I picked up a little work over at Pages Digital – specifically, its subset of Groupie Magazine – through an old uni connection. Although there were problems toward the end relating to overdue payments, I still got to pick up some interesting work in newswriting and the occasional feature. I was quite looking forward to this interview, as the band’s Handwritten album had been one of my favourite records of the year. I was, however, planning on speaking with Brian Fallon. When I was told that I’d be speaking to the band’s guitarist, Alex, instead; I couldn’t hide my disappointment. Didn’t help that the guy was honestly a bit of a dick, too. Maybe we caught one another on a bad day, but I’d love a second chance to do a Gaslight feature. Someday…
– DJY, December 2014
Take small-town good nature, rock & roll radio and a new generation of twentysomethings trying to make sense of it all. Mix it together and turn the amps up to eleven and you’ll get a rough idea of what New Jersey band The Gaslight Anthem are all about. On their fourth studio album, Handwritten, the band continue to expand on their punk and heartland rock background, creating a definitive effort that cements their status as one of the most important working rock bands in the world today. It’s an album that evokes feelings of hope, love, loss, sorrow, regret and nostalgia; and certainly a record that evokes a strong response from the band’s fanbase.
In a recent interview, the band’s lead singer, Brian Fallon, compared the process of creating an album to a photograph, capturing a period of one’s life with a permanent fixture. However, this may have simply just been a throwaway comment: An attempt to engage the band’s guitarist, Alex Rosamilia, with an elaboration on this metaphor – perhaps as to what kind of photograph Handwritten is – are ultimately futile. “I dunno, man,” he says.” I’m pretty sure what Brian meant by that is that the whole record cycle can be taken as one section and then you move on to the next section. It’s just that whole bit, y’know what I mean? It’s almost like you can break parts of your life off into segments, make new chapters…” He ultimately trails off, perhaps confused by the question.
Although this attempt to pick Rosamilia’s brain proves fruitless, he comes to open up further about his connection to Handwritten as an album as the interview progresses. “I guess the biggest thing that comes to mind about the album is that I’m proud of it,” he comments at one stage, sounding focused and enthused. “I really love this record – I’ve never been happier with anything we’ve ever done before. We were kind of in the right mindset when we went in to make it, and we’re obviously better at our instruments now than when we first started.”
He continues, discussing how naturally the record came together. “Everything was in the right place at the right time – and not to sound pompous, but it all felt really effortless. Not in the sense that it was easy to do, but there was no point where anyone in the band was really fighting against what was happening.” As to what exactly it was that made the band feel so easy-going and confident during what is often a stressful time for bands? “We decided we wanted to have fun with it,” Alex affirms. “Being signed to a major label and all, we really didn’t want to put the excess pressure on ourselves. We just went in and wrote some fast, upbeat songs; and then tried to balance that out with some slower ones. I think writing a lot also helped with our attitude towards what we were doing – it felt great to have too much as opposed to not enough, to narrow it down to the eleven that made it on.”
Handwritten is a remarkable effort, one that’s bound to end up at the pointy end of countless end-of-year lists – and, naturally, the band’s return to Australia couldn’t come sooner. Alex is similarly excited to return, but tells fans not to hold their breath. “We don’t have anything planned yet. I know we’re trying to get down there as soon as possible, so we’re hoping for early next year. Australia is pretty much paradise for a guy like me from New Jersey.”