With catchy lyrics, energetic shows and a loyal fanbase, it comes as no surprise that All Time Low, a quartet from Maryland, have gained international success. Not so far into the past, the band released their fifth studio album, Don’t Panic, and have embarked on a nearly sold-out tour with Pierce The Vail. Vocalist and guitarist Alex Gaskarth was kind enough to have a chat with me about Don’t Panic, their current tour, and the return to Hopeless Records.
author: Roz Smith
How was it different writing and recording Don’t Panic as opposed to 2011’s Dirty Work?
The process was really different in that we self-funded the whole record—we were unsigned at the time. We chose to do it with one producer this time around. For the previous two records, Dirty Work and Nothing Personal , we kinda split up the job with different producers that we wanted to work with in the past, but for scheduling or monetary reasons, we couldn’t lock them in for the whole record.
So with Don’t Panic, we felt really comfortable going with Mike Green, who we worked [with] on the record before. We just felt like it was the best way to get a solid, clear vision and a concise sound throughout the whole record. We learned a lot working with a lot of people, but I think the biggest drawback with working with a lot of people is that you end up with different signature sounds on each song, which made the record feel a little bit inconsistent. Not in a bad [way], but in a way we didn’t want to replicate for this new album. That was the biggest difference, just sitting down and doing 14 songs with one guy.
Fan funding has been a big thing lately. Did you think about that when you were looking to make Don’t Panic?
No, we didn’t want to go that route. I guess while it’s a cool idea, there’s something to me about Kickstarter that it feels a bit strange to ask the fans to fund what you’re doing. I get it, it’s a cool symbolic thing—we didn’t want to approach it that way. I guess we figured that, if we fund it ourselves, that hopefully we’ll make it back after the fact. I think we were in a position that we were fortunate enough to do that and Mike Green made a lot of exceptions by giving us a break financially by making the record first and then following it up once we found our new home with Hopeless Records. It worked out well.
How has it been to be back on Hopeless?
Hopeless Records was our first label; we spent several years with Hopeless Records before we signed to Interscope. It was coming back to familiar ground is really what it was. We signed with Hopeless because nothing has changed. Everything felt awesome and familiar and I think that was a big part of the reason why we re-signed with them. It’s great! As far as I’m concerned, it’s great to be back with a label that understands us and works well with us.
The album art for Don’t Panic is pretty interesting. How was it decided on?
We worked with a guy who we worked with previously on some artwork for tour art, and he’s an animator and illustrator from Canada. We loved the work he’s done in the past and we felt like it’d be really fun to do something graphic, and we knew that his ability would be able to stretch beyond anything we’d be able to do with photos or anything like that.
We had an “end of the world” concept in mind and [to] just take it easy, and bring it in for the end of the world was this theme that we came up with for Don’t Panic. He just killed it! He came up with all the ways the world could end happening at once. I think one of the big things is that we wanted this album artwork to be unique and we wanted it to pop and be memorable.
It definitely does stand out! After all, the end of the world is a big thing.
And the record came out right before the Dec. 21 thing happened, so we were playing into that, too.
Did you guys have an “end of the world” party?
What is your favorite song off of Don’t Panic to perform?
Right now, it’ll have to be “Backseat Serenade.” We haven’t actually played the whole record live, so there are still some songs that I’d like to incorporate into the live set. But out of the ones we started playing recently, “Backseat Serenade,” the reaction has been amazing and we’ve had a lot of fun with that one. So I think that is my favorite right now.
Why are you holding the rest of Don’t Panic back?
No real reason other than we don’t want to swamp the set with too many new songs. We’ve been playing five new songs live and we typically play an hour and a half set. We have so many records at this point a big part of it is wanting to play enough material from the back catalogue to keep fans happy.
There are a lot of songs that people want to hear when they see us live, and it’s not all new material. We try to balance it. It was always a problem for me when I’d go see bands and they’d only play songs off the new album. We like to keep it varied.
What are your expectations for the tour?
I’m really excited. It’s going to be amazing. It’s been since this past fall that we’ve toured the States so I think it’s going to be great and full of big shows—everything is selling out! It’s a new look for us touring with a band like Pierce The Vail, I think that’s going to be really rad. Maybe the merging of two worlds? I think the fact that a band like us can tour with a post-hardcore band, that’s really rad. We’re excited to try something new and try a new lineup. And from a personal standpoint, we’re all really close with all the bands on the bill. From day one I think it’s going to be a really good time.
You’re also heading over to Europe! Are your European fans any different than your U.S. fans?
I don’t know if it’s super different. I think the biggest thing is that the rest of the world is a little less jaded on music. The United States, right now, it feels that everyone is overloaded with too much shit. I think one of the big things we experience when we go overseas is acceptance of all different styles of music, whereas over here people really limit themselves to what they listen to. They pick one or two genres to get into and they classify and identify themselves by just those scenes.
When we go to Europe, especially when we play the festivals, the people over there will embrace a band like us and then walk away and watch Macklemore, and then walk away and watch Iron Maiden. It’s kind of cool that you get these people with really eclectic tastes just coming to see music, which I always really appreciate. I think the U.S. would really benefit getting behind that mentality of listening to music for music rather than having to fit into a certain scene.
Lyrically, what do you think is the band’s strongest song in its entire collection?
That’s a tough question to answer. I think the songs that have stuck with people the most are the strongest. I think the songs define themselves at our live shows and how people react to them at shows over the years. “Dear Maria, Count Me In” went gold for us, so that’s always been a real favorite song in our catalogue. A song like “Weightless” has really come to define who the band is. If I was to introduce someone that has never heard a song by All Time Low, I think I’d chose one of those two songs to start off.
This is kind of what set the foundation for the band. A lot of our songs are really growing. Songs like “Remembering Sunday,” some of our slower stuff and even all the way to the newer stuff like “Somewhere In Neverland” has been embraced by our fanbase. It’s cool how our new record has become a real staple of this band and sort of redefined this band and who we are and what we can do.
It’s great to see the group grow!
I think it’s important to try new things, and not all of them work—and that’s part of being a band. As long as you completely alienate your fanbase, it’s good to try out different sounds and try out different twists on our genre. Otherwise, it just gets pretty stale writing the same music over and over again. It’s a big deal to step outside of what you’re comfortable in.
Other than touring, what do you guys have planned for the rest of the year?
A lot! We’re thinking of video stuff right now, so I think we’re working on a few more music video ideas. There’s always a plan on the backburner to try to follow-up our DVD [Straight To DVD, 2010]. I think it’d be really fun to make a sequel. There’s a lot more to the story of All Time Low than what we got to tell on that. That sorta told the origin and where we’re going and I think it’d be cool to show our worldwide audience and show where we’ve been and how we’ve gone around the world and all that. I think there’s another chapter to tell on the DVD side of things, so that’s probably a possibility. And after that, just unique ways to kind of get in front of our fans. So I think really unique shows and unique ideas we’re going to try out as a band.
All Time Low play the Best Buy Theater April 24 and 25, and The MAC At Monmouth University April 27. For more information, go to alltimelow.com.