You can be forgiven if you think All Time Low (ATL) is just another in the pack of new bands in the current crop of power-pop and pop-punk acts that have flooded the market the last year, catering to the teen and young 20's set. The band's latest disc, Dirty Work, is its major label debut for Interscope Records, but the band isn't just another group of loud-mouthed kids packing the heat of heavy production and auto-tune.
The band actually formed in the suburbs of Baltimore in 2003, when all of its members were still in high school. The original lineup still remains and has earned its shot on the major label with a tireless work ethic, heavy touring and a catalog of seven previous discs that include two for local label Emerald Moon, and three for independent label Hopeless Records as well as two additional live CD/DVD packages for the label.
When the band arrived in Oklahoma City last year, I admittedly attended with a slight hesitance at the behest of a teenage son that loves the band. I'll admit the opening bands that night (The Summer Set, Mayday Parade and another that I can't remember) were about what I expected: middling power pop that wound up the young set, but didn't leave me with anything memorable. Once All Time Low hit the stage, however, it was obvious why it was the headlining act of the night.
Yes, it plays to a primarily younger audience, but eight years of playing together and five years of near non-stop touring since graduating from high school has seen the young quartet develop into an entirely engaging, high-energy rock band. I'm fortunate enough to see a good number of live shows and some stellar talent, but this was one of the most fun shows I had attended in nearly two years.
Going back and listening to the CD's, I wasn't initially knocked out, but there are some hidden gems in there that rise to the surface. Even those, however, tend to expose themselves on the live recordings. Obviously, this is a band that lives for the live setting.
"I'd 100 percent stand by that," lead singer Alex Gaskarth agreed when I proposed my viewpoint to him in advance of the band's Tulsa debut this Thursday night, Nov. 3, at Cain's Ballroom. "Recording is a way to get people out to the shows and familiar with our music."
"Personally, I've been a big advocate of live shows for years," he said. "It's always been our main focus: to make sure that you have the best time with us that you possibly can."
Even thought the band has developed its reputation around the concert experience, Gaskarth acknowledged that it hasn't been easy: the market is recognizably saturated with solid concerts every week in almost every market and "What we do doesn't really fit on radio right now."
Bring Down the House.
"What we do" is probably best described as pop-punk with an emphasis on pop, with big hooks and choruses that stick in your head. It's a little too rock to fit on the pop stations that either lean in a more dance/R&B direction or cater to the soccer-mom demographic. On the other hand, the group's songs are far too upbeat and pop oriented for most modern rock and AOR stations, leaving the band to build its following the old fashioned way: with hard touring, high energy live shows and word-of-mouth recommendations.
Even though the band caters to a younger audience, amidst the pure fun and teen angst, the band also pulls some timeless sentiment out which gives it a cross-generational appeal. A cursory listen to "Weightless," (from the band's previous studio disc, Nothing Personal) is light and careless upon first listen, but once you actually pay attention, it expresses something deeper as it explores the themes of aging and finding something more meaningful in life.
"That song, in itself, has really gone beyond boundaries for us," Gaskarth said. "A lot of our songs are written form a younger perspective, but that song seems to be identifiable at any age and any level."
In essence, this may be a pop-punk band that started out following in the footsteps of Blink-182 (ATL actually started out playing Blink covers) and while the majority of its songs are careless pop fare, there's also a maturity that is beginning to emerge that puts it in closer company with bands like Green Day, that have come to terms with maturing within the genre.
Part of that growing process includes working with other songwriters and Gaskarth has been doing just that. Aside from sharing co-writing credits on the band's latest disc, Dirty Work, with producers Mike Green and John Fields, he also collaborated with Rivers Cuomo (of Weezer) on the new disc's lead single, "I Feel Like Dancin' Tonight," a song that's every bit the party anthem that you'd expect. Perhaps more interesting, however, is his collaboration with Butch Walker, who balances his own career and writing for other artists.
"Butch is one of my favorite people, not only as a writer, but as a person," Gaskarth said. "He's kind of what I idolized, growing up. He flip-flops from bands and styles and can craft songs for such different artists. That's because he can write objectively: he separates himself from the song and looks at it from another perspective."
This time around, the two collaborated on "Just the Way I'm Not," a song that carries Walker's distinctively sarcastic wit and play on words, yet marries it with the band's pop-punk background and high energy.
That just might be a good summary of All Time Low's live show as well. It may be playing smaller venues like Cain's Ballroom as it broadens its reach across the Midwest and enters new markets, but the band brings a high-energy live show to every performance that can go over as well in a theater as a small club, yet always feels like something bigger.
After all, Gaskarth admitted it's all about the concert experience and getting people out of the house and out to have fun. Although the band has been together for eight years and touring steadily since 2006, the party is just starting for All Time Low. Touring behind Dirty Work, its major label debut, the band finally hits Cain's Ballroom this Thursday, Nov. 3, with The Ready Set, He Is We and Paradise Fears. Tickets are still available for $27 at the door for a show that may draw a younger crowd, but provides a release and great time for anyone looking to enjoy the music and just have fun.
Send all comments and feedback regarding Music to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Share this article: