My Chemical Romance
Formed in 2001, My Chemical Romance played a big part in bringing emo mainstream. The band fused the rage of 1980s hardcore with gloomy introspection and a strong pop sensibility. Their mass appeal owed both to the cathartic nature of their songs and the band's sense of theatre: Their 2006 record The Black Parade, a concept album about a dying man, featured angst-y, Queen-sized choruses. During concerts from the era singer Gerard Way would howl from a hospital bed while the band performed in matching black uniforms.
Way graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1999 and was selling comic books when the events of September 11, 2001, made him rethink his career path. He quit his job and, along with high school friend and drummer Matt Pelissier, formed My Chemical Romance a week later. They named the band after the Irvine Welsh book Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance. The two began recording demos in Pelissier's attic with guitarist Ray Toro, and soon they brought on guitarist Frank Iero and Gerard's younger brother, bassist Mikey Way, to fill out the lineup.
Within months of forming, My Chemical Romance had recorded and released their 2002 debut I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love on the New Jersey indie label Eyeball Records. On the strength of tracks like the pummeling 9-11 lament "Skylines and Turnstiles," the band quickly signed with Reprise Records. 2004's Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (Number 28) went platinum and featured singles "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" (Number 86, 2004) and "Helena" (Number 33, 2005). Pelissier left the band shortly after the release of Three Cheers and was replaced by Bob Bryar, a sound tech for the Used.
The band spent much of 2005 on the road opening for Green Day and co-headlining the Warped Tour with Fall Out Boy and a tour with the Alkaline trio. In 2006, as the band was heading back into the studio to record its third album, they released the CD/DVD package Life on the Murder Scene, a documentary that included videos and live footage, and sold two million copies.
In 2006 My Chemical Romance released the ambitious concept album The Black Parade (Number Two), which sold 240,000 copies in its first week. The album's storyline revolves around the regretful reminiscences of a dying cancer patient and includes a cameo from Liza Minnelli on "Mama." The Black Parade polarized critics who either loved the album's grandiosity or hated its excess. Singles included "Welcome to the Black Parade" (Number 9, 2007) and "Teenagers" (Number 67, 2007). The band announced in a vague press release on its Web site that Gerard Way and Bryar were injured while shooting the video for the single "Famous Last Words" (Number 88, 2007), and were forced to cancel several tour dates.
Mikey Way left the band after he was married in early 2007 and was replaced by bassist Matt Cortez before returning later in the year. In late 2007, Bryar announced he was taking leave from the band due to a nagging wrist injury, followed shortly by Iero, who left following his grandmother's death. A man known only as Pete replaced Bryar on the band's UK tour, and Cortez replaced Iero. Both Bryar and Iero later returned to the lineup.
In the spring of 2008 the band was ensnared in controversy after a 13-year-old British fan committed suicide and The Daily Mail labeled My Chemical Romance a "suicide cult." The band released the following statement on their Web site: "My Chemical Romance are and always have been vocally anti-violence and anti-suicide. As a band we have always made it one of our missions through our actions to provide comfort, support, and solace to our fans...If you or anyone you know have feelings of depression or suicide, we urge you to find your way and your voice to deal with these feelings positively."
In July of 2008 My Chemical Romance released their second live CD/DVD compilation, The Black Parade is Dead! , featuring outtakes from the band's 2007 Mexico City and New Jersey concerts. Since 2007, Gerard Way has written the acclaimed comic book The Umbrella Academy. In 2009, the band recorded a cover of Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row" (Number 107) for the soundtrack of the film adaptation of graphic novel The Watchmen.
Portions of this biography appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001). Joel Hoard contributed to this story.