Live Daily Interview May 22 2008

Original article.

LiveDaily Interview: Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low
May 22, 2008 10:05 AM
By John Voket
LiveDaily Contributor

During a rare couple days off before heading to Europe last week, Alex Gaskarth-frontman for pop-punk road warriors All Time Low [ tickets ]-confided that the group would probably forego the chance to just sit by the pool soaking up the sun.

"We've really got a lot of laundry to do," Gaskarth said.

It seems crazy to envision these highly energized musicians sitting in front of a spinning front-loader, but now that their domestic chores are complete, All Time Low is rocking the UK and Scandinavia in the company of longtime buds Cobra Starship—presumably with clean undies.

Upon their return, there will be just enough time to squeeze in a few more stateside shows ahead of their summer-long trek on the 2008 Van's Warped Tour. The three-week, pre-Warped headlining jaunt will include a homecoming double-header July 18 and 19 at Baltimore's Ram's Head, in the neighborhood where All Time Low got its start.

Having signed their first record deal just a few weeks after graduating from high school, the members of All Time Low have never been inclined to languish for long. In fact, their tour schedule not only features club and concert sets-sometimes performing for seven to 10 days straight-but pick-up shows in between or preceding evening shows at teen centers and coffeehouses.

These intimate appearances often find Gaskarth and guitarist Jack Barakat pulling out equally energized acoustic versions of their material, sometimes delighting just a few dozen lucky fans.

But, no matter what size venue the band is playing, All Time Low remains one of the most accessible and fan-friendly acts around. During most shows, which often feature numerous local openers, you'll find members hanging out in the crowd taking hundreds of pictures and signing hundreds more autographs.

That level of interaction has apparently endeared All Time Low to enough new friends across the US that the group won the Energizer Encore Contest, which awarded them extended sets at four separate stops during last year's Warped Tour.

Over the course of two exclusive interviews with LiveDaily.com, Gaskarth was upbeat and looking forward to joining the likes of Angels & Airwaves, Gym Class Heroes, Relient K and We the Kings on the Warped Tour this summer.

LiveDaily: You guys have to be the hardest working band in the business right now—I mean, from the states, to Europe, than back for another headline tour before you're out on the Warped show. Don't you crave some down time?

Alex Gaskarth: We love it. I mean, we just love doing what we're doing. It hasn't been taxing for us; it's just been a lot of fun. We're really psyched for the Warped Tour. We did it in 2007 and it was probably the best time we ever had. And we'll be in Europe with Cobra Starship, who will also be on Warped Tour. We've been to the UK before, but this time it will be for a lot longer. I'm really excited to play the shows in Belgium and Sweden. I'm from the UK, but I've never been to, like, Oslo before, so it's really going to be cool to see that part of Europe.

Will you have any time to write new material, or do you have any ready to go in advance of any new recording projects?

We have been working on new songs—we have a few under our belt right now, and we will be taking some time off to write new material.

I've had a chance to see you guys in a few different venues, and it's pretty impressive to see the rapport you've developed with the crowd. Did you develop your stage presence organically, or by taking cues from other artists?

Ever since I was a little kid, I've always been into the energy of performance. I started off watching people like Freddie Mercury [of Queen], and frontmen of that nature. And then it evolved into watching frontmen of this genre like Tom DeLonge, Gerard Way from MCR and Billy [Joe Armstrong] from Green Day. Really, a lot of it comes from touring around the country. I've picked up things from a lot of people I've seen while we're touring.

I had the opportunity to see Queen six or seven times before Freddie died, and the first time I saw All Time Low, I said to myself, "This guy puts himself out there just like Freddie Mercury." But, unlike those arena shows back in the day, you guys carry on up there in clubs with crowd surfers flying up on stage every few seconds. Isn't that just a bit unnerving?

We like that. Yeah, technically it gets in the way of carrying on with the show. Things get unplugged and so on, but, as far as performing is concerned, we think it's fun and we encourage it. All of our amps can get turned off but we'll still carry on with the show.

You play guitar and sing during some of the shows. Have you always done both—instrumental and singing duties?

I actually have been singing my entire life, but I only started playing guitar when I was 12 or 13. I don't play any other instruments, but, growing up, I would always get the impulse to play, like, saxophone or something. And I would play it for a week or so and stop. Playing guitar helps me write the foundation of the songs before presenting them to the rest of the band. I can write bare-bones chords and melodies on guitar before I give them to the guys. We usually do our writing as a full band though, so, most times, musically, it involves contributions from everybody.

You've been playing the longest with Jack. After so many hundreds and hundreds of gigs, do you still find yourself looking over at him like you're living a dream—like you're really making this thing happen in a way you never expected?

I remember one time when we were writing a few new songs for "Put Up Or Shut Up." We were doing the first verse of "Coffee House Soundtrack," where both of us are sliding the octave parts and we both kind of harmonize. Well, we nailed it in one try, and it was definitely one of those moments where we looked at each other and said "Holy shit, we can really make this happen."

Going back to the 2007 Warped Tour, All Time Low got voted extra set time in four different cities during the Energizer Encore contest. When you're out there on a tour like that with 60 bands or so, that really has to speak to the level of friendship you guys enjoy with your fans.

That's definitely what we're all about. I think in this day and age there's no room for rock stars anymore. That kind of situation, where people put you up on a pedestal and regard you more like a god, or something more than just a person, that just can't happen anymore. We're trying to be the exact opposite—we want to be everybody's best friend. I think people walk away from that experience like they got so much more than just a set of music.

I saw you on a recent YouTube interview talking to your fans about complaints that All Time Low is selling out by playing bigger tours and bigger venues. Do you find it helps to get right down and personal—talking eye-to-eye like that, and addressing concerns among the fans the moment you get wind of it?

I put that [video] blog up because I thought it would be interesting to react to fans at that level. And their reaction was amazing. People were constantly posting about it for about a week, and they are still responding to it. It's like we're still carrying on an argument about it.

If Apple comes to you wanting to use one of your songs on an iPod commercial, and you agree as a band to sell them a piece of that song, it's not selling out. That's why they call it the music business, right?

Especially in this day and age, when record sales are down, that kind of cross marketing has to happen. That marketing between bands and companies probably will be what keeps a lot of bands going besides touring. To be honest, it's kind of a touchy subject. I guess the example you gave is reasonable, but when you start compromising yourself all the time for the benefit of some company, that's when it becomes a problem.

You've been invited to open for a respectable number of well established bands. Does that happen because of the friendships you've struck up in the business, or have they seen you guys and become fans as well?

It's a little bit of both. I think we've been lucky enough to make some friends around the business. And there are some other people who are willing to recommend us. Maybe it's because we're so young that sometimes, there's enough of a curiosity factor that promoters are willing to extend a hand to us. Then they get to see what we're all about.

While your full band sets are just straight ahead rock shows, you also find time, sometimes during off days and afternoons before gigs, to play teen centers and coffee house sets. How do you balance the dynamic between a stripped down set with just a guitar, and the full-on set with the whole band?

To me, it's the same. It's the same kids and the same voices singing back at us. It's still our songs without the bells and whistles, but people still care for what they are. It's fun to mix things up a little bit like that.

Your new album, "So Wrong It's Right," is still doing well. Was there anything about the process of putting it together that you recall was particularly challenging?

The album came together in such a confused rush, that it's still a blur. We went into the studio hoping to record about 15 songs and it got stripped down to about three. So we had to do a lot of writing there in the studio. I think it came together really well, and we're all really happy with the way it came out. You just need to turn it up loud and just enjoy it!

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