author Debra Kate Schafer
I recently had the utmost pleasure of interviewing one of the sweetest people in the music industry and I couldn’t be happier about it. Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low has always been kind and open with his fans; not to mention his always fun, positive approach to the music he and his friends make. It wasn’t until I picked up the phone and interviewed him for this piece that I got to experience that kindest and honesty firsthand. All Time Low is an Aquarian Weekly sweetheart, a personal favorite of mine, and a legendary pop punk band with a fierce fanbase.
Their up-tempo songs, slick melodies, and clever lyrics are just some of reasons why their music has, in the words of Gaskarth, “stood the test of time.” You can’t go wrong with good music — and when good people are the ones behind it, it’s pretty much impossible to break down — hence why they sell out tours year after year…like they are doing right now with co-headliner Dashboard Confessional.
This summer you guys are touring with Dashboard Confessional. This headline tour is a huge deal for us pop punk nerds, let me tell you. How did the tour come about?
The tour came about actually when we were both working on our albums respectively. We were in the studio kind of putting the finishing touches on Last Young Renegade, which is the album we put out about a year ago, and they were simultaneously working on a new record for Dashboard after I think like a seven year break. So I had heard about it because they had signed with our label, Fueled By Ramen, obviously, so it was kind of exciting that we were becoming label mates. They were doing a bunch of the album with our producer Colin Brittain at the time, so it was just kind of a lot of roads that crossed simultaneously.
That was sort of the moment that we conceptualized this tour. We realized that it had a really great throwback vibe since both of our bands were sort of active in the 2000s. We were just getting started then and even grew up on Dashboard. They were a band that we really looked up to in that world and seeing that they were getting back together was kind of an exciting thing, so we just decided to meld our worlds together.
It seems like fate!
Yeah, it totally was!
This tour is different compared to last year, because you toured with some more up and coming bands like SWMRS and Waterparks. Did you see a lot of yourselves in these bands?
You know it is really cool and really fun touring with those younger bands and kind of getting to see where their heads are at, coming in with a fresh perspective. They are still kind of learning the ropes. SWMRS had been touring a lot since they were really young, but Waterparks were still kind of getting their sea legs when we first met and toured with them. It is really cool to see these bands and these kinds of bands evolving and growing and coming into their own. It was a really exciting time to get them on the road with us. We got to take Waterparks to Japan for the first time, which was really cool!
Yeah, you know, I see a lot of us in them. I think it is like that with any band that has been doing this for a long time; I remember kind of being in their shoes. It is really fun to kind of get to be on the other side of it now.
Absolutely! Did you give them any tips on how to stay sane in the music industry for a long period of time?
You know, we are not really ones to like sit there and be like “Come here, let me teach you the ways.” It wasn’t so much that. The touring world is interesting, though, because I think you really learn by example and lead by example, as well. So that it is kind of how it always really works for us. We got to tour with some of our heroes back in the day, like Fall Out Boy gave us a chance and took us out years ago. Touring with Blink-182 and Green Day and Third Eye Blind and bands that we grew up listening to, it was seeing how they did it that taught us how to do it ourselves. I think that same thing goes for when you take out younger bands. All you have to do is pay attention.
Of course! Learning by experience is definitely something that helps.
For sure, for sure.
Let’s talk about “Birthday”, which is stellar, by the way. It’s a bit different, I think a little more laid back compared to some of your music catalog. Where did the inspiration and idea for this song come from?
Thank you so much! It’s a funny story, actually. I was writing on the road, I think somewhere in Europe — maybe Sweden? I was just bored on tour one day and I was writing a bunch of little guitar parts. I ended up recording one of these guitar riffs into my phone, my voicenotes, and about six months later when I kind of started writing again in the studio, I dug up that voicenote and it ended up being the main, kind of lead riff in the song — the backbone of it. I had also been sitting on this lyric, “I want you in the worst way/I need you like cake on my birthday.” I had basically been sitting on this lyric for probably like three years.
Yeah, because I thought it was too ridiculous to put in a song. I was really unsure about using it, but we had this music going and suddenly it felt like fit the sentiment of that line. We tried it out and sure enough it was kind of the perfect storm of subject matter and music. It all kind of just came to be!
You know it was really cool, because like you said it was laid back, and the process for that song really did feel laid back. I think we wrote it in like a day. It was just very quick and natural and fun. Sometimes when those song come together, I find it is some of our best music. We wrote “Weightless” in kind of the same way and that went on to be a strong one for us. It’s just fun. Whenever a song just has a good, natural energy like that without trying, it usually feels like it will be a fan favorite to us. We kind of knew we had something and we just wanted to get it out and summer felt like the perfect time for a song like that.
Definitely! I have been listening to it nonstop, I know fans are loving it. It seems to be perfect for this time of year.
Aw, that’s good! Well, thank you so much.
No problem! And just a few weeks prior to the release of “Birthday” you released “Everything Is Fine”, which actually has quite a nostalgic vibe to it — kind of like the other side of the coin. Are these going to be the sounds of a new record like where are these vibes coming from and what are they leading toward?
It is hard to say! I mean, right now, we are kind of unsure. I think that is kind of the beauty of it. Whether it ends up being an album or just some songs to kind of get us through the summer, it feels like it’s just sort of here for the moment. We had these two songs and we felt like that kind of fit together, but we also kind of felt like it didn’t fit the last record, which is why we didn’t want to do a deluxe of Last Young Renegade or something like that. Last Young Renegade felt like it stood on its own and was just its own thing. This just felt like a really good stepping stone and a way to bring us toward the next thing.
To be honest, the beauty of where music is right now is that you can just put out a song and see where they land, that was kind of our foray into that world. We had never really done anything like that before release wise, so we just thought that it was All Time Low’s turn to test the waters.
I think you guys are doing that pretty well. Good timing, good music…definitely can’t complain!
Being that we are a Jersey-based paper, this past December you celebrated the 10th Anniversary of So Wrong, It’s Right at Starland, our hometown venue. Did you guys always know that you were going to do a celebratory show or a tour dedicated to that milestone for that record?
I don’t know that we always knew, but the closer we got to the 10 year mark of the record, we sort of saw people asking for it, and it just made sense. That was the record that defined us and gave us our start to put us on the road we are on now. We knew we wanted to do something special for it and New Jersey was such a staple place for us in our coming up as a band. It was kind of one of the first markets that welcomed us and accepted us as if we were a hometown band. It gave us a place to go outside Baltimore when we began doing more shows. It felt really formative. It felt like it had a lot to do with this band becoming successful. It was the perfect venue for that show. Starland always stood out to us as kind of being just a great punk rock venue. We have always had some of our favorite shows there with the most energy. People from up and down the east coast can come out and we knew it was going to be like the perfect mecca for that concert.
I mean, you did do three shows that we all sold out for a reason! Your fans really wanted to come out and hear these songs again and just hear the record played out in full.
It was really cool. It felt so special. We had never played that record all the way through like that. There were some songs on that record that we had never even played live, so it was really cool to get to share that with people. It was a very special reminder to us of where we came from and it was cool to just pay tribute to that. A lot of people who have been coming out for years to shows came out for them, so there were a lot of familiar faces in the crowd and that is always really cool to share with people. We had a blast. We walked away from those shows feeling really amped up.
I can only imagine that! Like you said, you see all of these familiar faces and so many of your fans have really grown up with you guys. What is that feeling like knowing that you guys and your music are really shaping people’s adolescence?
It is incredible. None of us ever expected that, you know? We started this band for fun in high school and we didn’t know, by any means back then that these songs were going to stick and have any sort of lasting impression on anyone. It’s amazing, because we just feel so happy to create something that connected with somebody and resonated with somebody.
At the end of the day, we really do this for the live shows. We love getting on stage and performing and playing for people. The fact that our songs have kind of stood the test of time and bring people together…It’s like it has spanned a couple generations now, too, I guess. We have fans that learned about us over 10 years ago and we have fans that are kind of just learning about us now. It’s really cool to see that all come together and we have realized that there truly is some longevity in what we have done. It’s more than anyone can ask for when you are in this industry, because it is a crazy one. I have seen a lot of bands come and go in our time and we are so, super grateful to keep doing it.
I saw you guys back in, I think 2011? And here I am now, like seven years later, going into music journalism and having the opportunity to interview you — fulfilling so many dreams. It’s crazy, it really is.
That is so rad! I love that! That is exactly what I am talking about. It’s amazing to see people who kind of came up on the music and now they are in the industry in some way. It’s incredible how interconnected it all is. I see people that used to come to our shows and now work at our label. It’s a crazy path that everybody is taking to get where they are now. It’s rad to just see people who are super invested. It’s crazy to think, also, about the kind of impact that it can have on people’s lives. It’s the same for me, I mean, the music I grew up on…it’s the reason I am here now.
So I only have one more question for you before I let you go back to your rock star life.
As Warped Tour veterans yourself, how you feel about this being the final curtain call, so to speak, for the iconic rock tour?
Oh man, it’s sad. It is very bittersweet for us, because, again, that was another tour that gave us our legs and established us as a band in this world. We spent several of our early years and our summers on that tour kind of figuring out who were, how we were going to play, learning from the other bands on the tour, and really cultivating a following on the Warped Tour. We are all very grateful for what the Warped Tour did for us in the scene and what it did for the scene in general.
It is sad to see it go, but everything has its time. I’m just super grateful that we got to be a part of the last one. It was a shame we couldn’t do the whole thing, but we did get to do that weekend and sending it off the way we did was very, very special to us. If we hadn’t gotten to at least be a part of the last one I think we would have hugely missed out. We got lucky and we got to be a part of it and it was great!
I bet it was! I know fans were really glad you could do even just a little bit of it. It meant a lot to them and I guarantee that it meant a lot to Warped Tour as a whole.
It was sick! I think all the bands that are doing it are having a blast, too. It was cool to see everybody on the tour and it felt very much like it did years ago when we were starting out. The comradery was there, the bands were looking out for each other and just kind of in general hanging out outside of playing the shows. That is always what made that tour special. It kind of became your little family away from home for the summer and that was all still in full affect. It was very cool to see and be a part of.
Catch All Time Low live August 17 at Skyline Stage at the Mann Center in Philadelphia, August 19 at Pier 17 at South Street Seaport in New York, and August 26 at the Stone Pony Summer Stage in Asbury Park.