Nolan Knight

All Time Low Discuss Embracing the Positives and Learning From the Negatives

11 years ago, in the wake of All Time Low splitting with Hopeless Records and signing with Interscope, Alex Gaskarth told us, “The decision was just, it felt like on the indie label, we reached the highest point we could reach and trying to tackle things like getting radio and things like that was sort of becoming harder and harder based on the fact that the label hadn’t really done it before.”

While their time on Interscope’s roster wasn’t the greatest and was fairly short lived, it brought a new sense of self to a band that was on the verge of being whisked away into the bright lights of Hollywood.

Three years later, in 2013, more grounded and artistic than ever before while once again under Hopeless Records, Gaskarth caught back up with us. “Everything felt awesome and familiar,” he had said in discussion about getting back on board with the beloved indie label that kickstarted their career, as well as the likes of Jimmy Eat World, Waterparks, and Yellowcard. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s great to be back with a label that understands us and works well with us.”

All Time Low are now signed to Fueled By Ramen and have released two albums with them, Last Young Renegade and Wake Up, Sunshine. Not so coincidentally, both of these LPs rose to critical acclaim and were universally praised by the mainstream media and alternative scene alike. Times change and people change, but something that’s been ever so evident about this specific band is their prolific understanding of how to take the positives moments within their career in stride and turn the negatives into blip-in-the-radar life lessons.

Chatting once again with Alex Gaskarth provides evidence of that, for the lead vocalist of the pop punk quartet shares in earnest the outlook he and his bandmates have on all they are doing, all that they’ve done, and all that they still can do 18 years into this journey (and, yes, even within a global pandemic).

Obviously being able to perform live in any capacity this year is special, but All Time Low was adamant about bringing live music to people even in the most isolated of times through your Basement livestreams and things of the like. Now that you are on real stages again, do you look back on those audience-less, virtual shows in a negative or positive light?

No, I look at them in a positive light. They were really special during such a challenging time for everyone and I think it brought us and our fans together in a way that we didn’t even imagine. We didn’t know just how positive it was gonna be for everyone – ourselves included.

I would only look at those in a great light, because it was obviously happening during a tough time, but it allowed us to continue to have some semblance of normalcy as a band. I look back on it really fondly. We learned a lot from it, too. The virtual meet and greets and the virtual shows, for example, taught us some lessons and had us realizing that – even during normal times – not everybody has the privilege or the ability to, to come to live shows and see live music. That really made us think. There were several people that said things to us through the course of those events, being like, “This is great because I can’t go to live show typically!” It made us really think and now I’m pretty sure we’re going to carry some of that stuff over even as the world opens back up, hopefully, and continues to get back more to a normal functioning reality.

Alex Gaskarth at Sad Summer Fest in Asbury Park on September 3, 2021 / Shot by Anthony Vito Cosentino

I love hearing that. Just the fact that you and the guys could use this time and grow from it is something to be grateful for. Even though you can go back on stages to some extent, having the option to hop back into the backseat and shoot a livestream for more fans to immerse themselves in is beyond spectacular.

Yeah! Absolutely, you know, being able to put ourselves out there and extend our live music to those who can’t actually be there in person is huge. Like I said, we learned it ton from that.

Of course, and, again, it was just joyful. These shows came into a not so joyful time and brought joy – that’s not an easy feat.

I appreciate you saying that. Thank you.

You’re welcome. Now, on the topic of live music, Sad Summer Fest has quickly become a staple for this wonderful alt rock, emo, pop punk community. Now more than ever that camaraderie and connection and just genuine fun is needed. What did the ability to head out with Sad Summer again mean to you at this point in the world and your life?

It’s everything. We’ve built this band on the back of touring and playing live show, so to actually be out doing that again is huge for us. I think it’s been huge for the fans, as well, especially those that have been coming to the shows. Obviously we’ve been trying to take every precaution available to us to make it as safe as possible for ourselves and for those attending, but honestly, so far it’s gone better than we could have imagined. In this situation, I think things are continuing to evolve as bands sort of get back out on the road and learn how to navigate this sort of ever-changing climate that we are in now. We’re always taking it day by day and there’s always something new to figure out with the situation, but I’m really proud of how everyone’s come together around this world and made it happen as safely as possible. It’s cool to see.

It has been so riveting to even just follow along online with the fans and with what you are all posting. Even though the circumstances had to be reimagined, you are going about it in such a way that it is maintaining the excitement and the importance of live music. That’s one of the big sentiments of what Sad Summer has always been, right?

Oh, absolutely. I think at the end of the day, it boils down to a sense of creating a safe community for people to come and celebrate and exist and be able to kind of forget about their troubles in a lot of ways. To be able to kind of cultivate that in this climate is really inspiring and it has inspired us a lot, too. It’s getting us through this time, as well, so it’s pretty incredible.

I have to say, it never feels like a sad summer when Sad Summer rolls into town [Laughs], even now!

[Laughs] Exactly. People seem very happy. It’s been really special, honestly, with the way that the audiences have been receiving these shows and the crowd response to our new music and just seeing bands out there and live music in general has been very, very cool.

It is! You know, Alex, the All Time Low fan community has always been unmatched. The connection you have with them and the way that they follow you guys is riveting to see, but something that I think ATL always does well is how you constantly open these fans up to new sounds and new styles, not just with your own music, but with who you tour alongside and who you collaborate with. Just in the last year you have had Demi Lovato and blackbear and now Pale Waves. When it comes to working with these people in any capacity, how much do you think about how your fans will receive this other act and this other fandom that you’re merging with?

I don’t know that we take into account how it’ll be received as long as the artist that we’re collaborating with is someone that we love and respect. If the song itself is something that we love and are passionate about, then it really just comes down to that if it feels authentic to the cause, because if so, then we trust that it’ll connect and resonate in some way.

That seems to have been the case with all of the recent collabs, which has been absolutely amazing. The blackbear collab was a roll of the dice. We had never really featured someone that was more hip-hop leaning before. We found some magic there, though, and it was a really cool experiment that paid off. [“Monsters” has over 101 million streams on Spotify alone.] With Pale Waves, we’re just huge fans of hers and we thought it would be a really cool song for a duet. Heather [Baron-Gracie] came on board and crushed it and its been so inspiring for us to see how it connects – not just with us, but with the fans. When they respond to a song with, “I didn’t expect this, but I love this,” that’s everything we want out of it, you know?

Of course. Just the other day I saw a tweet that said something along the lines of “Pale Waves and All Time Low was the duo that we didn’t know we needed,” and I completely agree with that.

Yeah and I love that. When we first were talking to Pale Waves and with Heather about that collab, that was kind of exactly our thought process. It was like, “I think we have a lot of mutual fans, but I don’t know that those, those fans would expect us necessarily to do this.” It was exciting to sort of manifest that, see it actualize, and then witness the reaction of people saying exactly that. It was really rewarding for that song [“PMA”].

All Time Low and Pale Waves for “PMA” (Post-Modern Anxiety)

Like this new single with Pale Waves, some of your biggest hits and most extended period of success had come on the cusp of, and in the midst of, a global pandemic. What was that like? Because as an All Time Low fan, I was sad that you weren’t able to relish in that moment like you deserved. But was there also a kind of peace knowing that the music could just live out undisturbed in that time and almost become a soundtrack for a moment in history?

I don’t know. It’s hard to say, because obviously it was frustrating to sort of have all these things happening and connecting in new ways but not be able to go out and sort of feel it firsthand. At the same time, it was bigger than us. We had to continue to kind of remind ourselves that this isn’t about us – we put this music out because we thought it would make people feel good. That was the point. The fact that we are limited, and everyone’s limited, and we are all making compromises right now didn’t matter.

We really didn’t look at it that way all too much – that we were missing out. We embraced the now. At the moment things are starting to… I don’t want to say normalize, but start to trend towards getting back to a semblance of normalcy, so we’re getting to experience it all now, and it feels just as good.

That’s wonderful to hear.

Yeah, it’s still a really special moment in the show when we get to go out and play “Monsters” in the encore now. You can feel the energy and it’s palpable how much that song resonated with people. It’s just as rewarding now as it would’ve been then.

It’s an electric track and came with so much recognition and appreciation that you all deserved, regardless of the world at large. All Time Low has had such an amazing run and everything you have going on right now only showcases how you are nowhere near slowing down. When you look back at the beginning of All Time Low, though, especially in comparison to now, do you ever think about what the your high school versions of yourselves would think of all of this? Would the four of you listen to a song like “Monsters” or hear it on the radio and be jamming out, all proud of it?

[Laughs] I think so. I think we would all look at that song and say, “Wow, ok – that’s what we want to aspire to make.” I think that it would be the logical backwards thought process to grow up and do that, follow in radio success, because that was what we were looking up to back then. We were looking at other bands, some of whom have now become our peers and friends, and they set us on a path that has led us here. Yeah, I do think high school All Time Low would be pretty stoked about this one.