Anyone who has seen All Time Low live knows that the pop-rock group doesn’t mess around when they get on stage. Well, they do, but that’s part of what makes an All Time Low show so great.
“We always kind of just want to keep it loose,” the band’s lead singer Alex Gaskarth tells Billboard of their silly onstage banter. “We always wanted to stay away from [feeling] kind of rehearsed with the exact same thing dialed in every single night. If you’re coming to multiple shows on the tour, you’re gonna get a unique experience almost every time.”
The guys spent a good majority of 2017 on the road after releasing their seventh album, Last Young Renegade, in June, and recently released the first set of “Part II” tour dates for 2018. The first part of All Time Low’s Young Renegades World Tour saw the guys play shows everywhere from Atlanta to Singapore and Australia to the UK, and no matter where they were, the LYR track “Drugs & Candy” always resonated.
“It felt like a special one of the set,” Gaskarth says. “I want to preserve the energy of the live show.”
To do just that and get fans hyped for their next round of touring, All Time Low put together a live video of “Drugs & Candy” that features footage from their travels last year (and fans can grab a free download of the live version here). Check out the video and Billboard’s chat with Gaskarth about why the live setting is so important to his band.
You guys seem to almost always be out on tour — is there something that drives you to tour as much as you do?
We have always felt like the touring aspect has been the most important to us. That’s kind of been the philosophy ever since we started the band — we put out music so that we can perform it live. This is kind of the cornerstone of our career. We’ve always put our live show first, that’s one of the most important elements of ATL is getting to see a show, and experience it and share it. We just want to make sure people leave with something they never forget.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in your shows?
We sort of have a fan base now that runs the gamut. It kind of spanned a lot of generations, and there’s some age gaps, and we want to put on a show that kinda hits something for everybody. We try to have an inclusive atmosphere, where everybody feels welcome from all walks of life. I think that really helps to create, in that moment, everybody’s kind of family and everybody’s got each other’s backs. And that’s what I really love about the energy at our shows — you have a room full of perfect strangers, who are all looking out for each other and are all connected through the music. And it sounds kinda cheesy, but it’s true. I’ve always loved that about where our show has gotten to these days.
I think what was amazing [on this tour] is just how much people are digging the new music. When you’re a band for as long as we are, and we’re on album number seven, that’s all you can ask for, for people to embrace the new music in the same way they embraced the old music. And I think that was what was very special to see throughout the course of the year sing just as loud to “Dirty Laundry” and Life of the Party” and “Good Times,” as “Dear Maria” or “Weightless.” That made us feel really inspired it kind of drove us through the whole year on a high because people were there for the show, not just for certain songs.
What made you specifically choose “Drugs & Candy” for a live video, and what makes it so great in a concert setting?
It’s one of those songs that kind of up and down. The verses are chill, but tell a cool story and then that chorus has a lot of great energy. So I think it’s one that builds a lot of anticipation as the song goes. I could see in the crowd even people that didn’t know that song yet, by the second chorus were fully in.
It was a song that just raised its hand online. I saw kids tweeting about it, and hitting us up directly saying “this song more live, please.” So it actually became a pretty staple part of our set through 2017. It was a really energetic part of the show, so it seemed like a perfect way to get people hyped for the tour this year.
Was there a reason you chose to record the Amsterdam show?
A lot of people have pointed out the irony of attaching a song called “Drugs and Candy” to Amsterdam, but that was not the intention. A lot of people were like, “You realize what you’re doing, right?” [Laughs.] Just a happy accident. The real reason was that it was one of the biggest shows we ever played in Amsterdam. Amsterdam, for whatever reason, has really embraced this band, and the shows keep getting bigger and bigger. It was like a sold out arena in Amsterdam, so it just felt like the right time to show that off.
Are there any Last Young Renegades songs you’re wanting to add to your set?
I really feel like the back half of the record hasn’t gotten its due diligence yet, and we’re really excited to rehearse and add to the show. “Afterglow” is one that I think is really gonna translate live. “Dark Side of Your Room” is another one that I’ve seen fans asking for, which I think would be really fun. “Nightmares” is a really cool and unique ballad, so I think that could translate really well live. And obviously if we could get Tegan And Sara out to a show, “Ground Control” would be amazing.
You celebrated the 10th anniversary of So Wrong It’s Right in a three-night stint at New Jersey’s Starland Ballroom in December. Was that the most you have really been able to reflect on what ATL has become, and the catalog that you’ve created?
That whole string of shows really made us aware of how special we are to still be doing what we’re doing now. And the generations of fans who’ve connected with early music, later music — people still care. There’s something really special and cool that circulates around this band that we’ve been able to build an amazing follow and really cool community around it. So yeah it was really cool for us to be able to come off the stage everyday, and go to the dressing room and talk about how incredible it is to be a band that has legacy. We kind of came off in a euphoria every night. We were buzzing pretty hard off of those shows.
That was also your first time ever playing “Come One, Come All,” as none of you are really fans of the song. What makes you hate it so much?
It’s kind of become a running joke now. We don’t hate that song. It’s really just more about when we made that record we didn’t feel like we needed that song on the album, so to us it never really felt like a finished song. So it’s kind of one of those ones where in hindsight, we’re like “eh, we didn’t need this here.” I will say, it was very fun to play. It was cool to see people singing along to it, even though we’ve shunned it as a problem child. [Laughs.]
One thing fans who have been to an All Time Low show before know is that you guys — well, Jack — collect bras while you’re performing. What started that tradition?
Yeah, I genuinely don’t know how it started. It was years ago, first of all, and someone threw a couple bras onstage spontaneously, and then like I made some comment about it, like “wow, this is a Motley Crue moment,” like we’re really doing it. I made some joke about how that’s how we knew we made it, and I think the video got posted somewhere on some like web page, and it spiraled out of control from there, and became a thing.
A couple of the tours we’ve done, we collect them and keep track of how many of them we have. Basically we assign a dollar amount to each bra, and then we give that to a breast cancer awareness charity, like we match the dollar amount. So that was pretty cool, and the charity matched it, and it was for a rad cause. ‘Cause I always feel a little bad about it, like it’s kind of this joke and we never really talk about it, and we don’t know why it continues to happen. And I was thinking about it the one night, like, “These things are so expensive! It’s a big waste to have them sitting in a truck.” So we tried to find a way to turn it into something positive.
Clearly the bras are sticking around, but is there you guys want to do differently with your live show in 2018?
We will see. The shows feel like they’re getting more and more elaborate. We’ve been taking some chances and finding more and more ways to put on a great show. I think we have a lot of components now that people are really familiar with, and we want to see if we can bring things that people are less familiar with, and mix things up and make uniqueness happen. That’s really been the challenge and it’s a fun challenge — finding new ways to put different spins on songs that people are really familiar with. In the past we’ ve done a couple of medleys of songs from different eras to get included into the shows, so I think we could see more of that. Really just finding new ways to keep it exciting for people and keeping it exciting for us.