“We’ve been out (touring) for a couple of weeks now, and it’s feeling absolutely amazing,” says All Time Low front man Alex Gaskarth, who’s set to headline the ICON Music Center with his band on Sept. 12. “The way the songs are connecting with fans and getting to play some of these new songs that we didn’t get to play through 2020 — all of it has just been very rewarding.”
The well-established Blink-182-meets-Fall Out Boy Pop Punk group has one song, in particular, that it’s itching to play.
The band earned their first ever No. 1 hit on the Alternative Airplay charts last year with “Monsters (feat. Blackbear).”
“We’re just really grateful to be breaking new ground. I think we’ve had a lot of wins, you know, on the road and on tour, and sort of in our scene,” says Gaskarth. “But…the radio looks and things like that haven’t always come our way. So, to have a song connect through that medium, especially at a time where we weren’t able to be on the road — touring the thing that we’ve built for so long — has been incredibly rewarding.”
All Time Low was formed in suburban Baltimore in 2003. The band has built and maintained a massive fanbase ever since it penned some of the most memorable songs of the 2000s Pop Punk scene including fan-favorite “Dear Maria, Count Me In.”
But the massive success of “Monsters” took the band to a whole new level, giving them the opportunity to build up a Gen Z fanbase just as devoted as their die-hard millennial one.
The band wrote “Monsters” while quarantining in a rented house in Palm Desert, California. It all started with a guitar riff.
“I remember walking into the room and (singer-songwriter and producer) Andrew (Goldstein) and (lead guitarist) Jack (Barakat) were sort of playing that guitar riff on a loop, and I kind of went, ‘That’s the melody. That’s the hook of the song. Like why, why would you go anywhere else with it? It’s so catchy,’” says Gaskarth. “And from there…I sort of ran with the concept of a song about vices and sort of treating it like a monster under the bed.”
Barakat had a line in the notes section of his phone about a “hangover hotel,” which sent Gaskarth into a lyrical frenzy.
The guys then added Blackbear to the mix, after their producer — who was also working with Blackbear — sent him the demo.
“Bear was in and wrote his part and sent it back to us, and it elevated the song in a way that we really didn’t imagine,” says Gaskarth. “And we knew at that point that we really felt like we had something special.”
“Monsters” went No. 1 on the Alternative Airplay Charts in September 2020, but the band still thought it could push the track a little further, so they called up long-time friend Demi Lovato before they pushed it out to Pop radio.
“When the song had already accomplished so much, it was hard to imagine how to elevate it again. And they did exactly that,” says Gaskarth. “So, it was a really nice moment to be able to work with (Lovato) on something, in that way.”
The week that “Monsters” went No. 1 on the Alternative Airplay Charts, the band was hard at work writing again, on another lockdown in Palm Desert. From the makeshift demo rig in the closet of Gaskarth’s bedroom, the band’s latest single, “PMA (feat. Pale Waves),” was born.
“It’s hard to celebrate the wins when everything seems so bleak,” says Gaskarth. “We pretty much wrote a song about how we were all feeling in the moment in the climate of lockdown. And what we were all going through, feeling isolated, and feeling bored, and feeling like we had to weirdly distract ourselves from everything. Then, kind of this bigger picture thing of how everyone was going through that simultaneously. And ‘PMA’ (Post Modern Anxiety) was born out of that.”
With “Monsters” going No. 1 and “Dear Maria, Count Me In” going viral on TikTok, Gaskarth is looking forward, while recognizing that it was the band turning teen angst into art that got it this far.
“I embrace our back catalog,” says the 33-year-old. “I feel really lucky in that we don’t rely on that nostalgia to sort of keep us moving forward. I think the fact that we’ve had success with new music — as well as old music connecting the way it has — helps us to feel like we’re still a band that’s moving forward and not coasting. I think we still have life in us and gas in the tank to push forward and keep making new music that’s inspiring people. And I think that makes playing the old stuff a lot easier than if that’s all we had to fall back on.”
The members of All Time Low have spent 18 years making the kind of brutally honest, high-energy music that they love, and they aren’t even sick of each other.
“It’s always been friendship first. We’re all brothers, at the end of the day. It feels like family. I think, being that that’s the relationship we built the business side off of, it just makes things that much easier. There’s really very little ego that gets in the way or gets between us,” says Gaskarth. “The business depends on the friendship and the friendship kind of helps establish the work. And so, it really never feels like work.”
This story was originally published by CityBeat sister paper Cleveland Scene.
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