KEEPING IT REAL Rosamilla, Fallon, Horowitz, and bassist Alex Levine.
In a world that's changing at the speed of light, the Gaslight Anthem reaches into the past to forge classic elements into a timeless rock and roll sound. Their lyrics quote fellow Jersey boy Bruce Springsteen and name--check Tom Petty and Miles Davis, while their music melds punk's hard, lean roar with Springsteen's panoramic sweep and Dion's street corner cool. Despite being released on a small independent label, the band's second album — The '59 Sound — broke through to find a broader audience, and the editors of the music download service eMusic called it the best of 2008. The Gaslight Anthem recently released American Slang, a shotgun blast of exuberant singalong songs that has earned critical raves and an expanding fan base.
The Gaslight Anthem plays at Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel on Saturday. I recently spoke with Ben Horowitz, the band's drummer, by phone from a tour stop in Tempe, Arizona.
DID THE SUCCESS OFTHE '59 SOUND AFFECT THE WAY YOU APPROACHED MAKINGAMERICAN SLANG? We made a conscious effort to keep the focus internal. We wanted to progress from The '59 Sound to something we wanted to do, not what a kid on the Internet or a journalist thought we should do. So there was pressure from within to make sure that we made something that we considered to be better than The '59 Sound. Something that was worth people spending 10 bucks and taking 40 minutes to listen to.
IT MUST BE FUN TO PLAY DRUMS IN THIS BAND. It's a lot of fun because I'd never played in a band with people as talented as Brian [Fallon, the band's singer and rhythm guitarist] and Alex [Rosamilia, lead guitar]. There's two melodies going at once between Alex's guitar and Brian's vocals, and they're both really strong. It's nice to lean back and really set the groove and focus on the feel [of the song], rather than writing some dramatic drum part.
DO ALL THE SPRINGSTEEN COMPARISONS GET TIRESOME? People see it for a reason. We're from the same place, and both singers are storytellers. And I should always preface this by saying I've got a lot of respect for that guy and his music and what he's done with his career. I'm not ashamed to be compared to Bruce Springsteen. But it does get kind of tiresome. It's a redundant topic.
IT'S AN EASY NARRATIVE. IF YOU WERE FROM NORTH FLORIDA . . . It would be Tom Petty, exactly.
STILL, YOU'RE NOT THE ONLY YOUNG BAND TO GET THAT COMPARISON. IT USED TO BE THAT A SORT OF IRONIC DETACHMENT WAS ESSENTIAL FOR AN INDEPENDENT ROCK BAND. NOW THERE ARE LOTS OF BANDS THAT ROCK OUT WITH THEIR HEARTS ON THEIR SLEEVES. DID YOU FEEL A CHANGE IN THE ATMOSPHERE AT SOME POINT? I think we hit a point in music where people wanted something honest again, something that wasn't sugarcoated and pop. I think there's a group of people who aren't looking to detach themselves with some sort of ironic sentiment or pop hook. Anybody who keeps their eyes open and anybody who watches the news knows that we're not living in an easy time. Things are hectic and crazy and I don't think that people know what to do with themselves. When I find myself feeling that way, I look for music that I can find some sort of release with, not music that makes me think everything is going to be OK. I think there's a shift toward something more real again.