We speak to Jack Barakat following the release of their new album Wake Up, Sunshine
author: Malvika Padin
From four lifelong friends in love with music to global icons who traverse genres, All Time Low – aka Alex Gaskarth (lead vocals, guitar), Jack Barakat (lead guitar, backing vocals), Zack Merrick (bass, backing vocals), and Rian Dawson (drums) – have come full circle by harkening back to the youthful energy of their initial days on their eighth full-length studio album, Wake Up, Sunshine.
Lead guitarist of the Baltimore band, Jack Barakat describes the album with three simple words ; “ATL is back.” Delving further he explains, “A lot of the record musically and energy-wise reflects our early music and it’ll probably remind fans of that past sound.”
With nearly two decades of experience and a lot of genre experimenting behind them, the quartet – formed in 2003 – return to their pop punk soundscape once again. Reflecting on their motivation for this, Jack offers, “We did a 10-year anniversary re-recording of our album Nothing Personal so getting back to that mindset, we had a new energy and we were inspired to write power pop. Our last record was moody and a kind of night-time driving record so we wanted to give people something from the past ATL.”
On the trajectory their sound took from pop punk to moody soundscapes and the reason behind it, the guitarist comments, “Early on we hadn’t really toured or played that many shows, we only had the experience of growing up, playing in our parent’s basement or a few local shows.”
“Over the years of touring the world, and being exposed to so many different kinds of music like metal, hip-hop , indie rock and having our own tastes change, we’ve been able experiment with our sound more. While still being All Time Low, we have our eyes and ears opened to different genres.”
Detailing the band’s song writing process, both in general and for this album in particular, Jack says, “When it comes to song writing Alex is really good at putting himself into other people’s shoes and reflecting on the past when writing, but I personally am more comfortable with expressing things I’ve been through in almost a literal sense like a diary entry.
“Since I don’t have much experience with writing, tracks where I contribute to the lyrics I’m particularly proud of. In this album, that would be ‘Monster’. It also has a cool blend of sounds and there’s a great feature from hip-hop master blackbear which fits so well.”
Since they’ve done everything from hip-hop to indie, talking about genres that remain unchartered for All Time Low is particularly exciting for Jack. He mulls over it for a while before exclaiming, “ We haven’t done much of hard rock collaborations. A country mash-up might be cool too. Maybe in the next record!”
The exposure to different genres is a natural extension of the band’s year-long tours. Having travelled the world for the better part of a decade, there are a lot of countries that feel like home to All Time Low. Describing his favourite place to play, Jack reveals, “Asia is a favourite, Japan in particular. Over the past 10 years we’ve probably been there 10 times. It’s not just the music or our connection, it’s the people and how welcoming they are that makes it so great.”
But in a world so wide there are many places that ATL haven’t yet had a chance to visit. Naming a few, he says, “We’d love to go to India. It’s on my top three to visit. My brother went to India and loved it, so I’d love to experience myself. I think Africa is another one.”
Despite not having visited some parts of the world, the band’s message is one that stretches out to all of humanity and is something the world needs to hear right now. Speaking of the all-encompassing message of their music, Jack says, “Everything’s going to be okay. There’s so many beautiful things around us, life is worth living.”
This message, and the connection they hope to forge with their listeners, is important for All Time Low. Even speaking of the best and most frustrating parts of making music, the word ‘connection’ makes appearances.
Talking about the best part, Jack offers, “The feeling when you get the chorus right and your mind switches to the thought that fans will be singing back to us soon. When we make it, the song is our baby and we have a special connection with it. Then it becomes everyone’s baby.” And about the frustrating bits, he says, “Writing a song that you think is amazing and it doesn’t connect with people like you thought it would, that can be hard because it can make you doubt yourself. But if you loved it while you made it, then you just need to trust yourself.”
Trusting themselves seems to have worked very well for the group if their illustrious career is any indication. Reminiscing about the highlights of ATL’s long journey, Jack explains, “When we headlined Wembley Arena, which at that point was our first time, it was an indescribable feeling. The first couple of moments is surreal and mind-altering. For the first three songs we were in awe that this was actually happening to us.”
Jack, alongside his band and the rest of the world, are paused at the moment for reasons that everyone knows – for now he eats his “nutritious” breakfast of a shot of vodka and eggs – but All Time Low have big plans for the future. “One thing we’ve got planned is genre-defying stuff like crossovers. We want to have tours where different influences mix and different kinds of people come. ”
With a little more wisdom, a lot more experience and the same old love for music, All Time Low are back and they’re here to stay – always!
Wake Up, Sunshine is out now. Read our review of the record here.