All Time Low and Tegan & Sara discuss their huge new collaboration, pop-punk, ‘Last Young Renegade’ and the future

'This is one of those strange, perfect moments'

Today sees the release of All Time Low‘s seventh album ‘Last Young Renegade’ – featuring ‘Ground Control’, a huge collaboration with pop genius twins Tegan & Sara. We caught up with Tegan Quin and ATL frontman Alex Gaskarth to discuss how they came to work with each other, their mutual love and respect, the state of music, and what the future might hold.

Ground Control (feat. Tegan and Sara)

Ground Control (feat. Tegan and Sara), a song by All Time Low, Tegan and Sara on Spotify

ALEX GASKARTH (ALL TIME LOW)

How did you meet Tegan and Sara and at what point did it first make sense that you guys work together?

“I don’t think we’d ever formally met and hung out if I’m being honest. Maybe in passing here and there, at festivals or something… This is one of those strange, perfect moments when we as a band immediately thought of them as a great fit for the song, simply as fans, and they reciprocated and were down to be involved. We reached out to them pretty much out of the blue.”

What is it about Tegan & Sara’s sound and ethos that made you want to work with them?

“I’ve been a fan of Tegan & Sara for years, always loved their music and respected their activism. When it came time to find a feature for ‘Ground Control’, (which was written as a duet,) they just seemed like the perfect fit with the aesthetic of the record. I think it’s also a collaboration that the fans maybe didn’t see coming; it’s always fun to keep people on their toes with new music.”

What kind of spirit and energy do you think they brought to the track?

“It just sounds so right with them on the track. We had a good feeling about it going in, but when I heard the first mix with them singing, the song took on a new life and really found it’s stride.”

‘Last Young Renegade’ is your seventh album – that’s quite a landmark. Does that feel like any kind of ‘head-fuck’ landmark?

“Every record we get to put out feels like a bit of a head-fuck, if I’m being honest! You spend so much time and energy trying to get every little thing right, and then ultimately it’s up to the fans and the audience to decide if they’re coming along for the ride. We’ve been incredibly lucky to have a lasting career so far, and I really feel strongly that this is some of the best music we’ve ever made together, so here’s to hoping we’ll see you all for number eight.”

Where would you say it takes your sound from ‘Future Hearts’?

“When I look back at ‘Future Hearts’ I see a two-headed creature. On one side you had songs that felt like a really obvious progression from ‘Don’t Panic’ (the record that came before,) songs like ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ and ‘Kids in the Dark’, and then you had some songs that started to take us towards ‘Last Young Renegade’, with a more textural approach, (‘Tidal Waves’, ‘Edge of Tonight’, T’ake Cover’)…Everything’s felt like a pretty natural progression, but with the new album, we definitely wanted to push the boundaries and start to show a real growth and transformation.”

Lyrically, what does the album deal with?

“The record’s all about critical reflection and self-actualization. It deals with a lot of old baggage, things we find ourselves holding onto and carrying around that keep us from growing and making changes for the better. I think because of that, it tackles some darker themes, but also goes to really happy, nostalgic places as well. There’s more ebbs and flows to this record than we’ve ever really had before.”

Have you been inspired by this horrible dystopian nightmare we find ourselves living in?

“When a lot of these songs were written, things hadn’t gotten quite so insane. I was looking inward for inspiration, and writing directly from experience about my own personal ups and downs. I think some of the themes extend into a bigger picture, but this album was much more personal than a commentary on the world.”

People might have a pretty rigid idea of what pop punk is. How do you go about pushing yourselves into new territory in what might many people might say is a pretty rigid genre?

“We’ve never really worried about how people want to categorise us. I think “pop-punk” was a label that fit when we were coming up, given that we mostly wrote loud, fast, youthful music and played on the Warped Tour. But that’s not necessarily who we are now. Not to say that I reject the notion, or the title, but if you hold ‘Last Young Renegade’ next to what New Found Glory and Blink are doing right now, I don’t think you could say it’s the same lane. At the end of the day, we want to make music that keeps us feeling creative and inspired and lets us continue to push the boundaries on All Time Low, instead of trying to fit within the confines of one genre or another. There’s always going to be echoes of our roots in our songs, but it’s all about taking that formula and adding to it, expanding upon it.”

You’ve played some pretty huge arena shows in the UK. Do you guys see yourselves stepping up to headline festivals like Download, Reading and maybe Glastonbury in the future?

“It’s what we aspire towards, absolutely. Every time we witness the growth first hand and move into a bigger venue or get booked in better spot on a festival, we take a moment to appreciate it, then set our eyes on the next goal. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t want to be the biggest band in the world. We’ll keep working towards it until we get there or it comes off the rails. We’re having fun either way.”

Who else do you see stepping up to headline festivals in the future?

“There are so many good artists and bands out there right now, all capable of growing to fill those shoes: Pvris, State Champs, K. Flay, MisterWives, Flor…. Just lots of raw talent pushing the envelope.”

TEGAN QUIN (TEGAN & SARA)

How did you meet All Time Low and at what point did it first make sense that you guys work together?

“If you can believe it, we have never met! We did everything remotely. So we went into a studio here in LA without them and recorded our parts alone. Which sometimes is nice. We’ve done that before. I get really nervous in the studio so sometimes it’s nice to be alone so you don’t feel as much pressure. Sara and I are big  fans of All Time Low, so it was probably for the best that they weren’t there or we may have performed less confidently. LOL!

“When they sent the song to us we both loved it. It was instantly in my head and I liked the melodies a lot. We generally want to hear music before we agree to do collaborations like these. You never know. Even if you love a band the track might not vibe right. Or the song might not hit a nerve. For me I want to emotionally connect with any song I might perform on. So in this case we just wanted to hear the song. We loved it. So we were in!”

What is it about All Time Low’s sound and ethos that made you want to work with them?

“They seem very connected to their audience, which is always something I appreciate about bands. They are hard working and have put out records (not just songs).  They feel sincere in their passion to create and connect. Which is basically how  we describe our own band. So I feel a sense of connection with them as I think  we are attempting the same thing with our art. They also don’t appear to take themselves too seriously which I also appreciate. I like the evolution of their sound from record to record. I believe they have made seven records (we have made eight) and  if you go back listen to early tracks and compare the to what they are doing now the essence is there, but the sound has evolved. I think they’ve taken risks and challenged themselves to keep making original records and I really appreciate that about them.”

What kind of spirit and energy do you think you bring to the track?

“We always lead with “don’t fuck it up”. Then after that I’d say we wanted to match Alex’s vocal energy. It’s a huge sounding track but his vocal is both huge and intimate at different times in the song. So I think we mainly just tried to match the energy of each moment he was creating vocally.”

Who else would you love to collaborate with?

“We love experimenting outside our genre. So, we’d be up for some collaborations outside pop. I never say specific names for fear of it never working out. HA.”

Love You To Death’ was one of the best albums of 2016. Have you had any thoughts about what direction you’d like to head in on new material?

“We are starting to talk a bit about it. We want to take all of next year to write and travel and relax. I think we need to write a lot, live a lot to decide what comes next. The songs always dictate the direction of the record so we just have to see what comes out of us. The songs will lead the way.”

‘Last Young Renegade’ by All Time Low is out now.