Back in March, when All Time Low graced the cover of Upset to coincide with the release of their sixth album 'Wake Up, Sunshine', they couldn't have guessed how different theirs, and everybody else's, year was going to go.
Now, hundreds of hours on webcams, meet and greets, a charting album later All Time Low have indeed made the best of a bad situation. With their beaming smiles keeping not only the same positive enlightenment as their melodious and uplifting music, but also giving their fans a way through these darkened days.
'Wake Up, Sunshine' was already a beacon to a fresh chapter of All Time Low. It's an album that amalgamates the pop-punkers past and future, but while this freshly turned page was ready to take the world on, having to adapt to the new circumstances means that "there's still a lot of anticipation tied to it", according to frontman Alex Gaskarth.
"What's so exciting about this record for us is that we're eight months removed from putting the record out or whatever, and because we haven't gotten to play any of these [songs] in front of an audience, there's still this veil that hasn't been able to be lifted yet.
"It's just an interesting place to be because usually, you put a record out, and then right now we'd be deep into touring on it, and it would lose that sort of lustre, and the shine of it feeling like new probably wouldn't be there so much anymore, but it's kind of holding true."
There are two factors at play in keeping the good ship All Time Low sailing through these choppy seas - one of which is their work ethic. "For us, it's like why not try to navigate the space, why not try to provide some kind of relief and entertainment joy?"
Adapting to the new way of working, for Alex, came more easily than he anticipated thanks to the project he began with Mark Hoppus back in 2019. "What's interesting is everything I learned doing my project Simple Creatures with Mark has informed how we've gone about doing All Time Low this year.
"Simple Creatures was designed to be agile, and go with the flow, and whatever works, works, and if it doesn't work, we'll pivot and move on and do something else. The way that we launched that project has played a big part in informing how we've gone about making some decisions for All Time Low, which is serendipitous in a lot of ways."
The second facet of All Time Low's dealing with 2020 has been their fans. As with most, All Time Low have been getting their teeth stuck into the live streaming world, from various acoustic performances to a current set of full-band live shows dubbed the Basement Noise sessions. An integral part of this setup is the ability to meet the band, since All Time Low build that interaction with fans at shows, and have done throughout their career.
"You know at first I thought I was gonna hate it," Alex starts on the virtual meet and greets. "I thought it was gonna feel really unnatural and strange because we so enjoy meeting our fans face to face and being able to see and connect directly with the people who are listening to our music. But, the more we've done it, the more we've embraced it and realise that this is a really cool way to connect with people from all over the world.
"It's the same with the performances too. At first, I was really thrown by it, and I would get nervous and feel really strange performing that way, but as with all things, the more you do it, it just kind of becomes your normal."
The current new normal for everybody is being faced with this ever-elongating period of self-reflection thanks to isolation. The same is true for Alex, who says it's "exposed a lot about myself personally", resulting in a "deep dive on myself."
"It's been a big check-in and an overhaul on who I am and where I'm at in life, you know, existentially speaking. I started going to therapy again, there's just all kinds of things where it's like 'well I might as well dive back in and do some fucking work on me while I have the time'. It's been eye-opening!"
All very heavy stuff befitting a heavy year, but it's also been a chance to actually spend some time at home for Alex, even if he is still working like a trooper. He's been getting lost in "Netflix binges and video games", re-watching The Office and even recently getting back into horseriding.
"That's been an aspect of my life that I've rediscovered which has been super fun," he laughs. "A lot of people probably don't know that about me, I kind of grew up as a farm kid, so it's been fun getting back into that."
Throughout this year, music has been a comfort blanket to many. Alex knows that it's music's seemingly higher power at play keeping some hanging in there, especially since going through these meet and greets, which have gifted fans a respite from the weights of the world for a brief personal spell of time with All Time Low.
"One of the big overarching things I see - and not to get too, I guess heady and deep about things - but we're all going through this troubling year together as a human race," he says. "I think that finding these new ways to connect is giving us purpose and it's giving us something to do."
"Everybody's really bored and sitting at home and kind of hunkering down, and there's a lot of loneliness that goes along with that and a lack of human interaction and human connection. These meet and greets and things have been a small way for us to provide a little bit of time outside of your bubble. It's certainly been that way for us, it goes both ways. We've definitely come away from all those experiences feeling lighter and happier and better."
Acknowledging the community that's surrounded All Time Low over the years "spans generations at this point", the importance of not just a positive culture, but also the music itself "brings people together," he says. "It's an anchor to where you are in the moment, and it can provide a lot of catharsis in trying times. This album for us came in a really good time for the band, and I think it's coming a good time for people that enjoy this band."
The future ahead for All Time Low, with the roads still not quite clear, still falls back to being agile and dodging and weaving whatever comes, "taking it a day at a time" and keeping on as they always have.
While it's easy to dwell on the negatives of a year that's pretty much served them up on a silver platter, it's important to consider the positives too, which for All Time Low includes a defining new chapter after nearly two decades as a band.
"The fact that our hand is forced in some ways to do new things, it's almost been a blessing in disguise because when you're 15 years into a project you can get set in your ways [but] all of that has been brought into question because a lot of those things we would typically do are off the table.
"Going forward, we'll probably take a lot of this with us and apply it to whatever we do in the future. It's given us a chance to redefine ourselves."
Taken from the December 2020 / January 2021 issue of Dork.
Featuring... The Smashing Pumpkins, Poppy, All Time Low, Creeper and more.