The Gaslight Anthem Talk "Handwritten"
Tue, 12 Jun 2012 09:53:16
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Rock 'n' roll could really use some resuscitation.
The Gaslight Anthem is the group with the goods to do it too. The New Jersey quartet infuses Handwritten—due out July 24—with the kind of righteous and revolutionary power that brings arenas to their feet. At the same time, there's a punk grit to Handwritten that fuels the likes of the album's phenomenal first single "45". In essence, The Gaslight Anthem might just revive rock music for good when the record drops…
One of the big reasons is because they're real music fans themselves. Singer and guitarist Brian Fallon smiles, "Playing with Soundgarden on their European tour is going to be sick. I heard Chris Cornell asked us to do the tour specifically. I was like, 'How do you even know about my band?' That's awesome."
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Brian Fallon talks Handwritten and so much more…
What's the story behind "45"?
That was one of the first songs we did on Handwritten. It was the track that sort of dictated what the rest of the record was going to be. That was the jump-off point and cornerstone to us finding out what the new album was going to sound like. You never know. Once you start something new, you want to make it a little bit different than your previous records, but you don't want to alienate people either. I felt like "45" was a good direction. It felt familiar and different enough. It was exciting again. It really excited us in the new process and what we were going to go ahead and find.
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Where were you coming from lyrically?
It's about not staying in anything that holds you back or is keeping you down for any extended period of time. Sometimes, you have to change and move on. That's the essence of the song. There's something waiting for you out there. With the symbolism of a record, you don't know what's actually out there until you actually go and find it. Finding the strength to take that step into the next chapter of your life is a big thing for people. It was definitely a clear path to follow.
Where did that path lead you?
It led us to the rest of the songs. It's too early to tell. We don't know where it's going to lead yet. We're pretty happy with it, but it's weird to see what happens when it gets released.
Is there one thread that ties the entire album together for you?
Well, it's a personal record between the band and the listener. For the first time, it's something we took real care to communicate. We were definitely trying to make sure the person who was on the other end of the speakers knew we were talking to them. The record evolves. Whether or not it reaches a lot of people at once, it was an individual thing. It was pretty cool to do that and have the feeling or writing for one person at the other end of the speakers.
Where did "Too Much Blood" come from?
We had a riff, and we built up on that. That came out pretty quickly. I went to see one of Chris Cornell's solo acoustic shows at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, NJ. I saw his name on the marquee, and I was like, "I've got to go!" I got in, and he was awesome. He was really on fire! He just killed it. When I got home, I was really buzzed on the whole vibe of his show. I used some Soundgarden-style weird chords I saw him play that I never really learned before. I watched his hands and thought, "Look at that chord! I wonder if it would sound good with these chords I normally use." It was a cool growing thing. That song came out really quickly in about 20 minutes. It was a good stride.
Is it important for you to tell stories with the songs?
I think it's always important to paint a picture whether you're writing a book or a poem. You have to set the scene, you can't just leave somebody out in the dust. If you don't know where you're coming from in the song, you get lost. You have to tell people where it's coming from. You get the mood. I think the music allows you to do that too. You can do it in an unspoken way.
Do you read often or watch a lot of movies?
I watch movies constantly. I read all the time. I don't sit around reading these books you're supposed to read like On the Road. I just buy whatever I'm interested in. At the moment, I'm reading a book on how to repair a motorcycle. Sometimes, I read biographies. I read Nikki Sixx's The Heroin Diaries. I'm not a Mötley Crüe fan, but it was an interesting read to see what this guy was going through. You can learn a lot from other people's stories. You have to listen to someone's story and, if you let it in, it can help you in your writing.
What movies do you come back to?
Right now, I'm trying to catch up on movies I haven't seen or re-watch movies that were really important to me. I watched Cool Hand Luke again recently to get the older perspective. I saw it when I was 13 or 14. At the same time, I watched Nicolas Cage in Ghost Rider because I think it's fun. Movies can be something you delve into. I saw Dark Shadows, and I thought it was amazing because it's fun. It doesn't always have to be this profound journey through the psyche.
If you were to compare Handwritten to a movie or a combination of movies what would you compare it to?
Maybe a David Lynch movie? None of the songs really go together. They all tell different stories [Laughs]. Lynch does that with movies. He's kind of telling a story, but somewhere down the line he's like, "You figure it out", which is awesome. I love that he doesn't care.
Well you've got "Mulholland Drive" on there…
I watched that movie for the first time when I was writing the record. I was watching it, and I was like, "I went through something similar". It wasn't in the same form exactly, but the sentiment was there. It was a great title, so I wanted to use it.
You've really preserved your sound while evolving here.
We're not trying to shun what we've done before. I hate it when bands are like, "All of our old records are crap. This is the record we should've made". It's like, "Well, people like those records, and you put them out there. Don't talk back about your own records." It's a growing process. What you like now might not be the same as what you like later. As far as we go, we like our records. We had a cool sound going, and we didn't want to alienate that.
No, nothing really has. I'll tell you the secret to that. We waited so long to sign to a major label that we already had our thing established. A label is smart. They know what's going on. They're business people. They understand that if you've got a new band who's just off the street and is releasing their first record, they probably need some guidance and shaping. They're young, and they don't know what they're doing. If you would've asked me how we wanted to be marketed during Sink or Swim, I would've had no idea. I had no idea what marketing was. As you get older, it becomes less about how you wanted to be marketed and more about what you are. When your four records deep, you're already who you are. By your second or third record, you can tell what a band is about. A major simply had to step in and say, "Okay, we just have to tell the world this is what you're about because you've already done that". You can't come in and change things. If you try to change a band this far in, you're going to ruin everything they've built which was the whole reason you wanted to sign them anyway.
What are you listening to now?
I've been listening to this band Tribes a lot. They've got a record called Babies. I like that Naked & Famous record. I listen to a lot of more dance-y music and pop radio sometimes. It gets too serious listening to Neil Young all the time. You get really heavy. I listen to Neil Young a lot, but sometimes you need a break. You can't be hearing "Four dead in Ohio" all the time [Laughs]. It weighs on your conscience and brings you down! Sometimes, you need to be like, "Okay, cool, what's up with Katy Perry?" [Laughs] There are a lot of good records out there like the new Hot Water Music. The new The Bouncing Souls album is fantastic. Cory Branan released a record called Mutt, which was phenomenal.
Are you excited for Handwritten?