On its first Vans Warped Tour four years ago, the members of Maryland’s All Time Low traveled in a beat-up van and had to help put together the East Coast Indie Stage every morning before playing on it later in the day.
This year, the quartet of 21-year-olds is one of Warped’s conquering heroes.
All Time Low’s third album, “Nothing Personal,” debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 chart — a considerably higher placement than either of its predecessors and than most of the underground-minded bands on Warped tend the reach. All Time Low also has a single, “Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don’t),” climbing up the Billboard Hot 100.
Not surprisingly, the group has seen a commiserate rise in its stature in the egalitarian Warped ranks.
“It’s a proud thing to say we sort of grew from being on the smallest stage with the smallest crowd to being on the main stage with one of the biggest crowds,” says singer-guitarist Alex Gaskarth, who co-founded All Time Low in 2003, while he was still in high school in suburban Baltimore.
“Four years later, it’s amazing to see a lot of familiar faces and also a lot of new faces — the same kids, really, but one a much larger scale.”
All Time Low approached “Nothing Personal” with greater creative ambitions as well. Thanks to heavy touring and some radio embrace for singles such as “Six Feet Under the Stars,” “Dear Maria, Count Me In” and “Poppin’ Champagne,” the group’s sophomore release, 2007’s “So Wrong, It’s Right” made it to No. 62 on the Billboard 200 and even higher on specialty charts for independent label and modern rock albums. Alternative Press magazine named it the Band of the Year for 2008.
All Time Low convened with “So Wrong” producer Matt Squire for “Nothing Personal,” but Gaskarth says the quartet had broadened the scope of what it hoped to achieve.
“I think the biggest goal that we had on this record was to not worry so much about writing a pop-punk album, which is what we did last time,” he explains. “This time around, it was just about writing great songs and finding what it means to write great hooks and also to explore some new sort of material that All Time Low had never dabbled with before.”
That led the group in other directions, collaborating with a variety of producers such as Butch Walker, hard rocker David Bendeth and commercial hitmaking teams of S*A*M & Sluggo and The-Dream and Tricky Stewart.
“This isn’t to say we went too far outside of our box,” Gaskarth notes. “It’s still an All Time Low record, I think, but there are definitely some new sounds on the record no one’s heard from us before, which I think is good.”
The Warped Tour is providing a valuable launch pad for “Nothing Personal,” letting the group stay true to its “roots” while fans get accustomed to the heavier tone of “Walls” and “Therapy” and the more polished flow of tracks such as “Lost in Stereo,” “Hello, Brooklyn” and “Too Much.”
“We’re fortunate to have a team that encourages us to write the music we believe in and put a lot of faith in us rather than trying to force-feed us some kind of ‘This is how the record should sound’ like,’ ” Gaskarth says.
“We write what we love, and fortunately, we have a team at the management and record company that backs it. It’s obviously a really good, encouraging environment to work in.”
All Time Low performs as part of the Vans Warped Tour 2009 at noon today at Comerica Park, 2100 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Other bands on the bill include 3OH!3, Chiodos, Bad Religion, Alexisonfire, Bayside, Scary Kids Scaring Kids, Senses Fail, Underoath, TV/TV, Innerpartysystem and more. Tickets are $36. Call (313) 471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com. For a full list of bands visit www.vanswarpedtour.com.
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