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All Time Low Bringing Pop Rock Anthems To San Jose

In Music
Guitar Heroes: All Time Low prove guitar-driven pop can still rule the airwaves.

Guitar Heroes: All Time Low prove guitar-driven pop can still rule the airwaves.

Jack Barakat has just stepped off the plane when his tour manager, at the behest of his publicist, has instructed him to hop on a call to conduct yet another interview in a prolonged publicity campaign pushing his band’s new record. And yet, he is cordial—happy, even—to be talking to the press minutes after disembarking.

“At this point, we are so excited,” Barakat says, dismissing the suggestion that speaking to reporters might be a hassle. His band, All Time Low, are in the midst of an all time high. Their new album, Future Hearts, debuted at No. 1 in the U.K. and is No. 2 in the U.S. (It was technically No. 1 in physical copies sold, but it was edged out by the Furious 7 soundtrack, after streams and downloads were taken into account.) All Time Low are touring in support of the album; they are slated to play San Jose on May 4.

Barakat isn’t concerned about coming in second to the blockbuster action franchise. He says it’s incredibly validating to see the support of All Time Low’s fans—who have stuck with the band as they’ve grown from a quartet of teens playing up-tempo pop-punk tunes, into a group of late-20-somethings penning powerful alt-pop anthems.

With Future Hearts, Barakat says the band has really reinvented itself. “It’s our most self-realized album,” the guitarist says. “It’s the album we’ve waited our whole career to make.”

And they haven’t had to wait all that long—comparatively speaking. All Time Low formed in the Baltimore suburb of Townson, Md., in 2003 when all four members were still in high school. By the time they graduated, they’d penned two record deals—with the Baltimore-based Emerald Moon Records and then with L.A.’s Hopeless Records—and released two EPs and a debut full-length, The Party Scene.

Finding success at such a young age has been a blessing, according to Barakat—who says the band was able to quickly get a lot of the “shitty shows” out of the way and get on the road while they were all still young enough to not mind sleeping in vans and on couches. “It really gave us a head start,” he says. “We still feel so fresh and new, and there is still so much life in the band.”

Barakat’s optimism and positivity can be seen in the faces of his band mates—all of whom are between 26 and 27 years old. In video interviews the band is goofy and approachable; they have an official fan club, “The Hustlers,” which gives members access to exclusive meet and greets and other goodies; and the Internet is littered with animated GIFs of the band, which fans make and post on their personal Tumblr pages.

The band’s cheery outlook can also be heard and felt in their music—which conjures memories of days spent in the sun and nights whiled away drinking from red cups, making out and making mistakes. Future Hearts, like every All Time Low album, is filled to the brim with bright guitars, saccharine sweet harmonies and lyrics about being young and in love.

There are subtle differences that separate Future Hearts from previous ATL releases. While the record is clearly built upon a pop-punk foundation, it is their most straightforward pop-rock album yet. Yes, the guitars are still heavy and lead singer Alex Gaskarth’s voice is still nasal, but gone are the galloping, heel-toe punk beats and chugging breakdowns.

To make sure this album sounded as close to perfect as it could, All Time Low tapped their longtime idol John Feldmann to produce. Barakat says everyone in the band grew up enjoying his work—both as the guitarist of Goldfinger and as producer for early-aughts punk icons, including The Used, Good Charlotte and Story of the Year.

“In ninth grade, I would literally pass out in class and dream that John Feldmann called to produce our album, and I’d flip over the desk and yell, ‘Fuck you!’ at the teacher and class and then leave,” Barakat says.

It’s an understandable fantasy. Listen close to Future Hearts and you’ll hear every production trick in the book. And that’s a good thing. Contrary to what some think, pop music isn’t easy to do well, and with their latest effort All Time Low have nailed it—crafting a powerful guitar record as hooky and jubilant as anything you’re liable to hear from any of the big tent EDM producers this year. At least, Barakat thinks so.

“Bands with guitars can have No. 1 albums and be on the radio,” he says, adding that he feels the success of Future Hearts is going to give All Time Low “a chance to be that kind of band.”

All Time Low play the City National Civic in San Jose on May 4 at 6pm. More info.

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