What Ronan Keating song are Tonight Alive covering on tour? How scary are Alex Gaskarth's eyebrows in the flesh? What are their go-to karaoke songs?
Everyone's favourite antipodean pop punk act Tonight Alive were in London last night for an energetic show at Kentish Town Forum as they begin their UK tour. We fought our way past the crowds of kids lined up outside yesterday afternoon and chatted with Jenna and Whakaio about, among other things, their new album, eating on tour and emojis.
Here's how it went down.
Pop Buzz: Describe Limitless in one word that isn’t limitless.
Jenna: I think freedom describes the record because it's what we had to embrace and it's what we had to achieve. With the songwriting, with the attitude, with the lifestyle. I want people to experience freedom when they listen to the record and then I want them to take that feeling and apply it to their life. For me, Limitless is the name of the record but it's the lifestyle and the attitude that I kinda want to live by.
PB: You say it applies to the music itself - obviously you've moved away from the pop punk sound, is that what you set out to do with this record, to push yourself in new directions?
J: Yeah it was the first conscious decision we ever made with our music I think because we always did what came naturally to us and again we did that with Limitless but it was like "let's put intention into our music and let's see what we can achieve without the ideas of what pop punk is or what tonight alive is". Why don't we take all the titles away from who we are and let it breathe.
Whakaio: I think for us as well we were just like, why do we have to be stuck under a genre? Why do we have to just write songs in this fashion because we also like these songs and these songs and these songs. So why do we have to be in this one thing that only this amount of people can listen to?
J: Who's making that rule as well?
W: Yeah that was a huge turning point for us, after that realising let's just write songs that we like and enjoy. The first two records, there were so many songs that didn't go on because we were like "oh this isn't us" and "this isn't Tonight Alive" and we kind of let go of that now. There was a review yesterday that said we really pushed the boundaries from pop to rock and i think thats fantastic. i think theres gonna be so many people that like this record that don't actually like the same music but i think there's gonna be something for everyone.
PB: I think pop punk fans have quite a wide taste in music anyway, how has the reaction been to the new stuff?
W: I think it's been immediately hard for our fans to be like "this is a new sound, this is a new band". But I think as soon as they see us live they are like "ok we get it now, we get what you're trying to do". Pop is such a funny word because all it means is popular so I don't know why people say "thats so pop", I mean what the f**k does that mean? So, I think our fans initially aren't gonna get it but when the whole album is out collectively and they can hear it as one they're gonna understand. And when they come and see us live they'll see we have the same message and still believe in the same things if not more on this album than ever before. It took us two years to accept the change, it's gonna probably take them two years to accept the change, we can't expect them to do that in just one month.
PB: Have you found the younger fanbase have been more accepting of the change?
J: Well I think that what we have in common with our fans is that none of us were ever trendy people and we never felt that we even belonged to the pop punk scene or genre, it was just a title that was slapped on. So I think that what we have in common is that we are just seeking a genuine connection with people and a genuine connection to music. I think that hopefully this record and the direction we're taking will sort of broaden their idea of what they enjoy as well.
PB: Describe Drive in one word that isn’t drive.
J: The first word that comes to mind is rebellion. What that song is about for me is learning to say no and learning to say "I disagree" or learning to day "I think I'm right". I think I've always been so afraid to have a big head or to be arrogant or have an ego that I was never confident enough to just put my feelings on the table. I think Australians a lot of the time are either really offensive or afraid to be offensive. I've definitely been afraid to hurt feelings before but in order to put out this record, even just with my age, I'm learning I can't do things just to please other people and I can't try and create comfortable environments for other people if it sacrifices my comfort. So in that way I think rebellion.
W: I think rebellion works because this song is literally us saying "well f**k you we can do what we want". That's fast becoming our biggest song live. We play songs from all our albums and eps and that song is such a memorable part of the set.
PB: Our Last Night are supporting you on tour, do you have a favourite cover of theirs?
W: I haven't really listened to their covers but I've listened to their original new album and that was really cool.
PB: You did Punk Goes Pop a few years ago, covering "Little Lion Man", are there any current tracks you want a go at?
W: I'd like to do one of the new Coldplay songs. They just have one drum beat that doesn't change. Rock music changes drum beats every chorus so a big thing for us on this album is that we have the same drum beat we just add and take away to build. I think it would be really cool to do that with one of their new fun songs.
J: I like the idea of covering things from the past. I wanna do "Bitch" by Meredith Brooks so bad. I always wanted to do "Black Dog" by Led Zeppelin. There's a list of songs I really wanna muck around with.
PB: Do you ever do covers live anymore?
J: No, not at all.
W: Although i have started playing Ronan Keating on stage.
PB: Really? What Ronan jam are you playing?
W: Well, mate you'll have to see tonight...
(We honestly thought he was joking. Then, during the encore, this happened).
Posted by PopBuzz on Friday, February 19, 2016
PB: You have just finished touring with All Time Low - how was that?
W: They are the best band you could ever tour with. They honestly just take care of you so much, they're so f**king kind. You can't speak highly enough of that band. It doesn't get much better than that in our scene.
PB: On a scale of 1-10, how scary are Alex Gaskarth's eyebrows in real life?
J: I think they're well groomed (laughs).
W: I've never noticed them - are they big or something? Are they bushy?
J: They're thick.
W: Oh. I dunno, I don't look at eyebrows. I don't care (laughs).
PB: Jenna, you said recently that you will do a collaboration with Lynn from PVRIS. What kind of genre would that fit into? Synth pop?
J: I guess we'd meet in the middle really. I can't wait, Lynn and I talk about it a lot, it's gonna be in the works. Its definitely gonna happen its a matter of time. Its a matter of when we're both off tour and have time to work together. I'm really excited about it, I think we have a good connection as people and we respect each other's music so I think something great's gonna happen.
PB: You've talked a lot about your veganism, how hard is it to get the right dietary stuff on tour?
J: We're learning how to substitute now. I've got a lot of food intolerances and I can't eat grains so we were always trying to look for special spots that did food that catered to our requirements but now we're learning how to get the most out of our rider and now that we're touring on a bus instead of a van we've got a fridge and we can look after ourselves better. I think you have to go down the wrong path to get on the right one, it takes a lot of educating yourself to figure out what the body needs.
W: Subtle changes as well - we used to stop at walmart and now we stop at whole foods, we've changed our rider so we're getting these things instead of getting just bread...
J: ...and chips and beer. Now we know we can get berries and carrots, just fresh stuff that even if you don't eat it on the day can go on the bus.
W: Having a fridge is awesome.
PB: What's your current vegan recipe tip?
J: I'm doing spelt bread toast. Spelt is an alkaline grain so it doesn't create inflammation and acidity in your body which is an issue for me. So I have spelt toast with tahiti, bananas, bit of cinnamon and honey. And its kind of like having pancakes and french toast at the same time. I mean, honey is not vegan but...
W: Meh, it's on the fence.
J: It's a great treat. But it's also not bad for you - it can be had in the morning, it can be had for dessert. So that's my favourite thing to eat at the moment.
PB: Would you guys ever do a Paramore style-cruise?
J: I feel like they're the first band to do that.
PB: Yeah, it's basically them and Pitbull.
J: That's kind of awesome. Pitbull would actually be really fun. I mean I don't love everything he's done but as if that wouldn't be a great atmosphere.
PB: Oh you know that would be a party boat. The idea appeal to you?
J: I would never say no, if the opportunity came up, that would be awesome. We love the ocean, we love nature. I actually love cruise holidays, its a great environment. Would else could we do? I want to start a festival one day, maybe i'll start it and then hand it over to someone cos I wouldn't want the responsibility forever. But like, learning about how festivals run and now Soundwave has closed down and now Unify festival in Australia I think is coming up. I love the festival atmosphere. I think it would be really fun.
PB: It's such a shame Soundwave went...
J: I think it was crumbling on the inside, the scaffolding was falling apart and it was gonna collapse or it was gonna stop running.
W: I don't feel horrible about it because i don't think it did much to help the Australian scene.
J: It was great for the big bands that came out and for the fans but it wasn't developing the Australian music scene, it was kind of crushing it. Its just the time for something new to come up.
PB: Right, lets do some stupid questions - what's are your go-to karaoke songs?
W: "I Want It That Way", Backstreet Boys
J: "I'm Outta Love", Anastacia
PB: What's your favourite meme?
J: I like the Simon Cowell "It's a no from me". I love that one.
PB: What's your favourite emoji?
J: I like the purple devil that smiles.
PB: You know who also said that was his fave? Jason Derulo.
J: Really? I bet he does it in a flirty way though. I bet he sends it on texts like "you up for tonight?" or something. I use it when I know I've said something a bit on the border.
PB: What's making you laugh at the moment?
W: Just Jenna, watching her about her daily life...no, um, whats that rap battle thing?
J: It's called "The Worst Rap Battle" ever on YouTube.
W: That just made me laugh for about two years dude.
J: I like Broad City a lot. Ilana is my favourite, she's cool, she's funky. I want the next season to come out.
PB: What's the worst band name you've ever had?
W: Our band name before it was Tonight Alive was Hardshot Kid Disaster.
J: My band's name was The Missing Element. We were each one of the four elements but the band together was the missing element. It was kinda dorky but we were kids. I must have been about 12/13 with my cousins, 3 girls 1 boy.
PB: What's your favourite cereal?
J: I cant eat cereal anymore but I used to eat cheerios. I used to eat it after school and for dessert. I had boxes of it in my room, it was kind of weird.
W: I like Milo. It might be an Australian thing.
PB: Finally, sum up the album in 3 emojis.
J: Shooting star, hands reaching up and the night sky one.
And with that we were all done.
Well, after a quick selfie.
The album, Limitless, is out March 4th.
Go get it!