It’s time for bands to take accountability

Zoe Stratos | opinions editor

Nov. 4, 2021

When I was 14 — the rebellious years — I turned my taste toward the angsty, hometown-hating music defined by the pop punk genre. Listening to bands like State Champs, All Time Low, With Confidence and really any other band that embodied the careless attitude made me feel like I was understood. I felt safe.

Even though it feels a bit cringey now, I, and many others my age, idolized the men in these bands. We loved the music, the lyrics and the protection of belonging to a group. We felt that someone out there really understood the struggles we were experiencing as young adults trying to find their place in the world. 

But we also loved the way they looked — even though they were five or even 10 years older than us.

It’s only natural for a middle school-aged girl to crush on a band member. Everyone does it, no matter the type of celebrity. There’s “directioners” who wanted to date Harry Styles and Marvel fanatics who fawn over Chris Hemsworth.

But while the notion of falling into a real-life relationship with one of these stars seemed like a teenage pipe dream, for many girls, this became a nightmarish reality.  

In recent years, the pop punk genre has become inseparable from allegations of sexual misconduct, assault and grooming minors. 

Whether it’s the dream of meeting them on the tour bus, or becoming friends through direct messaging on social media, the power dynamic between star and fan has led to a great deal of trauma for children who were swept away by the bright lights of a pop punk concert — the place they felt the most safe. The latest to add to the list is All Time Low’s guitarist Jack Barakat.

The Baltimore-based group has been a staple in the pop punk community since the early 2000s, with hits like Weightless and Dear Maria, Count Me In.

Well, it’s about time they managed Barakat, because he’s a mess.

The concern began with a since-deleted viral TikTok video alleging misconduct on behalf of the entire band. Following this, an anonymous Twitter account posted a since-deleted statement claiming that Barakat had groomed and sexually assaulted the writer, with incidents dating back to 2011 — when the accuser was just 15 years old.

The allegations stated that these incidents persisted over the course of the 2011 tour and tours following, and finally ended when the victim was 21. Although deleted, the 16 paragraph story detailed every single encounter with Barakat over the course of six years, while also revealing her personal traumas at home and with friends.

As a young, impressionable teenager, like all of us in the community, Barakat took advantage of this girl’s age and vulnerability.

The issues with the band span much further than the allegations. In 2013, Barakat, at age 25, publicly dated 17-year-old actress Abigail Breslin. Somehow, this avoided public ridicule.

Moreover, at each All Time Low concert, Barakat would collect bras thrown from the crowd and hang them on his mic stand. After the show, they would be taken to an equipment truck and hung from the ceiling. The collection was absurdly large.

Being that their fan base was predominantly teens and young adults, looking back and experiencing it myself at their 2015 Future Hearts Tour, his on-stage actions were predatory, even creepy. 

But my 15-year-old self at the time thought it was hilarious, and was even tempted to do it myself.

In response to the allegations, the band released a statement on Oct. 25 denying all of it.

“We have to state with outright certainty that what is being said about us is completely and utterly false,” the statement read. The band continued that they “stand with victims” of abuse, and “will be seeking legal recourse” against any and all sources of alleged sexual misconduct.

As a follow up, Barakat added to the statement in his own tweet saying, “while the four of us wrote this statement together, I feel the need to personally refute the claims being made against me and us, as they are 100% false.”

There are a few things wrong with All Time Low’s statement, and you’d think by now bands would know how to go about the situation in a better way. 

Many of the past, including Neck Deep’s Lloyd Roberts and With Confidence’s Luke Rockets, both were kicked from their respective bands without any arguments — whether the accusations were confirmed true or false. Both bands released statements immediately, with transparency in their investigations, and With Confidence even pulled out from opening for Knuckle Puck on their 2017 Shapeshifter Tour.

All Time Low first and foremost denied all allegations, which isn’t inherently bad, but the statement came weeks after the first few victims stepped forward. Their delay in action to address the situation shows a carelessness almost unprecedented in the community.

But to make matters worse, the band released a blanket statement stating their support for victims, yet took no accountability for predatory on-stage actions prior to the personal accusation. They also completely evaded talking about the main accusation mentioned earlier at all.

As for the other three members of the group, instead of immediately believing Barakat’s side of the he-said-she-said, I feel they should have taken matters into their own hands to both address the situation without Barakat, and explain their steps moving forward in investigating, rather than immediately taking legal action against accusers.

As a band, All Time Low — or any other band for that matter — have a duty as people in a powerful position to make fans feel safe when listening to their music and attending their shows. The pop punk genre at large needs to take responsibility if they want to continue being an influence for kids around the world.