A small backstage room with an old leather settee was the setting for me at the Brudenell Soccial Club in Leeds. There to greet me with warm welcoming smiles were Alex Gaskarth and Jack Barakat of the magnificent All Time Low.
The band had been here in the UK for a short run of intimate gigs that sold out in seconds, as the forerunner for the now cancelled Leeds Festival 2020. Playing The Garage in London, followed by an acoustic Coffee Shop Show at Black Sheep, then culminating in the show at the Brudenell, a 400 cap room that definitely brings it up close and personal.
Smiles abound as I ask about the few intimate shows and if they were looking forward to tonight show? the final in their whistle stop visit to the UK. ‘It’s just a little tease’ says Jack. ‘Extremely intimate, the most intimate’ replies Alex, ‘I couldn’t be more afraid of whats gonna happen tonight’ laughing Jack continues ‘everyones gonna be touched by all angles, it’s gonna be like a sardine can’, ‘It’s gonna be tight’ they reply.
I asked how the gig at The Garage in London went down?
Alex said ‘Pretty incredible, it was super fun from the moment we stepped on stage... the energy was next level.’, Jack continued ‘You go away for a little bit and you kind of forget how crazy it is over here at shows it was a nice reminder’
Alex continues ‘A London gig is tricky you know! People can be a little bit like, not sure about how much they want to put forth, but people went for it, it was great!’
After the release of the two great new singles, Some Kind Of Disaster and Sleeping In, I asked how could people not be sure?
‘Thats what I said’ replied Alex with fits of laughter from them both, ’and it seemed to have worked’.
As a result of the Corona virus pandemic and subsequent cancellation of all major UK festivals it is likely to be some time before we see the band return to the UK but I did ask what it was that makes Leeds and the festival season in the UK, something quite special for them?
Alex said ‘I think the energy that surrounds them, festivals in the US just don’t work like they do over and in Europe, the fact that people are camping out here all weekend, it kind of makes way for a lot more....’ ‘Madness..’ comments Jack ‘ ...Reading and Leeds were the first big festival we ever started playing, even in the US we had Warped Tour, but that was pretty small compared to Leeds.....it was a really eye opening experience for us’
I asked about the forthcoming new album ‘Wakeup Sunshine’ having just sneakily released the second single ‘Sleeping In’ and playing it live for the first time at their intimate London show, ‘It’s hard to surprise people nowadays’ said Jack ‘you know what I mean...? ‘That was the debut of it in London’ Alex told me, ‘it was kind of unexpected how familiar it was to the crowd already, it had been it for a day and people were singing it like it had been out for at least two days’ Alex laughs.
I added that it must be difficult for them to sneak out anything to do with the following All Time Low has?
Alex responded ‘True, they know something was coming! Someone always figures it out. The second we starting acting sketchy online people are like ‘you’re doing something’’
They had recently posted online around the release of the two singles that the band were ‘reintroducing’ themselves. It was an unusual statement that can often strike a chord and I asked why they felt they were doing this.
‘Because we’re in a new phase of the band. We’re in a new era and I think the last one especially was a much different feel’ suggested Alex. ‘ It was dark and almost like, what I equate to as a dream like sequence in the chronology of All Time Low so this is very literally us waking up from that and familiarising ourselves again with the world....like a rebirth’
Enquiring whether the video for ‘Some Kind of Disaster’ was some kind of statement piece, something that was literal in terms of the group work and labels identified on people in it?
‘Yeah, I thought it was an interesting way to present the themes that were being tackled in the song, when you’re making music videos you only have three and a half minutes if you’re to tell a story and it’s hard to do, so we wanted to come up with a metaphor visually that represented the song very accurately and very honestly and was easy to grasp.....I think doing it in that setting and that environment, realising that it was all about the internalised emotions that one may go through and face themselves was really important’
This run of small intimate shows at The Garage in London, The Coffee shop acoustic show in London and The Leeds Brudenell Social Club often gives fans a moment, a long lasting memory where they can say ‘I remember when..because I was there’, Jack and Alex both respond positively ‘I hope so’
I asked if they had had one of those ‘I was there moments?
‘One that comes to mind with me’ says Jack ’is when we were on tour with Greenday in Europe 7 or 8 years ago, just before that tour we got to see them in a small club in L.A. with about five hundred people and that was a really cool moment, them playing all the songs you grew up with as a kid, that was pretty special, one of those..I was there...!’
‘For me, I was lucky enough to see The Foo Fighters at the 9:30 Club, although not a small club, DC is Dave Grohl’s hometown and it was still very special to see them in that room. Every time I had seen them it was either headlining a massive arena or headlining a festival like Leeds or Reading so that to me was very intimate......and yeah, I lost my shit’ laughs Alex.
As the band grows and progresses I ask about the importance of keeping that connection from intimate gig to the level of larger shows that All Time Low are now performing at.
Alex replied ‘I would say that that has been the defining point of our band throughout our whole career and we’ve been really lucky that the fans that have come along for the ride have been that engaged in wanting to connect with us in that way, so we’ve always made it a point to try and give that back as much as we can even when we’re playing O2 arena or whatever it may be, we make it the best we can do to make it feel like they’re not just watching a band regurgitate the songs they’ve recorded, and walk away feeling they saw something unique whether they went to one show or ten shows on a tour. We always want to give something new and a lot of that comes between songs with the banter and the way we interact with the crowd and that’s just helped us grow our relationships where I feel like more and more people feel like they know us not just the music’.
‘I feel like we’re pretty accessible as a band’ says Jack ’ You know we’ve done signings for every single record we’ve ever released and thats been an important thing for us, especially over here in the UK and Europe. It’s just a really cool way to keep connected with people, like today in Leeds, it was really nice and a great way to reconnect as we haven’t been here for a couple of years’
In terms of the bands short lived sabbatical I asked about the other musical projects they had both been involved in and if they provided some needed respite and whether they would continue?
Alex explains ‘I think so, when we had the idea to put All Time Low on hold for a minute, none of us really knew what we wanted to do next with it! We weren’t in place where we were chomping at the bit to go and make new All Time Low music, so at first it was lets step away and take a break and then these project came up and it was I think unknowingly a really nice creative outlet to do something different and just vent any kind of peripheral creative energy that was flowing that probably would have gone in to the All Time Low record and maybe fucked it up’ Jack and Alex break out into laughter! ‘So it was nice to be able to get that out in a new way and then circle back, because by the time we had circled back and started to think about what we wanted to do with this new record, it felt really, really natural. There was never really a conversation about ‘right we’re gonna make a record like this’ we just started writing songs and a few songs in, unintentionally, it felt right’!!
‘For me’ says Jack laughing ‘my project was really just a break up project, so unless I go through another break up it’ll never happen again!’
With the release of the new album ‘Wake Up Sunshine’ looming on I asked what the future and expectations of ‘reintroducing’ themselves was?
From Alex ‘Our expectations are high, I want to take this record all around the world again and reconnect with everybody that’s missed us for a while.’
Jack sums it up....’I feel like we didn’t tour enough on the last record, I think we’re going to do a lot more touring with this one and I’d like different types of touring, you know, just mix it up with more festivals than we’ve done before but also cool intimate shows like this’
Article By Steve Harrison