All Time Low talk highs and lows of ‘Nothing Personal’ 10 years later
Ten years ago, All Time Low were on top of the world—or at least to those peering in from the outside. After great success with their Put Up Or Shut Up EP and So Wrong, It’s Right, the band began work on a third release, Nothing Personal. Finally coming into their own sound, the four-piece pulled in a plethora of producers, delivering long-standing scene favorites in “Weightless” and “Therapy.” However, behind the scenes, they were battling label woes all while trying to put out the most pivotal album of their career.
Days out from the release of the rerecording of their second full-length, It's Still Nothing Personal: A Ten Year Tribute, and year-ending anniversary shows, frontman Alex Gaskarth revisits the album that started it all.
What immediately comes to mind when you think of this album?
It was a pretty seminal record for us. This was the one that felt like it truly connected on a different level with people. So Wrong, It's Right was a staple album for us, but I think Nothing Personal felt like the record where we went from being everybody's back-pocket band to the band people were on to before people were on to us. Nothing Personal solidified our place in the genre and in the scene that we were developing in.
What do you think it was about the record that solidified your place in this scene?
We started to sound like ourselves—like All Time Low. There was a perfect storm of developing from what we had already been doing on our EP and So Wrong, It’s Right. Those records were very raw. It was songwriting that was a little bit unhoned and unpracticed, but the energy was there. Nothing Personal was where we turned a corner and started learning how to craft a song. We even became a little bit experimental. There's a few songs on that record that, at the time, were very weird to people. I remember when we first released “Weightless,” people were tripping out online because we started it with electronic program drums. I remember a lot of the immediate reaction was like, “This sounds like Death Cab. What’s going on? Why are All Time Low suddenly an electronic band?”
Continuing with “Weightless,” that song was very well received, especially throughout your career. When writing it, did you have any sort of feeling that it would have this widespread appeal?
No, we had no idea. I think we tried our best to put together a really great record. We wrote some really cool songs with a handful of amazing producers. I think another part of this album that was unique was that we worked with five different producers on the record for a handful of songs. And again, for the time, that was kind of unusual. Everybody was doing pop and hip-hop and rap and other genres, but it wasn't so common in our world. Usually, you picked one of the big rock producers. You went in, and you wrote your album and made your album, and that was it. So I think the staying power was definitely not something we expected. You can never predict that. You make songs that you love and you want to play live. We got really lucky that people latched on to it. It fit a moment. I think that was the biggest thing. It spoke to what was happening at the time and in the scene.
This was your third release on Hopeless. What was the goal when you went in to start writing songs for this record?
We just wanted to polish our sound a little bit and learn from all these producers we were working with. It was really a time for me as a writer where I felt like I was just starting to understand how to crack the code on writing songs, and so I was intent on going in and just learning from the producers—all of their tricks, what they brought to my raw ideas and how we as a band could step up our sound and do things a little bit different rather than just playing fast and loud. Don't get me wrong: There's still mostly that on the record, but there it was how to figure out how to refine that sound a little bit and polish it. So that was a big thing for me. And really, we were just having fun. I think at the end of the day, this band have really always just been about connecting as the four of us and having a great time and making sure that other people connect with that great time and in turn, also have a great time.
What do you think people would be surprised to learn about that era?
I mean, it was a pretty complicated time. The record was pretty tumultuous when we got going. We were already talking and fielding offers behind the scenes from other labels, and there were conversations about us being upstreamed and bought out by major labels, so we were being pulled in a lot of different directions internally and still trying to focus on this record. I think some people may not know that it was a pretty bumpy ride to get to the endpoint.
Wasn’t there a song that was written about that bumpy time that didn't make the album?
Yeah, there were a few. There were a few songs that didn't make it, but yeah, there's one that lived in the ether because I think there's some videos of us playing a part of that live or something that I always still get.
I was actually at one of those shows. You played it in Pittsburgh.
Oh, that's wild. That's so crazy. Yeah, we still get asked about that to this day. There's definitely the passionate fan from all the way back then that's like, “Whatever happened to that?” That goes hand in hand with the process and some of what was going on back then. But these things come and go, and it wasn't right for the record. To be honest, I'm glad it didn't go on the record because it was a pretty fiery song that really didn't end up fitting the vibe.
Was there anything else on the record that did make it or something that you wish you could have changed?
There are always things looking back at albums that I wish I could change, and it's usually pretty minor stuff. Time and perspective are always something that I think the creator of any piece of art is going to have to live with. We all look back at our old work with a new perspective and go, “Hey, I probably wouldn't do that today.” So there's definitely things that we would change, but specifically, no. That record had such a crazy life, and it continues to. I really wouldn't change anything at this point because it got us to where we are now, so you know, “No regrets,” I guess as they would say. I think the coolest thing to us is that we just had no idea that those songs were going to connect with people on such a deep level in certain cases. “Weightless” is always something people cite as the song that really means a lot to them and then also “Therapy” being a song I wrote from a very personal place, but it resonated with a lot of our fans and has fixed itself as a staple of just connecting on a level that I, back then, never could have comprehended that it would.
Are there any other songs that fans still talk about that you're surprised had such a long-lasting effect on them?
I think “Sick Little Games” is one that always surprises me because we never played that live a whole lot. We played it on a couple of tours, but we've just recently gone back and actually rerecorded a lot of these songs for a tribute release that we're putting out [this month]. I think going back and playing that one, it really resonated with us, which was an interesting thing. We got in the room and started playing, and we were like, “Damn, this is one of the better songs on the record. We slept on this one.” I think that's always funny when you have so many songs like we do now, and you sometimes forget that you may have overlooked one that was a really strong contender just because that's the way things work out sometimes. But it's been fun for us to rediscover what connected.
With the rerelease you announced a few months ago, what are you planning to do differently with the rerecording?
We play the songs as we would play them live. The beauty of it is it's this amalgamation of a live record meets a rerecord. We have to do everything over from scratch. And so we went back and reimagined a lot of the secondary sounds—a lot of the programming, a lot of the keys and stuff like that was all redone. I think it stays pretty true to the songs. But, at the same time, there's enough new information there to keep it interesting for people. It was a tricky balance because I think if we went back and did a full reimagination of the songs and changed it drastically, people may be like, “Well, this [has] lost the charm of what made them 10 years ago.” So we were very careful not to go too far but also not to just make carbon copies because obviously, some of those songs we played on live DVDs before, and they exist out there already, so we wanted to bring enough new information to the table to make [it] cool.
Are you working with David Bendeth again? I thought I saw him in the teaser.
We got really lucky with this one. We actually managed to get a bunch of the producers to sit down and do interviews. [They] talk about their memories of when we made the record 10 years ago. I think most of the producers are on the documentary speaking to the same things we were speaking to. We actually self-produced the music side of it, so we didn't work with the producers again on it. But it's really cool to see what all the producers had to say. [Matt] Squire’s on there, Butch Walker and yeah, David Bendeth.
Typically, artists celebrate albums with reissues or tours. For you to rerecord it, why did you think that was the perfect celebration of Nothing Personal 10 years later?
We just wanted to do something different. It didn't take us much to do something extra. We just felt like it would be an exercise in something that a lot of people haven't really done yet.We can still do the shows, [and] we can still do all the stuff that we've done before and other artists typically do, but this one just felt like such a special record to do something a little extra for it. We just want to give people something different, and thinking of those things when you're 15, 16 years into a career isn't always easy, so [we’re] just trying to figure out what that was, and that's what we came up with.
Looking back, is there any advice you would have given yourself 10 years ago now that you've lived through it?
There's definitely things that I probably wouldn't do now on a song that I did then. I was trying things and wanting to make stuff work. And other things were a little bit of a lack of knowledge of how to correctly write songs. I probably wouldn't chant the names of a bunch of cities again if I was being honest. [Laughs.] But that song was fun actually because we, so “Hello Brooklyn,” we've literally never played live. That’s one we really had to dig in on and get right as we played it again for this rerecord.
Is that the only song that you've never played live off that record?
No we've never done “Walls” either. I think those are the only two.
Yeah, that's another one. That and “Sick Little Games.” “Walls” and “Sick Little Games, were the two that we were like, “Damn, we snoozed on these like way too much.”
Where do you think Nothing Personal sits in All Time Low’s legacy?
There's an argument that it's our biggest record—sales-wise [and] how it's performed over the years and still consistently to this day. [It’s] a very crazy number of copies every week. It just recently went gold. It's one of our biggest records, and I think it really resonated with a lot of people. I think it was [the] right time, right place and right sound for All Time Low to live in that place between rock and pop and punk. And it very much married [those]genres in an interesting way unintentionally. I think it just came to define this band in a lot of ways.
All Time Low’s It's Still Nothing Personal: A Ten Year Tribute is available for preorder here. The band’s seven-date Nothing Personal anniversary shows are currently sold out, but you can keep up with them for future gigs here.