Ten years together is a big feat for any band, but to have most of those years be your formative ones is an even bigger feat. Baltimore, Maryland's All Time Low formed while the members were still in high school and began touring full-time right after graduation, earning respect through hard work and talent. Many of the bands in the pop-punk genre have fallen victim to their fans getting older and moving on to different music, but All Time Low has somehow been able to retain their success, acquiring 2.5 million Facebook fans, both young and old.
In between a fan meet and greet and an Alternative Press chat, lead singer Alex Gaskarth and guitarist Jack Barakat -- who look similar enough to be mistaken for brothers -- found some time to chat with Gimme Noise in the back of First Avenue's back room about what it was like leaving their record label and getting older.
Known for their energetic live shows, the band integrates fun into everything they do. With the release of their new album Don't Panic right before the start of tour, the band did not have much time to rehearse before hitting the road. The group admits to being a little rusty, but by Minneapolis, the ninth evening of the tour, the band was able to shake off some of the cobwebs and were hitting their groove. It didn't matter to the crowd that some of the live pieces needed a little more stewing time; the audiences were connecting with the new album and singing along to every song -- be it new or old.
The band has a young demographic, but has been able to maintain a lot of older fans along the way. Much of that has a lot to do with their spontaneous and entertaining live shows. Bridging the generation gap is something any maturing band runs into, but Alex says, "There's an appeal to the young crowd because of the type of the music that it is, but at the same time, I think we maintain a wider appeal because of the lyrical content."
Jack elaborates, "The whole party vibe with the band is the kind of thing a college kid or older can come and have a good time. Our show's different every night; we try to keep it fresh." Adding to this, Gaskarth says, "Our show is not rehearsed. We know what we're gonna play, but how we get there is sort of open-ended. I think being able to play off the crowd and being able to go in any direction keeps the vibe loose. It makes for a better atmosphere all around. That's the thing about shows. Anyone can buy a record and listen to it, but it's a whole different thing at a live show when you come in and see the people perform the music. Outside of that, you also get a sense of who the people really are. I think that's really important."
Barakat concedes about the new album, "I think it's been the most well received album yet." Could it be because the band is back at their old label Hopeless after breaking from the high profile Interscope who houses Top 40 artists like Lady Gaga and The Black Eyed Peas? Perhaps.
Jack in one word describes it as "liberating" to be back at Hopeless, adding, "It just didn't really work all too well at Interscope. They had a different group of people that weren't familiar with the band and didn't really know what to do with a band like us, so we went back to Hopeless who knew us. We were excited to sign [with Interscope], and it didn't end up hurting us, it just didn't really help us, so we decided it was best to leave." The band had enough foresight to know that Interscope was not a right fit for them, with Alex continuing, "Getting stuck in a rut can be a band's demise. We just caught it early. We were fortunate in that sense. We saw the pattern developing, and we got out while we could."
That intuition has served All Time Low well, and also helped in keeping the implosion of the band from happening. Gaskarth claims, "The camaraderie is really important to keep the whole thing alive, but other than that, it's really just the family mentality that we take towards the band. It's one of those things where, yeah, you've been on the road for ten years together. You're going to get into arguments, you're going to get on each other's nerves every now and then, but it's not an option to break up. It's not an option to walk away from this. That's one of the those things where you work through it, and you move on. Just like any family." Jack follows it with, "You gotta have a short memory."
Being so young when they formed, it was possible that the members missed out on having a normal childhood, but both Alex and Jack affirm that they didn't feel anything was amiss. They got to grow up, but just in a much different way. "The only thing we may have missed out on was college, and I don't think we really missed that much," Jack says. The band knew exactly what they wanted from the start, and Alex says, "I think it's that drive that gets you where you want to be. If we had been half-assed about it -- if we had second guessed it -- I don't think it would have worked out the way it has. We put all of our cards into this one thing, and I think that's the only reason it worked out."
In their youth and naivety, the band has run into a few people who have tried to take advantage of their careers, but having such a clear vision of their goal has helped to alleviate some the duplicitous individuals. Gaskarth says, "I think it was a combination of us knowing what we wanted and surrounding ourselves with people we felt were trustworthy. For that reason, there weren't many people that we've come across that I've ever identified as wanting to screw us over. There have been a few, but we've managed to weed them out."
The sound on Don't Panic, the band's fifth studio album, doesn't deviate too far from the traditional All Time Low sound. Barakat shares, "We've never really had the fear that we would lose fans with our new album. I mean, it's always in the back of your mind, but we've never really strayed too far out of our box."
Alex affirms and concludes by saying, "We've never gone too far from what we do. If it does get too hairy, we can always reign it back in. With that said, you can't worry about it too much. You just have to be authentic and write what you want to write, or people will see through it. We've had a taste of that. We've tried to make the compromises with our last record where we took ambitious shots writing towards the top forty radio market. It's not to say I don't like the songs, but I think there were certain people in our fanbase that did see through it, and were like, 'Ok, this feels less genuine than everything else they've ever done.' I think it's important to learn from that."