Latest release: Last Young Renegade (Fueled by Ramen)Website: www.alltimelow.com
Baltimore rockers All Time Low have just completed their most successful headlining tour of Australia ever. With two days on their two left to go, we got to chat with frontman Alex Gaskarth about being the young renegades they, being on the edge of thirty and keeping their fans happy among other things:
Thanks Alex. It’s a little strange doing an interview with a band at the end of their tour instead of a few months before! How has the tour been?
It’s been incredible, it really has. It’s the first time we’ve come over and headlined for quite a few years. The last few times we’ve come over it’s been with Soundwave or something like that, so this is the first time it’s been our show. We’ve been playing to more people than we’ve ever played for headlining, so it’s great to see that people care all the way over here in Australia, halfway across the world. We had one of those epiphany moments coming off stage after the show. I pulled Rian aside and said, ‘Isn’t it fucking crazy? We just played to 4000 people a long, long way from where we grew up’. People care, and that’s a good feeling.
Seeing that so many people do care and playing to crowds must make all the effort you put into your music worth it.
There’s a lot of stress and a lot of time and a lot of sweat and tears, and sometimes blood, that goes into making records. Because we want it to be good, we want it to be right and we want people to enjoy it. When you finally get around to putting out songs and then you get to come over and see that pay off, it does make it all worth it.
What can fans expect from the new album?
There’s three songs out already, with a fourth one on the way. We’re just sort of slow-rolling it because the record’s a story and it details the trials and tribulations of this character. So we wanted to roll out the record in a certain way and it’s been cool because of that slow release, we’ve been releasing songs that are kind of different right up front to kind of gauge the reaction to see how people are getting into. What’s been great is that people seem to be getting into it and getting onboard the trip we’re trying to take them on. It’s been good. Now that we’re fast approaching June, with the release of the rest of the songs I think it will explain itself at that point.
Artists write for themselves obviously and you tell these stories because you want to tell them, but do you worry that your fans won’t come along with you when you experiment like this?
Sure. There was some anxiety about it. But we’ve always had that anxiety going in to every record no matter what. Whether it’s something different or whether it’s something very similar to what we’ve put out last time, it’s that feeling of dread before it comes out. It’s a common one. You put a lot of time and effort into making something you love and you just hope are along for the ride. This has been a really cool time, getting the songs out and seeing people get attached to them and come sing them at shows. It’s very very gratifying after a year and a half of making the record.
You must have realised you were onto something when the songs worked so well live so soon.
Yeah, that’s been an interesting part of it, because this record is a little bit different for us and we’re exploring some sounds and themes and tones that I don’t think we have in the past. So introducing that into the live show and how you fit those into the back catalogue, creating those ebbs and flows, fitting it into the show and making it all gel, has been a really cool new challenge, but it’s improved as a artists and musicians because we’ve had to go out there and make it work. One of the big things is, it’s important in music not to become complacent and comfortable. If you’re not challenging yourself and your listeners, you’re kind of just making decorations. You’re not making art. So that’s been a big component of it, to try and improve and grow.
What’s the basic story behind Last Young Renegade?
It’s a story of self-discovery and self-actualisation through facing up to your demons. It’s a record that comes from the heart in a lot of ways. It’s very internal. It’s stories about things that we’ve gone through and dealt with and struggled with and had to come to terms with as we’ve gone through our twenties. We’re all in our late twenties now, and a lot of our formative years have been spent in this band, on tour, on the road together. A lot of that is in there in the subtext of the record. We wanted to create this character, the Last Renegade, to allow people to relate to it a bit more and to kind of apply it to themselves. It’s one thing for people to be able to relate to things I’m singing about if they’re not me, but this allow it to go to a little more of a universal place. Which is a really interesting thing. We’ve never done anything like that before.
You said it took a year and a half. It seems like a long time – was it a difficult period?
I say and year and a half, but that’s kind of all in. That’s from me starting to write ideas through to the record getting mastered. The actual time spent in the studio recording the songs was probably about two months in 2016. I did start writing songs for this in late 2015-ish, going in to 2016. Just for fun, but some of those songs we started writing all the way back then ended up being the cornerstones and the basis for where this record was going. Once we had a good handful we started filling in the blanks. It was an awesome process. It wasn’t long or painstaking. We worked with a lot of friends. The two guys who produced this record, Blake Harnage and Colin Brittain are two very good friends of ours and it was almost like we were self-producing in a lot of ways. It was very genuine and pure, which is a really good way to spend the time making this record.
I guess it’s a bit early to ask you about this now as Last Young Renegade isn’t even out yet, but do you think about where All Time Low may go from here? Do you have ideas about which direction the band is going to go in or do you think about that from cycle to cycle?
We’ve always got ideas, but as you said it’s pretty early now. We’re so deep in this thing that it could continue on this path very easily or in a year from now maybe we want to 180 and do something completely different. I don’t know. It’s hard to say. What I will say is that know what we know now, and being in this band for so long, we know what works for All Time Low and we know what we can get away with and what we can’t. So it’s really kind of about exploring within that space. Fortunately our fans are incredible to us and they give us a lot of room to work with so I feel like our lane is pretty big. We do our best to keep it new and fresh and exciting for them.
Going back to what we mentioned before about not necessarily keeping the fans happy but making sure they come along with you, you do have that obligation as well.
Yeah, there’s definitely an obligation to try and please as many people as we can, otherwise we wouldn’t be a very good band! It’s always keeping that in mind. As I said before, it’s important that we stay focused on what feels like great All Time Low songs for us and then where we take it stylistically from there is sort of the icing on the cake. In terms of this new record, we went for these very textural, wide-sounding songs, a lot of ear candy, guitar pedals we’ve never used before, things like that. We’ve kind of made a nice driving record, but it’s a headphone record too. You want to sit with it and dive in a few times and hear everything that’s going on. It’s that sort of thing. Honing in on that keeps it interesting for people.
It’s great to be taking that extra effort because a lot of music seems to just be really disposable and quickly forgotten. Is it going to be remembered in 15 years?
That’s always the interesting thing about music, and it poses a very interesting philosophical question. Chart music has always been interesting in a sense that only time will tell. What feels great in a moment in an era might be forgotten about, and sometimes things become timeless. It’s not always clear what separates those two things, because there’s tons of good songs. It’s interesting and it’s hard to know, but I think what it comes down to is writing genuine music and writing honest music, and that’s what we’ve decided to roll with. When we keep it honest to ourselves, that’s how people become attached to it. Hopefully it’s something that has staying power.