The Baltimore based pop-punk band All Time Low will embark on a lengthy North American co-headlining tour this spring in support of their latest release, "Don't Panic". The album was released on Oct. 9, 2012 via Hopeless Records and it debuted at No. 6 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart.
I got to sit down with lead vocalist/guitarist Alex Gaskarth and lead guitarist Jack Barakat for an exclusive interview in which we talked about the band re-signing with Hopeless Records, working with Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy, working with Cassadee Pope of "The Voice", their new album "Don't Panic" and much more.
For the album “Don’t Panic” how many songs did you all begin with before you cut it down to the 12 on the album?
Alex: Probably about 15 or 16 total. We didn’t overwrite for this record. We paid a lot of attention to the songs and if something wasn’t clicking with it, we just fixed it.
Jack: We just did the bare minimum (laughs).
What do you do with those four songs that were not used? Do you save them for something else, or never release them?
Jack: I believe one of them is going to be released as a bonus track.
Alex: Yeah, one of them should be a B-side.
Jack: Did it ever get released?
Alex: Not yet.
Jack: How is that possible?
I saw the iTunes bonus track is an acoustic version of a song.
Alex: There is one other song that we tracked, that hasn’t been heard yet, but we are holding on to that for a later date. Other than that it was more rough ideas, or sketches of songs.
From “Don’t Panic” is there any song you all struggled with creating more so than the others?
Jack: “For Baltimore” actually had a different chorus, and it wasn’t going to be on the album.
Alex: Yeah, we had to do a bit of a re-write to that one.
Jack: Literally, the last day of us being in the studio Alex was like, “I’m going to give this song another chance,” and went in to re-record the chorus in a different melody. We were like, “Great, first single.”
Cassadee Pope from Hey Monday, and “The Voice” season 3 sings on the chorus in the song "Backseat Serenade” How did that come about?
Jack: Well, she is dating Rian (Dawson) our drummer.
Alex: We’ve known her for years.
Jack: Yeah, we’ve known Cass for a while because we’ve been doing tours with Hey Monday for years. She used to sing “Remembering Sunday” with us one stage, and she just happened to be in town and we thought she would be the perfect voice to compliment Alex’s (voice).
Her part is very, very subtle, but it sounds good.
Jack: Yeah, it adds a cool dynamic.
Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy co-wrote the song “Outlines” with you all, so how did that come about, and what was that experience like?
Alex: Patrick’s just a very good friend. He’s been getting back into the writing side of things, and he just swung through the studio one day and we worked on a song together not really knowing if it was for our record, or what it was going to be for, but it just ended up clicking. We decided to commit it to the album.
You guy’s did the lyrics to “Outlines” in one day?
Alex: Pretty much, yeah.
Jack: Yeah, that song was done in one day, crazy.
Alex: Yeah, we came up with the concept for the song, got the chorus, then lyrics down, and wrote a verse. Then he (Patrick Stump) left, and I wrote the second verse. Once we had the idea it was sort of there, it was done.
Lyrically, what is your favorite song from “Don’t Panic” and why?
Alex: “Outlines” is a great one, I think it has a lot of cool imagery, and a lot of cool ideas in it. On top of that, I really like the lyrics in "To Live and Let Go". I think that is another cool one.
Any reason why?
Alex: It’s a little bit more based on imagery, and it’s a little bit cryptic in its meaning, but I kind of like that about it. It’s up for interpretation, which I like in some songs. It allows the listener to put their own grasp on it.
Jack: I like “Backseat Serenade” lyrically, and musically. It’s my favorite song on the album. It gives you a lot of imagery when you listen to it. There are a lot of cool words in there.
Alex: He doesn’t know the lyrics (laughs).
Jack: The whole song has a cool vibe.
Alex: Jack can’t read.
Jack: I can read a word here and there.
There has always been a year and a half to years between albums, but between the release of “Dirty Work” and “Don’t Panic” there was less than a year and a half. Was that done consciously, or did it fall into place that the album was released so soon?
Alex: Yeah, well we parted ways with our former label. “Dirty Work” came out on Interscope and we parted ways mid-way through that album cycle, so sort of what it came down to was us knowing they weren’t going to push our record anymore. We decided to get back to the writing side of things a little bit faster than usual. We wanted to have something out again that we knew a label was backing.
Jack: We didn’t want to create a lull with our fans and leave them hanging for a while.
You all released animated lyric videos for all of the songs, but are you going to release any music videos this year?
Alex: We actually did an animated video for the single “For Baltimore”. It’s the same artwork, same art direction because we wanted to stick with a theme around the release of the record. While it’s still fresh we’re continuing to roll with the animated storyline We’ll probably shoot a video for “Somewhere in Neverland”.
When making important band decisions what is the process so it creates the least amount of friction between the band members?
Alex: We all get in gladiator costumes and battle to the death.
Jack: I’ll be “Somewhere in Neverland” and he’ll be a different song, and whoever survives that will be the winner.
Who usually wins? Who is the strongest?
Alex: Zack (Merrick)
Jack: Zack (Merrick) he’s buff.
Seriously though, what is the answer?
Alex: It’s always been pretty unanimous. We all kind of know at this point what’s best for the band, and it’s always been pretty democratic as far as those things go. We all weigh in with an opinion, and generally majority rules, but we’ll all come to a logical conclusion together. No one really dictates this band, which is really cool.
What is one of the most difficult decisions you had to make together as a band about All Time Low?
Jack: I think moving forward from Interscope was a big deal.
Alex: And what label to sign with.
Jack: Yeah, what label to sign with, that was a really big deal because we never really had a choice before. It was always like, Hopeless is the label that wants to sign us let’s go with them. Then, Interscope wants to sign us, they are the only major label that can do it so let’s go with them. It was our first time having a big decision to make.
How did you all decide to re-sign with Hopeless Records?
Alex: Hopeless kind of became the family that we grew up with, and the company that cherished and grew this band to what it was. It really was just about why bring in a new factor when we know there’s people who already love our band, and know how to work with our band.
It’s good that you all did not lose a relationship with Hopeless when you switched labels.
Alex: Yeah, it was what it was, and there’s kind of two sides to the industry. It’s a weird grey area because in this industry you become friends with a lot of people you work with, but at the same time it’s still business. When we said we want to try a new label, it was a three-way partnership. We worked it out so everybody kind of won in some way. It was amicable, and when it fell through with Interscope they (Hopeless Records) were happy to take us back.
For almost ten years you all have maintained the original All Time Low band member line-up. What are some things you think caused longevity with the band?
Alex: We are like family, we are all brothers. Yeah, we get on each other’s nerves sometimes, it’s tough to live with people constantly, but we really all have grown to an understanding that there’s no other option. We all care about each other, and it doesn’t matter if there is some bulls**t on the table, you figure it out, get through it, and move on. We all remain really close friends.
Do you have planned out how long you will tour on the “Don’t Panic” album cycle?
Alex: It’s not fully planned out. We’ll go until things start to slow down, or until we die, which is also very possible.
Anything else you want to add?
Alex: Anybody that’s checking out this article, thanks for being interested.
Jack: Thank you.
Alex: A lot of props to people who give a s**t about our band.