Interview The Gaslight Anthem: ‘I Want My Country Back’

Rock and roll is undoubtedly alive, well and on your doorstep. The Gaslight Anthem are back.

For years, for decades, music has been defined by its origins. Whether it’s the Louisiana blues, or the Los Angeles punk scene. The Baggy capital of Manchester, or the grunge birthplace of Seattle. There’s something inexplicably special about the inspiration these locations hold. But then again, there really is something magical about New Jersey.

Whether brought up on Springsteen or The Misfits, Bon Jovi or The Bouncing Souls, rock and roll is undoubtedly alive, well and on your doorstep in the Garden State, and The Gaslight Anthem are the most invigorating of modern bands proving as such. Born into the New Brunswick scene in the mid-2000s, the punk rock four-piece – consisting of Brian Fallon, Alex Rosamilia, Benny Horowitz and Alex Levine – have gone from strength to strength.

Emerging from the underground with their 2007 debut ‘Sink Or Swim’, it’s through their honest and compassionate brand of punk that we meet them today, five years on, ahead of the release of album number four. “Most people think it’s the third. Isn’t that weird?” remarks Fallon, as the corners of his mouth turn up in a smile. “It’s alright though.”

For the recording of their fourth album, things definitely changed. Having signed their first major label contract, the band also tried their hand at a host of new approaches. “We tried to figure out,” begins Fallon, “what would we do if this was our first record? Everything was new. New producer, new label, new writing style. Everything went. There were no rules.”

And with their whole new outlook, came a whole new recording space. Having previously worked with Ted Hutt in both New York and Los Angeles, it was time for the band to head somewhere different: Nashville, Tennesee. “It was tough recording the last album [‘American Slang’] in New York and just going home every day,” explains Levine. “Your head wasn’t in it 100%. You’d go back and forth, but down in Nashville… It’s a totally different pace down there.”

And as for the new producer they’ve already spoken so highly of ? Well, he holds quite the resumé. Having produced everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Neil Young, Rage Against The Machine to Bob Dylan, there was surely something surreal about working with Brendan O’Brien. “I mean,” begins Rosamilia, “after we got to know him, he made it noticeable that…” He turns to Brian. “What did you say when he called you that one time?”

“He called me at eight in the morning, because we had done a song the night before and he was really excited about it. We had finished tracking the song, so he called me at 8am - which is not an appropriate time to call me,” he laughs. “And he goes, ‘Brian Fallon?’ And I go, ‘Yeah?’ And he goes, ‘It’s Brendan O’Brien, Grammy Award Winner.’”

Rosamilia continues: “But when we first met, I couldn’t get over how just regular he seemed. He didn’t have a big head about it. He was real cool, and open to anything.”

“It was super easy,” Fallon assures us. “Everyone would think, ‘Oh, you made this big major label record, in this major label studio,’ but it sounds like a bunch of us just playing guitar. If you messed anything up, you could just go back and fix it, but sometimes we didn’t. Sometimes, we would leave it.”

“That’s the cool part about the way it worked,” Horowitz chimes in. “It’s not about how perfect a take is, or how perfect a track is, it’s how it feels.”

The Gaslight Anthem’s new album ‘Handwritten’ will be released on 23rd July via Mercury. They’ll be touring the UK in October.

Extract taken from the July 2012 issue of DIY, out on Friday 29th June.

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