Plenty of people write nasty stuff about [artist id="2121977"]All Time Low[/artist], whether it's dismissing their goofy videos with stuff like "the only way this clip could've been more offensive is if they would've performed it in blackface," or writing off their music as nothing more than generic pop-punk written by four dudes with swooping, fashionable haircuts.
Frontman Alex Gaskarth has read (and heard) it all, and he'll actually agree with most of it. But he's more than willing to try and change people's minds.
"We are a haircut band, for sure. We've been lumped into that category, but what a lot of people don't realize is that we've been doing this since we were freshmen [in high school]," Gaskarth told MTV News. "This is, like, our sixth year of this band now. We definitely notice it too, and it was definitely a conscious effort to kind of try and grow outside the box a little bit.
"That's always been the point of this band. This band is admittedly very image driven ... and that was never intentional, and that's what sets this band apart from all the other 'haircut bands,' " he continued. "Those kids get signed because they have the haircut, not the songs. This band got signed because we had the songs ... and so, I truly believe in everything we do we try to set out and prove all the naysayers wrong."
Which is exactly what ATL are attempting to do on Nothing Personal, their third full-length (due July 7). Produced by a grab-bag of big-name knob-twiddlers with even bigger résumés (Matt Squire, Butch Walker, David Bendeth, S.A.M. & Sluggo), it's jam-packed with the same razor-sharp hooks and lyrics that made their So Wrong, It's Right album a scene sensation (and nabbed ATL Band of the Year honors in Alternative Press), but it also showcases a newfound maturity and depth: "Too Much" is full of soft, double-tracked vocals that float on a shimmering blip-scape, and album closer "Therapy" is a waking-from-a-nightmare missive that builds to a power-chord enhanced crescendo.
It's the kind of balancing act that "haircut bands" have been trying to pull off for a while now — the line between silly and serious. But here's the thing: All Time Low actually pull it off.
"It's nice to get away from the pop-punk niche we came up in ... it's nice to try to broaden your horizons. To be honest, we wrote a lot of this album with that in mind," Gaskarth said. "It weighs on you when you see all these new bands start popping up and getting signed, because that's the nature of this terrible industry we're in. ... So, we definitely noticed that, and we definitely thought, 'What can we do this time around that isn't going to piss off our fans too much, but is going to set us apart from all these little kids that have deals and songs on MTV now?' "
And songs like "Too Much" and "Therapy" are a step in that direction, for sure. But that doesn't mean that ATL are giving up on their goofy side, either. Official first single "Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don't)" is a crunchy slab of power-pop, full of shouted backing vocals, cooing synths and mentions of "tequila shots." It's a party-starter, to be sure ... and proof that, even as they try to grow as a band, ATL still aren't adverse to getting downright stoopid if the situation demands it.
"We've always been a band whose image and stage banter has always been based on not taking anything too seriously, but I've never written to be funny. I don't consider our music to be a joke. We're not f---ing Bowling For Soup at all," Gaskarth said. "People pigeonhole us but, to be honest, we sort of pigeonhole ourselves. We try to disregard it and, for the most part, we can, because the criticism tends to get lost in the vast array of d--k jokes and bullsh-- this band is focused on."