All Time Low are a band that have grafted hard and no doubt earned their success. After years of relentless touring and releasing albums, the pop-punks are about to embark on their biggest tour EVER in February as they headline The O2 in London and various other arenas around the UK.
author: Faye Turnbull
We recently caught up with guitarist Jack Barakat, just before he was off to see Elton John in concert, and spoke about their new record Future Hearts, having their hometown heroes Good Charlotte support them, and how they’re not afraid of anything at this point.
You’re bringing your Back To The Future Hearts Tour to the UK next month, supporting your latest record, Future Hearts. Going back a bit, you released Dirty Work in 2011 to mixed reviews and then Don’t Panic in 2012, which was very well received. Fans seemed a little anxious ahead of Future Hearts and the potential sound change, after nailing it with Don’t Panic…
“I think every album we’ve released, we released for a purpose and a meaning. We don’t want to completely change our sound, but we want to make them a little different and don’t want to release the same album twice. I think with Future Hearts, we saw it as an evolution of Don’t Panic and a step forward; a more eclectic album with more diversity, but still kept the All Time Low sound, and I think we were really successful with that.
“We wrote and recorded the album we wanted to make and it clicked with fans, so we were lucky in that sense. We haven’t changed too much over the years, but it’s always good to keep changing. Our fans are growing up, so we don’t want to keep releasing the same album.”
You chose John Feldmann, who produced 5 Seconds Of Summer’s two albums, to produce Future Hearts. Did his work with 5SOS influence you to work with him? Did you want a more mainstream-sounding record?
“Here’s a true story, before All Time Low had played a show, we dreamed of working with John Feldmann. I would always be like, “What if John Feldmann worked with us?” and this was when we were like 13/14. It was always kind of instilled in our bodies that one day we would want to work with him. For the most part, I’d say he was probably doing ‘darker’ albums, he did The Used and Story of the Year. He kind of always had a rock edge to him, so we thought for a while that he wouldn’t be a right fit.
Then we worked with him a couple of times on Dirty Work; we wrote ‘Heroes’ with him, which is a big song within our fanbase and two years down the road, his name was still being brought up. It was just finding the right time and the right place, and everything kind of came together. It wasn’t because of 5SOS that we went with John Feldmann. The 5SOS thing did help, because Alex was in the studio with Feldmann recently, so the experience was still fresh in his mind, but other than that, I would say that would be the only bridge there. It was just always something we wanted to do since the beginning.”
Feldmann also fronts the ska-punk band Goldfinger, were you not interested in going down the ska route?
“[Laughs] If you listen closely on the album, there’s definitely some weird things there. We do have trumpets in some parts. There was a song that was actually pretty horn-influenced that didn’t make the album that was really catchy, but it just didn’t feel right. There’s a lot of violins on the album, which was cool. It’s nice to have that kind of stuff, but still make All Time Low songs. Feldmann was really good for that and I think he brought a really cool energy.”
Future Hearts was very well received, and I saw Alex [Gaskarth – lead vocalist] recently tweet that you’re already writing again…
“Yeah, we’ve definitely started writing. We were waiting until January to get back right in there. If there’s anything our fans have learned from All Time Low – we don’t take long between albums. I don’t have a day or anything, but I’d expect something sooner rather than later.”
After your commercial success, is there pressure to maintain that popularity? Do you ever approach songs like, ‘Would this sound good on radio?’
“There’s always that conversation, because you want to continue growing. You want to write songs that people are going to like. We never wanted to be the band that writes dark, indie music.
“Since the beginning, we’ve always wanted to write catchy, poppy songs that everyone can have a good time to, so I don’t think that’s going to change. It’s our seventh record, so I think we’ll feel the least pressure we’ve ever felt making an album. We’re not afraid of anything at this point. We’ve been through the ups and downs, so we’re just going to make a new All Time Low album and it’ll probably be the best one we’ve made. I think fans will like it.”
t’s amazing to see how far you’ve come, from supporting the likes of Plain White T’s in 2007 to headlining The O2. Only a few other bands from that era and scene have really made it, like Fall Out Boy and Paramore. What do you think is your appeal?
“I think it’s a mix of right place, right time. I’d say we were kind of on the tail-end of that whole scene of bands. We were a little late to the party, but we got there just in time. I do think we have a very unique connection with the people that listen to our music. I don’t know if many bands have that same connection, it’s rare and I haven’t seen it that much before.
“It’s a special thing, especially in the UK, the fans that saw us open with the Plain White T’s in 2007 are coming to see us play at the O2. It’s that kind of fanbase we have and I think it’s the reason why we’re able to play these massive venues. I’d say we’ve had a low commercial success in the UK, we’ve been on the radio a bit, but I don’t think that’s the reason we’re able to play these big venues.
“I feel like it’s been a snowball effect; once these UK fans became All Time Low fans, I don’t think they went anywhere. We’re very appreciative of it and we definitely wouldn’t be able to play those kind of venues without them.”
Is it a bit mind-blowing having a band like Good Charlotte supporting you on your Back To The Future Hearts Tour, surely you grew up listening to them?
“It definitely is mind-blowing! I grew up idolising Good Charlotte, they were the band that gave us hope to become a band out of Maryland. They were like the hometown heroes.
“Every time we hang out, even now since we’ve become friends, it’s still so bizarre to be in their presence, because they’re the reason why we’re doing what we’re doing. I would say it’s more flattering that they accepted the tour with us and they wanted to do it. It’s great for younger fans too who have heard of Good Charlotte, but don’t know their music.”
It’s been 10 years since the release of your Put Up or Shut Up EP, will you be playing any shows to commemorate it or anything?
“That’s something that we’ve kind of discussed, but we haven’t confirmed anything. We did one show at the end of last year and we played Put Up or Shut Up in full, it was just a cool experiment to see how it would do and it was probably the most fun show I’ve had in a really long time. I think it’s a very strong possibility.”
You also take out a lot of newer and younger pop punk bands on tour like Neck Deep and State Champs, is that a label thing or do you have a say?
“That’s a good thing about being All Time Low – everything we do, we do because we want to. We’ve never been that band that’s been told what to do. We always have an opinion and we’ve had the same manager since we were 16.
“When we headline, we take out whoever we want to take out. The label sometimes suggests bands they’ve signed and we’ll take them out, if we like them. That’s a cool thing about being in this band, it’s nice to have that influence on fans and introduce them to newer bands and give them our stamp of approval.”
What was the last gig you went to as a fan?
“Actually tonight, one of my best friends scored me tickets to see Elton John in like a 2,000 cap venue, so I’m literally freaking out. I had trouble sleeping last night. I’ve never seen Elton John play and it’s such an intimate venue. I have really high hopes that it’s going to be one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I’m excited!”
Are there any bands you’re excited about at the moment or any releases you’re looking forward to?
“I’m really excited about the new Panic! At The Disco album, I’ve always been a big fan and think Brendon Urie is a genius. He does no wrong in my eyes.
“I’ve been listening to the Twenty One Pilots album a lot; I’m friends with Josh in the band and he’s become a close friend. Me, personally, when I make a personal connection with a band member, I tend to listen to their music and it kind of makes you appreciate it a bit more. I like good people making good music.”
Thanks for your time! Do you have any final words about the tour?
“The UK has always been, in my opinion, my favourite place to tour, so I’m really excited to get back. I look at our Facebook every day and I can’t believe we’re headlining the biggest venue we’ve ever played. It’s something myself, and I’m sure the other guys, think about pretty regularly, so we’re really excited!”