Thursday, June 2, 2011

All Time Low Interview with Jack Barakat (Guitar)

Mike Cubillos
All Time Low has earned the well deserved reputation of being one of the hardest working bands in the music scene. Over the past eight years they have slowly built an army of loyal fans, who have supported them as they have risen to the top of the pop-rock genre. All Time Low's latest release, Dirty Work, is one of the most anticipated albums of the year, and promises to deliver. I had a chance to speak briefly with guitarist, Jack Barakat, about the writing process behind the new album, touring and his advice to bands starting up....

How was the tour you guys just finished up?
Barakat: The tour was great. We ended it about a week and a half ago. We did a month in Europe, with Yellowcard, and then we came back and did two months with them in the States.
When do you guys guys back out again?
Barakat: We doing like a month of promo and press, around the U.S. and England for the record release. We are going to do a month in Europe, this Summer, for festivals. Then we are going to come back and do a tour in the States with Mayday Parade, The Starting Line and Cartel.
You guys seem to be playing bigger venues now, in the States. Is it interesting jumping to bigger venues?
Barakat: Yeah, I mean it has been a really long process. It has definitely been a super slow build over the past six years of touring, where we have been slowly, slowly stepped into bigger venues on every tour. Now we are starting to make the big jump. It's definitely not the kind of thing, where we are like an overnight sensation band, where we can all of the sudden play big arenas. We are definitely starting to add some bigger shows into the bigger cities. So it's pretty cool!
For people that haven't seen All Time Low live, what can they expect when they come out to one of your shows?
Barakat: I like to think of ourselves as a live band. As much as we enjoy our records, and as much hard work that we put into them. It's kind of hard to show off our energy via our records, but I think if you come and see us live then it will really start to make sense and it clicks. I think that that's our natural habitat.
Who are some bands/artists that you have looked up to in the past regarding stage presence and live performance?
Barakat: As a kid I grew up idolizing Tom Delonge (Blink 182) as a guitarist. I just loved the way that he had the careless attitude onstage, and he had this punk swagger that I guess you can only get from growing up in southern California (laughs). I idolized his moves. Billie Joe Armstrong is another great front man, who can captivate an entire audience while singing and playing the guitar at the same time. He is also another idol of mine.
Your latest album "Dirty Work" is coming out late this month (June 21st), but was slated to release much earlier this year. Do you think that pushing it back to the summer was a good thing?
Barakat: Yeah, we tried to do a lot of recording between the recording process so that we weren’t just sitting around for like six months at a time.But it was definitely a good thing to go away for a bit and kind of take a break from touring, and let kids kind of build up a little excitement for our new music and new tours and everything. I think that it made it almost like a comeback, like we came back with a bang. So, I mean I think that it was a really good idea to kind of step away for a little bit.
Have you guys been playing the new material at live shows lately? Or are you going to debut the live versions, when the album drops?
Barakat: We played two songs live, on the the last tour that we did. “Time Bomb,” which is the “leak track” that we leaked a couple of months back, to show kids that we are still here. During the earlier part of the last tor, we started playing the new single, “I Feel Like Dancing,” which every night kind of went over better and better. Now it has become a staple in our set?
Who were some of the people you worked with on Dirty Work and why did you choose them to work with?Barakat: Well, Alex and I wrote “I Feel Like Dancing” with Rivers Cuomo. We actually went to his house in Santa Monica, we sat in his living room and it was just us three. They(Rivers and Alex) wrote the song, and I had a couple words of input. It was actually a really cool experience, to just sit there and write a song with one of our biggest inspirations of all time. It was really cool to work with Butch Walker again, on this record. We got a new producer on this record, Mike Green, who ended up doing a majority of the record. It was the first time that we’ve worked with him, and it really clicked. He has kind of become the fifth member of the band in a way.
What were some things you guys tried to approach differently in the making of this record? Did you guys sit down and decide on a direction before the writing/recording?
Barakat: Not entirely. I think that the major difference in the recording process of this record was we definitely weren’t scared to write a very poppy song or a very rock oriented record. Whereas, on the last record if a song was “too pop” or “too rock” we would try to bring it back and even it out. On this record, we definitely have a good mix of very pop-driven songs and also some really rock-heavy songs that we really haven’t done before. Every song seems to have its own identity, and we did some really different things on the record that I think everyone will enjoy.
You guys have an extremely strong fan base, that you have spent years building it up. What kind of advice would you have to a smaller band that is just now starting off?
Barakat: One of the biggest things is to always think positive, and fighting through all of the stuff tht you have to. We started our band in 2003 and the amount of stuff that we had to go through to get where we are today, it was a really long road. It has been eight years. One thing that you have to do is be super patient, and work really hard. Definitely be wiling to give your entire life to it, because that’s what it takes.
Something that I have always noticed about you guys as a band is that you are constantly out there doing interviews, interviews with fans, and you all tweet constantly. Do you think that those things were the biggest contributing factors in building up your strong fan base?
Barakat: Yeah, completely! I consider us to be one of the first Internet-based bands, especially because we basically started our entire band via the Internet. Before MySpace Music even existed, we had a band MySpace page. We were one of the first fifty bands on PureVolume(.com), and we really built everything from the Internet. That’s how we started talking to record labels, that’s how we booked our first tours. Without the Internet social networking, like Twitter, we definitely wouldn’t be where we are today. It is a huge part of the band.
When the album drops, what are the immediate plans? Touring right after?
Barakat: The next couple of weeks building up to the record release we are dong a lot of in-stores on the East coast and the West coast, just to meet all of the kids and tell everyone that we have a new record out and get kids stoked. Then we are going to do a month of European Festivals with bands like Foo Fighters, My Chemical Romance and I think that the Black Eyed Peas are doing some and Blink was supposed to be on them, but they had to cancel.
I know you guys are pretty huge in the U.K., are the crowds different over there?
Barakat: From a show standpoint, the same kids are always excited to see shows and they all go crazy. From an excitement standpoint, it is interesting. You really get treated like royalty in other countries, because they don’t get bands really as often and they really make a point to treat you like the Beatles. They treat everyone like the Beatles, which is kind of weird(laughs). Not saying that the American fans don’t do that, but it is just a little more intense over there because they kind of want to thank you so much for traveling over to their country. It is definitely not like going to play a show in Ohio, it is miles of traveling and everything. They are definitely very appreciative.
Where is the most “intense” place that you have played, where you were blown away by the reaction of the people?
Barakat: I think that award would have to go to Brazil, because those kids are insane. It’s truly a remarkable thing to go down to South America, because they really freak out. They make it a thing to sleep in your hotel lobby(laughs) and wait for you, which is awesome and it shows like dedication. They really like rock music, and they are super appreciative when bands make it down there!
Perfect day windows down, driving in your car, what are you listening to?
Barakat: I would have to go with “Take Off Your Pants and Jacket” by Blink 182 and probably Reckless Abandon.

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