Interview: The Gaslight Anthem Get Refreshed on “Get Hurt”
In a very air conditioned backstage camper that contained an equally chilled bucket of Canadian beer at the Toronto Urban Roots Festival (TURF) in July, The Gaslight Anthem were a little more than a month away from the release of their hotly anticipated fifth studio album, Get Hurt.
Dressed in black on this day in the sun was band frontman Brian Fallon and lead guitarist Alex Rosamilia, but colourful was their moods as they discussed with Riffyou.com an album that in some ways has the unenviable task of following their nearly-perfect 2012 rock offering, Handwritten.
“When we started writing this new record, we thought it should be different,” explains the equally-tattooed and thoughtful Fallon. “With Handwritten, that was it for the rock records…we were like, ‘big rock record, big rock producer (Brendan O’Brien), big rock everything.’ We wanted to write a big rock record and there was nobody better than Brendan to do it. We did that, and then [it became] ‘now what?’
He continues: “[This album] came from wanting to change and continue to remain relevant.”
With Get Hurt (due tomorrow, August 12), there is a decided shift in the sonic tendencies that have become associated with the more recent incarnation of The Gaslight Anthem. This time around, there’s a bigger embracing of mid-tempo and slower songs, yet zero abandoning of the band’s ability to provide listeners with a collection of stick-to-you hooks. When the New Jersey crew – which also consists of Alex Levine (bass) and Benny Horowitz (drums) – opts back into their faster-pace rock roots, however, their chops feel sustained yet fresh.
“It happened naturally,” says Fallon of the band’s refreshed sound. “I was feeling out the songs as we were writing them and it seemed that there were more slower and mid-tempo songs. We actually had a conversation about whether there should be more fast songs on the record. But, everyone said ‘no, no, no.’ I tend to gravitate more toward slower and mid-tempo music. I just like them.”
“I don’t think that we consciously looked at how we changed as people,” responds Rosamilia when discussing if the album’s end result was due to recent personal evolutions of bandmates. “But we did [change], and it definitely altered the way that we approached the songs. I don’t think we would’ve been as willing to write as different of a record if we weren’t where we are…not just where we are as a band, but also where we are in our lives.”
What remains consistent, if not further explored on Get Hurt, is Fallon’s vulnerable, heart-on-the-sleeve lyrical work. While this has been a long-celebrated artistic trait of his, Fallon seems to be wearing much longer sleeves this time around. Just listen to “Break Your Heart.”
“It’s something you do or you don’t,” says Fallon when asked about his willingness to put so much out there for public consumption and potential judgement. “It would be a very labouring process to hide. I feel like people are going to find out where you’re coming from, or what the vibe of the song is. It just comes out. I think it’s a reflection of how you are, really. Whatever’s inside you, will eventually come out.”
If anything, Get Hurt may represent the biggest risk that The Gaslight Anthem has taken to this point. Commercially, it would’ve been very easy for them to put forth an even bigger rock album than Handwritten, if for no other purpose but to continue the wave of momentum it brought to the band.
However, that doesn’t seem to be the directive that pushes the needle for the band. Very fan conscious, Fallon says that confidence within The Gaslight Anthem remains high knowing that those who are really into the band are ready for the next phase of it.
“[We have] confidence in that we’re not going to mess it up. Like, it’ll be okay regardless of what we do,” explains Fallon. “I think we have a lot of confidence in the fact that we said we were going to write a different record, and that fans really responded to that and were encouraging us.
“To me, that was exciting because we knew that they were ready for it.”
In this video, Brian and Alex discuss the song “Get Hurt.”