All Time Low: Alex Gaskarth’s Track-By-Track Guide To Wake Up, Sunshine
When All Time Low regrouped last year to begin work on their new album, they came to the unanimous decision that it was going to feel warm. The record’s more conceptual predecessor, 2017’s Last Young Renegade, was set in the dark. It was time to let some light back in.
Enter: Wake Up, Sunshine – a breezy bundle of energy that sees vocalist/guitarist Alex Gaskarth, guitarist Jack Barakat, bassist Zack Merrick and drummer Rian Dawson return to their beginnings as a band, fusing the breathless enthusiasm of their teen selves with the songwriting talent they’ve accrued across an accomplished 17-year career.
”There was a lot of effort put into Wake Up, Sunshine to have songs that had that fun, summer, daytime, light feeling,” Alex explains. “The last record felt very moody, and neon, and like driving through the city streets at night time…”
Album number eight couldn’t feel further from that, its 15 songs encapsulating the Baltimore pop-punks’ brighter tendencies in truly dazzling fashion. Ahead of its release on April 3 via Fueled By Ramen, Alex introduces Wake Up, Sunshine, track by track…
1. Some Kind Of Disaster
“This was a perfect storm of a few different things. The music felt really anthemic, and then the lyrics felt like a story about the band, in a way. There are all these things that I’ve said about myself in songs throughout the years, and then there’s that key line: ‘So what are you after? / Some kind of disaster.’ It’s like I’m asking the fans if they’re ready to do this all over again with another record. It put its hand up as that song that went, ‘Okay, this has put us on the right path towards an album.’ We looked at each other and realised that it felt like it would be really cool to open a show with this song, and so we said, ‘What if we opened the record with this, too?’”
2. Sleeping In
“When we started writing this song, it all had the feel of the verse intro – more of that half-time, bouncy, almost funky rhythmic thing. It felt really good, and we were all dancing around and really vibing on it. But when I came to write the chorus, it just didn’t hit. And so we decided in that moment to go really polar opposite with it – we were like, ‘What if we just go straight-up Warped Tour mosh pit?!’ For whatever reason, it just worked. It’s two very conflicting things, but they’re married together in this perfect way.”
3. Getaway Green
“When we first played Getaway Green at Slam Dunk last year, we had written a bunch of ideas and maybe three or four of them felt like they could be songs for something. We had gone to Nashville at the start of the year, but we didn’t have the intention of writing an album or beginning that process. There were a few songs that came out of those sessions that felt really good, and Getaway Green was one of them. And it was just a fun, spontaneous thing to play it at Slam Dunk. As we were working on the setlist we were like, ‘What if we played one of these new songs?!’ It unintentionally put some feelers out to see how people would react to a song of that vibe, structure and mood. It was reassuring, and made us think that people would be on board for what was coming next.”
4. Melancholy Kaleidoscope
“This is an interesting one, because the energy is pretty high, but the lyrics are exploring some darker things. It was written at a time where I was going through seasonal depression, which I’ve never really experienced before. I came in to the studio and didn’t want to write anything happy (laughs). Zakk [Cervini], our producer, was playing with this idea of a fast song, and it struck me that, ‘This isn’t where I am mentally right now.’ But it ended up being a really interesting dichotomy working on a song that was really energetic and full-speed-ahead, but contrasting what I was feeling at the time. The mood just manifested into a song about getting better and pulling yourself through it by way of music. It’s about finding yourself in a crowded room at a concert and feeling better, and also really putting the effort into feeling better. By the time we were listening back to it, I was like, ‘Wow, I feel lighter having spoken to these feelings.’”
5. Trouble Is
“This is interesting, because it’s in a very weird time signature – I wanna say it’s in 13/4, which is really odd! You get a bar of six, and then a bar of seven, and it keeps alternating. Basically, it was an exercise in writing guitar parts, vocals and melodies that fit to this hiccupping rhythmic structure. It was a way for us to do a little math (laughs) – and when you’re in a pop-punk band, you don’t often get to do that! I also really like the subject matter, which is about these people who exit your atmosphere, and then come back in and it kind of rattles your entire world. You realise that you never dealt with those feelings when they disappeared. It’s a cool topic, and a cool bed of music for it to live in!”
6. Wake Up, Sunshine
“This one comes from a personal place, and it was like I was shaking myself awake in the context of the last album, which felt like it was this dream-sequence side-bar to everything that All Time Low had done before. Wake Up, Sunshine really addresses that, like, ‘We’re awake again and the sun is up and we’re starting anew.’ For me personally that’s what the song was speaking to, but then for anyone else listening to it, it is also a message of, ‘Things can and will be okay.’ In this day and age, a lot of people are finding their validation in who shares their opinion online, and screaming into an echo chamber. This song is speaking to that, and almost saying, ‘You’re fine without that.’”
7. Monsters (featuring Blackbear)
“This was done in Palm Springs, in the later part of the process. We knew once we’d written it that we had something special; there was an energy that felt like it was going to be one of the standout songs on the record. Andrew [Goldstein, songwriter] had been working with blackbear on his new music, and as we were listening back to everything, he spoke up and said, ‘It would be really cool if we sent this to blackbear!’ We had never thought of that before, but he was really into it, and he sent back this thing to Andrew saying, ‘This is kind of the headspace I’m in at the moment anyway, so I already feel like I could write something for this.’ It really elevated the song, and took it to this new, refreshing place that we had never properly explored before. We’ve never really collaborated with someone in rap or hip-hop, and this brought a lot more energy to the song. It was a fun one to do!”
8. Pretty Venom (Interlude)
“Pretty Venom was another song in that wheelhouse where we said, ‘Let’s write some weirdos!’ I think we wrote it at, like, 3am after we had gotten back from a bar, and we sat there noodling on an acoustic guitar. The song then came together really fast, and I remember sitting on the couch with this crappy demo mic in my hand just randomly singing lines. It was all very stream-of-consciousness, and it stood out as one that absolutely had to make the record because it materialised out of nowhere. Did alcohol help? We weren’t hammered (laughs). But it was definitely a vibe. We went to bed thinking, ‘It’s probably gonna be shit…’ but when we woke up it was like, ‘Oh, there’s something here!’ (laughs). It was pretty cool.”
9. Favorite Place (featuring The Band CAMINO)
“When I was writing this last January, it had this feeling that reminded me of The Band CAMINO a little bit – not intentionally, but just the more I listened to it, I kept thinking of them. I was like, ‘What do you think of doing this with us, because it kind of reminds me of you guys?’ I felt like they belonged on it, and it wasn’t just a feature for the sake of a feature. Lyrically, I imagined the story of two star-crossed lovers, and it’s really that adage of, ‘We’re both in different places, but we’re staring at the same stars.’ I felt like we hadn’t written that [style of] song for the record yet, and everybody loves a love song!”
“I would say that a big portion of this record was written with the live show in mind. We wanted to bring a ton of energy back, and to capture that feeling of our old records. I think a big part of that was having all of us under one roof together, rather than me writing a song and then Jack coming in and recording his parts, and Rian coming in and recording his drums. The fact that we were all under one roof really helped us draw from the energy that the four of us bring to the table when we’re together. Safe is a really good example of that, because it’s about finding that place that makes you feel whole. For us, writing this record was that.”
11. January Gloom (Seasons, Pt.1)
“This is me writing about that feeling of seasonal depression that I was experiencing back in Nashville. Honestly, it was just so gloomy (laughs). I was there for a month, and every day was just cold and wet. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, let’s go out and throw a snowball.’ We had a day in the studio where I was like, ‘Look, I need to call this weather out!’ Oddly enough, the song has this swagger in the verses that I don’t think we’ve ever done before, and then there’s this big lighters-up chorus, and for whatever reason it made me think of a warm fire, and that was kind of my answer to the shitty weather (laughs).”
“If if we put this on [2009’s] Nothing Personal, I think it could have still fit. It probably wouldn’t have had all the same sensibilities that this does now because we know more, but it speaks to our legacy in its tone and vibe. It feels like it transcends where it falls chronologically, and it’s a part of the bigger story of the band. I think every record has those songs, and Clumsy is one on this record. We could play it for any one of our fans – whether it’s an old fan or a new fan – and I think they would all go, ‘Yeah, that feels like All Time Low.’”
13. Glitter & Crimson
“This was dramatic to record (laughs). It was one of the last songs we wrote – in fact, it might have been the very last one. The record was almost done, but I felt like there were a couple of missing pieces. We actually went out to Big Bear [Lake, in California] – me, Jack, Zakk and Andrew. We rented a cabin and locked ourselves away for a minute. As we recorded Glitter & Crimson, it was one of those moments where we went, ‘Oh, thank god! We’ve got the thing that we were missing!’ I think the performance in the bridge is me almost knowing that it was the last take. It’s like when the director is about to call, ‘That’s a wrap!’ and everybody is like, ‘Holy shit!’ You feel that swell of relief and appreciation for getting through it.”
14. Summer Daze (Seasons, Pt.2)
“This feels like a sister song to January Gloom, thematically. It’s like the other side of that coin, where I equated it to a summer camp romance – when you’re a kid and you go away to a summer camp, and you fall in love for the first time! But you know that it’s gonna be over, and in three weeks your mom is gonna pick you up (laughs). It was sort of the opposite of January Gloom – like, ‘This feels so good, but I know it’s going to go away,’ whereas January Gloom is more, ‘This feels terrible, but I know you’re going to pull me out of it.’ It felt like it was answering January Gloom. That’s where the Seasons, Pt. 1 and Seasons, Pt. 2 comes from.”
15. Basement Noise
“I really couldn’t think of another way to end this record! The more I tried to move Basement Noise around [on the tracklist], it just never felt right anywhere else. But it also feels like a metacommentary on the record itself, and on the whole process of making it. We were speaking to our humble beginnings in Rian’s basement making terrible music (laughs). That sentiment just felt really important, especially given the way the album was made – with all four of us together under one roof and living together again. Jack and I wrote it really late at night, and I was thinking, ‘This is really cool.’ It hit me in that moment, that my best friend and I are still here making music, just like we did all the way back then…”
Wake Up, Sunshine is due out on April 3 via Fueled By Ramen.
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