In the great schema of pop-punk (as told by the pop-punk internet,) first came Green Day, then Blink-182 and now All Time Low. The California-via-Maryland band are no novices to this world, managing to keep decade-long fans entertained while grabbing the attention of young listeners on the daily. However they do it, they do it well.
We sat down with frontmen Alex Gaskarth and Jack Barakat to talk about the new musical direction of their sixth studio album, Future Hearts, maintaining a youthful energy, and, of course, boners and boxer briefs.
Congrats on the new album. Is this your first time working with [producer] John Feldmann? How did you meet?
Alex: We've written with him in the past with All Time Low music and some other music. This was the first time we went into it to do a whole record. He's awesome. It's cool to approach it from a standpoint of already being friends with someone because there's not really that awkward phase of having to get to know the person and potentially not vibing with them.
“It's sort of just about pulling yourself out of a rut, realizing that you kind of control your own fate.”
Jack: It's cool that he has so much energy. We were sitting in a studio and it's dark and you might lose the desire to make music.
Alex: He's always like "Hey, we're going outside in the pool and then we're coming back inside to make music." He kept it fresh. We are big fans of Goldfinger. We've crossed paths a few times growing up. He's obviously had his hand in the music industry for a while. It just got to the point where he reached out to us and we reached out to him with, "Hey, we should do something at some point." I think we met a couple times at shows.
Jack: When we first asked him to do the album, trying to talk to different producers and go with a different vibe with this new one, we emailed him and we're like, "Hey man, would you want to do this new album?" He was like "F*ck yes." Literally, that was the whole email.
"Something's Gotta Give" is great. Mid-tempo looks good on you. What's the song about?
Alex: It's just about pulling yourself out of a rut, realizing that you control your own fate. I think, over the years, I've been in that place a lot creatively and in life in general. It ebbs and flows. You go in waves. Writing songs like that helps put you out of those moments. I think we've realized now we've got a lot of followers and fans that are going through situations like that in their lives. It's nice when you can write a song that can pertain to your audience as well. I think it's cool that we can relate over that.
Does that exist thematically over the entirety of the record? "Kids in the Dark" feels similar.
Alex: There's a little bit of that as well. The idea of it is that we're all in this together. We can overcome all those things together.
A lot of pop-punk bands date themselves. You've seemed to sustain a die-hard fan base and a younger (typically female) one. How do you see your place in the greater pop-punk scene? Is it weird to have this young fandom?
Alex: You know what? I think there's a really strange ideology in some bands that don't want young fans. I've never been able to wrap my head around that. I really don't get it when I see a band or talk to a band and they're like, "Ah, we want to get away from the young kids," or whatever it is. It's one of the things where you realize that [point in your life is when] you pick your favorite bands. That's when you pick the songs that are going to effect you for the rest of your life. You latch onto that band and you realize "that's my band and they're still my jam" way down the line. If we can be that band for anyone, I completely welcome it. I don't know why anyone would question having loyal fans.
Jack: Especially with bands that have been around ten, fifteen years, you go to their shows and their fans have grown up with you. They don't really move that much so it's kind of cool that we have the fans in the back that are like "Yeah, I still love your music but I'm not gonna go skull walk."
Alex: By the way, it's "head walk" but "skull walk" is way cooler. It's almost like you kick their f*cking face off and you're walking on their skull.
I hope this is the beginning of a beautiful hardcore side-project.
Jack: Yeah, we're going on tour with Refused.
What does Future Hearts mean? Where did that come from?
Alex: It's sort of an ode to the mindset we've had doing this over the years. We've always been looking ahead and we've always been looking to the future. Everytime we've had a misstep, rather than freaking out and not being able to recover, we've always looked to what's the next thing to do. I think that Future Hearts was just kind of a way to brand it, to figure out a way to sum that up. As we wrote the record and as it started to take shape, it's what we landed on—that label for that mindset and that mentality. We, again, hope it sort of opens up and applies to our fans.
Jack: And it has a nice ring to it.
You guys are such positive dudes!
Jack: We're actually really jaded but we turn it on. It's crazy.
Alex: We do so many drugs that we appear to have a good time.
Jack: I'm on molly right now.
Alex: We have a really good time doing what we do. It's funny, we talk to people and it's almost like they expect us to be twelve years in and like, "F*ck this!"
Jack: It was so much cooler in 2005! You'll never know what it was like.
Back in the glory days of 2005!
Alex: I definitely peaked in high school, though!
Jack: He definitely did. I'm good now.
Alex: I can't even get it up. I'm 27 years old and I have not had an erection in years.
What was the scene in Towson, Maryland like growing up?
Jack: It was honestly really cool because we were playing shows at a time where there were, like, ten others bands at our school. We had this insane competition with the other bands. You hung out with them but it was also like "F*ck you, we're going to sell more merch than you, we're gonna put on a better show."
Alex: It was a rivalry but it kept everyone trying to be better. At the time, the bands, none of us were really good. We all got better because we all felt like the band that was playing before us and the band that was playing after us, "Oh they're going to blow us out of the water so we need to bring it." That rivalry helped form a really awesome scene that just grew and grew. Baltimore had a really cool thing going on for a while. We were really lucky and managed to carry that on.
Then you left.
Alex: You have to! Otherwise you're a local band forever.
What can we expect from this upcoming tour?
Alex: A lot of letdowns. A lot of boredom. A breakup in the future.
Jack: A lot of crying, from us. Look out for a hiatus. We're going to continue what we're doing but we're going to bring it to a new level. We had a next level touring situation in the U.K. recently, playing these insane venues and [we want to] bring that kind of energy to the U.S.
Alex: We've always had a pretty steady build. There hasn't ever been one moment or one day that launched anything. It's always been this gradual climb. It's really rewarding when you put out new material or a new record or whatever and you see it get a little bit better. The goal is always to continue and step up the rooms we're playing in, step up the show, bring more production, bring more bands.
“Everytime we've had a misstep, rather than freaking out and not being able to recover, we've always looked to what's the next thing to do.”
Or you'll get bored! I was talking to some girls who were waiting outside the studio for you and they wanted to know: Boxers or briefs, because it tells a lot about a man.
Alex: This is a weird question for me because I wear boxer briefs.
Jack: I wear boxer briefs too. Everyone in the band does and we work with underwear companies so we're pretty vocal about it. People know.
Alex: Boxers don't work when we wear tighter pants. I've got skinny legs. I don't look good in baggy jeans. Boxers don't work bunched up in there. Briefs, no one wears briefs.
Jack: My dad wears briefs. Alex's dad definitely wears briefs. I've seen it. I'm definitely not wearing anything when I'm older. I'll be a 90 year old dude just walking down the street "oh I forgot my pants," just walking around the streets of New York naked....that's the only question they had for us?
They also wanted to know if you shampoo and condition "because there's a lot of hair happening."
Alex: Yes. You've got to condition. Thickening shampoo to get the volume then you use some conditioner.
Jack: None of that two-in-one bullsh*t. It's got to be a good conditioner.
Jack: None of that "this is body wash, shampoo, body oil" in one.
Alex: ...Shaving cream. I wash my hair with shaving cream.