All Time Low have long cemented themselves as a beacon of light in this scene of ours. You’ll catch them playing love songs on a single stage at a festival otherwise poised towards dark metal. You’ll see them greeting fans with secret handshakes like they have all the time in the world. You’ll hear them – more than once – speaking out about the importance of mental health. So it should come as no surprise that the self-proclaimed sunshine boys have shared a new album to bring some hope to a time like this.
“We really felt like with this record…we would have been doing a disservice to the fans to pull it up from under the rug and hold it for a couple more months”, says guitarist Jack Barakat of the release of new LP Wake Up, Sunshine.
“We really felt like the world needs more music right now, and it’s really encouraging watching artists like The Weeknd, Dua Lipa, 5 Seconds of Summer, all put out really good music right now. I love that and I feel like everyone’s doing it together in some weird way. It’s really cool and special to be a part of something like this where we’re all releasing records at a very weird time. If anything, it’s unique, and maybe something that will never happen again.”
Having said that, Barakat acknowledges that for the Baltimore-heralding pop rock outfit to put out their eighth studio album without immediately touring – that will be a first. “This could be the first time maybe ever in our entire careers”, he notes, “where we’re going to release an album, and by the time we play these songs live, people are going to have lived with them for months and months, and they’re really going to become a part of them as well.
“That’s a rare opportunity where, in the past, people don’t even have a chance to digest these songs and really even get to know them too well. It’s going to be quite an experience once we actually do get to go out and perform them live. I feel like it’s going to be a very powerful thing.”
That’s all well and good for the future, but with the world locked in right now, All Time Low have had to adapt. They’ve been running live streams with fans, joining Zoom meetings and sharing copious amounts of footage of frontman Alex Gaskarth enjoying some sort of farm life, with baby goats and horses to boot.
“It’s almost really cool and special to be a part of something like this where we’re all releasing records at a very weird time. If anything, it’s unique, and maybe something that will never happen again.”
“Truth be told, my life’s not really that much different, other than not being on tour”, Barakat points out. “We’re doing promotions from our couch, which is, if anything, comfortable”, he jokes. “I’m such a social drinker that, if I’m alone, I don’t really drink that much. So I’m finding it to be maybe the healthiest I’ve ever been in my entire life. It’s all about the positives, right? Wake up, sunshine.”
It hasn’t be so easy for Barakat to reach this point in his life, after struggling through a breakup that served as the impetus for spin-off project WhoHurtYou. When asked whether WhoHurtYou will continue on, Barakat makes it clear that though it had an important role to play for him, All Time Low remains his priority.
“As much as the WhoHurtYou record helped me, it was very scary and very much…going down the road of a lot of things that aren’t very pleasant to talk about or think about. I think that the All Time Low record served a little more of a moving on purpose and figuring it out and looking towards the future. A really cool thing that came out of the WhoHurtYou process was that I became a better songwriter, and I got to collaborate a little more on the new record and had been writing on some of the songs”.
One of those songs turned out to be present single ‘Monsters’, a collaboration between the esteemed outfit and RnB force Blackbear. The connection came about from mutual producer and songwriter Andrew Goldstein, who shared it with the latter to add a verse on. The outcome was what became not a “happy accident” but a “nice surprise” says Barakat, who acknowledges that we’re moving into a more accepting world where the barriers between genres and scenes are slowly being pulled down.
“We grew up in an area where the genres didn’t really mesh too much together”, he notes, mentioning “the Warped Tour scene” much of the band’s success was founded in.
In contrast, “music’s changing so much that, more than ever, it’s acceptable and even encouraged that people would just come together and have more features like this, where they’re meshing two different genres, and I love that. I don’t only listen to pop rock. I listen to hip hop, and I listen to emo, and I listen to pop.”
“I felt that us being away and having a second to do our own things, it made us appreciate even more what we had with All Time Low.”
Such is the nature of All Time Low that the act has made experimentation a continued focus of theirs, with frontman Alex Gaskarth’s side hustle Simple Creatures picking up significant life with electronic pop pumping through its veins. When asked whether members dipping in and out of different projects changed the dynamic in the band, Barakat affirms that it has only been for the better.
“If anything, I think it brought us closer together. I think the distance and the side projects brought our band closer than we’ve ever been. I think it was necessary breathing room that I feel like is important for us to have because of how long we’d been doing it together for so many years. I felt that us being away and having a second to do our own things, it made us appreciate even more what we had with All Time Low.”
Before the world shut down, All Time Low had plans to tour their new album, even featuring a stint down under. Now, they’re taking each day as it comes, ensuring that they keep in touch with their audience in a mutually beneficial relationship that sees All Time Low give back to their fans as much as they get in exchange. It’s that great care that they take with recognising the connection that people have with their music which has survived their seventeen years of being a band and lends weight to everything that Barakat has to say.