Lead guitarist Ray Toro still can’t believe how far his band has come and declares, “Absolutely not,” when asked if he ever imagined it would come to this. “I was more than happy playing for 10 or 15 kids in VFW halls and in basements, and to be able to play some of the shows that we are now, and be on tour with great bands, it’s a dream come true.”
MCR’s debut, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, was summed up in 2004 as little more than whiney, introspective, death-obsessed emo — the ultimate critical dismissal for rock bands with hard-ons for melody — but what nobody realized at the time was how lead singer Gerard Way and his motley bunch of New Jersey dorks-turned-musicians aspired to become a lot more than a darker version of bands like Sum 41 and Good Charlotte. Green Day helped pave the way with their 2004 reinvention via the rock opera American Idiot, and two years later MCR cashed in with The Black Parade — a musical epic with a loose narrative and sprawling guitars on par with Queen’s A Night at the Opera, The Who’s Tommy, or David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust.
Way found little inspiration from his peers around the time that he conceived and formed MCR. “There were a few bands that had ambition,” he says. “I think Linkin Park is one of them.” Of course, Way has to mention Linkin Park because they’re headlining the Projekt Revolution tour, which MCR is participating in at the moment. “I think there are a few other bands, too, that had a lot of ambition. Green Day, obviously, is one of them.
“But starting a band, it was almost like this anti-ambition put out there,” he continues, speaking of MCR’s early days. “And it was almost a point to be as unambitious as possible, and that was extremely frustrating for us, even back then. So I think that is kind of why, at least from our perspective, our growth spurts have been so dramatic with each record because we couldn’t wait to get to a record like this. We felt that we had to make up for a lot of lost time.
Bob Bryar, whose drumming on The Black Parade is his strongest yet, agrees with Way about the band’s natural propensity to shrug off labels such as “emo” and break through whatever ceilings others have imposed on them. He establishes this point with a run-on sentence that would’ve made Jack Kerouac proud: “We are definitely a band that likes to push the envelope a little bit, and we’re doing everything that we feel is important to us and to our fans and to music, and we’re going to keep doing that until it feels like we’re beating a dead horse for anything, and we’re doing everything as fast as we can and we’re pulling it as much as we can while we’re doing it, and when it kind of stops being that kind of attitude of just kind of going and taking everything you can, when it gets to be a point where we feel that it’s not really happening any more, is when we’re going to stop doing it.”
That basically covers everything, doesn’t it?
Toro, well aware that he’s promoting the Projekt Revolution tour, can’t help but bring up the other big names on the bill, which, again, is part of the brotherly, we’re-all-in-this-together attitude MCR seems to take.
“I think the most important part for a lasting career is to be in touch with your fans and cultivate that strong relationship with them, and be very honest about who you are and be honest with your music,” he says, “and I think that’s something that Linkin Park has done over the years and the same thing I see Taking Back Sunday doing as well as us, and that’s what makes a band have a career.”
If fans and the music aren’t enough to keep you straight, though, Toro and the rest of MCR know where to turn. “All of us in the band come from really strong family backgrounds and we’re kind of rooted in that and I think that’s important to stay who you are,” he explains. “I’ll talk to my mom and she’ll give me shit, like she did when I used to live at home, you know, about not calling her or things like that. So being in touch with the people that were there for you before your band got popular is very, very important to staying grounded and staying who you are.”
As people, of course. As musicians, no one can predict who (or what) My Chemical Romance will transform into next.
Projekt Revolution Tour with Linkin Park,
My Chemical Romance, Taking Back Sunday, and others
Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
16765 Lookout Rd., Selma