With three successful albums and a loyal fanbase behind them, The Gaslight Anthem are now looking to propel themselves towards even bigger venues and arenas. They recently debuted their new single, '45', on Zane Lowe's Radio 1 show (as his 'Hottest Record In The World',) and are on the verge of releasing a massive new rock record.
We chatted to lead singer Brian Fallon about his dreams of performing at Wembley Stadium, avoiding recording 'half arsed rock records' and hanging out with interns...
Having debuted your new track, '45', on Radio 1, what kind of feedback have you had?
It's been crazy. I knew it was premiering on the BBC but I didn't know exactly when and the way I found out was through my Twitter which went insane. There was post after post - it was great to see that reaction because it's the first thing people have heard from the album and they're saying it's their favourite song. It's nice for me to feel validated.
Did you always think this would be the first single for those reasons?
I was like, 'this is gonna be the first single,' but I didn't know how it was gonna work because it's my first time on a major label, but I had a gut feeling. That's the thing you look for when you write a song and release it, for people to like it. You feel like it's all worth it.
Listen to The Gaslight Anthem, '45'
You've described new album 'Handwritten' as being pretty aggressive. Is '45' a good indication of what the rest of the album is like?
There are really fast songs and then there's one song that's faster than anything we've done since 'Sink or Swim'. Even the mid-tempo songs are intense and guitar heavy. It's definitely not a laid-back record, it's explosive and it bursts out at you. That's the kind of thing we were feeling.
What put you in that frame of mind? Did changing labels last year have an effect on that?
My friends have said that if you get a new member or a new guitar it injects a certain energy, so when you're around new people, and especially people who are excited, it makes you feel good. The cool thing is, Side One Dummy [the band's previous label] are really excited and supportive of us. They didn't look it as a bad thing.
You can sense an ambition about the band, so it makes sense you'd make this move at some point.
Yeah, it's no secret that we wanna play big shows and sell a lot of records and be a big band. At the same time, there's a certain responsibilty we all feel. We don't just want to drive around in Aston Martins. If we're a big band it means we get to have a big voice and take out bands that might not have otherwise had a chance. If we're making tons of money that means we can give money to all the charities we want to; it helps you have more of an impact on your community. Plus, it's awesome to play - I'd love to play Wembley Stadium. There is a responsibilty, though. We'd be nothing without our fans.
Given your plans to tour through to the winter, what does this record sound like live and are you confident playing it live yet?
It sounds big! We were playing a lot of shows with the Foo Fighters last year and that got us jazzed up to do some big rock songs, but I wouldn't say it doesn't sit with the other records. It sounds brighter! I mean artists like Pearl Jam and Springsteen - big sounding rock records.
Did you feel like side-project The Horrible Crowes was something you had to get out of your system before you got back to Gaslight?
Definitely. I wasn't tired of it, I just ran out of ideas. Your steam can run out a little. The last thing anyone wants to hear is a half-arsed rock record.
Did you have a greater appreciation of that big guitar sound going back into the studio for this album?
I was on fire by the time I got back in there.
You recorded in Nashville. How did the atmosphere of the place influence your album?
The vibe of the studio was very encouraging. We're one of those bands that hangs out with the interns. At the end of the recording, two of the guys pulled us over and said, 'You're the coolest band, noone ever acknowledges us.' We bought them dinner and gifts 'cos they're important. You can't run a studio without them.
What is it about Nashville that so many American artists are drawn to?
Nashville's just got this cool history. It's country music, which we didn't know and is out of our league which is cool. We didn't know anybody down there, so it was like a virgin experience being in a town where you dont know anything. That was the thing with the album - we wanted to record like it was our first record. What would Gaslight Anthem sound like if we started in our 30s? We didn't want those outside influences.
What encouraged your deeply personal lyrics on this record?
I'd say The Horrible Crowes definitely helped us with that. At the beginning of your career you write like your influences, and for me it was Tom Waits, Bruce Sprinsteen, Bob Dylan and Joe Strummer. You tend to emulate them in order to find your footing. I even read that Tom Waits was trying to be Screaming Jay Hawkins for a while and then found his own thing. This is the first chapter of us developing our own sound and now it's time to build on that - to ask, 'whats our story?'
Was it something you wanted to do before but shied away from?
I always wanted to find my own thing, but truthfully I was too scared. It's scary to be revealing and that boils down to people in relationships too, who don't want to reveal their real selves at first. The Horrible Crowes was a great practice run for me.
How does touring differ between Europe and North America?
In Europe, people will pay attention to all of the bands and decide whether they like them, whereas in America, myself included, we don't really stick around and check out bands we don't know or haven't had recommended. I don't know why that is but it's definitely true. At the same time, American kids are super excited about what they do like.
Is there anywhere you're especially looking forward to going in the next couple of months?
Paris. I love France and we have a ton of stuff coming up with Reading and Leeds.
The Gaslight Anthem's fourth album, 'Handwritten', is released in the UK on July 23, and their European tour begins in Paris on May 29.