Having sold well over 400, 000 albums worldwide, The Gaslight Anthem are a band whose music is quickly becoming a household name. Over the summer the New Jersey four piece took to the studio to record their Fourth studio album 'Handwritten'. Vocalist Brian Fallon took some time out of his day to speak with us about their new album 'Handwritten', the new label, cheese burgers with 'The Boss' and most importantly of all, Brian's enduring love for New Kids On The Block.
Q: Since the release of American Slang, you had to go off and do various things to re-ignite your love with guitar music. You went on an acoustic tour, didn't you?
A: Yeah, I had to reacquaint myself with my love for a lot of things in that period. I was very soured on a lot of different things and a lot of music and hype. When American Slang came out everyone was like "this is the next big band in the world and this is blah blah blah Bruce Springsteen Junior and blah blah blah" and I was just like "I don't know what that means. I don't know, we'll see".
Q: People can interpret things in so many different ways. It can be taken so many different ways. Hype's a hard thing to live with as it is, I suppose. So, it worked out well that you went away and it's re-invigorated you to record this album so you must have done something right!
A: Yeah, I think it was the right thing to do for me at that time. It was the right thing to get my head focused and re-think over what I was doing. Re-evaluate things.
Q: When it came to recording the new album, was Brendan O'Brien always your first choice of producer?
A: Yeah, Brendan was really the only guy we. I mean, we talked to some other people but just out of, you know, I guess you should - you gotta try a couple of different people to see what you think when you talk to them but Brendan. the minute I talked to him I knew that that was the right guy.
Q: He's worked on many albums that obviously you draw influences from and you can't recreate that kind of experience, I guess!
A: Well, you have to get along with somebody too because they can make great records with other bands and just not work with you, but Brendan just kind of. the way that he hit it off with us was just really great. He really kind of knew. He just, I don't know, he fit like a glove with us.
Q: So, the record's all finished now?
A: All finished and ready to go in July!
Q: So are you all, on the whole, happy with the way that it's all turned out?
A: Yeah, man, I'm ecstatic! I think it's my favourite thing that we've done. I mean, I know that's what you're supposed to say but that's how I feel about it! I love it, I think it's great! There's no reason to do it if you don't love it. Too many bands record an album and feel 'Well, this is okay' but after a time they grow to not like it.
Q: Sometimes bands actually feel like they're pressured to do certain things, by labels and management I suppose.
A: Well yeah, but you gotta have a relationship with your label. We have a really good relationship here with Mercury, we made sure of that before we signed. We made sure that we were amongst people who really wanted to work with us and not just because they thought they could sell a lot of records but people who actually liked us. You just have to be smart with the people that you hang out with, you know?
Q: Well actually, I was going to say you guys are a bit of an oddity really because you quite happily lived on to like a punk label for many years. You were never afraid to express your desire to move on to a major label, whereas most bands that are on a punk label, they don't wanna do that. Was the desire to move on purely down to trying to go to a label that could properly further your reach as a band, was that the main instigator behind that move?
A: Yeah, definitely. It was kind of like it reached a point where you do as much as you can with one label and you go as far as you can and everything's great but you never make any bones about it, like even when we first signed to SideOne we were like "Hey guys, eventually we wanna be on a major" and that's the deal we wanna do and they knew it and we never hid that from anybody. You just have to know your story from the beginning, you have to know what you're going for and be honest with people about that. Don't sit there and say you're gonna be a DIY punk band for your whole life and then move on to arenas, you can't do that because then people don't trust you anymore. I understand that people, sometimes, their view changes and that's a different thing like if you change your mind that's one thing but if you have this malicious intent to fool people that's not a good idea. So we were always very open about what we wanna do but at the same time the bigger we get the more reach we have with other people. The more we can do. like, I can have Joe Sib or Bill Armstrong call me up from SideOneDummy and if we're playing 20 nights at Brixton Academy and they're like "Hey man, we just signed this new band what do you think of them? and they're great and no-one's ever heard of them" I can be like "Hey guess what! They're gonna open for us" in front of 20,000 people, that's awesome! We just helped out a band who maybe wouldn't have gotten the attention. You can't forget where you came from and you definitely can't forget the people that built you up. You can't just be like "Oh,that was a nice stepping stone, thanks guys, see ya!" That sucks, man, when people do that. Because you become inflated with yourself and you forget. if you forget where you come from, I mean... that's just lame. You can't do that.
Q: There are too many people like that. I mean, you guys all seem very genuine, down-to-earth and know exactly what you want to do from the band.
A: Yeah, we're also older than a lot guys. A lot of guys start out at seventeen and eighteen and then, you know, what do you know when you're seventeen? You don't know what you gonna do with the rest of your life when you're thirty let alone when you're seventeen!
Q: Your love of old school rock and Americana has been pretty well documented down the road. You've obviously got quite a huge love of the old Boss man. [Bruce Springsteen]
A: Yeah, he's a nice guy!
Q: Yeah, well he seems to appreciate your music as well, doesn't he?
A: Yeah, he's been really kind to us, he's a good guy.
Q: How did that all come about? Did he just hear your record and just decide that he's taken a liking to you?
A: Yeah! I mean, I assume so! We didn't meet him or anything before that; I think he just liked it and that was the deal which is more genuine, which is cool, it wasn't this set up PR thing it was an actual friendship that built out of it and an actual love for each other's music. He will ask me questions about what I think about different music and sounds and how to get certain sounds and I'm like "What are you talking about, man, that's crazy?!" which is really cool, that just shows his humility.
Q: So what do you think to his new album?
A: Oh, I like it, I think it's good. I think he could've sent me an advanced copy, I think he could've done that at least! So I didn't have to go buy it! It's the least he could've done, I mean, I DID invite him over to my house and gave him cheeseburgers, right? But yeah, I think that it's good, I think that it's cool that he's still experimenting at this stage of his career. He's got like twenty albums out and the fact that he's able to find new ways to do things like using drum loops and things like that, that's pretty cool and that shows his desire to do it for the love of art rather than just regurgitating the same thing over and over again which could sell a million records, he knows that, but when you experiment you always take that chance so I think that's cool that he does that. That's why I like bands like Pearl Jam; they do that thing too really well where the push you a little bit, you know?
Q: So other than The Boss and maybe some more of the well-documented bands, who else do you draw inspiration from?
A: All over the place! It depends where we're going. Sometimes, I'll pop in a record I haven't listened to in years and you hear like a Black Flag record or something like that and you'll be like "Whoa, man, yeah! I haven't heard this in forever!" or you pop in something new, even, Bon Iver or The Naked And Famous. You get inspiration everywhere; there's something to be learned from everything, but I go back to the Stones, The Who, Bruce and Neil Young that kinda stuff. That's like the tried and true, tested great music and then there's the staples that I grew up on which is Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam that kinda stuff. Those are the staples in MY life that I actually really discovered myself.
Q: They do come through in your music but I think Gaslight Anthem managed to keep things in quite a modern sound. You can hark back to sounds but you definitely have a knack of writing things that still matter to the modern listener.
A: Yeah, you don't wanna be a nostalgia act. You don't wanna pretend you're living in the sixties - that's kinda weird.
Q: I think we also share a mutual love of Tom Robbins.
A: Yes! Well, he's got a good sense of titles. That was a book [Even Cowgirls Get The Blues] that was left around the house by my wife and I kinda just picked up the title so I've always had a little fondness for that.
Q: He's a brilliant author. Do you take much inspiration from various authors and things like that?
A: Yeah, definitely! Nick Hornby's probably the biggest one! He was the guy that I really. I really like him a lot.
Q: So obviously you're a very talented musician, Brian, but.
A: Obviously! [Laughs] when you say obviously you mean borderline making it by the skin of my teeth, that's what you mean!?
Q: You're kidding, so modest!
A: You probably think I'm someone who can really play and you'll see how modest I'm being! Actually I'm barely getting by! I mean, I can play a chord! I get by more on personality sometimes than I do on anything else.
Q: Back to my original question, If you could learn a new skill, something that you've always wanted to do, what would it be?
A: Oh painting! Like auto-body painting! I would love to learn how to paint motorcycles and stuff like that. I really, really am fascinated by that.
Q: Maybe you could go to the Orange County chopper guys or something like that?
A: I'm not really into the chopper thing, I'm more into just traditional bikes and Harley Davidsons and that kind of thing. Real American bikes like that, I don't really like the stretched frames and stuff like that. I mean, I appreciate it; I really love the fact that they just started it themselves, you know, guys like Jessie James and they started it from nothing. They took a love of motorcycles and made it into a career which is super cool no matter what you're doing but yeah I really love that Steve McQueen kinda just straight-up motorcycle riding by yourself just for the love of riding.
Q: Do you have many motorcycles?
A: No, I only have one. I have one, I don't need a lot, I only need one, you can only ride one at a time.
Q: You can only ride one at a time. that could be a philosophy for life.
A: I don't really have that many guitars either. I don't really collect stuff because you can only play one at a time. You get an extra one just in case one breaks and that's it.
Q: You've got loads of gigs and festivals coming up over the course of the summer. You're gonna be opening for Bon Jovi as well at Bamboozle! That'll be nice going out on home ground, isn't it?
A: Yeah, it's gonna be cool! Our friends The Bouncing Souls and Brand New are playing that day, it's gonna be cool. I've never actually seen Bon Jovi play a full set. I've seen them at benefits that we've done together, but I've never seen them play the hits and you don't have to be a Bon Jovi fan to love the hits. I'm not NOT a Bon Jovi fan, I do like Bon Jovi but. I love those hits, like Bad Medicine and stuff that's just killer.
Q: Moving on, if you could play a gig with one band dead or alive, who would you like to do it with?
A: The Clash, definitely.
Q: The Clash! Well, that was the first record that you bought, wasn't it?
A: Well, it was the first record that was bought for me. You don't forget that first record. You never forget that. My first real one was New Kids on the Block Hangin' Tough but that doesn't really count because I was like eight.
Q: New Kids on the Block always counts and other people will definitely be very happy with that choice.
A: Yeah, I have a New Kids on the Block t-shirt from their last tour when they did it with the Backstreet Boys, I wear it sometimes for shows. I actually wore it on the revival tour, im sure you can find video of it on the internet.
Q: I'll be sure to check that one out!
A: Yeah dude! Listen up everybody if you wanna take a chance, just get on the do the New Kids' dance!
I think that's a perfect way to end the interview anyway. Thanks Brian.
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