THE GASLIGHT AN­THEM

TEN YEARS OF THE ’59 SOUND, IN THEIR OWN WORDS

Kerrang! (UK) - - Welcome - Words: emily carter PHOTO: Ann Coen

48 KER­RANG!

It was early 2008, and four 20-some­thing punks from New Jersey were on the road. They didn’t know it then, but that par­tic­u­lar jour­ney – all 2,500 miles of it – was about to change their lives for­ever. Ar­riv­ing at their des­ti­na­tion in a van that they were yet to pay off, th­ese hope­ful young men had made a cross-coun­try trip to the ad­dress of their new record la­bel’s of­fices, Sideone­dummy, to pick up the keys to LA’S Oak­wood apart­ments. It would be their home for the next cou­ple of weeks.

The quar­tet went by the name The Gaslight An­them and they were there to make an al­bum ti­tled The ’59 Sound.

“When we pulled up, I had zero dol­lars in my pocket, and $30,000 of credit card debt,” re­flects bassist Alex Levine, looking back on a body of work that not only dragged him away from a time of strug­gle, but gave his band­mates – Brian Fallon (vo­cals), Alex Rosa­milia (gui­tar) and Benny Horowitz (drums) – ex­pe­ri­ences that would ex­ceed their wildest dreams. “It’s kind of a ro­man­tic story; what I was about to do next was the be­gin­ning of the next 10 years of my life.”

The Gaslight An­them be­lieved in the ma­te­rial they’d brought to pro­ducer Ted Hutt. But they never an­tic­i­pated what th­ese 12 soul­ful punk songs would do for them.

The group would ap­pear on the front of Ker­rang! – having never even been writ­ten about in the mag­a­zine be­fore – with the words: ‘The Best New Band You’ll Hear In

2008’ splashed across the cover. Their Gar­den State hero, Bruce Spring­steen, would be­come a fan, and join them ons­tage at Glas­ton­bury the fol­low­ing year. They would go on to make three more albums (sign­ing to a ma­jor la­bel for the lat­ter two), out­grow base­ment shows in favour of academy and arena venues, and ac­cu­mu­late a diehard fan­base. Then, in 2015, they tem­po­rar­ily hit the brakes.

To­day, the Red Bank na­tives are hap­pily cel­e­brat­ing 10 years of their sem­i­nal sec­ond al­bum. With an an­niver­sary tour in full swing (the UK leg of which is hap­pen­ing in July) and a com­pan­ion al­bum of rar­i­ties and demos out this month, The Gaslight An­them have emerged from some well-earned time away to hon­our the mo­ment their ca­reer ex­ploded into life.

“Just be­cause a record turns 10, 20 or 30, it’s not a jack in the box mo­ment where you can pop up ev­ery 10 years and be like, ‘What’s up!’” chuck­les Brian, as Ker­rang! catch up with the band. “But this was the most im­por­tant record we ever did. So how could we not?”

BRIAN FALLON (VO­CALS/GUI­TAR)

“When we were mak­ing The ’59 Sound, ev­ery­body was ex­cit­edly throw­ing out ideas in the studio. We were all free to cre­ate. If I was go­ing to give any­body ad­vice based on what I learned from those ses­sions, I would say, ‘Cre­ate the thing, then judge it.’ There’s no way I’d put a Counting Crows ref­er­ence [on High Lone­some] in a punk song, if I thought about it from a crit­i­cism stand­point. But then I said, ‘Well, why not? I like it!’ That’s the beauty of the record, and the spirit of it.

“The mo­ment I re­alised, ‘Whoa, this is way big­ger than I thought!’ was 100 per cent Glas­ton­bury. At that point we looked around and it was like, ‘Well, no­body else played with Bruce Spring­steen to­day!’ We’re from New Jersey, lit­er­ally no-one knew us, and then one of the best song­writ­ers on the face of the planet was sud­denly a fan. That was a prize. In the past I would get ir­ri­tated that ev­ery­body fo­cused on the Bruce con­nec­tion – they were us­ing some­thing pos­i­tive to try to make it neg­a­tive, and I feel like: shame on them, not shame on us. We were just try­ing to be our­selves and do what we thought was good. In hind­sight, I’m proud of that.

“There were also hard times dur­ing that pe­riod. We had a lot of at­ten­tion, but we were poor as poor could be. I was liv­ing with my par­ents, and our van was the big­gest fo­cus: we were like, ‘If we don’t have enough money for the van, how are we go­ing to get to the next show?’ It was rough, and that’s one of the rea­sons lots of bands don’t get there, be­cause those times are so hard. Sen­si­ble peo­ple would stop and be like, ‘This isn’t a good idea!’ But we’re not sen­si­ble peo­ple (laughs).

“If peo­ple can find in­spi­ra­tion in some­thing we do then that’s cool. If any­body wants to say that we in­spired them to do some­thing – es­pe­cially some­thing cre­ative – then I’m thrilled. It’s the big­gest com­pli­ment. I look back on the record and I play the songs now and I think, ‘Man, I’m glad we did it.’ There’s not a note that I would change.”

ALEX LEVINE (BASS)

“The ’59 Sound put us on the map – es­pe­cially in Eng­land. We hadn’t even played a show there and we were on the cover of Ker­rang!. Those songs, and ev­ery­thing about record­ing them, mean a lot to us. For me, too, it was a part of grow­ing up. I’m a bit younger than the rest of the guys, so I didn’t have a place to live – I didn’t have any­thing. I was just like, ‘Al­right, cool, let’s do this record now.’ I ba­si­cally had to wait to eat, un­til Sideone­dummy gave us $500 to stock up. The thing is, you’ve got to re­ally want this: you’ve got to have undy­ing pas­sion to get in a van and play shows day in, day out. You’ve got to live it.

“The legacy, the mu­sic and what we ac­com­plished means way more than fi­nan­cial gain or any­thing like that. None of us live in man­sions or drive nice cars – that’s not who we were. It’s not how the mu­sic busi­ness works for bands like us, and that’s the beauty of it.

“Looking back now, I never, ever thought that peo­ple would look at the record with such high re­gard. I be­lieved in it, but when you’re young and you’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing, re­ally, it’s hard to grasp what came next, in terms of… well, all of it. It was crazy. It was things that you couldn’t even dream about. That record is my life. I’ve got chil­dren and I’m mar­ried, but that record is one of the top five things to me – I hold it so sa­cred.”

ALEX ROSA­MILIA (GUI­TAR)

”Ev­ery time I play those songs, I’m im­me­di­ately taken to where I was when we wrote those parts. The ’59 Sound was our first proper studio ex­pe­ri­ence. It was like: we do drums in one studio, and we do ev­ery­thing else in an­other, and that felt so pro­fes­sional, just walk­ing into this place ev­ery morn­ing and there was all this equip­ment to help you do your thing! I was try­ing to put pi­ano on ev­ery­thing, and our pro­ducer, Ted Hutt, was ab­so­lutely op­posed to it

(laughs). I wanted to do ev­ery­thing that I could on the record. And he was there to kind of be like, ‘Ev­ery­thing doesn’t go on ev­ery­thing!’

“It’s awe­some to know that other peo­ple have looked up to you for in­spi­ra­tion, and have be­come suc­cess­ful do­ing their thing based off of what you were do­ing. But I don’t think that we were any cooler than any­body else for do­ing that – we were just try­ing to be our best ver­sion of Hot Wa­ter Mu­sic! Any­body that’s truly into mu­sic – not just do­ing it to make money – and truly into the art of it, will know go­ing into it that there’s only seven notes and five half-tones, which isn’t much to work with. So any­thing you do is ob­vi­ously based off what came be­fore, and if you’re try­ing to say that what you’re do­ing is the most orig­i­nal thing ever, you’re just ly­ing to your­self.”

BENNY HOROWITZ (DRUMS)

“I fell in love with the nar­ra­tive of rock’n’roll when I was a kid, so to ‘go west to record an al­bum’ was some­thing I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ated. When we were done record­ing the al­bum in LA, we played a show at the Knit­ting Fac­tory in Hol­ly­wood, and all the Sideone­dummy guys were there, and it was the first time we played The ’59 Sound songs live. I re­mem­ber a gen­eral feeling of ex­cite­ment be­tween all th­ese peo­ple who were stoked on it. I’ve been in bands since I was 12 years old, and none of them ever got to where I wanted them to be. I was ex­pe­ri­enced enough by that point to un­der­stand if peo­ple were bull­shit­ting me; I know the dif­fer­ence be­tween a gra­cious head-nod and some­body who is gen­uinely ex­cited. Early on I booked a lot of the shows, and I was pretty tapped into that scene, but up un­til then I felt like ev­ery show I booked, peo­ple were like, ‘Oh, we’re gonna hook up Benny’s band.’ With Gaslight it was more like, ‘Oh, Benny’s got a dope band we ac­tu­ally wanna lis­ten to!’ I no­ticed straight off the bat that the re­ac­tion was dif­fer­ent. It was a dif­fer­ent sen­ti­ment – it felt more ur­gent and happy.

“I do think we knew we were on to some­thing cool, and that it could be re­ally spe­cial, but I don’t think we had any clue at that point what it ac­tu­ally took to be a full-time band day-to-day. We didn’t know that the bands that we loved, who were our he­roes, all came home from tours and were still work­ing, and do­ing jobs that they didn’t want to do. And we learned that the hard way. At first we were looking to sell five T-shirts at a show – that was the first goal. It was done in the punk rock way. I re­mem­ber me and Brian say­ing, at some point, that we were go­ing to get throat tat­toos if we sold 10,000 records! Be­cause in our es­ti­ma­tions, if you sold 10,000 records once, you were prob­a­bly good for the rest of your life.”

“WHEN I LOOK BACK ON IT THERE’S NOT A NOTE I WOULD CHANGE” BRIAN FALLON

THE ’59 SOUND SES­SIONS IS AVAIL­ABLE ON JUNE 15 VIA SIDEONE­DUMMY RECORDS. THE GASLIGHT AN­THEM PLAY THE UK NEXT MONTH – SEE THE GIG GUIDE FOR INFO

The very last gang in town

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