Like their musical heroes New Found Glory, Blink 182 and Green Day before them, All Time Low play punk pop/rock with touches of emo and a whole lot of energy. In just 12 years they have gone from playing private parties to selling out large theater shows around the country thanks to their rabid fans known as “The Hustlers.”
Lead singer Alex Gaskarth discussed the “Back to the Future Hearts” tour, which hits the District’s Echostage Monday, the importance of pre-show dental hygiene and getting legal threats from porn publisher Larry Flynt.
Question: How’s the tour going?
Answer: This is the biggest tour we have ever headlined. Twelve years into the life of the band it continues to grow. We have sort of taken the grass-roots approach. We’ve never had that one moment or thing that has put us in the mainstream. It’s been a slow build. I love doing things that way.
Q: Why did the band take their name from song by New Found Glory?
A: They were definitely one of the bands from the genre of music that we were listening to at the time [and] influenced us. Back them for us it was Blink , Green Day, New Found Glory, NOFX, MXPX — bands like that.
We came from that Warped Tour world. We grew up in that and wanted to be a part of that. It was one thing that we wrote down from a lyric of theirs on a list of potential band names. We had our first real show at a venue coming up [then]. We had played a couple other house parties before that, but we had yet to settle on a name. The promoter for the show said, “Guys, we’re a week from the show, and I don’t know what to put on the ticket.” We pointed at All Time Low.
Q: How has the creative process between the four of you evolved over the past dozen years?
A: From back then it is much different. We were teenagers in high school. We had no idea what we were doing. This certainly isn’t one of the bands where a big major label put us together and told us what to do. Taught us how to write songs. Gave us the “keys to the car,” so to speak. We never had any of that.
So it has been a growing process over all of these years. Just figuring out ourselves and what what we could with out music, where it could go. I look back at the our first three records and think, “Man, we had no clue!” It wasn’t until we put out “Don’t Panic” that I really felt like we came into out own.
Q: Why was there a three-year gap between “Don’t Panic” and “Future Hearts”?
A: A big part of that was that “Don’t Panic” was sort of a reinvention of our band. When we parted ways with Interscope Records, we immediately went back into the studio. We had something to prove: that we hadn’t forgotten where we came from and that we could write a bangin’ pop rock record. That is what that album, “Don’t Panic” was all about.
The three years was because the record did really well for us. We didn’t feel like we needed to out [with] something new every year. We wanted to make sure that when we followed that up, it was the right next step.
Q: The next step seems to be more pop elements.
A: We always get labeled as “pop-punk” because we come from that Warped Tour world. At the end of the day, I’ve never really thought of our band as that. We have some songs that have those elements because, again, that’s where we came from. I’ve always thought of us as a pop-rock band or a pop band. I’m not ashamed to say that.
Q: Why are your fans called “The Hustlers”?
A: We have a song from our first CD called “The Girl’s a Straight Up Hustler.” Our fans just started calling themselves that — the die-hard fans. They started going by “The Hustlers.” We started our fan club: “The Hustler Club.”
Q: Has Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt ever asked you for money?
A: Not money, but we have been threatened several times by Larry Flynt. Many “cease and desist” orders, which don’t hold up because we’re not infringing on anything they do. Yet! [laughs]
When we start releasing pornography, that could change things. We got letters saying, “Guys, you can’t call yourselves this!” We were like, “Yeah, we can, you didn’t invent the word.”
Q: What is the craziest fan encounter you’ve had?
A: We’ve had a couple weird ones. Nothing really sinister. There is a very blurred line with our band and the fans. Nine times out of ten it’s a good thing. But because of the way we act and because we put a lot of ourselves online and in interviews, there are people who think they already know us [but] they don’t. We’ve never met.
People have come to my house before and expected it not to be weird when I answer the door in my PJs and ask, “What’s up. What do you need?”
Q: The tour is sponsored by Rockstar Energy Drink, so is your pre-show ritual excessive amounts of Rockstar?
A: Energy drink definitely helps here and there. Or coffee. The one thing I always do is I always brush my teeth before I play. I don’t know why.
All Time Low appears alongside Sleeping with Sirens at Echostage, located at 2135 Queens Chapel Rd NE, Washington, D.C., 20018, Wednesday, with doors at 6 p.m. Tickets are $43.45 by visiting Ticketmaster.com.