Formed in 2003 in Baltimore, Maryland, the four guys of All Time Low have stuck together and have been creating music and playing shows ever since. With Alex Gaskarth (vocals and rhythm guitar), Jack Barakat (lead guitar), Zachary Merrick (bass guitar) and Rian Dawson (drums), the band has released four studio albums since 2005. Their most recent record, Dirty Work, marks their major label debut as it was released with Interscope Records. Who would’ve known that this project that started back when the guys were in high school would get this big?
Since they signed to Hopeless Records in 2006, the band has steadily gained a powerful fanbase with their music and their energetic stage presence on tour. Last August, Montreal fans were delighted that they finally had stop in this beautiful city. They hadn’t been back for a couple of years; it was about time. Right before the guys went to MusiquePlus, I had the chance to chat with Alex and Jack about their band’s history, their opinion on this generation’s internet-powered bands as well as their latest album, among other things.
CONFRONT: How has the tour been so far?
ALEX: It’s been awesome!
CONFRONT: And you have been touring a lot these past few years; has it taken its toll on you guys at all?
ALEX: Not really, no! We have a blast touring, we love doing it. It’s such a big and integral part of what this band is so I think we make the most of it and we really enjoy it.
JACK: I think we’re just as energetic as we were five years ago.
CONFRONT: That’s good.
ALEX: We also got better looking. It’s just a fact.
JACK: Look it up in the dictionary, it’s there!
ALEX: I’ve seen the old pictures of us, we look like idiots. Now we look great; like gladiators.
CONFRONT: You’re missing the gladiator sandals though!
ALEX: We weren’t allowed to bring them across the border. We’ll add that to our rider tomorrow.
CONFRONT: Now, can I have a little history about the band, since this is your first time with CONFRONT.
ALEX: We started the band in our freshman year of high school. Jack and I knew each other before that. We were never in a band together but we would go to each others’ houses and play AFI covers. And then, we met Ryan and Zack in our freshman year, got the band together, picked a band name, started booking shows and writing our own music. And it sort of went from us having no songs of our own to having a handful. Gradually, through playing parties and local shows and stuff like that, we built up a name for ourselves in the local scene. I think that kind of put us on the radar with local promoters because we would be able to sell out 300 to 400 capacity rooms so promoters obviously look at that as a positive point. So we started getting thrown on a lot of shows with bands like The Receiving End of Sirens, Early November and bands that were sort of breaking into the scene that we wanted to be a part of and that helped put us on the map for labels. By our senior year in high school, we were talking with several labels and we made the choice to sign with Hopeless Records in 2006. And it’s been non-stop ever since, pretty much!
CONFRONT: You guys were signed pretty early on, how do you think that affected your career?
ALEX: I definitely think it helped. Hopeless Records had a really cool business model for us; it was really grassroots and it really embraced the mentality that we already had about our band and it made us earn a lot of what we have now.
JACK: Plus, getting started so early, we got so much time to build as a band and grow; it definitely wasn’t overnight.
CONFRONT: Speaking of that, nowadays, a lot of bands kind of get discovered instantly; those internet-generated bands. What do you think about that?
ALEX: I think that unfortunately, it’s creating a large oversaturation of music because anyone and everyone can start a band, put some music online and sort of become a thing overnight. That was the case with The Millionaires and things like that. That’s a much different kind of music but it definitely sort of speaks for the time and it becomes this thing where overnight, there’s this weird craze. And at the same time, they come and go very quickly so I think it’s cool for bands to be able to do that and give themselves a shot in such an independent way. But I think there’s something to be said for earning it and spending a lot of time building a grassroots fanbase.
JACK: And usually, time shows and those bands do prevail.
ALEX: Yeah! I mean, it’s the difference between bands like Good Charlotte who have been around forever and have really earned it the right way and bands that sort of fell off the map.
CONFRONT: Yeah those one-hit wonders that you never hear from again.
ALEX: You never want to be as popular as your newest song; you want your music to be timeless and your band to be timeless.
CONFRONT: Yeah and I think all the effort you guys put in the beginning really shows because you have been pretty popular throughout the years.
ALEX: Yeah, like I said, it speaks to building your grassroots following. To fans, it becomes a bit more than just music. The music has to be there and it has to be good and obviously it has to capture the listener but at the same time, I think a lot of the time, doing it the way we did it kind of…
JACK: It builds a lifestyle…
ALEX: Yeah it builds a whole lifestyle around the band. And the fans that we have are so die-hard because of that; because they’re a part of something.
JACK: Similar to what Blink-182 had with their fans.
ALEX: Yeah! You meet friends because of the band and get all kinds of experiences because of the band so it goes a little beyond music.
CONFRONT: Definitely. I know that feeling very well. Now, to get back to your career, you signed with Interscope relatively recently. Has that changed anything in the way you work?
ALEX: Some of the things around us have changed, as far as how they run a business as opposed to how and indie label runs their business. But we haven’t had to change anything. We went out and made the record that we wanted to make, which was awesome. It was a really fun experience for us because they opened up some doors for us that we didn’t really have available.
JACK: For the first time ever, we have a record that is universally known across the world and is popular in a lot of countries as opposed to just the US like it was before.
CONFRONT: Well even before, you managed to get your music out to the rest of the world anyways.
JACK: Yeah we did a lot of touring but it’s…
ALEX: Now you can actually buy the record.
JACK: Yeah signing with a label that has different labels in every country has really helped us kind of be able to sell our record more than just on iTunes.
ALEX: So far, it’s been really cool! The kids have been great. We’re playing about five new songs on this tour and they’re going on really, really well so people are embracing it. It’s tough, it’s hard to measure; we didn’t know how it was going to be right away because record sales in general just aren’t what they used to be so it’s hard for us, looking at it and say “does our record suck, do people not like it?” or “are people just downloading it illegally?”
JACK: But then when they come to the shows, they’re all crazy for it so we know we’ve done good!
ALEX: Yeah it’s a strange time to be in.
JACK: Best way to gauge how you’re doing is your shows.
CONFRONT: True, and with the obvious decline in music sales, what are you guys doing to kind of balance it out?
JACK: Construction workers! Because people always need buildings.
ALEX: People always need buildings too so we probably should build.
ALEX: It’s like Minecraft but in real life! [Minecraft is a game where you place blocks to build anything and where monsters come out at night and attack]
CONFRONT: Your album has been described as…
JACK: Best album ever?
ALEX: Best music ever made!
CONFRONT: I was going to say as a fusion of your old sound with new sounds, how would you describe it?
ALEX: I think you pretty much nailed it. We definitely sort of paid homage to where we come from and what we’ve done in the past but I think this record, out of all of the records, is really one where we wanted to kind of take a departure from the norm and push ourselves. I think these days, our influences are quite a bit different from what they used to be. We used to really centralize around the core pop-punk scene that we kind of came out of but now, the influences on this record stem back from the 90s to some of the stuff that we listen to now; contemporary music. One of the big things on the album is there is a big 90s vibe. Bands like Third Eye Blind and Sublime have played a hand in developing our sound.
CONFRONT: And what inspirations did you have for the album?
ALEX: The inspiration is typically just the same as it always is. Our lives is probably the biggest part.
JACK: From a lyrical standpoint, it’s less based on us partying and more on the results of us partying.
ALEX: This one is definitely a little bit more honest?
[We were interrupted by Mayday Parade’s very loud soundcheck. At that point, we all kind of looked at each other and burst out laughing.]
CONFRONT: You collaborated with a lot of people on this album. Who stood out the most?
ALEX: I really loved working with Butch Walker. He’s an amazing talent and a really good dude to work with. And I think the guy that really takes the cake on this record is Mike Green. He ended up really doing the majority of the songs on the album and he pushed us in a really cool direction. We did things with him that we wouldn’t have normally done. It was a very cool experience and I think it’s an experience that we will probably repeat sometime in the future.
CONFRONT: It’s cool because with each album, you get to meet new people and make connections for the future, right?
ALEX: Yeah, for sure!
CONFRONT: Now, let’s talk about your latest single, “I Fell Like Dancin’”. Why did you choose that one?
ALEX: Well it’s a joint effort, more so than ever before because this was the first time we really took a crack at radio and things like that so there’s a lot of factors that come into play. From the label standpoint, there’s quite a few people who have an opinion on what this first single should be. But it felt good! It felt like it was something that was interesting to throw out there because I think it threw a lot of people for a loop. It was obviously a song that we had never done before.
JACK: Also, I think it’s definitely one of the fun songs on the record and we definitely wanted to come out kind of with a happy, good feeling vibe.
ALEX: Yeah so a lot of stuff played into it and we had a great idea for a music video and all that. I think it just kind of made sense; it was a fun one. Now, it kind of leaves the door wide open to go somewhere very different if we want to, which is cool.
CONFRONT: Talking about the video, that looked like a really fun video to make. Where did the idea come from?
ALEX: It was kind of a collaborative effort between us and the director who did our previous two videos as well, “Weigthless” and “Damned If I Do Ya [Damned If I Don’t]”. He gets the sense of humor of the band.
JACK: And he really executes it well every time. A lot of the time, when you’re with a director for a music video, they have this awesome idea but then it goes on paper and you see it and it sucks. Every time he has an idea and he makes it in real life, it’s awesome.
CONFRONT: Yeah your videos always look so fun and colorful!
ALEX: Yeah that’s his thing; he goes for bright!
CONFRONT: And how was dancing with those high heels? [If you haven’t seen the video, the guys do a parody of a part of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” video where they’re all dressed in white with very high boots]
JACK: So damn hard! So painful! I don’t know how prostitutes do it.
CONFRONT: Now, I’m going to finish with my drawing question! You have to draw something that represents you and then you have to explain it to me.
ALEX: It’s a knight fighting a dragon!
CONFRONT: And it represents you how?
ALEX: Oh it was supposed to represent us?
CONFRONT: Yeah, I guess you missed that part of the question!
JACK: It’s the only thing I know how to draw! I literally can’t draw anything else.
CONFRONT: You’re not the first person who gave me that as an explanation! I guess that’s it! Thank you very much and have a great show tonight!
ALEX: Thank you!
If you missed All Time Low last time they were here, you can see them again on Simple Plan’s tour stopping at the Bell Center on February 23rd! And to learn more about the band and to check out some of their music, head over to one of these sites: