17 years since forming in high-school, All Time Low have reached a level of stardom that has surpassed even the wildest of their teenage dreams. A band inspired by the ultimate gateway trinity of the pop-punk boom, Blink 182, Green Day and The Offspring and named after a line from a New Found Glory song, have evolved into a gateway band themselves.
Such success is all too often a poisoned chalice for bands, but somehow, despite all the accolades, rewards and opportunities for distraction (and all the haters) that stardom brings, All Time Low remains a united front with an unchanged lineup and a seemingly unbreakable bond.
It was respect for that bond that saw them go back to basics, congregating at drummer Rian’s house in Nashville and at a rental property in Palm Springs, with friend and producer Zakk Cervini to write the fifteen tracks that became their eighth and most adventurous studio album yet, Wake Up, Sunshine and the results speak for themselves.
A perfect blend of experimentation and their trademark polished pop-punk sounds, Wake Up, Sunshine is a light, anthemic and energetic record that just screams summer party soundtrack. The problem is of course that this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the world, those summer parties are going to have an average attendance of one, and the touring circuit that would normally help spread the good vibes of Wake Up, Sunshine all across the northern hemisphere, is postponed indefinitely.
A lot of bands would – and have – choosen to delay the release the album until touring was possible but, fittingly for a band with an album named Don’t Panic, All Time Low are pressing on, undeterred and taking the opportunity to get as creative and connected as possible with the rollout of Wake Up, Sunshine, even if that means never leaving the house. With this in mind, vocalist/guitarist Alex Gaskarth threw on his best pair of sweatpants and jumped on the phone for a captivating chat with Music Feeds.
MF: Hey Alex, how’s existence treating you today?
AG: It’s pretty good, I can’t complain, especially considering everything that is going on in the world right now. I’m sure all of your interviews at the moment are starting this way right now, but it’s pretty surreal for sure. It’s definitely an odd time to be putting out a record, it feels pretty strange to be asking people to make this about me, in any way. At the same time though, people do want and need to be entertained, and a lot of people need something nice and light in their lives, so I’m hoping that this record can be that for people. Personally, I’m great, and as a band, we’ve been doing our best to remain isolated and keep to ourselves, while doing what we can to get this record out to our fans.
MF: I saw on Twitter that part of that self-isolation routine for you, personally, involves hanging out and singing with your goats, which is super wholesome content!
AG: That’s really all I have!
MF: Hopefully the record can be that sonic summer escape for people, it did that for me, on the first listen and honestly, just hearing another voice on the other end of this phone right now, in itself feels like a treat. We’re all in lockdown over here in Melbourne, so having a fresh voice on the end of the phone is a nice escape from the incessant rambling of my own inner monologue!
AG: I can relate. All of our press at the moment is remote, so I’m sitting in the same room, in the same position, with the same pair of sweatpants on, which is very different to normal. I honestly feel more connected with people, in a strange sort of a way though, not just with the interviews, but with friends and family as well. Having the downtime is actually making me reach out to people I haven’t spoken to in years, so in some ways the isolation is opening up my world.
MF: Well the flip side of this whole thing is that we might all realise, as a species that we really do need other people and we need to look after each other and look out for each other more than we have been in the past.
AG: 100%. There will be some good that comes out of this, for sure and I suspect that’ll be a big part of it.
MF: One good thing that comes out today is your eighth studio album Wake Up, Sunshine. How are you feeling about getting this release out into the world?
AG: So happy about this record. I feel it’s everything that we’ve been working towards for a long time. The way that this record came together, and the way it came out sounding has really reignited our spark and our love for All Time Low. It has made us feel shiny and brand new, even though we’ve been doing this for quite some time now. Obviously, this isn’t how we expected the record to be going out, but I’m still really optimistic for the record and for the future.
MF: As you should be! There’s a fair bit of genre-hopping going on, which makes it a bit of a welcome sonic trip as a listener, given, the mundanity of some of our lives RN! What drove that experimentation?
AG: We think that we’ve been given that lane by our fans, they’ve shown they trust us and have faith in us. Additionally, the music industry at this point in time really encourages artists to experiment. The way playlisting works, genre lines have become quite blurred now, which we feel is great for a band like us, because we’re able to write without any external limitations. On this record, we just wrote what felt natural and right and good and exciting to us at the time. Hopefully, people connect with that.
MF: I’m sure people from all the music realms will be able to get into at least one or two of the tracks, there’s such a diverse array of sounds being blended with your signature anthemic pop-punk vibe. It’s quite a fun listen. It’s nice as a journalist to be thrown off by a band occasionally and that happened with some of the guest turns, especially The Band CAMINO and blackbear, who turn up on two of my favourite tracks. What inspired those collabs?
AG: Hell yeah, that’s great to hear, thank you! Long story short The Band CAMINO are labelmates of ours and we really dig their sound and we wanted so badly to have them signed to our label, as I’d been a fan of them since they first started out. So when they were brought into our family, it just made sense to incorporate them on the record. When we wrote this song, it felt like we’d channelled some of what they had been doing, so I hit them up and said I felt they’d be perfect for this track, and luckily for us, they agreed and the results are on the record.
blackbear was a little bit different, and it might seem like a bit of a left-field choice for a collab to some people because we’ve never worked with a hip hop artist before, but Andrew Goldstein, who wrote and produced that song with us, was working with blackbear as well at the time. We wrote ‘Monsters’ [and] Andrew spoke up and said that blackbear would be a good fit on the song. So we sent it off to bear, and what he came back with was awesome, and took it to a whole new place. We felt it deserved a spot on the record because it was something new and exciting.
MF: It’s a killer track, and you never know, it might open you up to some new fans, some fresh ears, that otherwise might never have listened to All Time Low, and fresh ears can be hard to come by, 17 years into a career.
AG: Absolutely. The chance to get some new or fresh ears, for a band that’s been in the game as long as we have, is always welcome. I think it’s even good for our fans, as it’s something that stirs the pot, and sort of pushes them to branch out with us and experience something new, which can really freshen things up for them too, mid-record.
MF: As a band, you obviously still have a signature sound that remains present throughout the record, despite all the genre-hopping. Is it ever hard to find the right balance between your past and present sounds?
AG: Whenever we go to make a record, that’s always the biggest challenge. I’m sure that’s true for most bands, the idea that you’re fighting against your own legacy. It’s always going to be a struggle to please everybody, and the reality is that you never will. That’s part of being an artist. We’ve really landed in a place where if we are truly happy doing what we are doing, then a lot of the other elements follow suit, so while it is a challenge, we’ve found ways to push the envelope, without delivering music that alienates people too much.
MF: This record was produced by Zakk Cervini, who is a really promising young producer. How was the experience of working with Zakk and how much of his input is there on this record?
AG: The dude is an absolute genius! He is very, very good at what he does. He can work with so many different styles and genres of music and he excels in all of them. That’s part of what made him the perfect choice for this record. It’s such a blast because anytime you want to explore something that is outside of your comfort zone, he has an idea of how to make it work within the context of the music you’re making. I was fortunate enough to have worked with him on Simple Creatures as well, so going from the experimental weirdness of that project, and combining that dynamic with the stylistic sensibilities of All Time Low, helped to give us a fresh perspective on our own band.
I think a big part of why that worked so well is that he actually started out as a fan of our band. He is sort of a younger guy and he told us one day while we were working that he grew up listening to us, and that’s not a dynamic we’d ever had with a producer before. Certainly, other producers have been fans of the music that they’d heard, but they didn’t come up on it as a fan with that organic type of connection.
MF: That has got to be an awesome feeling for you too! That’s evidence that you’ve become a gateway band!
AG: It’s pretty surreal, I never considered that would be a possibility. It was a good thing for us and a good thing for the record and it helped us see our band with a fresh perspective and made us super confident in the choices we’re making and the record we are putting out.
MF: Obviously the record rollout is going to be a little different to usual, in that you’re unlikely to be able to tour it for quite some time, have you given any thought to how you’re going to handle that. Perhaps some streaming or other forms of interaction?
AG: We’re going to try to do as much as we can. We’ll be doing live streams and trying to put together shows in our own individual living rooms. Which is an interesting learning experience for us. As I touched on before though, we are actually feeling more connected than ever, because people are looking for something, anything that we can give them because they’re stuck at home, so we feel like that’s really opening up those lines of connection in new ways. Hopefully, that energy will hold over when we get back out to being able to play again.
MF: I’m pretty sure everyone is going to be excited to see the live streams, but people are going to be even more excited when we are all allowed to and able to go to shows safely again. There’s going to be some pretty excited fans and a unique energy on that initial run of shows post-pandemic!
AG: I would agree. Once this whole thing is behind us, I have to think people are going to be extremely excited to go out and see live music again and I’ll be right there with them. It’s something that I live for, I’ll be very ready as well!
MF: Well when we open up our borders down under, I’m sure your fans will be very appreciative of a visit! Could we be seeing you in our summer?
AG: That was the plan all along. We’ve been talking about it amongst ourselves for the last year. Obviously, with everything that is going on, we can’t lock anything in officially, but we’re definitely working on coming out towards the later months of this year.
MF: Now we touched briefly on the goats earlier, but as a band that was named after a lyrics in a song by my favourite pop-punk band, I’m curious to know who, in your opinion, are the G.O.A.T of pop-punk?
AG: Oh man, shoot, I think I’ll have to give it to Green Day? Although, Blink 182 is definitely up there for me, with The Offspring as well. I feel like those three, for their generation, were really the ones that spearheaded the whole thing. They’re the cornerstones. With apologies to Green Day though, I think I’m actually going to have to switch my stance and go with my heart and say Blink 182.
MF: A reasonable and intelligent answer for a man in a band with Mark Hoppus!
AG: I was going to say, I can’t disrespect Mark like that, can I! So Mark, my answer is Blink 182!
MF: In the 17 years of being in All Time Low, you’ve achieved some pretty awesome things, but on a personal level, surely being in a band with and being friends with Mark Hoppus has to rank pretty highly on the ‘pinch me’ scale?
AG: Oh dude, it’s incredible! He was and is an inspiration for me and a big part of why I got into this in the first place. I have him to thank for making me want to pick up a guitar and get on a stage. It’s been a surreal, trippy kind of thing to work on a project and collaborate and tour with him. Now we’re at the point where we are buds, and it’s even more fun and more rewarding getting to know him, and establishing that type of bond with him, because he really is a pretty great guy.
MF: It’s always nice when your heroes turn out to be even better in person, isn’t it!
AG: Yes! He didn’t disappoint me, when others did! It’s awesome.
MF: Before we let you go, I’m going to ask you for your quarantine/self-isolation kit! You get 1 record, 1 TV show, 1 movie, 1 instrument, 1 solo physical activity and 1 food. What are you choosing?
AG: I’m going with The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper… for the record. LOST for the TV show. The Fifth Element for the movie, for sure. Guitar for the instrument, definitely, that’s my bread and butter right there. Physical activity, let’s say, jumping rope! Food is easy, spaghetti bolognese all day, every day.
MF: That’s one ideal quarantine kit! Before we go, give us your best pro-wrestling style promo for the upcoming record, give us the lowdown on when, how and why people should pick up Wake Up, Sunshine!
AG: It’s April 3, so that means that Wake Up, Sunshine is out right now! You can find it anywhere music is streamed, anywhere music is sold, be it digitally or in a physical format, via some of the awesome record stores you have down there. Get out there and support them if you can, while you’re supporting us. Thank you for listening to the record and for the support that you’ve given All Time Low through the years. You’re the reason we get to do what we do, and we hope that Wake Up, Sunshine can bring a bit of sunshine and life to your world. We love you all.
Wake Up, Sunshine is out now. Stream/buy here.