High school bands are common enough, but how often do they become household names? For All Time Low, that’s exactly what happened through ambition, talent and the love of music.
Alex Gaskarth, Jack Barakat, Rian Dawson and Zack Merrick were still in high school when they established All Time Low in 2003. The pop-punk band started off covering songs, but progressed quickly – by their senior year, they were signed with Hopeless Records and had released their first studio album, The Party Scene.
In the 10 years since their founding, the band has been thriving: they tour almost constantly, and their fifth studio album, Don’t Panic, was released in October.
“This band has never really slowed down,” said Gaskarth, the band’s vocalist and rhythm guitarist. “We’re always shooting those new goals that we set for ourselves.”
As anyone with siblings or roommates knows, being with the same people for an extended period of time can create conflict regardless of how close you are. For these rockers, however, that’s never been a problem.
“We’re a band that functions primarily by being on the road and playing for our fans, so it’s easy to handle because it’s such a big part of what drives us,” said Gaskarth. “We grow every time we go on the road, and we get enough time off that we keep our sanity.”
Sanity-saving or not, time off doesn’t seem to be as essential to All Time Low as staying true to their roots. Their fourth album, Dirty Work, was produced by Interscope Records, and the experience wasn’t something the band wanted to define their work.
“There were a lot of cooks in the kitchen,” said Gaskarth. “People were giving suggestions where suggestions weren’t really needed. It made for a disjointed experience.”
After splitting with Interscope and heading back to Hopeless Records, they were determined to produce their next album their way. Gaskarth’s pride in the band’s integrity was palpable as he described the process of how their latest music came to be.
“We really prefer the approach we took with Don’t Panic – writing the album free of analysis from outsiders, working on it with one producer and not losing touch with what the album’s supposed to be,” he said. “The key point was getting back to the basics and making a true All Time Low record. It was the story that needed to be told about the band. There was definitely a moment when we could have been defeated, and we didn’t let it stop us.”
Their sense of loyalty isn’t limited to their band, though. They’ve also developed a strong relationship with their fans.
“The big thing for us is to really encourage people to be themselves and believe in who they are,” said Gaskarth. “We’ve been exposed to a lot of people who feel different or cast out, and a big message in this band is to know that you’re not alone and things will improve.”
With the new year in full swing, All Time Low is looking towards the future.
“We want to step up the live show in 2013. A big part of it will be playing the new albums and putting emphasis on songs that we haven’t focused on in the past – giving people that have seen us before something new.”
They also want to cover the world again – their music has spread as far as Southeast Asia, South America and Europe.
“Besides that,” said Gaskarth, “we want to put out something new that we can surprise people with. As long as people are there to listen, we’re going to keep making music.”
All Time Low plays Metropolis with Yellowcard on Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $31.70.