Three years ago, pop punks All Time Low thought they were about to make it big.
Riding the coattails of their successful studio album "Nothing Personal," which debuted in July 2009, they had just signed to major label Interscope Records. Finally, with a well-known label, they could break into mainstream radio and grow their fan base.
Now, they know better. The only album they released through Interscope, "Dirty Work," was received by much of their longstanding fan base as too glossy and tongue-in-cheek, and sales were far lower than expected.
These days, All Time Low is back, re-signed to their original independent label, Hopeless Records and touring with a new album that returns to their roots — literally. The band will round out their "Rockshow at the End of the World Tour" with back-to-back sold-out shows at Rams Head Live and the Recher Theatre in Baltimore Friday and Saturday night, respectively.
Guitarist Jack Barakat said he doesn't regret the band's experience with Interscope; through the label, All Time Low was introduced to Weezer front man Rivers Cuomo as well as Mike Green, the sole producer on their October album, Don't Panic.
"You never really know where a record label could take you; it was uncharted territory," Barakat said. "We realized it's not something we really need because we have a fan base that cares about us."
Keeping that fan base in mind, vocalist and songwriter Alex Gaskarth went back to writing music with honest, relatable lyrics that told a story, including "For Baltimore," an ode to the city where All Time Low got its start.
"The whole record's about coming home and being back at Hopeless, so it felt right to have a song about Baltimore," Barakat said. "It's the place that makes us who we are."
The band originally shot a video in downtown Baltimore but weren't happy with the results, so they decided to create an animated video. It features Gaskarth as a high school student who rushes around after his crush only to find himself face-to-face with his future self performing at "Bulls Head Live."
All Time Low was formed while its members were still in high school almost 10 years ago, and Barakat said they've been having flashbacks from back then, so "For Baltimore" is an especially fitting tribute.
The title of the album "Don't Panic" refers partially to a "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" catchphrase and partially to the band's emotions while writing and recording the album — all of which was done before All Time Low re-signed with Hopeless Records.
"It was our first time being unsigned since high school," Barakat said. "We weren't sure what was going to happen next, and we didn't really have a solid plan. But it was a message to our fans: Don't freak out; we'll be back."
Barakat's favorite songs off the album are "Backseat Serenade" and "Somewhere in Neverland," because they combine what All Time Low is "going to sound like and what we have sounded like." "Somewhere in Neverland" directly parallels that sentiment.
"The Peter Pan story has always been a theme in our lives," Barakat said. "Not wanting to grow up but having to."
All Time Low has always toured extensively, and the band continues to do so, co-headlining Canada with Yellowcard in January and then touring the United Kingdom with Summer Set in February.
Fans still throw bras and underwear on stage during performances, something Barakat said started about five or six years ago. Eventually, the band started keeping the underclothes just to count how much they had. Barakat said the number was up to 3,000 two or three years ago, adding that All Time Low has started donating a dollar to breast cancer charities for every bra.
Barakat said the band's goals for the future include releasing some DVDS and perhaps a few acoustic side projects — another return to their early career, when they produced a DVD of their MTV Unplugged acoustic recording session.
But most of all, they just want to keep touring.
"It's all we really have," Barakat said. "It's how we reach our fans; it's our lives; it's our career at this point. Without it, we are nothing."
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