Words: Miljan Milekić
It’s impossible to talk about the pop punk scene in the last two decades, without mentioning All Time Low. Record after record, the Maryland four-piece kept reinventing themselves, juggling between different styles, but keeping their own vibes. From skate punk to out and out pop, they did it all, without losing themselves on the way. The band recently released their brand new album ‘Wake Up, Sunshine,’ and we caught up with singer and guitarist Alex Gaskarth to discuss it.
Your new album is finally out, in what seems to be a very strange time for an album release. How different was this process, and how hard is it to unleash the album onto the world without being able to tour and play it live?
Alex: It goes without saying that this is probably the strangest record release we’ve ever experienced. Everything about it has been different. At the end of the day, I’m just thankful that people are listening.
It may only be me, but I got the impression that the initial response to ‘Wake Up, Sunshine’ is even better than to ‘Last Young Renegade.’ Is it something you would agree on, or is it still too soon to tell?
Alex: I think fans of All Time Low were excited for a record like this, and I think we were able to make it at the right time. ‘Last Young Renegade’ was different for us, and something we wanted to try, but I feel like it led us here.
You’ve built the reputation of a band that always offers something new, but yet keep the recognizable vibe of your band. However, it seems like ‘Wake Up, Sunshine’ is a bit less experimental than ‘Last Young Renegade,’ and closer to what may be described as “classic All Time Low sound.” Was that a conscious decision?
Alex: We took everything we learned from ‘Last Young Renegade’ and applied it to a record that we just wanted to feel more rock’n’roll, I guess. I think ‘Last Young Renegade’ was intentionally different and a bit experimental for us, and this was the four of us getting in a room and writing some tunes that felt fucking awesome. There was less thinking and more playing.
The album title ‘Wake Up, Sunshine,’ as well as the song itself carries a dose of symbolism, but looking at the world right now, do you feel like it has, even more, meaning to it?
Alex: I can’t speak to how songs we wrote a year ago speak to the world now, that’s for the world to decide. There are some weird and spooky connections for sure. “Wake Up, Sunshine” was a mantra of self-realization for us as a band, and I can only hope it reaches out farther than that now that the music is out there to be realized by others.
I have to say that I was a bit surprised to see blackbear on the record, but the song works so well. It’s already one of the fan-favorites, and probably my favorite song of the record. How did it come together, and how did you choose artists to work with on this album?
Alex: Thank you! I’ve been a fan of blackbear’s music and how he blurs the genre lines time and time again. We were linked through a mutual collaborator and long-time friend, Andrew Goldstein, who is an insanely talented producer and writer. We wrote this song, and Andrew said that we should see what he would bring to the table. At first, we were nervous because sometimes collaborations can feel forced and out of place, but bear absolutely crushed it, and I think the subject matter spoke to everyone involved and made the whole thing gel.
In recent weeks you’ve put a lot of work into staying in touch with your fans, including live streams, home performances, and much more. On the one hand, I know how important can it be to reach fans after the album release, but on the other hand, it’s an amazing way to show fans that you’re there for them and care about them. How challenging was it to develop and nurse such a deep and personal relationship you have with your fans?
Alex: All Time Low has always been a band for the people at the shows. If we can’t be at the shows, then we’re going to find a way to bring that same energy to a place that our fans can access. This has been a learning experience for us, and I’m actually grateful for the new connections we’ve made, despite it all being because of unfortunate circumstances.
One of the things that made your music so relatable for so many fans is your willingness to talk about dark times. You were never afraid to talk about personal demons and mental health, and you keep doing it record after record. How important is it for you to have this kind of outlet to talk about things like that, and how does it feel to see so many people understanding where you’re coming from, and being able to relate?
Alex: The stigma surrounding the discussion is wearing away, and so I feel that it’s important to double down on these kinds of conversations, be it through music or any other platform. At the end of the day, writing is cathartic to me, and I’m happy to put myself out there in that way if it helps someone else, because, oftentimes, we’re all going through something.
I’ve been following your band since like 2007 or 2008 and THAT song. At what point did you realize that things are starting to get crazy and that you’re becoming a household name in the music scene?
Alex: I’m honestly not sure we ever realized it until we were fully in it. Time is the only thing that matters. We’ve managed to stick around and stay relevant in some way to so many people. Whether it’s because of an old song or a new song is irrelevant. We just want to play awesome shows for people that are looking to have a good time.
There is also one thing that fascinated me when it comes to All Time Low. You are a band for almost seventeen years now, as I said, you did some amazing things, and during all that time you stuck together, with no lineup changes. How hard was it to overcome everything that stood in your way and stick together no matter what?
Alex: We’re basically family. Whenever something’s wrong we do everything we can to fix it. We check in on each other, we make sure everyone’s happy, we take ego out of it… It’s just about what’s good for us and the band. There’s no secret formula; it’s mostly about not being a dick.
For a short time, it seemed like the Baltimore scene a bit quiet, and then, it all exploded with bands such as Turnstile, Sharptooth, Angel Du$t, War on Women, and many others. Can you tell me more about the scene now, compared to the time when you were starting out, and who were your biggest local influences?
Alex: Baltimore has always had a pretty amazing and budding music scene… It hasn’t always been rooted in rock, but there’s always something incredible coming out of this city, because this city is incredible. It’s an inspiring place in so many ways. I think now more than ever we’re seeing a resurgence of Baltimore bands popping up because this city and the people in it have something to say, and that’s huge. It’s connecting on a higher level. When we were coming up it was all about bands like Good Charlotte, Adelphi, and Supergiant MD… They were all bands just a bit older than us that showed us the way and got us to look beyond the VFW halls we were playing in then.