All Time Low: Up, Up And Away
Ladies, ready those bras: on what will mark the tenth anniversary of their debut LP, pop-punk heroes All Time Low are returning for their fourth Soundwave Festival.
“We’ve always said this from the beginning and I feel like it’s more accurate than ever: I think we’re just indestructible, I think our line-up is indestructible, I don’t think that we could really go on without the same members,” All Time Low’s Jack Barakat considers. “We’re all in such good places I think it’s gonna go on forever, which is kind of a scary thought for everyone.”
It may come as a surprise, but by the time All Time Low arrive here for Soundwave next year, they’ll be notching up 10 years since the release of The Party Scene. Let’s cast our minds back to the colourful year that was 2005, when four young upstarts from Baltimore geared up to release their first record and enter the mid-‘00s pop-punk scene.
“Ohh, fuck…” the guitarist begins – you can practically hear the awkward teenage memories flooding back to him. “Our parents were driving us to shows, we were awkward looking… God, we were just fucking terrible. A lot of bands have a manager to give them direction when they get started, they have a label or someone to guide them, but we really had none of that. It was kind of a mess and we didn’t really know what we were doing. It was hectic times, but it was fun.”
A lot has changed since frontman Alex Gaskarth’s mum was dropping the band off at their first studio session to meet with producer Paul Leavitt (“The first thing he said to us was, ‘You’re late’,” Barakat recalls). In amongst years of relentless touring – building up a mass following playing stages small and large at festivals and headline shows the world over – there’s been a handful of record deals (including an ill-fated major label stint), an earbashing from the critics (2011’s Dirty Work) and they’ve been gifted with more lingerie than a Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show would know what to do with. But it’s in looking back on All Time Low’s earliest material that Barakat realises how far the four-piece have come.
“Some of those early songs kind of piss me off ‘cos I listen to them and I’m like, ‘God, why is there a bridge after the first verse?!’ It doesn’t even make sense,” he says, chuckling at his own follies. “I don’t think we knew how to write songs; we were just kind of fucking around and trying to figure it out.”
Despite blindly navigating their way through the music industry as young teens, fans have since recognised that even in their infancy, the band were onto something good. Barakat however, is shocked that their early work connected with anyone at all.
“It’s fucking weird because we definitely didn’t have fans back then, you know what I mean?” he laughs. “All these people now are either lying to me, or I guess they recently started listening to the older songs in the past couple of years. It’s so weird because we were literally 14 or 15-year-old kids just writing these really basic pop-punk songs, so the fact that they affected anyone at all is pretty mind-blowing.”
The band’s influence nowadays can be seen across myriad pop-punk acts breaking into the alternative scene, but more recently it’s stretched to Australia’s latest overnight success story: 5 Seconds Of Summer. All Time Low clicked with the four-piece early, with Gaskarth helping pen three of the songs on band’s debut album. Though Barakat and his bandmates are yet to see out their 30th birthdays, they’re fast approaching pop-punk veteran status.
“It’s really weird for me because they make us feel like we’re super important, but I’m only 26 years old and we still feel young and energetic and as though we’re still rising as a band. I feel like we’re too young to be labeled as one of their influences.”
He has a point. It wasn’t that long ago that All Time Low themselves were on the receiving end of life advice from bands like Amber Pacific (who helped them get signed to Hopeless Records), Fall Out Boy, and their own heroes in Blink-182. Now, the four-piece are bestowing their knowledge upon the new crop – despite the fact that it still feels really fucking odd.
“I actually got to hang out with them and get to know them and they’re just fucking awesome,” he says of spending time with 5 Seconds Of Summer on tour. “They never want to get too honest with me and tell me how much our band means to them, but we’d just be hanging out in the back lounge playing video games and they’d be like, ‘Dude, we fucking love your band’ and I’m like, ‘I know’, but it’s so weird to hear them say that! It’s so bizarre; I still feel like we’re a new band. It’s weird to have someone as successful as them saying that to us. Being on tour with them for a few days really opened my eyes to the fact that this band is riding towards One Direction status, but they act like they’re just a fuckin’ small pop-punk band.
“If we could have any influence on them then that would just be incredible because I know for people coming up as fast as they are, it’s good to have someone to help you stay grounded and help you get through this crazy time in your life. It’s cool that they actually take our advice and care about what we have to say.”
Much like 5 Seconds Of Summer’s polarising position in the current alternative scene, All Time Low took a while to find their footing. They cut their teeth alongside punk and screamo bands, Barakat and Gaskarth perfecting their on-stage banter and striving to bring comedy to their live performances. Though Barakat admits that the band have rarely had a hard time with crowds, it wasn’t until their latest effort that he feels the band really came into their own.
“I actually want to say that we didn’t find our identity until more recently, around Don’t Panic times. I think in the beginning we had a hard time figuring out what kind of music we actually wanted to play and where we wanted to settle in. We’ve never been the kind of band that releases an album and the critics are like, ‘Oh my god, this is a game changer’ or anything. We’ve always kind of been a band of the people and we simply just go off what our fans like and what they want to hear. We put out whatever we want; we’ve never really had rules, we just kind of do our thing.”
The stellar Don’t Panic – complete with cameos from Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, Bayside’s Anthony Raneri and Acceptance’s Jason Vena – marked the band’s strongest and most cohesive effort to date: the perfect combination of soaring choruses, stick-in-your-head hooks and relatable lyrics that remind you why you fell in love with pop-punk in the first place.
As for now, Barakat has settled into life in his mid-20s by becoming co-owner of The Rockwell, a rock’n’roll bar in his hometown of Baltimore. But when the studio beckons, he’ll set down the cocktail shaker and get to work. Although Don’t Panic’s follow-up is still a ways off, Barakat believes it’s in capable hands with the charismatic Gaskarth at the wheel, the singer’s keen ear for an infectious melody no doubt a defining element of All Time Low’s sound. It may have taken them the better part of a decade to find their saccharine groove, but as we stare down 2015, it’s clear All Time Low are on the up.