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All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth On ‘Once In A Lifetime’: “We Just Took Things Into Our Own Hands”

Jack Rogers
Jack Rogers 24 March 2021 at 15.00

"All I know is the music we are making right now feels like ‘Wake Up, Sunshine’ on steroids, which is great"

It's here! 

All Time Low are back with a brand new song called 'Once In A Lifetime' and it's quite simply an absolute joy. Serving as the first brand new music since the release of the band's album 'Wake Up, Sunshine' last April, it's a song that encapsulates the feeling of the past 12 months in typical ATL fashion whilst building on everything that they have learned along the way.

To celebrate we jumped on the phone with vocalist Alex Gaskarth to find out more about the track, where it came from and further dissect what has been a fascinating year for the band...

How does it feel to be sat in the position that you’re in now, considering where things appeared to be at this time last year?
“I feel fortunate that we put out an album in the worst part of a global pandemic when everything shut down. It was an extremely unusual and challenging record cycle, what with figuring out how to connect with our fans and actually market a record when you can be in the same room as them. But the way we looked at it was that we need to put our all in and bring people some joy and escape in this crazy year. So that’s what we set out to do and set our minds on. Just making people feel good when shit was pretty bad. I’m very proud of us for managing to make something out of such a difficult year.”
So, ‘Once In A Lifetime’. Where did this song come from? Is it something you had the bits and pieces of before, or is it completely brand new?
“It’s completely brand new. When we realised that touring would be a lot further off than we first anticipated, we just took things into our own hands and controlled what we can control. That’s making music. We can do all of that remotely now as well. We’ve done writing sessions over Zoom and everything. So we just got back to work, which is one of the songs that came out of it. It’s a song about heartbreak and analysing this idea of people going through a trial in their lives. It’s about the feeling of an epic loss or an epic low. It feels like so many people have gone through things like that throughout this pandemic. It felt like a sentiment that made sense and something that we needed to touch on. It feels like it applies to our lives personally, too, in things we have all felt in the band. It's also such a universal concept via dealing and coping with loss.”

So what point was it that you sat down and started this process? 
“It was the end of Summer/start of Fall. It was as the year was winding down. The decision was just made that we couldn’t just sit around and do nothing. I think what’s interesting is that we saw how artists like Taylor Swift had put out ‘Folklore’ and then went on to put out the sister record in ‘Evermore’. It felt like a two-part anthology. A few artists were doing that, and it felt like we also had a connective thread there with the new music we were creating. It felt like it was cut from a similar cloth to ‘Wake Up, Sunshine’, but we took what we learned from that and applied it. This new song feels like it was built from the same pieces as we used to put ‘Monsters’ together, but it’s a different song. ‘Monsters’ as a song on the album is a different track to the rest of the songs; it stands on its own. There’s something we tapped into with that because we had already written most of the songs. We didn’t keep on going down the ‘Monsters’ road because of that and realise fully what it was. So this served as a cool chance to do that.”

It’s fascinating that you’re able to pick up on what you learned from ‘Wake Up, Sunshine’ so soon after the release, when it’s usually things that you contemplate 18 months or two years down the line. But circumstance is very different, isn’t it?
“Yeah, there’s been nothing quite like it. We have just been in the unique position to continue the creative journey and not switch gears into tour mode, which I so often do. When we finish an album, and then I get out on the road, I don’t even think about writing at all. In this case, we didn’t have to. There’s something very realised about this new music because of that. It stems from where we left off with the album. Also, bearing in mind the immediate reaction to the record and what songs have connected, it’s allowing us to keep on digging. In many ways, it just feels like we are continuing the record. I don’t know what it is yet. I don’t know if we’re making a new album or making an extended version of ‘Wake Up, Sunshine’. All I know is the music we are making right now feels like ‘Wake Up, Sunshine’ on steroids, which is great.”

Another thing about the song is that you use the band’s name as a lyric in the chorus. What was it that felt right for you to use that in this song and do that at this point in your career?
“There was a lot of meta-thinking to putting that line together and being okay with it. When we were writing the song and had loosely had the chorus structure, we had honed the concept into the twist on ‘I hope a heart only breaks this bad once in a lifetime’ and dialling that in was what cemented the concept. I had never heard that hook said that way in a song before and felt like we had stumbled into something pretty unique. Then it just happened to fit in with what we were talking about and how All Time Low as a band has been a saving grace through all of this and all of the loss that we have encountered. One of the things that kept us afloat and feeling okay to come back was our band. So the line, ‘Til I hit an all-time low’ means so many things in so many different ways within the song's context. There’s the face value of hitting rock bottom, but also this internal story about me finding my place in All Time Low and that feeling like a safe and secure net for me. To fall into something that I know is sure, and I’m calm within it.

“I remember when we wrote it in and sitting there with Andrew [Goldstein] and Jack [Barakat] and thinking, ‘Fuck, can we say this? Can I get away with this, or is it too cheesy?’ At first, we felt like we couldn’t, and we should take it out, but eventually, the more we sat with it, the more different meanings it had for the song and us, and it suddenly felt fucking cool. We’ve been a band for 15 years, so we’ve earned the right to drop our band name at this point, I guess!”

You’ve said that ‘Wake, Up Sunshine’ was All Time Low getting back to the roots of what made you who you are, so having that line a marker of that and a marker of how far you have come is almost the cherry on top…
“Absolutely, and over this year, we have had so many moments that bring it back to that. Because nothing has been done typically, but things have gone so well for us, and there are things that we hadn’t achieved in our career previously. There have been so many moments, from the radio success to the TV appearances, where we have gone, ‘Oh yeah, we did that’.”

One of the recent moments must have been performing on The Ellen Show. What was that like for you, and actually being on stage and playing live together again?
“It was her first live band going back on the show since the pandemic hit. It felt like a pretty special moment for everybody there. Before the show, she was just sat there in the audience, because there’s no actual audience, watching up sound check four or five times and afterwards the producer said, ‘I have never seen her do that in all the years we’ve been here'. Everybody was just so excited to have anything going on.

“Because everything is pre-recorded, we were actually at the airport about to board our flight back to Los Angeles when it aired. I walked past one of the closed bars, and there we were on TV performing. Like, holy fuck. It was one of those very weird moments, but I just felt lucky as hell to be able to do it.”

It feels like even though you’re looking forward to new music, ‘Monsters’ continues to do something new with each passing week. How does that feel as a day-to-day thing?
“It’s the song that won’t stop. It’s milestone after milestone and achievement after achievement, and they are all so unexpected and all so lovely. What’s cool about it is the level of support we have had from the fans and even people within the music industry, where everybody is championing the song and championing us. It feels like a culmination of things. We’ve put a lot of time and care and work into this project over the years, and to see it pay off in such a way, it feels like people are rooting for us. That’s what feels the nicest about the whole thing. Through it all, seeing everybody wave the All Time Low flag is what touches my heart the most. It makes me feel so thankful. This band has been everything for the 16 years we’ve been in it. It’s been our lives, and we’ve grown up in this. We’ve gone from High School to being in our 30’s, and it’s still going strong. That’s super unique and super cool.”

In many ways, what has taken place over the last year has validated your decision to tear up the rulebook and do your own thing. Is that something that continues to inspire you as you look forwards to the next step?
“It’s informed how we are tackling the project, and it validates our desire to stick to our guns and methods and ways we have made things work. It’s validating that we have taken what has worked, and we’ve applied it again and again. We’re not just reaching in the dark anymore; there is something that works here. It makes it that much more exciting because it’s yet another skill set that we have in our back pocket. It’s starting to feel a bit like we are getting back on track to maybe being allowed to get back out in the world and play shows and hug each other, so with those two things intersecting, we are in a position where our band is stronger than ever. We’ve come out of this, somehow, more realised than when we went in.

“You have to roll with the punches. That’s one of the biggest lessons we have learned as a band and as artists. You don’t get to decide what is happening in the world. You only get to control your fate. You only have the cards in your hands, and you have to play how you see fit. We did the best with what we had. What was incredible within that was that things rose to the surface and became apparent to us that we had never considered before. Virtual meet and greets, acoustic concerts direct to people sat in their rooms, everything. It has all clearly defined for me that human connection is the most important thing in the world, even when the world tries to stop you from having that connection. You have to fight back, and you have to say, ‘No’. People need joy, and people need to find joy in each other. That’s what the mission objective of this band has always been. The philosophy may have changed, but the core is very much the same. Let’s get a bunch of happy people together in a room and rage and leave with more friends than you went in with. That sentiment remains just as true. There’s still a way to express ourselves, and that’s what gets us through the bullshit and when things are bad.”

And once again, it’s that pursuit for joy and connection that helped to mould this whole era in the first place...

“Exactly. ‘Wake Up, Sunshine’ is the album that defines us as a band that has seen so many ups and down and pivots and changes. We’ve gone through it all, and that album is us coming back together and realising the band in ways we never had before to a point where it felt like the most genuine version of All Time Low. When you look at it and break it down, ‘Wake Up, Sunshine’ is a celebration of All Time Low. It’s an album that has aspects of all of our other records and brings in pieces that have come to define us and make us who we are, and then it pushes on and pushes forwards into whatever the next version of this band is going to be.”

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