It’s rare to find a band that stays true to themselves no matter what happens around them. All Time Low isn’t just a band, they’re a group of lifelong friends who decided to rock out in a Baltimore basement way back in 2003. They’ve kept it together for almost 20 years without so much as a whisper of a hiatus. Alex Gaskarth (vocals, rhythm guitar), Jack Barakat (lead guitar) Zack Merrick (bass), and Rian Dawson (drums) show us what it means to get a little help from your friends—and fans—in order to endure. In a world where so much is digitalized and quick to promote smoke and mirrors, it’s refreshing to see such quality within a band, particularly one as commercially successful as All Time Low.
After finally catching up to the band, I was able to sit and talk with Alex Gaskarth. They were three weeks into their Sad Summer Fest tour and only days away from a show at The Stone Pony in New Jersey. When I asked how the tour has been so far, Gaskarth was immediately enthusiastic.
“We’re deep in the tour at this point, it’s been incredible! The reactions [from fans] have been insane!” People are “chompin’ at the bit” for live music, he says. More than anything, All Time Low is grateful to be on the road again after they had to cancel their tour in 2020.
“We’re all feeling very lucky to be back out on the road. That’s what it comes down to. It’s such a weird thing to not have [touring] available to us. It’s great.” The feeling is palpable at their shows, and they can feel the energy of their audiences, who are equally excited after being kept away from live music for so long. “Everyone is really ready. At every show, people are just giving it their all, which is amazing to see.”
Having to cancel last year’s tour was tremendously disheartening for the band and their hardcore fanbase, especially since their album “Wake Up, Sunshine” had recently dropped. Like every band, touring is the lifeblood of the group. It’s what they do, after all—write music and play it live. “Having that stripped away made it really strange for us to exist as a band,” Gaskarth comments. But like most musicians that were emotionally crushed by the pandemic, the band quickly found a way to deal with the quarantine blues.
“It was tricky,” says Gaskarth, “We all live in different places so it was tough to make anything happen at first. We started by doing online events, things like that. We started this weekly happy hour where the four of us would get together on a livestream and catch up on what we were doing, what was going on in our lives. For a while, [that] tied us over.”
The band then began doing acoustic performances that they streamed live. Finally, they managed to quarantine together in Nashville, keeping their safety in check as they filmed five shows that were then streamed throughout the year. With 2020 driving everyone more than a little crazy, All Time Low had found a way to use technology and a passion for performing to stay connected to their fanbase. Such gestures helped carry them—and their fansthrough lockdown.
“By just giving people something to hold onto, that was really telling for us; that people were loving the record and still wanted to rally around the band,” Gaskarth says, remarking on the bands latest record, Wake Up, Sunshine which includes their hit, “Monsters” featuring blackbear. “Monsters” spent 17 weeks at the top of Billboard’s Alternative Airplay chart, making it the band’s first number one radio hit.
Later, “Monsters” was re-released featuring blackbear and pop star Demi Lovato. I was surprised by this. “Surely All Time Low had more number-one radio hits in the past,” I commented. Gaskarth laughed, “More or less. We’ve had some experiences with radio. “Good Times” did well. We’ve had moments. But really [“Monsters”] was the first time we had a number one. The run that it’s had has been pretty mind-blowing.” With such a bizarre year, it felt good for the band to get a win in new territory when they couldn’t tour.
In the same week that “Monsters” slid into its number one slot, All Time Low was busy working on another lockdown track, “PMA” featuring Pale Waves. “PMA” (postmodern anxiety) tells the infamous story of isolation, particularly the kind brought on by the pandemic. The isolation, apathy, and depression (or simply boredom) went from personal to universal. Gaskarth, agreeing with my observation of the song’s message, says “PMA” stemmed from pondering isolation and thinking about where he was and what the band was going through during quarantine.
“What became interesting to me was that everyone was going through it. The fact that in this isolating time where we were all kinda forced to be by ourselves, we were also very connected in that shared moment, I think more than ever before, at least in our generation. There was something really powerful and wholly unique about that, and [it] was worth exploring and writing about.”
As we’re slowly coming out of the shadow of 2020, there are still people who are finding it hard to adjust to the new normal. This is where All Time Low’s live streams come into play. “I think it’s really important to have that outlet for people who maybe aren’t as fortunate to be able to come and see the live shows. It always felt like a big thing for us.” Gaskarth says, ever grateful to the legion of fans who continue to support the band.
All Time Low is closing in on 20 years together, and the fact that they’ve endured so long is wild to Gaskarth. He’s grateful they’ve continued to grow to the level they have, particularly because their fans continue to care.
“This is our lives, our livelihood. There really isn’t an alternative, in my mind. As long as people still care about what we’re doing, that feels right. To do it for another 20 years wouldn’t feel unusual to me.”
The secret to such longevity is their connection to one another before anything else. They’re more than friends, rather they’re family and it’s those ties to one another that keep All Time Low going strong. “The guys in this band are some of the closest people I have in my life,” Gaskarth says. “When things get tumultuous, or tricky, we are each other’s allies. You make it work.”
Remembering to remain humble friends who emerged from a Baltimore basement is both organic and conscious, like any good relationship. They make a point to check in on one another, to make sure everyone feels valued and heard in the All Time Low universe. For many bands, Gaskarth feels that ego gets in the way, and people end up feeling as if they are not being represented, or the focus turns to one person. “A lot of the time, it’s the ego that tears artists and bands apart. But we try to keep that out of it [and] avoid all that nonsense.”
Perhaps it’s this atmosphere of friendship at the core of their longevity that fuels their fanbase. All Time Low’s connection to their fans is largely what helps them function since the bond with fans has always been a top priority to them. It’s a big part, Gaskarth admits, of how they’ve maintained what they have. “People feel a sense of belonging to the world that revolves around All Time Low, and that’s always been really important to us.”
All Time Low’s fan base continues to grow, mixing with their older, established fans thanks to their new music and recent trending on TikTok. I asked Gaskarth why he thought that is, to which he admitted he wasn’t sure what to attribute it to.
“It’s a really cool moment,” he says. “It’s a nice moment of people from a generation that came upon our band when we first started out and feeling nostalgic for it. I find that the music you grew up on is the music that sticks with you for life. I think that our band has been that for people. It’s colliding with this new generation of younger people who want rock music. They’re looking for something with some edge, grit, and teeth. Mainstream hasn’t been that way for a while. I think it’s coming full circle in a new way.”
Overall, they’re having a hell of a lot of fun. Gaskarth says the fact that they can get out there and tour as safely as possible and have the audience celebrate with them is phenomenal. “We’re cruisin’ and we’re having a great time. That’s what it’s all about, right?”
All Time Low has just wrapped up Sad Summer Fest and is gearing up for the rest of their Fall tour in the U.K. Check out their website for tour dates! Follow them on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, & TikTok. Stream “PMA” on all streaming platforms.
*blackbear is currently on tour, find tour dates on beartrap.