All Time Low Discuss ‘Dirty Work’ Album, Covering Rihanna + Dressing Like Gaga
Baltimore-based pop-punk band All Time Low turned a few heads with their recent video for ‘I Feel Like Dancin’,’ which featured the band members jokingly borrowing music video ideas from Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. They even went so far as to wear the skintight bodysuits from Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance.’
The song, co-written with Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, was the group’s first major-label single after several years as an indie act. ‘I Feel Like Dancin’’ and the new single ‘Time Bomb’ appear on the group’s latest album, ‘Dirty Work,’ available now on iTunes.
PopCrush recently caught up with All Time Low frontman Alex Gaskarth. In addition to discussing the new music, Alex told us about writing with Rivers, recording a cover of Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella,’ and stepping into in the boxing ring with Mike Tyson (in a video game, of course).
You’ve been playing the new material from ‘Dirty Work’ on your ‘Rise and Fall of My Pants Tour’ with the Ready Set. How have fans been responding to the new songs?
The response has been very cool. You go into that and you never quite know what to expect, especially when you play new songs for the first time live, but they’ve been going over really well. The kids have been very excited about it and getting really into the live show. The tour has just been a whole lot of fun.
In the video for ‘I Feel Like Dancin’,’ you have a record label guy basically trying to make you his puppets. Have you ever had any real meetings like that?
[Laughs] Luckily, no, we have never been put through anything quite like that, which is fortunate. When we signed with a major label, we noticed that there were a lot of people assuming that’s what was going to happen, so we sort of played into that joke.
Was it fun to make fun of some of pop music’s biggest superstars?
Absolutely. It was less making fun of them and more just poking fun at the idea of stealing people’s ideas. And it was really a good excuse for us to dress up as women too.
Did you keep any of those outfits as souvenirs?
Yeah actually, the Gaga suits were custom-made. I believe they were made by the guy who made the real ones for her video, so we got to keep those, which is pretty rad [laughs]. The costumes were crazy. They actually had to sew part of the costume together on our bodies. It was pretty ridiculous.
Watch the All Time Low ‘I Feel Like Dancin” Video
You wrote that song with Rivers Cuomo from Weezer. When you get together to write with someone like Rivers for the first time, is there a lot of awkwardness and feeling each other out?
Yeah, I would say so, a little bit. It’s a pretty personal experience to write a song, at least for our band. We value the music that we put out. We’ve always been protective of what we do. So in any co-writing situation that involves a stranger, it’s [about] feeling [it] out and making sure that the vibe was right.
Rivers really got it and was a very cool guy. He knew from the get-go, after a brief conversation, what we were going for with the song and was way into it.
There used to be stories that Rivers would construct his songs using these complicated mathematical formulas. Did you see any evidence of that?
[Laughs] I didn’t see anything quite like that. That might be a secret reserved for Weezer songs.
It was a really relaxed setting. We went to his house and kicked it in his living room. We sat down with an acoustic guitar, wrote the song very quickly. We both had the right vibe for the song. I said I wanted to write a very tongue-in-cheek jokey song, and that’s where we went with it.
You guys worked with Tricky and The-Dream on ‘No Idea.’ That seems like kind of an odd pairing — what compelled you to work with them?
I had worked with them on our last record, on a song called ‘Too Much.’ I’ve always liked working with those guys because it’s like two different worlds colliding. They don’t work on much rock music, and I’ve obviously never gotten into R&B too often, but I am a fan of R&B, so it was cool to pick their brains. I learned a lot from them.
What did you take away from the experiences with them?
Some of the biggest stuff was just how they work melodies. There were a lot of cool and unique devices they use in their songwriting that I’ve never seen before. There’s a lot of improvisation in the way they write. They’ll just kind of track everything and wait until the vibe of the song feels right as you’re playing it live, and then try to hone in on those little bits and pieces, which was unlike anything I’d ever done before.
Big Time Rush just put out a version of ‘No Idea.’ Did they rip off your song?
No, they did not. [Laughs] We actually found out they’re pretty big fans of ours. As I’m sure a lot of people know, they’re not entirely a real band. They’re actually characters from a TV show. So while the band does exist in real life, it’s more focused on doing episodes of the show, kinda like the Monkees from back in the day.
So what happened was they expressed interest in our song, which is the one I wrote with Tricky and Dream, and they basically asked us if they could do an adaptation of it for their record. It was just one of those things where we thought, “Why not?”
A recent review called ‘Dirty Work’ your strongest album and said it was your “ultimate bid for mainstream acceptance.” Is it accurate to say that you made a concerted effort to expand your audience?
I think so … Some of it was probably unconscious, but I’m sure there was an amount of it that was a conscious effort to expand and try something new and hopefully gain more fans. At the same time, though, that album did feel like a natural progression. It felt like those were the songs we needed to write at the time. Having a new label and a new opportunity and a new shot kind of inspired that drive.
All Time Low’s new single is ‘Time Bomb.’ What’s the story behind that song?
The song is about two people torn apart by their own infatuation with one another. It’s one of those things I think a lot of people have felt, that kind of relationship where everything is so strong, but the relationship itself becomes volatile. It’s about the struggle to hold a relationship like that together, and the fight and the desire to make it work.
Listen to ‘Time Bomb’
Is it true you’re shooting a video for ‘Merry Christmas, Kiss My A–’?
Yeah, we’re working on some kind of a video for our Christmas song. We actually put the song out last year and it’s on the bonus version of our new record, but we thought it would be fun to push it a little more this year. I think it’s gonna take a lot of people by surprise. It’s certainly not as wholesome as some people may expect.
We saw that you did a cover of ‘Umbrella’ by Rihanna. Was that kind of a goof, or was it a serious appreciation for the song?
That was total appreciation. We did it for a record called ‘Punk Goes Hip-Hop.’ It’s a Fearless compilation that they put out every now and then. While the song isn’t necessarily hip-hop, it’s definitely R&B and it kind of fit the vibe. It’s a song that we all really love. I think it’s a well-written song, and it was cool to put our spin on it.
That was actually, funnily enough, how we ended up getting in contact with Tricky and Dream, because they wrote that song for Rihanna. They heard our cover of it and that’s when they reached out to see if we wanted to work together.
Do you have additional tour plans in the near future?
We’re going to the U.K. early next year, followed by a tour in Canada where we’re supporting Simple Plan. We’re gonna go over and do Punkspring in Japan, and then our spring and summer is a little bit cloudy right now. We’re still hashing it all out. But I think things are gonna be announced pretty soon.
Have you already begun writing new material for the next album?
Yeah, I feel very inspired lately. I’ve been writing on the road and working on a lot of new ideas. So writing is also a possibility for next year, and working on new music.
We saw that you guys got involved with Mike Tyson’s iPhone game. Can you explain what that’s all about?
It came to us through a mutual friend. He was working for the development team. It’s the same company that did ‘Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out’ back in the day, which was a classic console game. They said they were bringing it back, and they were going to do these “celebrity guest appearances” in the game. And we were the guinea pig for that. We were the first one that they released with the game.
We’re all video game fans and that was a little nostalgic piece for us to go back and see a game that was around when we were just tots. It was definitely a cool opportunity.
Watch All Time Low’s Album Release Performance