In the early '00s, when radio ran rampant with the sounds of Good Charlotte and Simple Plan, All Time Low felt like the younger brothers of the ongoing pop-punk trend. It was the kind of movement that birthed a bunch of copycat bands, most of which fell by the wayside. At best, they had a moment of temporary glory on TRL.
Over a decade later, however, the members of ATL have found themselves not only able to sustain a certain level of success, but become even bigger than some of the bands they admired. Their last album, Future Hearts, has become their most successful to date, and the California-via-Baltimore band is currently playing arena shows with Sleeping With Sirens. It's looking good for these four dudes who were once best known for their Blink-182-esque toilet humor-as-stage banter.
At the Los Angeles date of their Back to the Future Hearts Tour, Fuse sat down with frontman Alex Gaskarth to unpack the band's upward trajectory, and ask them fan-submitted questions on everything from time travel to 5 Seconds of Summer.
FUSE: A lot of your fans are young and female. Do you feel a certain responsibility to them? You’re definitely the kind of band that gets the “You saved my life” thing.
Gaskarth: It’s something we had to grow into. We never set out with any of that in mind. When we started this band, we were kids in high school. We were going through all of those things and learning for ourselves. We were pretty awkward dudes and to be honest, we were just having a great time. We were fucking around. We were really not in a place where we thought we would come to mean something to someone else, if that makes sense. We wanted to be someone’s good time.
We didn’t know that we were going to fill a hole or become real support for some people. It’s incredible! The fact that our music has been able to connect with people on that level is insane and awesome. We’ve always written from a very personal place, so the things that we’re singing about have affected us, too. It proves that we’re all interconnected and it’s the process of living that makes us all the same. The fact that we share a lot of these things...it’s cool to share experience through our music. I do feel a responsibility--not so much in the sense that I think we owe anything to anyone, but we’re here doing our thing and we absolutely want to help people. It’s so rewarding to know that anything we’ve put out there into the world has been able to pull someone out of a dark place.
It mirrors your progression: Even twelve years later, All Time Low continues to grow. When your band started in the mid-aughts, there were so many pop-punk bands. It was a golden age for those acts, but few, if any, have been able to grow like your band. Why is that?
I don’t know. I don’t have an explanation for why we’ve hung on and other bands haven’t. I think part of it is because I’ve never felt married to the genre. I’ve never felt like All Time Low was a true pop-punk band, whatever that means. I don’t think you can take our records and say “That’s front-to-back pop-punk.” I think we have songs that are pop. I think we have songs that are rock. I think are songs that are everything in between. I think “Missing You” has some folk elements to it. We just try to keep our music dynamic and fun and still have the same feel and message of All Time Low.
We’ve changed things up enough at the right time to keep things interesting--even if people hate it! I think we've shaken things up enough to the point where we’ve always been pulling some new people in, even if people are pulling away. There’s always been a new wave of people coming in with, “Oh, I fucking love these new songs.” We’ve never really put out a record where everyone was vehemently, “Well, fuck that, I just wanna hear the old stuff," which is a really good thing. We’ve been very lucky, but I also think we’ve worked our butts off.
Now we have a couple of fan questions. Your first record, Party Scene, is 10 years old this year. @DeannaRosax3 wants to know, would you ever consider playing the album front-to-back on a 10-year anniversary tour?
It’s weird for us, because we self-released that with a really small label in Baltimore with a guy that was a friend of ours. The label was called Emerald Moon Records and it we didn’t actually sign anything in paper. It was a guy who gave us $1000 to record the record and we paid him back that much when we made it back by selling the record at shows. I don’t really consider it [within] the discography of All Time Low. We were in high school still and it is a great moment in our band but not enough people really know it. The hardcore fans know it and we’ve fucked around with playing those songs before, but there’s only like three people in the crowd that actually know it. I just don’t think there’s enough of a demand for it.
What about So Wrong, It’s Right? That’s ten in two years.
Two years from now I’m sure we’ll do something. The EP’s coming up next year, that came out in ’06. We’ve considered some little nods to the past releases. It would be really fun.
@Alyciadenbam asks, If you could travel anywhere in the future or past, where would you go?
Oh shit. I don’t know about the future. I would go to the future to see if certain things happened that I think might happen that I would like to know if they did. If any of these Teslas crash that drive themselves, stuff like that. How did that work out?
In the past, one thing I’ve always said is that I think it would be really fun to hang out with your great-grandparents or your grandparents when they were in their twenties. Have a beer with them! I think that would be really cool. I’ve only known my grandmothers and grandfathers from when they were like in their 70s and upwards. My only memories of my grandparents have been old grandparents but they’re fun as shit. I bet when they were younger they were rad. I think I would go back and have a beer with my grandparents.
We have one more coming up on this tour in New York at the Gotham [Comedy Club.] I think they’ve gone so well that I think it would be stupid not to do more.
Meanwhile, @Jackmerrikat asks, Would you survive in an apocalypse?
Depends on what kind of apocalypse. Jello apocalypse? Hell yeah. Eat my fill! Zombie apocalypse? I think I’d do all right. There’s no guarantee of any survival in any apocalyptic situation. It’s pretty fucked, any way you slice it, but in a Walking Dead situation, I think I’d do pretty well. But everyone says that. Everyone thinks they’ll do well. I’d probably die immediately. If we’re talking Fall Out, nuclear winter-style apocalypse? No. I don’t have a bunker or anything like that yet.
@UNCLASSIFIED asks: Do you consider yourself a feminist?
I think so. I don’t always know how to answer this. It’s cool that I get asked it a lot. It’s become a hot-button topic, which is good, that people are talking about this. It’s super important. It is a tricky one to answer because people have very strong opinions on it all. The straightforward answer is yes. I absolutely support equal rights for everyone and women, historically, have not been treated equally and should be. In that sense, absolutely.
I don’t know! I don’t fucking know the guy. I don’t care. It sucks, the way it went down. I think five years ago, six years ago I said some dumb shit about that song [“Shake It”] because I didn’t like the song. I thought it was annoying. I have a big, dumb mouth and I say things like that. Who cares? Who cares that I said that? The song went multi-platinum. He should have been like, “Well, fuck you, none of your songs have done that.” He has that on me. Why would he be offended?
When we were sort of picking fun at them, we had a little jab at them on stage. We jabbed at a lot of people there. He just wasn’t down and took it to heart and tried to fight be backstage. That was cool. He walked offstage and I was standing there getting ready to do our next bit. I just heard from behind me, “What the fuck’s your problem, man?” He’s got his shirt off. I thought maybe he took it off, because I don’t know why anyone would go on stage at an award show without a shirt, but then I found out later that he was just shirtless the whole night. He’s that kind of dude. He’s a shirtless dude! We all know that guy.
“We’ve never fought against what this band is. Some bands become something and realize it’s not what they meant to be...and that kills them. We’ve always loved what we’re doing.”
Another question from @Alyciadenbam: Do you believe in aliens?
Yes. I can’t remember the name of the philosophy for it, but it’s sort of like the window of time for a living species is tiny in comparison to how long the universe has existed, planets and things, comets flashing in and out of existence and whatnot. I think we may be, right now, the only living planet, right now. There could be millions out there, but I don’t think we’ll ever see each other because we’re so far away and we’re all so tiny. Anything that’s able to travel around the universe is not in a place in their existence where they have fleshy bodies and worry about their cell phones and things like that. I don’t think we’ll ever talk to aliens. We are the aliens!
Tyler Gambone wants to know, How did you convince your parents to let you skip college so you could pursue being in a band?
It took us a minute. We had to get everyone on the same page. In our senior year of high school, we started getting a little bit more serious and we started getting a little bit more recognition. We had self-released an album. We had proven to people that we were taking it very seriously in trying to make it work for ourselves. Labels started calling and I remember very specifically instead of doing college visits, we would go and meet with labels. The more legit that it started to get, the more open-minded our parents became. The biggest thing that it came down to for us is that college doesn’t go away. It’s not like if you don’t do it in those years that they tell you to do it in, you can’t do it again. For us, it was like, “Look, there’s a window of opportunity here. Why wouldn’t we go for it while we have the chance?”
Last one, from @intheirwinsarm: 5 Seconds of Summer just released Sounds Good Feels Good and I know you’re really close with those dudes—you’ve written for and with them. What’s your favorite 5SOS jam?
I really like “Permanent Vacation.” One of our producers, Mike Green, worked on that one. I think it’s catchy as hell. I also really like the new single, “Hey Everybody!” It screams Madden Brothers. It really reminds me of that era of Good Charlotte which is really exciting to see that sound come back. What better group of dudes to pick that up, pick that torch up and run with it!