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My Chemical Romance: A Guide to Join the Marching Band

By Camila De La Cruz, Avery Benbow, and Zoe Huang 



Wikipedia describes My Chemical Romance as, “an American rock band from Newark, New Jersey,” consisting of four permanent members.


But, that description doesn’t hit it for us.


Although yes, MCR is technically “just” a band, for many, they represent so much more than that. For example, to bring up some 2000s nostalgia, as MCR became mainstream, so did that decade’s distinctive alternative subculture, which the band itself embodies. They became a safe space for scene kids, rock lovers, and all those who felt a bit left out and, to put it honestly, broken. They were, and remain, a cultural phenomenon.


So, in honour of their reunion show’s first anniversary, we have done a deep dive into My Chemical Romance and their careers as a band and individuals, saving all of you Killjoys (you’ll get it later) more time to listen to their entire discography on repeat.


Now, where do we begin…


The History: When I was a young boy…


In short, My Chemical Romance started because of 9/11. A young Gerard Way was working as an intern for Cartoon Network, becoming frustrated after the rejection of his original cartoon, ‘The Breakfast Monkey’. But one day, unbeknownst to him and the rest of the world, five planes were hijacked, and the two that crashed into the Twin Towers resulted in their devastating and tragic collapse. Gerard, who had been on his way to work, witnessed this happen. All things seemed as if they were coming to an end, and yet, amidst “this wave of human anguish that I’ve never felt before,” as Gerard described, he realised that he wanted to create a real-world impact, and to change people’s lives for the better.


In response to this realisation, he called his friend Matt Pellier, who became the first drummer of MCR, and they wrote their first song, titled ‘Skylines and Turnstiles’, about Gerard’s experience of 9/11. They later recruited Ray Toro as lead guitarist, simply because Gerard couldn’t play guitar and sing simultaneously. Gerard’s brother, Mikey Way, then became the bassist and named the band ‘My Chemical Romance’, inspired by the Irvine Welsh novel, ‘Ecstasy: A Tale of Chemical Romances’, which he’d come across while working in Barnes and Noble.


Together, with the help of producer Geoff Rickly, they began to perform in small venues across New Jersey (from which they all hailed) while writing their first album, ‘I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love’. This gained the attention of Frank Iero, who dubbed MCR his “favourite band” after seeing them in concert. Thus, when the punk band he was in at the time - Pency Prep broke up, he joined MCR as the rhythm guitarist - mere weeks before the recording of their first album.



The band would continue touring with their first album while working on their second, ‘Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge’ (the cover art for which Gerard drew). They had begun to increase in popularity, allowing them to record under a larger label, Reprise Records and they also experienced a change in members, as Matt Pelissier was replaced (this may or may not have been as a result of a van being set on fire) by drummer Bob Brycer, days before the band shot the ‘I’m Not Okay (I Promise)’ music video.


The album, ‘The Black Parade’, which was recorded in collaboration with producer Rob Cavallo, was definitely taken seriously by the band in terms of method writing (you’ll see why). To write the album in its entirety, the band resolved to stay at the Paramour Mansion, which is renowned for being haunted, for as long as it took to write the album.  Unfortunately, Mikey Way began to experience a bad period of mental health issues due to this stress and reported encounterings with the mansion’s spirits, leading to him leading the Mansion before the album was completed.


This bad luck continued in the shooting of the ‘Famous Last Words’ music video, filmed only the day after they shot ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’, where multiple band members got injured. This included Ray Toro breaking his fingers from the extreme strain of playing throughout hours of filming, Gerard Way tearing a ligament in his ankle due to being crash-tackled by Frank Iero (harm was not intended), and Bob Bryar receiving a serious burn on his leg which was later worsened by a staph infection - all of this leading to the band cancelling multiple concert dates.


When the album eventually was released in October 2006, it became immensely successful despite the trouble producing it. The band even toured this album exclusively for over two years, performing as members of ‘The Black Parade’, complete with black-and-white marching band uniforms, and bleached white hair for Gerard. It was an incredible testament to their impact as musicians and artists, but after all this time spent immersed in the black-and-white, existential world of their creation, they were ready to move on.


Credit: Blogger.com


Thus, in 2009, the work behind ‘Danger Days’, their fourth album, began.  After the rock opera that was ‘The Black Parade’, Gerard expressed a desire to “strip down” the next album and bring back their music to the core of “being a rock band”, as well as “bring back, lyrically, some of that wonderful fiction from the first album.” Around this time, it was announced that Bob Bryar had stepped down from his position as the band’s drummer, but that didn’t stop MCR from powering on with the production of their next album, with which they aimed to creatively break apart and simultaneously come back to their previous music.


This was achieved, albeit without the astounding success of ‘The Black Parade’, but ‘Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys’ (do you get it now?) was well-received for its creativity and bravery.  This allowed them to tour it for over a year, even with a rotating cast of drummers, boosting their connection with fans worldwide.


Unfortunately, this groundbreaking album would prove to be their last studio album release for many years.  This is because, on 22 March 2013, My Chemical Romance officially announced their breakup, with their website stating, “Being in this band for the past 12 years has been a true blessing… We’ve been able to see and experience things we never imagined possible.”


While this was extremely heartbreaking for all the bands’ fans, this breakup was far from the end of these artists, as each went on to pursue personal music projects.  To name a few examples, Gerard Way released his solo album, ‘Hesitant Alien’ and several singles. Additionally, he assisted in adapting his ‘Umbrella Academy’ comics into the now-streamable Netflix show by the same name. Frank Iero also released numerous solo albums, created a new band, named ‘The Future Violents’, and now stars in the online “Frank, can I get a chip?” series (Google it, please). Mikey Way formed the ‘Electric Century’ band, and Ray Toro released some singles on his SoundCloud account, one of which, ‘For the Lost and Brave’, was dedicated to Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teenager who passed away in 2014.  Throughout this period, members of the band were openly still friendly, and often collaborated on each other’s solo projects.


Now, rumours of a reunion have been occurring within the MCR fandom during this entire period, most notably in 2013 and 2016. However, confirmation was finally given in 2019 (meaning the band skipped its'Teenagers' years - coincidence? I think not), and seven years after their separation, the legends of the emotional, angsty 2000s returned to the scene. They performed their first reunion show in Los Angeles on 30 December 2019 and began to announce more shows, as one-off events. This eventually culminated in the announcement of a worldwide Reunion Tour, which only began in 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with it concluding in 2023.



Despite this tour’s massive success, the band has not been overly active publicly since reuniting, only releasing a single, called ‘The Foundations of Decay’.  However, many fans are hoping for more new music soon, and those lucky enough to secure tickets are waiting in apprehension for the ‘When We Were Young’ music festival in October this year, where the band are due to perform the ‘The Black Parade’ album in its entirety (I may or may not have been contemplating skipping my HSC exams to attend).


So, now that you have the background, let’s get on with the show…


Band Members Summary


Gerard Way - Lead singer


Credit: Getty Images. Gerard performing in Los Angeles’s Kia Forum in 2022. 


  • A well-known comic book author who wrote the comics that inspired the popular Netflix show, ‘Umbrella Academy’. He originally wanted to become a comic book artist, when he was a young boy (cue ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’). Other comics he wrote include ‘Doom Patrol’.

  • One of the main songwriters for MCR, along with Mikey Way and Ray Toro. 

  • Has an art degree. He drew the cover for the album Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. 

  • Was taught to sing and draw by his grandma, Helena.


Mikey Way - Bassist


Credit: Rolling Stones 


  • Gerard Way’s younger brother. 

  • Wrote songs such as ‘Bulletproof Heart’.

  • Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy’s ex (okay, this is just speculation, but if you look at the lyrics of Fall Out Boy’s ‘4th of July’ I think there are some questions to be asked) 

  • Likes Coke Zero (+ coffee, like a lot).

  • “Woof! … woof. … woof?” (if you know, you know).


Ray Toro - Lead guitarist


Credit: Pinterest


  • Incredible hair.

  • INSANELY fast player. We’re not joking, he is probably one of the best rock guitar players right now. He even played with Queen’s Brian May in 2011.

  • A gentle soul who radiates joy (just look at how happy he is in the above photo!).


Frank Iero - Rhythm guitarist + backup vocalist


Credit: Billboard 


  • He has many, many bands apart from MCR. Most noticeable are LSDunes, who are currently active, Leathermouth, Frank Iero and the Stomachaches. 

  • He is vegetarian!! No animals, only plants - Vegan Teacher approved.

  • Frerard… (we’re not going to get too much into it, but for those confused just think ‘Larry’, but instead of 1D it's MCR).

  • Reputation for going a bit cray-cray on stage.

  • Star of the 'Hey Frank, can I get a chip?' series on social media.

Drummers: Matt Pellier, Bob Brycer, etc. - they haven’t had a consistent drummer since they parted ways with Bob Brycer, who was from Chicago, so it was never going to work out (the rest of the band is from New Jersey).


Special credit to keyboardist James Dewees, we wouldn't have heard more from him if the Paper Kingdoms didn't exist. 


Discography 


I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love (AKA Bullets)


A raw and passionate album from start to finish, MCR's debut album can be messy at times, but trust me, it is a beautiful, however underrated, album. Taking inspiration from hardcore punk and metal bands, this album tells the story of a ‘Bonnie and Clyde’-esque couple amidst the cruelty of reality, before meeting their fate during the final song ‘Demolition Lovers’.  


The album was recorded in New York in 2002, before its release in June. This certainly wasn’t their easiest recording process, with Gerard suffering from intense toothaches, most noticeably at the end of ‘Early Sunsets Over Monroeville’.


Some of our favourite tracks include ‘Vampires Will Never Hurt You’, a 5-minute classic with eclectic guitars, and ‘Skylines and Turnstiles’, a harrowing description of 9/11 and representation of the ignition of MCR’s iconic rock sound.

 

Three Cheers Revenge - The story of a man, a woman, and a thousand evil men


Inspired by horror films the band enjoyed in their youth, their sophomore album tells the tale of the demolition lovers, who sport the album cover and were introduced at the end of MCR’s first album. In the final song of ‘Bullets’, the male demolition lover is killed in a gunfight and is sent to hell, not knowing if his companion is still alive. When he arrives in hell, the devil offers him a path of destruction for the lovers to reunite. Full of rage, the man doesn’t hesitate to follow this path, doing everything in his power, to reunite with his lover, while simultaneously mourning her.


And so, the album takes you on his journey on his quest for revenge, before taking an unexpected twist at the end. Musically, this album was credited to be much cleaner than their debut album, and was credited for incredible storytelling and a variety of high-energy punk classics such as ‘Helena’ (this was written for Way brothers’ grandma, Helena, who was one of their original supporters and passed away when they finished touring their first album), ‘I’m Not Okay (I Promise)’.


  • How Three Cheers is related to Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed:

My fellow year 12 English students, are you looking for an extra oomph to your essay? Well, sorry I can’t help you with that. But I can tell you about the striking similarities between Hag-Seed and MCR’s sophomore album. Firstly, the album’s title literally includes the word revenge. Revenge! Secondly, both texts heavily discuss grief and the way it impacts people. Where the loss of his daughter causes Felix to isolate himself, the male demolition lover doesn’t hesitate to just go out and seek his revenge. Regardless, we see their mental health spiral downhill because of their loss. Both protagonists are unquestionably immoral, probably due to the rise of secular humanism (can I get an extra point for context here please). Also, a fan-favourite song in Three Cheers is ‘The Ghost of You’. Ghosts. What does that remind you of? The ghost of Miranda. See! Not to mention, Atwood utilises rap as part of her storytelling. MCR takes this to a whole new level and uses music to tell their whole story. And this time, the music is objectively much better. 


To the people at NESA, instead of comparing ‘Hag-Seed’ to ‘The Tempest’, how about we compare Hag-Seed to MCR instead? I think you will write much better essays (kidding)!


The Black Parade: 


Forever masters of concept albums, ‘The Black Parade’ challenges the listener with a passionate and bittersweet questioning of humanity and our underlying purpose.  It tells the story of ‘The Patient’, a young man dying of cancer, as he reflects on his life and the world while he prepares to part ways with it.  Eventually, once he passes away, the album brings the audience with him on his journey through the afterlife, as he joins ‘The Black Parade’, which replicates his key childhood memory of watching a marching band welcome him into this new and uncertain world, embracing him and his scars from life.  He meets many different characters on this journey, including ‘Fear’, ‘Regret’, and ‘Mother War’, eventually leading ‘The Patient’ to reach the resolution that even those who are lost can carry on proudly beyond life and that it is up to those most defeated by life to keep marching on for the rest of who aren’t here anymore.


This rock opera was released in October 2006 and is considered MCR’s most popular album. It even almost took the number one spot on Billboard's charts from one and only Hannah Montana. 


The original Barbenheimer joke


Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys - Killjoys Make Some Noise! 


Album cover image of 'Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys'


‘Danger Days’ was released on 22 November 2010, as the fourth studio album by My Chemical Romance. After touring with ‘The Black Parade’ for over two years, the band decided to break free from the darker “emo” image of their earlier albums. Each member adapted to a character of the Killjoys, who are fighting against cooperation in a post-apocalypse 2019 California. This story was continued in a comic under the same name.


Aesthetically, ‘Danger Days’ strayed away from MCR’s previous projects, injecting more colour and a fun approach, making nearly every song a dance anthem. In music videos and promotional materials, members of the band would present themselves as their alter-egos. Gerard Way as ‘Party Poison’, Ray Toro as ‘Jet-Star’, Frank Lero as ‘Fun Ghoul’, and finally Mikey Way as ‘The Cobra Kid’.


Concert Review


On Halloween of 2019, MCR announced a reunion show 6 years after their breakup. Performing in Los Angeles in December 2019, all MCR fans experienced an early Christmas present as they reminisced. Soon after, the band announced the unpredictable. An (almost) full world tour, travelling to Europe, North America, Australia and Japan.


So, in honour of one year since MCR’s performance in Sydney, we’ve included a mini-concert review for a tour we wish to go on again. 


Merch – 12/10. A cliche band logo and tour dates didn’t just cut it for the band. They took a creative approach by poking fun at 2000s culture, mimicking a teen magazine from their time.


Usually, I wouldn’t be spending over $50 for band merch, but I just had to make an exception for this. 


My Chemical Romance Merchandise - Boy Zone Tour T-Shirt 


Opening act – 1000/10 – The opening band, Jimmy Eat World was quite popular back in the day, and I can see why. They captured the attention of the whole audience, no matter if you were an avid Jimmy Eat World fan or not. I became obsessed with their music after the show and quickly added them to my playlist (and made it in my Spotify Wrapped).


MCR performance – 100/10. Despite being at the end of a long tour, MCR still pulled a great show. Starting with their newest song ‘Foundations of Decay’, every song was a danceable exposition of emotion, including their most recognizable hits, and also some hidden gems. Although the performance was merely an hour and a half (I’m so jealous of Taylor Swift fans who got 3 hours of non-stop hits), this show was hands down one of the highlights of the year. Honestly, the highlight of the decade. 


Audience – 11/10. I can’t speak for those who had it since I had nosebleed tickets, but the people I was sitting with and those who were next to me in the very long merch line were so nice. They were all open to chat about the band while answering our questions about how the show would go. At nosebleed, I was able to see the crowd having the time of their lives from above, from a small moshpit during ‘Famous Last Words’ to the cute flashlights during a slower song ‘The Ghost of You’, the whole crowd enjoyed the show.


The Reincarnation and Impacts of My Chemical Romance


“Our lyrics are about finding the strength to keep living through pain and hard times” [MCR].


This is the core message of My Chemical Romance, and the reason so many (including yours truly) are drawn to them so deeply. They call for all those deemed “outsiders… invisible and insignificant” [Frank Iero] to unite in their struggle against the brutalities of the world, and to embrace each other in all our brokenness, ultimately feeling togetherness and hope in places it was thought not to exist.


Frank Lero (right) pictured at an interview with ‘Kerrang!’


This is why, fundamentally, the fateful breakup announcement on 22 March 2013 was so heartbreaking. While the world appeared to be moving into a state of partial peace, especially with the election of President Barack Obama, it was still devastating that, as Gerard stated, “It wasn’t fun to make stuff any more. I think breaking up the band broke us out of that machine.”


However, something this powerful couldn’t lie dormant forever.  Seven years after the unceremonious separation of MCR, the symbols of the 2000s, and all of the emotion and angst it contained, reunited. After a long six years, the band began to perform again.  First in Los Angeles with their 2019 reunion show, then with the Reunion Tour, beginning in 2022 to 2023, despite being forced to delay for two years due to the pandemic, eventually concluding in early 2023.


My Chemical Romance at Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Carlisle in 2011


This grand return served as a reminder to those who grew up in the early 2000s, of the memorable aesthetic associated with bands like MCR from the time. Straightened fringes, raccoon eyeliner, studded belts and wristbands, skinny jeans, and band shirts. However, the impact and legacy of My Chemical Romance radiates far beyond stylistic and aesthetic influences, as stated by Gerard Way himself, My Chemical Romance, “Can never die”. Way’s raw lyrics authentically convey the nature of challenging times when he says, “The triumph of the human spirit over darkness was built into the DNA of the band from the beginning. The band's unique ability to convey relatable emotions experienced by individuals of all ages continues to attract fans more than two decades after their debut.”


Overall, the collaborative efforts of Gerard and Mikey Way, Ray Toro, and Frank Lero deliver electrifying, energetic, and confessional lyrics throughout their four studio albums. From the early 2000s until 2024,  My Chemical Romance remains a cross-generational, legendary, timeless rock icon that continues to satisfy humanity’s emotional cravings whilst being appreciated by millions of Killjoys worldwide. We hope you will join them.

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Guest
Apr 10

I'm starting to feel the slightest suspicion that these authors may like MCR... But who am I to assume that? 🤷🏼‍♀️

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