All Time Low’s Jack Barakat Is Ready To Show The World A Whole New Side Of Himself
When All Time Low took a break after 2017’s Last Young Renegade, feet did not go up. While frontman Alex Gaskarth was busy working with blink-182’s Mark Hoppus on side-project Simple Creatures, guitarist Jack Barakat got cracking on his own dark pop outfit, WhoHurtYou.
Teaming up with songwriter/producer Kevin Fisher, whom the six-stringer met when Kevin was working on Last Young Renegade (he co-wrote Life Of The Party and Dark Side Of Your Room), the pair have since signed to Parlophone (UK) and Fueled By Ramen (ROW), and dropped their first-ever single, Wish We Never Met. It’s as catchy as it is relatable, and comes accompanied by an Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind-style video that sees the pair get their exes erased from their memory.
If you couldn’t guess from the title and video, these are two men who’ve had their hearts kicked in – something they bonded over, with WHY becoming a much-needed outlet. We caught up with the duo in Palm Springs to cheers their new project, and find out a find out a whole lot more about it…
What were your first thoughts of each other when you met?
Kevin Fisher (vocals): “Honestly, Jack and I bonded right off the bat. I had been through a really bad break-up and was pretty much on the other end of it, and I saw Jack going through it, so we definitely became fast friends. I don’t wanna say I was a support for him, but I was just trying to be a good friend (laughs).”
Jack Barakat (guitar): “Yeah, he was a good friend, and our friendship accelerated because of the situations we had been through. I think it was a timing thing – we were both at the same point in our lives.”
What made you decide to form the band?
Jack: “We actually started writing songs together just to write them, not as a project. It got to the point where we were like, ‘These songs are really good, what shall we do with ’em?’ We were sitting down to dinner one night and I was like, ‘Should we release these? Like, as a side-project?’ And Kevin was like, ‘I’ve been waiting for you to say it – I didn’t wanna be the first!’ Then the first song we wrote together after we decided to do the project was Wish We Never Met, so that’s why we wanted it to be the first song that came out. It came out so fast and natural, because it’s so real and genuine.”
How did you split the lyric writing?
Kevin: “Everything’s very much 50/50. We both went through different things, but they’re similar enough that each song can have different pieces of our own experiences.”
Jack: “Yeah some songs tend to lean more towards Kevin’s situation, and some lean towards mine, but in the end a break-up’s a break-up.”
And how did you approach writing lyrics for the first time, Jack?
Jack: “I got some advice from Alex, he taught me a couple things, and Kevin was a big part of it. Plus, a lot of my friends in LA are songwriters, so I’d just get advice from them and learn.”
You said you’ve always felt like you had to portray yourself positively online, so how does it feel to have come out and said, ‘Actually, my life is not perfect…’?
Jack: “Man, that was a crazy day. It’s something I feel more and more people who have a lot of eyes on them need to put out there, because it creates unrealistic expectations of happiness and how you’re supposed to be. For years people have always been like, ‘I love how you’re always happy!’ and it gets to the point where it’s like, ‘Er, that’s just, like, not real (laughs).’ It puts that expectation on your life, and you’re always gonna be unhappy if you’re constantly looking at how happy other people are. So it was important to do, and it felt really cool to put a different side of myself out there, and try and help people realise this isn’t real life.”
Is it nice to not be known as the goofball from All Time Low anymore?
Jack: “(Laughs) Yeah!”
Kevin: “He’s still a goofball.”
Jack: “There’s a lotta goofs [when we’re hanging out]. Kevin has a very similar humour to me, and even the ATL guys as well, so we all got along right off the bat.”
What will the dynamic be like when you play live? Since ATL is very much you and Alex being a comedy duo…
Jack: “Your guess is probably as good as ours (laughs). I’m excited to do it. Kevin is a great singer, so I know everything’s gonna sound great. The jokes will be there, but they’ll just be a little more dark and fucked up.”
Kevin: “I’m excited to get into that end of it!”
Jack: “This has been a cool new experience for Kevin because he’s been a songwriter for years, writing for 5 Seconds Of Summer and One Republic, all these big bands. But he’s been the other side of it to me, where you get to go out and sing the songs and change people’s lives, and he’s had almost a back-seat view of that, so it’s been cool for him to be on the front line.”
Kevin: “Am I nervous about being out front for the first time? Not at all. I’m sure once we have a show booked and we’re about to go onstage I’ll look at Jack and be like, ‘Um, I’m scared!’ But no, I feel really good about it. I’m used to just giving songs to other people, but when we did all these songs, I was like, ‘This stuff is so personal to both of us, I don’t even feel right giving it to anybody else, because it just feels like us.’”
Jack, were you inspired by Alex doing Simple Creatures?
Jack: “It wasn’t motivated like that, but the thing about it that is kind of cool is the side-projects are so different, not only musically, but I don’t think Simple Creatures’ motivation was break-up songs. I think they wanted to explore different genres of music and whatnot, and for Alex it was working with one of his idols. So the projects are very different, which is cool because it would be weird if we had side-projects that were the same thing. It’s a cool, unique thing that we were able to do this during our time off and have two separated, very different outlets to do it.”
Kevin: “When Jack and I got together to write songs we just wrote to write – it just happened. For me, at least, it’s been very unexpected.”
Would you tour with Simple Creatures?
Jack: “That would be sick! Alex has been super-supportive of our stuff and vice versa, so that’d be really cool and really special. And I’d never turn down an opportunity to tour with Mark Hoppus (laughs).”
In terms of your personal journey with WHY, you went through a bad break-up and said you didn’t deal with it in the right way. How did you deal with it?
Jack: “Instead of going to therapy, getting my head right, working out, doing all the positive things and thinking about the future, I was staying in the past and mulling everything over and drinking too much. It got to the point where I was like, ‘I don’t feel like I’m getting better, I feel like I’ve been running in circles for a while.’ So I started seeing a therapist and that turned everything around. She was like, ‘You need to find some healthy outlets – why don’t you write songs?’ It was in therapy that I kind of got a lot of lyrical content, ’cause I was putting all my things out there to her, and once I put it out to her, it gave me more ammunition for things to write about.”
Were you going to therapy and coming out with lyric ideas?
Jack: “Absolutely! Wish We Never Met came from a therapy session. I was fed up, I’d been going to therapy twice a week, spending all this money, all this time, and I was over being miserable. I said, ‘I wish we never met,’ to my therapist, and the next day I was in the studio with Kev and he was like, ‘What shall we write about?’ And I was like, ‘Well, I was in therapy and said I wish I never met my ex…’ and he was like, ‘Well that’s a song right there. Let’s write that!’”
That particular therapy session was worth the money, then…
Jack: “Yeah (laughs). That was worth the hundred bucks!”
Kevin, you’ve done therapy too…
Kevin: “Honestly, it was one of the best decisions I’d ever made. I think there’s this stigma that you’re weak if you [go to therapy], and the part of this band I think is so cool is that Jack and I wanna be very forward and very upfront that it’s not; it’s one of the most healthy things you can do.”
Jack: “I always compare it to going to the gym, because you never wanna go to the gym, then you leave and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, I feel amazing, I’m glad I did that!’ and it’s literally the same thing. You wake up and you’re like, ‘Shit, I have therapy today!’ ‘cause no-one wants to sit and talk about their feelings. At least, a lot of guys don’t.”
Kevin: “Hey! Speak for yourself, man, I love talking about my feelings (laughs).”
What have you both learned about yourselves from being in therapy?
Kevin: “For me, it was just finding the process of how to go through things. My therapist showed me how to just open up a journal, and don’t even think about it, just write whatever’s on your mind. That tool helped me a lot, so it’s just finding a process for yourself to just handle things when stuff gets rough.”
Jack: “That’s really good! For me, it brought up my insecurities and made me understand why I feel certain ways, because whether you feel angry or happy, you sometimes don’t understand why you feel that way. So I think just making sense of it all is what I got out of it.”
What can we expect from the other tracks you’ve written?
Jack: “Wish We Never Met is probably the most upbeat and poppy song, but lyrically people will be really surprised and should be excited to hear the songs, because I think they’re gonna help a lot of people the way they helped us. They’re all pop songs – we took a lot of influence from [Swedish singer] Robyn. We just love that Robyn songs are always pretty poppy and upbeat, but have a darker undertone and a gut-wrenching lyrical side to them.”
Kevin: “The others are definitely a little bit more emotional…”
And how are you going to release them?
Jack: “These four songs we have are gonna be on an EP called Stages. I don’t know when that’s coming out yet, but expect a new song soon because we’re eager to get them out!”
Kevin: “We called it Stages because we were listening back and realised it was like the stages of grief; each song represents a different part of you moving on.”
Are you glad you’ve gone through these break-ups, because they spawned WHY?
Jack: “Yeah! I wasn’t happy that I went through it until this project came out (laughs). Until then I was still like, ‘What the fuck is going on? What is wrong with me?’ But turning something so negative into something positive has made it all worth it.”
Kevin: “I couldn’t agree more! When you’re going through all of it, it’s like, ‘This is the worst thing!’ and then being able to stand on the other side and look at this project and look at these songs… we’re very grateful and very thankful for it.”
Wish We Never Met is out now. WhoHurtYou’s Stages EP is expected later in the year.
Read this next:
Not all gigs go according to plan. Human error, equipment failure and a myriad of other catastrophes can scupper even the biggest bands’ best-laid plans…
Rock and metal musicians react to Donald Trump leaving the White House, and Joe Biden’s inauguration as 46th President of the United States.