tour (which featured unlikely tour mates Hatebreed and Drowning Pool), to co-headlining tours with the Used, appearing on the cover of Spin 's June 2005 issue, and snagging the opening slot for Green Day's summer 2005 tour. When asked if he was surprised at his bands success, Way told Dot Alt that, "I am surprised because it's happening so fast—I think there's always a degree of surprise when you find yourself accepted and embraced. But I'm not so surprised, because I come from the school of thought now, that if you're sincere, honest and stay yourself, people will respond."
I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, Eyeball Records, 2002.
Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, Warner Bros., 2004.
Florida Times Union, April 23, 2004.
The Guardian (London, England), April 9, 2004.
Spin, June 2005.
"Interview with Gerard Way," Metal Underground,http://www.metalunderground.com/interviews/details.cfm?newsid=8242 (July 3, 2005).
"Interview with Gerard Way," MusicPix, http://www.musicpix.net/ (July 30, 2005).
"Interview with My Chemical Romance," Recoil,http://www.recoilmag.com/interviews/my_chemical_romance_0505.html (July 2, 2005).
"My Chemical Romance Interview," Dot Alt,http://www.dot-alt.com/ (June 30, 2005).
"My Chemical Romance Interview II," Crush Music,http://www.crushmusicmag.com/mcrinterview2.html (June 20, 2005).
"Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge," RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/album/_/id/6087106/mychemicalromance?pageid=rs.Artistcage&pageregion=triple1 (June 16, 2005).
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