Interview: All Time Low

Published in:

 Drum Media (WA) | 11.10.12 | Issue # 309

Drum Media (NSW) | 12.02.13 | Issue # 1147

Time Off (QLD) | 06.02.13 | Issue # 1613


Prepping for an end-of-the-world party, All Time Low frontman Alex Gaskarth gives Daniel Cribb the lowdown on an album nine years in the making.

Having put the final touches on their fifth studio album, Don’t Panic, All Time Low are squeezing in a few more games of football on friends’ front lawns and saying goodbye to pets as they pack their suitcases in preparation of the album’s touring cycle, which will see them on the road for months, travelling all around the world as well as appearing at Soundwave Festival next year. The shows kick off in the US with The Rock Show At The End Of The World tour. At face value, the title comes off as a simple reference to the world supposedly ending this year, but as frontman Alex “10 minutes late to everything” Gaskarth shares, it’s meaning runs far deeper. “It’s a few references wrapped into one. The [new] record is called Don’t Panic, so there’s a reference there to Douglas Adams and the book Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. In those books there’s another story called The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe, so it’s kind of a reference to that,” Gaskarth reveals.

It might seem like an odd story to reference their most heartfelt record yet to, but you’d struggle to find a better theme to sum up the way All Time Low has evolved in the short time since 2011’s Dirty Work. “I was thinking about the book and I was sort of thinking about how the theme of the Hitchhiker’s Guide is ‘don’t panic’ and I find it ironic how fitting that sentiment was for where we were as a band and where we were with this record. What came together was this realisation of, ‘Shit, this makes so much sense to sum up the whole album’, because the entire cycle of us leaving our last major label, Interscope, and then making this record and resigning with Hopeless and stuff, there were a lot of times where we could have freaked out. It was sort of one of those things where we held it together, we made it through, so it’s kind of a testament to not panicking and keeping your cool.”

The band took a risk when they cut their contract with Interscope short, but it also left them in a position of power – they have a strong worldwide following, a knack for writing catchy tunes and the means to fund their own projects. “Through the cycle of [Dirty Work] we realised a major label just wasn’t the right fit for us, and so we were left in this place where we didn’t want to be on that label anymore. Fortunately, they let us go, and then we were in an even more unique place where we were completely unsigned. We had no one backing our music and no one advertising our band, other than us touring, so it was definitely like, ‘Shit, are we done? Should we keep doing this? Is that it?’ There were a few moments where we were like, ‘Maybe this is it for the band’, but we decided not to go that route, we decided to make a record and do it ourselves and show off the best side of All Time Low.”

On the band’s previous records they’ve jumped from studio to studio and had numerous producers and writers work with them. “I think a big part of [that] was the desire to learn,” Gaskarth explains. “A lot of what we wanted was to kind of take the best aspect of what other people could offer, you know? Go in with different producers, go in with different writers and see what made them great; see what made them tick as far as successful writers. I don’t claim to be a knowledgeable writer by any means – compared to some of the people out there  so it was important for me to put myself in a room with these people and really pick their brains and be like, ‘Well, what can I walk away from this experience with? What can I learn from you that will benefit the band later on in life?’ I think that was a big reason for it; we just felt like it was going to give us the tools to do this more professionally later on.”

This time around it was about proving that they could produce a killer record with just the four of them sitting in a room, throwing ideas around. Don’t Panic is solid proof that they’ve taken all those lessons on board and channelled the best parts of each previous album to create something that’s unique.

“Writing and spending time with [writer] Butch Walker, I learnt a lot of his sensibility and his writing style,” Gaskarth says of the man behind tracks from Avril Lavigne, The All-American Rejects and Fall Out Boy. “He sort of pulled me into my own as someone who can write pop-influenced rock music, but give it like an edgy twist and give it attitude and give it balls and have it still be cool. That’s something he’s always been good at so I learnt a lot from him. Writing with Rivers [Cuomo, of Weezer], I learned the same kind of thing. I even did a song with Tricky and Dr Dre, who are hip hop producers, and that taught me a lot about the way they approach writing music, which is more fluid and little more vibey. I sort of write with a lot of intent and they write very fluidy, like, ‘Here’s a bunch of ideas – what doesn’t suck?’, and they would pick and choose and put the best things together.

“I think what’s really important is taking what you learn, but then also applying it to yourself. Not completely emulating what those people do, but applying your favourite aspects to what is it that makes you unique as a writer, and I think that’s what we really tried to do on this album; take the best of all of it.”

All Time Low will be playing the following shows:

Saturday 23 February – Soundwave, Brisbane QLD
Sunday 24 February – Soundwave, Sydney NSW
Friday 1 March – Soundwave, Melbourne VIC
Saturday 2 March – Soundwave, Adelaide SA
Monday 4 March – Soundwave, Perth WA

Daniel Cribb