If you rewind a year, what you would've seen in the All Time Low camp is a band getting ready for action. Having not long released their eighth outing 'Wake Up, Sunshine' - and after performing a couple of tiny shows in the UK, even gracing the cover of this very magazine - they were raring to hit the road with an album that was to be a celebration of the band they've poured so much love and energy into. Obviously, the world had different plans.
Fast-forward back to now, and it's time for a brand spanking new single from our favourite Baltimore four-piece. Not one's to hang about, 'Once In A Lifetime' is not, in fact, a cover of the Talking Heads bop, but comes fresh from the foursome's pandemic writing sessions. A luscious burst of their signature bright pop-punk stylings swirled with a nod to the undeniable darkness that's seeped into our world, it's an Oreo of All Time Low proportions. Frontman Alex Gaskarth gives us the lowdown on what's going on.
It must be nice to be back in the swing of things again, even though you've not really stopped over the last year?
It's felt amazing. The few opportunities that we've had throughout this to actually come together safely and do something as a band have been amazing. We just performed on Ellen, and that was really cool, [and] we went to Nashville and shot a music video for this new song. Obviously, we're being very careful and conscious of how we're doing it because while things are starting to feel like they're opening back up, and we're getting back to some semblance of normalcy, we still have to be really cautious travelling as much as we are and being around people - I've had a lot of things put up my nose lately... not drugs!
So, are we looking at the next chapter for All Time Low? What made you want to start up again?
It didn't feel like we had much control over things; tour kept getting pushed back [and] there was no concrete evidence of when we'd be able to get back to a semblance of normal tour life. The one thing that we realised we can control in all of this is our creative stuff, even if it's being done like this, remotely. That was the one thing that we said: 'Okay, we can still do this, and there's still more stories to tell'. We don't know what it's all for; I don't know if we're making a new album or if it's gonna be for a deluxe edition, but we just said 'Fuck it, let's keep writing songs' and 'Once In A Lifetime' was one of the first ones that was born of that.
How has 'Wake Up, Sunshine' affected the band musically?
What's amazing about where we are now creatively is that it's allowed us to take the momentum that we've created with the album and what we learned because 'Wake Up, Sunshine' really felt like a celebration of what All Time Low was all about through the years. Where it ended up leaving off was with 'Monsters' having the level of success that it's had, and that being the standout song on the record in that it feels like that was where we were going - we progressed into that song as we made the album. Getting creative again has allowed us to continue down that road and explore what we started tapping into. That's how we ended up with 'Once In A Lifetime'; it feels cut from the same cloth.
How have you been dealing with the success of 'Monster'? It feels like you've been on every TV show in the US - did you see that coming at all?
It's been wild. We absolutely didn't know the level of success that it was going to have. The fact that it's still going almost a year [later] is pretty insane, and we're really grateful and appreciative. You always know that there's a couple of songs on a record that you put your hands up, and you go 'Alright, this one's got something really special to it', or at least you hope to have that when you make an album! That was definitely one whereas we were writing it, and once we wrapped it up - especially when we got Blackbear on the second verse - it was like we tapped into something that we've never done before as a band and could be pushing us in another creative direction for the future. That's always really exciting, so I think we had a semblance of an idea that it was a special song, but I mean, what it's gone on to do has been absolutely mind-blowing and very unexpected.
Did that success weigh in on deciding to release this new single?
It's weird because, obviously, it puts a little bit of pressure on to follow up, but at the same time, we're taking it a day at a time. 'Monsters' has been this very unique moment in our career. You don't get a lot of those, so I'm just happy for what it's done, and I'm trying not to let myself feel the pressure of having to replicate that or repeat it because I think you tend to become a little inauthentic when you chase in that way. It's just been about focusing on writing music that continues to feel really true to us and this band and a celebration of this band; that's kind of the phase that we're in our career now.
Has experiencing the past year meant you're writing from a different place than on 'Wake Up, Sunshine'?
I think so. I mean, there's a lot of self-reflection and a lot of reflection in general...that's where this song stems from; it's the idea of dealing with loss and coping with loss in a very general broad sense. Really the sentiment is you only have one shot at this, and all the things you can do to pull yourself out of the lows, so to speak, are important because you don't get a second chance. It's all been done with a lot of reflection in mind; everything that we're writing right now is informed by the last year, and, honestly, a lot of it has to do with planning for one thing and got something completely fucking different. I think that goes for everyone; we're all in the same boat when we're writing from that perspective.
That makes sense since 'Once In A Lifetime' at first feels like your standard break-up song, but if you step back, it applies to so much from the last year.
That makes me so happy; that was entirely the idea behind that. On the surface, it can be as general as the ending of a relationship, but I think we were reaching much deeper in this one, and for me personally, it applies to loss and family. There's a funny line in this song that I'm sure we'll touch on, but, obviously, we drop our own band name in the chorus, which is a bit of a fuckin'… I don't know, like a heady, ballsy weird move for any band to do! When we wrote the song, I wrote the line down, and I went, 'Oh no, I can't get away with that, that's terrible'. The more we mulled over it, the more I actually loved it because of the meta commentary it says about myself and how All Time Low for me is this happy place - it's almost my safety net. So in the chorus, when we talk about, 'Till I hit an all time low', it's not necessarily about hitting rock bottom. Actually, for me, it's about how when life feels like it's getting away from you, this thing I have in the band is something that makes me feel like shit is gonna be okay. And I think that extends to our fans.
It also harks back to where your name originates, a line in New Found Glory's 'Head On Collision'.
That was kind of the whole thing - for these little meta moments in the song. I think it's fun to make statements and commentary about the trajectory of the band because 'Wake Up, Sunshine', and where we're going now with the music. It's been about going back and looking at our journey together and how we've gone through the ups and downs and all these twists and turns in an ever-changing music industry. Somehow, we've survived and come out in some ways better and stronger than ever!
What are the rest of the songs coming from these sessions sounding like?
It's definitely forward-focused. At the end of the day, the crux of our songwriting is about energy and capturing what we love about our live show on track. The lens changes given the moments we're writing about, and what the content of the song is but the music that we've written so far outside of 'Once In A Lifetime' definitely runs the gamut. There's faster songs, there's heavier songs, there's angrier songs... What I will say, is I look at 'Wake Up, Sunshine' as a very bright record and a very celebratory uplifting sound. This new stuff is a little bit darker given the tone of everything and what we've just been through, there's definitely some heavier subject material and a darker twist on things, but we're working with the same ingredients, so to speak.
It's impossible to ignore everything that's gone on; it must seep in?
Yeah, I mean if you go 'Hey, write a song for me right now', it's not like I'm writing like [mock singing voice] 'It's been a great time!'. 2020 has been absolute garbage. That's the perspective we're writing from. There's been a lot of heavy shit to deal with, looking from the inside out, so to speak, so I'm writing about things that I felt and things that we felt in the band, but also things I've observed in society and the shared human experience. There's a lot of that getting touched on as well.
Looking back at the journey since the release of 'Wake Up, Sunshine', how does it all feel?
It's great because getting to play our songs in any setting is better than not playing our songs at all. It feels like a big win in a lot of ways to just get to connect with people. But I'll never get used to sitting here, playing, and being able to see myself as I do it and a bunch of people watching - and then someone unmutes, and you hear them rustling around on their phone while you're playing the song - it's so bizarre! But that's life. We don't always get to choose the cards we're dealt; it's just how you play the hand. That's something I'm really proud of this band for. These times have been so strange, and I think we've done a really good job of rolling with the punches and adapting at finding ways still to make people feel good.
Taken from the May issue of Upset. All Time Low's single 'Once In A Lifetime' is out now.
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