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The Reckless and the Brave 

Right now, the sky's the limit for All Time Low. The four-piece pop-punk giants are just achieving one milestone after another. The band's new album, "Future Hearts," hit number one on the Billboard Rock chart and was the number 2 album on the Billboard 200, making for the All Time Low's highest charting and selling week to date. On top of that, it recently finished a headlining tour in the U.K. at a sold-out Wembley Arena show in front of 14,000 people. Not a bad way to start the year.

The Maryland-based band -- Alex Gaskarth, Jack Barakat, Rian Dawson, and Zack Merrick -- have been one of the mainstays of pop-punk since its members got together a decade ago. And now All Time Low is coming to storm the gates of the Main Street Armory on Tuesday, May 19. City Newspaper talked with singer, guitarist, and songwriter Alex Gaskarth about the band's successful year, musical progression, and its influence on a new generation of pop-punk.

City: You've said before that this album -- though it doesn't stray too far in sound from your last album, "Don't Panic" -- was the next logical progression. To you, what did that mean while you were writing?

Alex Gaskarth: With "Don't Panic," we just wanted to write a really straightforward rock record, and it was almost a return to form for us. Creatively moving forward from that, we didn't want to repeat that formula. We knew that there were a lot of doors open for us to explore, so we took the sound we had so far, and expanded on it and went in some new directions with it. It makes the new record more diverse in a lot of ways.

From a lyrical standpoint, what sorts of things were inspiring you when the record was being written?

The record deals with all kinds of different topics. There are some light hearted takes on relationships and things like that, but there's a lot of stuff that speaks to our fan base. And a lot of the record is about finding happiness within yourself, pulling yourself out of a dark place, and realizing that you're responsible for your own well-being.

How was the experience of working with some older influences like Joel Madden (of Good Charlotte) and Mark Hoppus (of Blink 182) on the new album, as opposed to contemporaries like Vic Fuentes (of Pierce the Veil) on the last record?

It's just different creative minds. At the end of the day, I don't think we really looked at it as old versus new. I think with this record -- and the Mark Hoppus song especially -- really speaks to where we've come from and earning your stripes and taking your place among your peers. Mark lending his voice solidified that idea. We've known Joel for many years now, and we wanted to write something that married All Time Low with what the Madden brothers were doing at the time. It turned out to be a really fun song.

You guys have been around for a while now, so do you find it sort of weird that a lot of new bands, like the ones you're touring with now would put you on the list of influences, along with the people just mentioned?

It's a very weird concept for us to grasp. We don't feel like a band that falls in that category, and sometimes we have to stop and remind ourselves that we've been at it for 11 years or so. It's crazy to think we've been able to be around that long and a new generation of bands take influence from us. But it's an honor to be thought of that way, and it's cool to know that bands that look up to us are out there.

When you look at a lot of these young pop-punk bands emerging now, do you notice any big changes from when you guys started as a band -- in terms of music or themes in the genre?

I think there's a different mentality with some of the new acts coming in. Some of it is a bit less light hearted, it seems. I think the in the 90's and 2000's there was a tongue in cheek approach to pop-punk, and now you see bands coming from a different place. It's a lot about where you come from and who you want to be now. It's taken on a bolder face in a lot of ways, and I think hardcore had a big influence on pop-punk now, and there's this split between those bands and more pop influenced pop-punk bands.

You guys are pretty active on social media, and you create a lot of video and photo content. What role do you think these things play in connecting with your fan base, and do you think this is a natural progression in music now?

I think social media has become a massive avenue for any artist to connect to their fans. I don't see a lot of artists that don't do it now. We kind of started with that in mind. When we started we had the MySpace page and a PureVolume page and stuff like that, and it kind of evolved from there. We've been fully on that train, and there's no reason to not embrace it.

How was the experience of playing Wembley Arena?

The fact that so many legendary bands have played there -- Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones -- it was so cool to take that stage and do that same thing. The fact that it sold out in advance was amazing as well.

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