“People Here Have a Deeper Appreciation for Music”: An Interview with All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth

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Wrapped in faux fur to prevent the icy cold winds getting to me, approximately an hour early, I waited nervously for the phonecall to go in and interview All Time Low. Pacing around the Guildhall Square with anxiety, I finally got a call from their tour manager Matt. I had ten to fifteen minutes to mentally prepare myself. He met me outside the Guildhall doors and informed me the interview would just be with frontman Alex Gaskarth, no explanation, but I guess tackling one rockstar is easier than four! He led me up to his dressing room very casually, and (apologising for my freezing cold hands) I got acquainted with the singer-guitarist. He took a seat in a big red chair, dishing out some banter surrounding my coat asking me “How many lizards died” in its making. After some casual chit-chat and some reassurance from Alex, the interview commenced.

How do you feel the tour is going so far, because it’s nearing it’s end isn’t it?

Yeah, it’s been awesome, it’s been really, really fun. It’s probably the best time I’ve had over here in the UK. Great bands to tour with, just good shows: I don’t think we’ve really had one bad show. Sometimes you go on a tour and there’s a few cities and you’re just kinda like meh. We really haven’t had a bad time — every crowd has been good, everyone’s been into it, for all of the bands. It’s just a good all-round thing.

What’s different about touring in the UK than anywhere else? Is there anything distinctive?

For us, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we’ve had some mainstream radio success [here], more so than anywhere else. So I think that really helps, kinda like, push up our appeal over here.

Like with Radio One in particular?

Yeah, I think that’s a big difference. But also, people here in general have a deeper appreciation for music. Especially in the States, I feel like people are very spoilt with music. There’s a lot of bands and they’re always on tour and, you know, there’s a show every weekend. Not only that, there’s no crossing of genres; over here it’s much more acceptable to like Diplo and All Time Low, or whatever. But back in the States if you listen to Diplo, you probably don’t listen to All Time Low and vice versa. So you get a cooler, more rounded audience that just appreciates music, rather than appreciates the genre, so that’s also really cool.

How do you choose the setlist, because obviously you have a massive back catalogue now? Is it hard choosing which songs? Which are the crowd favourites that you know you’ll definitely play?

Um, sometimes. It’s one of those things where we know what we have to play. We have no problem playing our old songs: some bands hate to play their old songs, or their popular songs or whatever. We have no problem playing anything. We know the songs that are pretty much a ‘must play’ kinda thing.

Which ones are those?

Er, I dunno… just based on crowd reactions, people really love Weightless and Dear Maria and Coffee Shop Soundtrack. We try to get as many singles into the set as we can. But beyond that it’s really just about which ones we wanna play; we try to pick stuff that we have fun playing the most. I know Guts is a very popular song, but it’s not one of our most popular songs cause it’s kinda a meaningful song and things like that help to space apart the singles, I guess.

Which ones are your favourite to play?

Er, we’ve been playing Heroes on this tour, I really like that one; it’s a faster song, it’s good.

Does that one get a good reaction?

Yeah, yeah, it goes down really well.

How did the writing process go with the new album, cause you took two years since the last one so how was it?

Busy! Yeah it was long, it took a long time. We broke it up between tours, which is something that we did with Nothing Personal as well. We also broke it up between different producers; it was kinda just like a phase we were going through and it was working, but it definitely makes it a little stressful cause you can’t stay in that writing mentality, you have to keep breaking in and out of it. Sometimes when you throw yourself off with a tour, you come back and you’re like “Shit, I have to write half a record still”, and you’re just not there. So it definitely made for a little bit of stress, but at the same time breaking it up with producers and getting into the room with new fresh minds, that always helped.

Yeah, cause you wrote with Rivers [Cuomo] from Weezer — how was that?

Yeah! Really cool. He’s a good guy and we’ve always been fans of Weezer. We’ve learnt a lot from him and got a really fun song out of it.

How have you felt the new album has been received in comparison to your old ones? Has it been any different; what reactions have you had?

Erm, I think we had the reaction we expected, you know; I think overall it’s done really well. We know that we took some risks on it and we wrote some songs that went outside of the little pop-punk bubble that we came up in. We knew we were gonna get the reaction of kids being like “Okay, they’ve gone too pop” or “They’ve gone too this or that”. But we saw that coming and, you know, I think at the end of the day what really happened, I think, was that we released singles in a strange way. Like, we put out one of the most maybe surprising songs first, I Feel Like Dancin’, and I think that threw everybody off. I think if we’d gone with something safer like, you know, Guts or something you’d expect from us a little more, then it would have been less of a shock. But as the whole record came out, people got to live with it for a while; I think the realisation came full circle that it wasn’t that much different, we kinda took a few chances.

What are your plans for the rest of 2012, is there loads of touring?

Erm, yeah, touring and possibly a new record.

Oh really?

Yeah, after this tour we’re going to Canada with Simple Plan, so that should be really cool. Then we’re gonna take a break and write some more.

Do you have a time you want to release a new album by? 

Not exactly, we’re just kinda playing it by ear. It’s a time in the music industry that’s really interesting because there really is no formula anymore. It used to be, you know, very easy and regimentive like “Okay, it’s been a year and a half, here’s our new record, boom boom boom”. You could pretty much time it out to a tee and that is what we’ve done in the past, but this time around everything moves so fast and with things like Soundcloud and stuff like that you can put out a single here and a track here and it goes around virally. So we have a lot of options at this point, so we’re just gonna write a bunch of songs and see what happens.

Cool. You did a few festivals in the summer, are you planning more for this summer?

Yeah! I think that’ll probably be when we return to the UK at the end of the summer, probably for Reading and Leeds, fingers crossed!

Hopefully! So other than the gigs, what’s your favourite thing about the UK? Is there anything specific?

Err, yeah, I think, um, mushy peas probably.

Nice, obvious answer.

Yep! Erm, I dunno, like, I really like… I DJ a lot here, so I like the vibe when we do that; it’s always cool, cause, again, you can play a broader mix of music over here when you DJ, so the DJ events that I do are always really fun cause I get to play everything.

I’ve just seen the fans outside, that’s mad, it’s freezing and they’ve all got their duvets.

Yeah, it’s been crazy. Kids have been lining up since I woke up this morning, it’s just nuts!

Yeah, I was in town a few hours earlier and I was surprised that they were already here, cause the Guildhall isn’t really known for having fans all around so that’s pretty good! Have you had any strange fan experiences? Well, I say have you, obviously you have!

Er, nothing too crazy. In the States some girl ran onto our bus once — broke into our bus and pinned me in the back lounge and it was really scary; she came on so fast that no one realised she wasn’t suppose to be there, everyone was like “Oh, she must belong” cause she walked on so matter-of-factly. I was just sitting back there like “Help!” Yeah, that was kinda intense.

And you’re known for having bras thrown onstage, how did that come about?

I don’t know, I really have no idea. It started, someone did it at a show, and we said something about it, and then ever since then it blew up to this thing.

How do you and the band prepare before a gig, is there any preparation you need to do?

Yeah, I mean, we all warm up. Rian [Dawson, drummer] warms up for about an hour before we play, I warm up for about 40 minutes, half an hour. Erm, nothing too crazy though, it’s mostly just like have a drink, listen to music, get loose, get ready.

And you have The Maine and We Are the in Crowd supporting you, did you choose them to tour with you?

Yeah, we did, we’re good friends with We Are the in Crowd, we did a lot of touring with them last year. They haven’t been over here very much, so we kinda saw it as an opportunity to get them the fans over here.

Yeah, I haven’t noticed them over here much before, so it’s really exciting that they’re the support act.

Yeah, and The Maine we haven’t toured with in a long time, so we just wanted to do something with them again.

Yeah, that’s cool. Are there any places that you haven’t toured yet that you’d really like to go?

Yeah, we just got an offer actually, the other day, to play in Tel Aviv in Israel, and I don’t think we can do it because I think we’re gonna be recording. That one, that’s really cool —  I didn’t even know there was a market for our music over there. That would be really interesting. We’ve been to Brazil, but we haven’t been anywhere else in South America; we’re about to go do that in April, so I’m really excited to go over there, we’re going to Argentina and Chile, so that should be sick.

Yeah, are the crowds a lot different abroad?

They can be. It depends. South America and Indonesia and those areas can get pretty manic, it gets to Beatlemania status, it’s weird. They meet you at the airports in hoards and chase you to your car, sleep in your hotel lobbies — it’s nuts.

They know where you are before you do! So finally, if you hadn’t succeeded in All Time Low, what was your backup plan so to speak?

That’s a tough question to answer, cause I’ve never done anything else. We graduated from high school and went straight into this, so I didn’t really have any alternatives. I was the only one that didn’t apply to college, everybody else did, but I was just kinda like it’s this or nothing. Erm, so I mean I guess one thing that’s always appealed to me is helping people, so I was very into psychology and things like that in high school, so maybe something with that. I dunno what I would’ve done, maybe a therapist or something? I’ve always just been really driven to just do this. So yeah, I got lucky.

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I’m Megan Downing, an English Literature graduate from University of Southampton. I am the Music, Arts and Culture Editor for The National Student. I am the Membership and Communications Officer for the Student Publication Association, I write about music for 7BitArcade, and contribute regularly to The Culture Trip. I have a passion for live music and this is where I began in student journalism. Reviewing a gig or festival is still where my heart lies four years on. I will be starting at MTV as a News Intern in June 2015. One thing you should know about me is that I have an unhealthy obsession with Kevin Spacey.

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