THE GASLIGHT AN­THEM

Brian Fal­lon, front­man of the New Jersey punk rock­ers turned sta­dium- rock up­starts, The Gaslight An­them, dis­cusses the band’s im­mi­nent ‘ ex­per­i­men­tal’ record, what he thinks of the naysay­ers, and lights. Yes, lights.

Blunt - - A Day To Remember - By Oliver Pelling. Live photo by Kane Hib­berd

They came here to Get Hurt, and it’s mag­nif­i­cent.

IT SEEMS LIKE WE’RE AL­WAYS A YEAR OR TWO BE­HIND OUR­SELVES. WE WERE LATE LEARN­ERS.” BRIAN FAL­LON

We were play­ing a show some­time last year and I was look­ing around think­ing, ‘ Is some­thing miss­ing here?’” re­calls The Gaslight An­them’s front­man Brian Fal­lon. “We were open­ing for some big bands but some­thing wasn’t quite right with our set- up. So I started jump­ing up and down and mov­ing around a bit more. Nope, that wasn’t it. Then it struck me: there’s no light rig. That’s what the deal is.”

It’s mid- July and Fal­lon is speak­ing over the phone from his home in New Jersey. The band just re­turned from Canada, where they played the Toronto Ur­ban Roots Fes­ti­val, and now he’s at home think­ing about the steady evo­lu­tion of his band… and light rigs. “Ever since the early days, we would play these tiny lit­tle places and they’d get jam- packed full,” he pon­ders in his rich New Jersey brogue. “We should’ve moved up to big­ger venues be­fore that and we never did it. We were just kinda dumb. We didn’t re­alise what was hap­pen­ing be­cause we were so pre­oc­cu­pied with do­ing the thing.”

‘ Do­ing the thing’, in The Gaslight An­them’s terms, means putting out four ac­claimed LPs, one EP ( which is Fal­lon’s favourite item in the band’s quiver), a live al­bum, a live DVD and a B- sides record. They’ve also cir­cum­nav­i­gated the world sev­eral times and amassed a for­mi­da­ble cult- like fol­low­ing along the way – all in the space of seven short years. And their fifth ef­fort, Get Hurt ( the one Fal­lon’s on the phone to dis­cuss) is due out on Au­gust 15 in Aus­tralia.

It’ s per­haps telling of the band’s hu­mil­ity that the four­some – rounded out by gui­tarist Alex Rosa­milia, drum­mer Benny Horowitz and bassist Alex Levine – have only re­cently started think­ing about lift­ing the vis­ual as­pect of their live shows to fit the big­ger songs – and big­ger venues – they’ve been play­ing.

“It seems like we’re al­ways a year or two be­hind our­selves,” of­fers Fal­lon. “We were late learn­ers. So I’m look­ing at light rigs right now. They’re send­ing me across all these things about what the lights do. I’m like, ‘ That looks cool’. As long as it looks cool, I like it. Light it up, that’s what I’m say­ing.”

On the sub­ject of big­ger songs, the band’s up­com­ing sec­ond ma­jor la­bel re­lease is no shrink­ing vi­o­let. It’s been well doc­u­mented that this record was go­ing to be Gaslight’s ‘ weird’ and ‘ ex­per­i­men­tal’ al­bum ( Fal­lon has drawn com­par­isons to Pearl Jam’s No Code in this con­text), and the out­fit have made good on their word. From the chief riff of al­bum opener “Stay Vi­cious”, it be­comes im­me­di­ately clear that The Gaslight An­them aren’t fuck­ing around. But de­spite ini­tially sound­ing like a markedly dif­fer­ent band, the chorus drops into one of the wist­ful, jan­gly, catchy- as- hell melodies fans have grown to love.

“I think ‘ Stay Vi­cious’ nailed it,” replies Fal­lon when asked which of the al­bum’s tracks best em­body Get Hurt’s mis­sion state­ment. “I don’t know if it nailed it as a ‘ hit song’ or any­thing like that, but it nailed it in terms of like… ‘ That’s weird’. It’s just dif­fer­ent.”

Fal­lon also cites the record’s epony­mous track – a dark, drift­ing and emo­tion­ally charged heart­breaker – as another solid ex­am­ple of what the group set out to do. “Ev­ery time I hear that song I just think, ‘ Y’know what? That’s awe­some’,” says the front­man. “It sounds like a Gaslight An­them song, but at the same time it doesn’t sound any­thing like The Gaslight An­them. That makes me feel good – I feel good about that song.”

His­tor­i­cally, the band have al­ways strug­gled with la­bels. Their 2007 de­but LP, Sink Or Swim, was a dy­namic punk record that won them a slew of diehard fans. Their fol­low- up, 2008’ s The ‘ 59 Sound – ar­guably the de­fin­i­tive Gaslight An­them record – ex­panded on the sound from their first but drew on a few more melodic, bluesy and soulful in­flu­ences.

The next two records were widely thought of, in the punk and al­ter­na­tive com­mu­nity at least, as be­ing nei­ther here nor there – trapped some­where be­tween the tiny, sweat- drenched punk rock venues they were used to play­ing and the are­nas and sta­di­ums they as­pired to. But with Get Hurt, the as­sim­i­la­tion of the band’s punk roots and their higher as­pi­ra­tions has been

pulled off far more con­vinc­ingly – with more en­ergy, vigour and ur­gency to boot.

Where Fal­lon would typ­i­cally write songs on an acous­tic guitar, Get Hurt saw the front­man switch to an elec­tric ( he also wrote “Un­der­neath The Ground” on the piano – a first for him) and take a much more de­tailed ap­proach to the song­writ­ing process. “For this one, I made re­ally clear and elab­o­rate demos,” he ex­plains. “I said, ‘ Look, I re­ally wanna do some­thing dif­fer­ent. And rather than have you guys guess, I would rather make the songs re­ally clear and you guys can change them from there’, which they did.”

Fal­lon was quoted ear­lier this year as say­ing that he wanted to see how far he could push the record “with­out piss­ing any­one off ” – a quote he says was taken slightly out of con­text. His in­tended mean­ing was that he doesn’t want to ex­clude ex­ist­ing fans with Get Hurt, and he cer­tainly doesn’t seem keen on the idea of in­ten­tion­ally piss­ing any­one off.

“If peo­ple re­ally love your band, that’s some­thing spe­cial and kinda pre­cious, and you should re­spect that,” he elab­o­rates. “Some peo­ple get at­tached to a record and when the band de­vi­ate from that, they don’t like it. I un­der­stand that. With [ Get Hurt], I didn’t wanna be like, ‘ Ev­ery­thing you love about the band is no longer the band’; I didn’t wanna do one of those moves. I don’t think that’s cool.”

As far as get­ting taken out of con­text goes, the past few years have seen Fal­lon in­ad­ver­tently anger some mem­bers of his fan base – par­tic­u­larly the band’s orig­i­nal, more punk- ori­en­tated fans who re­side on the in­ter­net.

“I don’t know what it is, man,” he says in earnest. “I get taken wrong a lot. Some­times I’ll say some­thing and kids won’t like it for some rea­son.”

But whilst the front­man is try­ing to not let the neg­a­tive talk worry him now, this wasn’t al­ways the case. Fal­lon admits that he had to take a bit of a time out from the dig­i­tal world last year. “For a while it got re­ally tough,” he says. “It was just too much. I’m not here to try and make any­one an­gry, but some peo­ple were just get­ting real mad at what I was say­ing. I’ve re­alised that some peo­ple just aren’t go­ing to like what I say and that’s OK. So much of it just gets lost in trans­la­tion.”

De­spite the grow­ing pains – which are par for the course for any punk band that have ever tried to ex­pand their sound – Fal­lon seems con­fi­dent in where the group are at right now. And speak­ing of right now, the front­man is cur­rently en­joy­ing some down­time at home in New Jersey be­fore the tour­ing ( which kicks off in Septem­ber) be­gins.

Time at home also gives Fal­lon am­ple op­por­tu­nity to nerd- out. He sounds slightly em­bar­rassed when he admits that all he does is “sit around and play guitar all day long” and watch movies and doc­u­men­taries about bands – he’s al­ways try­ing to learn. “I’m ob­sessed… I prob­a­bly need deep ther­apy,” he laughs, and quips that un­til he writes a Gaslight An­them equiv­a­lent of Tom Petty’s ac­claimed Full Moon Fever, he’ll never be happy. “But then what hap­pens if you do write a Full Moon Fever?” he pon­ders. “We’d be wrecked. We wouldn’t be able to do it again.”

At 34 years old, Fal­lon’s begin­ning to find he’s en­joy­ing his home com­forts more and more. He sounds jovial as he talks about the new­found mer­its of the chair he’s sit­ting in and of the TV shows he never gets to watch. Still, he says the lure of play­ing live mu­sic hasn’t faded, nor the rea­sons he started play­ing mu­sic in the first place.

“You love see­ing those faces ev­ery night, see­ing that you can make peo­ple happy,” he says. “It re­minds you that you’re not a piece of crap, you know?!”

In­deed, Fal­lon has much to feel good about. Get Hurt is at once a bolder state­ment of in­tent and a more as­sured record than its pre­de­ces­sor, Hand­writ­ten, and per­haps the band’s most vir­ile doc­u­ment since The ‘ 59 Sound. And whilst the front­man cer­tainly sounds con­fi­dent in the record and is keen to re­lease the group’s new­est sounds ‘ pon the world, he still finds him­self philosophis­ing on their up­ward tra­jec­tory.

“It’s a tricky thing you gotta do here,” he says. “You gotta stay rel­e­vant but stay the same. That’s what ev­ery­body wants.”

GET HURT IS OUT AU­GUST 15 THROUGH EMI.

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