Alex Gaskarth remembers the first album he ever bought. It was Metallica’s 1991 self-titled CD, also known as “The Black Album.”

But Gaskarth also has a recollection that he didn’t stay in a heavy-metal mode very long.

“The second album I bought was something by The Backstreet Boys,” said Gaskarth, 23. “I was never that into one thing. For me, listening to music at that age was a learning experience. I was into everything.”

Gaskarth is the singer and rhythm guitarist for All Time Low, a pop-punk band out of the Baltimore suburbs that will play Portland’s State Theatre tonight.

Like Gaskarth, the other members of All Time Low were influenced by a wide range of music. That may be why their sound is hard to describe and doesn’t fit neatly into most radio niches.

Gaskarth is fine with the term “pop punk,” but says his band doesn’t necessarily fit into that category the way that groups like Blink-182 or Green Day once did — even though those bands had a big influence on All Time Low.

“It’s hard for me to put a label on it,” said Gaskarth. “And radio right now is in a weird place. For us to fit in, we’d have to compromise too much.”

All Time Low has had CDs make the Billboard charts, including albums released on indie labels between 2005 and 2009. Its latest album, “Dirty Work,” peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 upon its release last summer.

However, the band has failed to get a lot of radio airplay. After signing with a major label, Interscope, the members did try to write some songs they thought might have wider appeal to audiences. But it didn’t quite work out.

“We took a shot at writing songs that might branch over,” said Gaskarth. “But there’s only a certain amount of give and take we can allow before the music is not us anymore.”

The members of All Time Low met in high school in 2003, and started out playing Blink-182 covers. After graduation, they played and toured nonstop to build a following. By the summer of 2005, they had released their first studio album, “The Party Scene.”

Gaskarth said it may have helped that they were right out of high school and still living with their parents when they set out to make a success of the band.

“We knew if things didn’t work out, we had a fall-back plan,” he said. “We built up the band the grass-roots way: Word of mouth. Radio wasn’t really an alternative for us. Eventually, we started making enough money to support ourselves and move out of our parents’ houses.”

Gaskarth said it’s somewhat gratifying to walk into a Target store now and see his band’s album for sale. But, he emphasized, the goal for All Time Low has never been about getting one or two big hits.

“We never wanted to have a big hit and then say goodbye,” he said. “We always wanted to build a long career doing this. Make a living at it.”


Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at [email protected]