My Chemical Romance is a band whose appearance has been critiqued almost as often as their music.
With each album comes a different aesthetic style, from black suits to marching band uniforms. The group’s latest release, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, features band members in outfits as colorful as the bold new album.
The group’s theatrics and wardrobe changes make them an easy target for sneering critics, but behind all of the gloom and the glam are four passionate individuals who genuinely care about music, art and their fans.
Vocalist Gerard Way, bassist Mikey Way and guitarists Ray Toro and Frank Iero visited the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. Live for an intimate question-and-answer session Wednesday. MCR superfans began lining up outside of the museum the night before, some people traveling from as far as Argentina to attend the event.
Bob Santelli, executive director of the GRAMMY Museum led the interview, discussing the band’s beginnings, evolving sound and controversy.
The events of Sept. 11, 2001, profoundly influenced MCR and the formation of the band. The Way brothers were especially moved by the incident and were inspired to change the course of their lives.
“I was doing something really irrelevant at the time that I didn’t feel was important, and I remember thinking to myself that I can’t waste this,” Gerard Way said. “What I ended up processing in my head is that life isn’t a game. It isn’t something you waste.”
Two weeks later, the band had their first rehearsal with the Way brothers, Toro and then-drummer Matt Pelissier. At the time, Iero was the guitarist for punk band Pencey Prep and supported MCR from afar.
“I remember being a fly on the wall when they finished the first song they ever really recorded, and they were so excited about it,” Iero said. “They would play it over and over again and high five each other.”
In 2002, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love was released, and in the span of a decade, MCR went from playing five-song sets for a crowd of 200 to playing for sold-out arenas and going on world tours. The mainstream success of their second album, Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, caused many from the underground community to cry “sellout,” but the band was not fazed by the insult.
“We all come from such different backgrounds musically. We played what was in us and that’s really how the sound was formed,” Toro said. “I think we have a unique sound and a unique take on music, and that take is anything goes.”
The band recently released SING, its second music video from Danger Days, a production keeping in tune with the adventurous concept album. Still, making the record was no easy process after taking four years off.
“There was such a creative burnout after The Black Parade that it was hard to figure out what was going to come next,” Gerard Way said. “What this record really represents to me is not separating music and art anymore, because there’s no reason to. If you’re going to be passionate about something, it should be everything that you do.”
The evening took an emotional turn during audience questions. A girl about 10 years old shared that she was a cancer survivor and asked the group what their inspiration was for the song Cancer. The band spoke about spending time with children from the Make-A-Wish Foundation and how they were humbled by their experiences.
“We got so much more out of it,” Iero said. “It was amazing to be in the presence of so much strength.”
The night ended on a high note when another audience member inquired how it felt for the guys when people came up to the band to say that MCR’s music has helped them.
“When some of you say that, I feel like you’re not giving yourself enough credit. We were there as a soundtrack and maybe we provided you with some comfort, but you are the ones who actually saved your own lives,” Iero said. “It chokes me up how universal music is and how much it can change people’s lives.”