Whilst the genre of emo doesn’t begin and finish with American rock band My Chemical Romance, they arguably lead the genre to the mainstream, with a cult following behind them. Their success can be credited to the likes of the now-defunct Warped Tour and social media network, Myspace. Their style of music over the years has arguably changed, from full-on emo to rock opera, the band has grown and developed a sound uniquely theirs over time. After disbanding in 2013 the band announced a reunion tour in 2019, with rumours swirling that new music is on the way.
How My Chemical Romance Began
In 2001, living in Jersey and working as a cartoonist, Gerard Way felt unfulfilled by this job and found another outlet in writing music. The first song he wrote, ‘Skylines and Turnstiles’ was said to be inspired by the 9/11 attacks in America. It would eventually become a single off My Chemical Romance’s first album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love.
My Chemical Romance started out with Gerard Way on lead vocals, drummer Matt Pelissier and Ray Toro on lead guitar. At a later date, after hearing their first recorded demos, Gerard’s little brother Mikey Way decided he wanted to join and so learnt to play bass. It was also Mikey who came up with the band’s name. Working at American bookstore, Barnes & Noble at the time, he took it from a book titled, Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance on a book.
I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love
They begin recording as a band in what was deemed an attic at Matt’s house. At the time they were signed to Eyeball Records which is where they met Frank Iero who was the lead singer for a punk band, Pencey Prep at the time. When they split, Frank joined the band just days before they began recording their debut album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love.
The album was made just three months after the band formed and was produced by Geoff Rickley who was the lead singer for emo band Thursday. Following the album’s release, they were booked at well known New Jersey venue, Big Daddy’s where they began to grow as a band. Pivotal to their success was the use of social media network, MySpace. They offered free downloads of their music and is where their fanbase really began.
Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge
A year later, the band were signed to major record label Reprise Records after a successful tour with metal band Avenged Sevenfold. Their second album to be released was Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge in June 2004. It was commercially very successful going platinum after one year. From it, they released ‘I’m Not Okay (I Promise)’ which is one of their biggest songs to date.
Other singles they released included ‘Helena’ and ‘Ghost of You’. Following the release of the album, Matt Pelissier was replaced with Bob Bryar on drums.
Taste of Chaos Tour
In 2005, the band were invited to Taste of Chaos, another big aspect of their success. On the same tour were among other bands, The Used who the band befriended and later collaborated with on a cover of Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie, it was released as a benefit single for tsunami relief. In the same year, they opened for Green Day on their American Idiot tour and headlined Warped Tour with Fall Out Boy.
Life on the Murder Scene
Life on the Murder Scene was released in 2006 which included a CD and DVD. It gave fans a real behind the scenes look into the band, making of the videos, live performances and much more. In the same year, a biography was also released called Something Incredible This Way Comes by Paul Stenning. In 2006 they announced the release of their next album, Welcome to The Black Parade with producer Rob Cavallo who worked with Green Day on many of their albums. The album was a new direction for the band, many critics calling it rock opera.
Welcome To The Black Parade
By August 2006 the band were extremely well known and their special one-off show at London’s Hammersmith Palais sold out in 15 minutes. The one-off show was their way of announcing the next album, Welcome to the Black Parade.
In a bit of a stunt, just before the band was due to go on stage it was announced they couldn’t make it but instead “The Black Parade” would play instead. But it was the band, under their pseudonym and keeping with the theatrics of the album. They took the stage in full-on marching band costumes and Gerard Way, who had become quite the showman, became the leader of the marching band.
Injuries on Set
During the filming of the video for ‘Famous Last Words’ directed by Samuel Bayer, who also did Nirvana's ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and Green Day's American Idiot videos, Gerard Way and Bob Bryar were injured. Gerard suffered torn ligaments in his ankle, and Bob a burn to the leg which caused a severe staph infection that needed constant monitoring in the hospital. As a result, the band had to cancel their tour date.
Critically Acclaimed Reviews
The album was received well all over the world, Kerrang! Magazine called it the fourth-greatest album of 2006, Rolling Stone rated it the 20th best album of 2006 and then went on to win an American Music Award.
Their official tour of the album began in 2007. They played 133 tours and invited a range of bands to play with them all over the world such as Rise Against, Thursday and Muse. In April of 2007, Mikey left the band for a short break to spend time with his new wife and was replaced temporarily with Matt Cortez.
In 2008, the band faced controversy over the suicide of a 13-year-old girl in Britain. The Sun tabloid newspaper directly linked the band to her, saying she was part of an emo cult. Specifically stating The Black Parade incited suicidal tendencies and glorified self-harm. Supporters of the band in England organised a planned march across London, ending at The Daily Mail’s office but the march was called off due to safety concerns. The Daily Mail was put under scrutiny for publishing unfounded pieces about suicide cults and the band and so fans and the band would often repeatedly chant “Fuck The Daily Mail” during shows. They defended their articles saying they had balance and it was in the best interest of the public.
The First Hiatus
Following this, the band headed out on a final tour of America before taking a break. It wasn’t long before their return in 2009 when they released a cover of Bob Dylan’s Desolation Row for the film Watchman.
In May the same year, the band announced they were recording their fourth album. This album was recorded with producer Brendan O’Brien who had worked with AC/DC, Mastodon and Pearl Jam.
The Start of Their Fourth Album
This album headed more in the direction of stripped-down pure rock and Gerard fronted a lot of press opportunities to talk about just how different this fourth album would be. In July they played the first of two secret shows and premiered a few songs from the new album.
In an interview with Rock Sound, Gerard said the fourth album would be their defining work. "A friend who heard the record recently said he now had no interest in listening to our older work anymore, that we had made all our old material redundant. I took it as a compliment, the next thing you should always make the last thing seem unimportant and I think that will happen when we finally release this album." At the start of 2010 Bob Bryar left the band.
Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
In September 2010 the band released a trailer on YouTube announcing the title of their fourth album, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. And Michael Peidcone joined the band, briefly as a replacement for Bob Bryay. Though this album was meant to be less theatrical, the video depicted characters in a desert battling one another. There was also a guest appearance from well known comic book author, Grant Morrison. In November 2010 the song named, ‘Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na’ debuted on Zane Lowe’s BBC radio 1 show and simultaneously in LA. The reviews were largely positive.
Rock Sound said, "The way they've used everything they learned on The Black Parade and tightened up in certain places feels natural and confident" and that it sees "the creativity of the band taking flight musically, graphically and literally."
In September 2011, Michael Pedicone was asked to leave the band. In a statement on their website, Frank Iero said he was caught stealing from the band and confessed to the police what he did. Jarrod Alexander joined as their touring drummer through to their Big Day Out Shows in New Zealand and Australia in 2012 and is still with the band today.
In 2012, My Chemical Romance announced they had built a studio in Los Angeles and were working on their fifth album, along with new bandmate and keyboardist James Dewees. The songs stemmed from 10 unreleased songs that were made in 2009 prior to the Danger Days album. The concept album was called Conventional Weapons and they released two songs a month from it. This lasted until March 2013 when the band announced their break up."Being in this band for the past 12 years has been a true blessing. We've gotten to go places we never knew we would. We've been able to see and experience things we never imagined possible. We've shared the stage with people we admire, people we look up to, and best of all, our friends. And now, like all great things, it has come time for it to end. Thanks for all of your support, and for being part of the adventure.”
Going Their Separate Ways
Each member went their own way career-wise. Gerard Way released his debut solo album, Hesitant Alien with some success and created his own comic series, Umbrella Academy which is on its second series on Netflix. Frank Iero and James Dewees collaborated with project Death Spells and released a full album under the moniker frnkiero andthe cellabration. Mikey Way formed Electric Century with Sleep Station’s David Debiak and released a single, ‘I Lied’ and an EP in 2015. Ray Toro released a song on SoundCloud called ‘Isn’t That Something’ in 2013 and again in 2015, called ‘For The Lost and Brave’. This is said to be a song for Leelah Alcorn a transgender teen who committed suicide.
My Chemical Romance Surprise Reunion
But then in 2016, the band shocked fans all over the world when they posted on their social media simply with the piano intro from ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’ and the date 23/9/16. People were led to believe it was a reunion tour but were disappointed when they simply released a reissue of The Black Parade.
Three years later, the band did indeed announce a reunion show in Los Angeles and a new merchandise line. The one-off show sold out in four minutes, a week later My Chemical Romance announced dates for Japan, Australia and New Zealand. They also admitted they had been back together since 2017 working together on this reunion. More shows were added in 2020 but to this date, all had been postponed due to COVID19.
In summary, the far reach of My Chemical Romance and their supportive fan base is one that is seen all over the world. Whilst their career to date has been short, it has been incredibly influential. If you would like to continue the legacy of My Chemical Romance, you can buy the official My Chemical Romance merchandise through our online store.