All Time Low: Reckless and Brave
20-Dec-2012 Words: Brendan Crabb
Latest release: Don’t Panic (Hopeless)
Band site: www.alltimelow.com
Festival site: www.soundwavefestival.com
The year 2012 has scarily almost wrapped up, but it’s been an eventful one for US pop/punk sensations All Time Low. After an ill-fated partnership with Interscope Records on 2011’s Dirty Work, the band returned to indie label Hopeless for latest record Don’t Panic, which charted highly in several countries and was followed by extensive touring. They’re also headed back to Australia as part of the mammoth Soundwave Festival bill. Vocalist/guitarist Alex Gaskarth spoke to Loud about the shortcomings of the major label experience, the festival, sharing the stage with Metallica and more.
Q: It sounds like this has been a hectic year for All Time Low. Can things possibly get even crazier in 2013?
A: (Laughs) Yeah, it’s definitely been a busy year. Between getting off the label, making a record and Warped Tour and all that, it’s been nuts. But I think next year we’re gonna be overseas a lot, which I’m really looking forward to. It should be a really good year of touring for us.
Q: You’re headed back here for Soundwave too, a festival you’re certainly no strangers to.
A: Yeah, it’s gonna be great. My expectations are always high when it comes to Soundwave. AJ (Maddah) puts on a great festival and it’s just cool going into it this year, with bands like Blink-182 and Paramore, it’s a great lineup. It’s a really cool roster to be a part of and to get to say, I mean obviously we’re part of a big, big show, but to say we’re playing with Metallica is pretty cool.
Q: Is there anyone on the bill that you’re looking forward to seeing that might surprise some people?
A: I think maybe Metallica, people would be surprised. But believe it or not, the Black album was the first CD I ever bought as a kid.
Q: It must also be a thrill to be on the same festival as Blink-182 as well, one of the most successful bands of all time in your particular field.
A: Yeah, it’s gonna be really cool to share the stage and share some memories with them. They’ve become friends over the past couple of years, so it’s really cool to see them back at it and making awesome music together again. This is their first time overseas I want to say; apart from, I know they did Europe, but it’s the first time Travis (Barker) has flown again. It’s pretty cool to be involved loosely with something like that, just because he’s such a legend when it comes to being a drummer. It’s awesome to see that legacy happen the way that it’s happening.
Q: Regarding your own sets at the festival, are you playing primarily new material?
A: I think we’ll try to mix it up, we always do. I think there are the songs that kids by default want to hear, the ones that grew in popularity over the rest I guess. We’ll definitely try to play our best interpretation of what people want to hear from us. We do have a new album out and we want to showcase that material as well. I think it translates; we wrote that record to translate hopefully really well live. I think it would be a shame to come over and not rock some of the new stuff.
Q: On the topic of the latest album, you referenced the label change earlier. How was the “major label experience” for the band? Do you have any regrets, or was it an important learning curve?
A: I always try to not have any regrets going forward. I mean, it taught us a lot. It taught us a lot about the way the industry works and where we fit within that industry. I don’t think anyone’s to blame for kinda the shortcomings of what happened with Dirty Work. I’m still really proud of that album and I think it just wasn’t the right fit for us. So I look back on it like, it didn’t kill our career, it didn’t kill us as a band, we’re still here and able to function and put out new records. So to me, it was really just a way to see the bigger picture I guess, going forward. I think it’s something that will prove to be very valuable in the future for us.
Q: Did you encounter much of a backlash when signing to a major, but on the flipside those same people have embraced the band again after re-signing with Hopeless? What has that transition been like?
A: I think there was a combination of things which happened when we went with the major label. I think some people by default just hear the words “major label” and they think, ‘okay, the band’s selling out, they’re just doing this for money’ and blah, blah, blah. But really, the money isn’t what it used to be (laughs), so those stories don’t really apply anymore, now that it’s past the 90s. But beyond that, I definitely think that we made a major label record when it came down to it. We wrote songs with a goal in mind, and that goal was to kind of try and take ourselves to the next level - and that was hopefully mainstream. So we did a lot of co-writes and we worked with a lot of people that I don’t think we necessarily would have worked with otherwise. That being said, while I don’t think it hurt us or the record, I definitely think that it changed some peoples’ opinion of us. So it was nice to kind of transition out of that and write Don’t Panic, just as the band and getting back to what we grew up doing. Because I think people cherish that about the band and I think it allowed us to re-open those doors, while still being able to make music that was a progression for us.
Q: Are there any parts of Dirty Work that you find difficult to listen to now? Or perhaps passages that aren’t as honest as they could have been?
A: It’s a tough question to answer, because at the end of the day I’m supposed to sit here and say, ‘I love every single song’ (laughs). But with that being said, there’s definitely things I can look back at on that record and say, ‘that doesn’t really belong on an All Time Low CD’. I think it’s tough to name the particular songs and things like that, because they are part of our catalogue and again, I’m proud of probably 80, 90 per cent of that record. But I think a true All Time Low fan would know the portions of that album that don’t feel quite natural to this band. Again, like I said, it was a learning experience. It’s something I look back on and say, ‘that doesn’t work for what this band is’, and we need to avoid that going forward. Growing pains, you know? (laughs)
Q: It must have been refreshing to write the latest album without such restrictions – tapping into the reasons you started the band in the first place again.
A: Yeah absolutely, it was great. Getting back into the swing of what made this band what it is today was really eye-opening for all of us I think. A big part of what we went for with this album was to try and take the best elements of each record, including Dirty Work, and move forward with that. It was sort of capturing the energy of the older stuff, and combining that with the slightly more informed songwriting from the newer stuff. And I think it worked; I think we captured something really special in some of the new songs and I really am proud of this effort, of this album.
Q: Good to hear. Changing topics, we’re very close to 2012 wrapping up. What have been some of your favourite releases of this year?
A: Man, so many. I was a big fan of the latest Yellowcard effort, which came out around the same time as ours, a little bit before. I thought they did a great job, sort of doing what we did in the sense of capturing the energy that they had on their earlier material. I was a big fan of that. Lately I’ve been into The Lumineers quite a bit and also this hip-hop guy, his name’s Macklemore. He debuted the same week that we did in the States and his record’s really cool, he has a very fresh perspective on what to write about; where his lyrics are coming from and stuff. So those are probably top three for me this year.
Q: Any famous last words?
A: Oh man, famous last words? Thanks for all the drinks, you beautiful sluts (laughs).
All Time Low plays the sold out Soundwave Festival in February/March.
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