The PV Q&A: All Time Low's Alex Gaskarth On Staying Calm, Collaborating With Friends And Continuing To Evolve

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Interview by Jonah Bayer

The members of All Time Low may only be 24 years old, but they have five Warped Tours under their studded belts and have released [today, October 9] their latest full-length, Don't Panic, the follow-up to last year's major-label debut Dirty Work. Now back in the indie world, Don't Panic sees them reuniting with Hopeless Records to create a disc that's teeming with the kind of huge choruses and irresistible hooks that have has endeared them to fans over the years, but also sees them stretching forward to explore what lies beyond that sea of saccharine.

We caught up with guitarist/vocalist Alex Gaskarth just days before the band embarked on the World Triptacular Tour — which sees them playing shows in three continents over three days in Tokyo, London and New York — to learn more about the conception and ideas behind Don't Panic and find out that it's still possible to grow in a genre that's all about youthful exuberance. The secret is to stay true to yourself and never give up — and All Time Low are proud to say that these days, they're experts when it comes to both of those topics. Read the interview below, and head here to stream Don't Panic in full.

PureVolume: How did you end up back on Hopeless Records? Was there any thought to release Don't Panic yourselves?
Alex Gaskarth: We definitely did think about it putting it out ourselves but one of the limitations that comes along with that is just not having a team there to work the music. It's all fine and well to put out the record and hope people buy it because we do have a fan base, but that's just one aspect of it and we feel this band still has a lot of growing to do. We can only take care of the performance side of things. We shouldn't have to worry about where it's being sold and how it's being marketed; that's something we still have control over but it's nice to let someone else handle it. Partnering with a label made a lot of sense and going with Hopeless seemed like the right move. They're a comfortable family to be a part of, and why take a chance on another label when we know we have a solid, really positive family in Hopeless?
PV: It seems like Don't Panic also has more special guests than your previous releases. How did that come about?
AG: This is some of the most personal music we've written in a long time, and I think for that reason, it felt right to have people who were really close to us and who we really valued as artists on the record this time around. We're not featuring people on the record because we want to put their name next to the song title. A lot of the parts are pretty subtle — [Bayside's] Anthony Raneri's part is just a harmony throughout the song and [Hey Monday's] Cassadee Pope's part is really just a harmony on the choruses. [Acceptance's] Jason Vena's part is a little more involved but that's just because his vocals lent themselves so well to that part in the song.
PV: Don't Panic also sees All Time Low transcending the pop-punk tag. Do you think this album has a good shot at expanding your fan base?
AG: I hope so because that was definitely something we had in mind when we set out to write the album. We're not kids anymore and I think the content is maturing with us as our fans do too. At the same time, there was big focus to write in a way that was really open and relatable. I think all of the content on the album could pertain to people in a lot of different walks of life, and a lot of different stages of their lives, and that was really important to me. We wanted to try to capture a broad audience but introduce them to topics they could all relate to together.
PV: Does the title figure into that? Because Don't Panic seems like a pretty universal sentiment.
AG: Yeah, absolutely. It really stems from recognizing that we were in a position where we very well could have been panicking. We were label-less, we didn't exactly know what the next move was, and we were kind of hanging in the balance for a while there. The record itself was really our means of picking ourselves up by the scruff of our necks and carrying on — and that's the sentiment of the whole album and it's the message we we wanted to get across to people we're making music for, you know? Keep on.

PV: In a recent interview, you said Don't Panic wasn't as impacted by outside influences as it was your own past work. Is that true?
AG: Yeah, some of it. I think at the end of the day, no matter how you cut it, we're going to be a pop-punk/pop-rock band, but with that said I think the direct influence this time around was internal. It was more of an introverted take on writing music; it was going back and looking at what made our past releases really appeal to our fans and sort of honing in on that.
PV: Do you think you've been afforded the freedom and opportunity to evolve from "pop-punk"?
AG: I do, and at the end of the day, I don't really know what pop-punk is anymore because a lot of people consider it different things. The pop-punk I refer to is Blink-182, NOFX and Green Day, but when a lot of kids think of it now they think of Four Year Strong and A Day To Remember, which I don't think we necessarily sound like because there's a lot more hardcore influence in that genre of pop-punk. I think the biggest thing to mention is that we've had a long time to hone our craft and take some steps outside the box. I don't think we're rewriting the same songs we were writing seven years ago, but I think there's definitely still an element of that music that rings true now.
PV: Another constant for the band has been your drive and your work ethic. Do you think it's important not to rest on your laurels despite your success?
AG: It's super important because of the major reason that people are ADD now. With the age of the Internet everything moves so fast, and trends and tastes change, and it's just got to this point where what's hot for two weeks is forgotten about already. We've always had the mentality that we should keep writing, stay on the road, stay in front of our fans as much as we can and keep putting out new music to keep people interested. If you're eating the same cereal for a year you're going to get sick of it eventually, and we never want that to be the case with our music.

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