A Q&A with Brian Fallon (The Gaslight Anthem/ The Horrible Crowes)
by Lauren Moquin (Journalism), published January 9th 2012
photos by Jenna Ross
As the bearer of good news, Brian Fallon shared the night with some fans in AfterHours for a solo acoustic performance. If this year’s release of his project, The Horrible Crowes’ album Elsie was not enough to keep fans satisfied, he announced that night that The Gaslight Anthem’s new album will be released sometime this summer (2012). As such a busy writing year for Fallon, he only showed the upmost enthusiasm to share songs with the ones who appreciate it all. After he was done charming the audience with his stories of his New Jersey streets, old Gaslight songs, and his favorite band (Pearl Jam), he took the time to sit down and talk to Tastemakers.
TMM (Tastemakers Magazine): You were talking about The Revival Tour tonight. What would you think ten years ago if you knew you were going to play with Chuck Ragan of Hot Water Music.
Brian Fallon (BF): It would freak me out. I was actually thinking about that. I was wishing that I could call some of my friends from home that I lost touch with. That was a big deal for me. Hot Water Music is a huge thing. I distinctly remember the very moment that I first heard them. It was life changing. To hang out with Chuck and have all of those guys be my friends and to know that I can call them up at any time, it’s cool.
TMM: When did you know that you had to do The Horrible Crowes?
BF: American Slang had just come out and we knew we wanted to do something else. I talked about it with the guys and I said, ‘what do you think about this’ and they said, ‘why don’t you just do it?’ We knew that we ended the tour cycle for American Slang last year and then it was like well ‘what are we going to do’ because we aren’t going to have a record come out for two years. I wanted do something, so I did The Horrible Crowes. Then this (Elsie) came out and it got really busy, so I had to stop because I had to do the next Gaslight record. It was a weird time for Elsie to come out, so it was bizarre.
TMM: When can we see The Horrible Crowes tour?
BF: I don’t know. We did a couple shows and that was probably it. We thought we would be able to tour more, but then The Gaslight machine just got going. 15 songs into a record and you have to just do that. It’s just the way it goes.
TMM: On the past Gaslight albums, there has definitely been a theme. Is there a clear theme for the new album?
BF: Yes, this one is extremely literal. There aren’t stories and there are no names for characters. I’ve kind of done away with a little bit of that because it was…. For a while you kind of come up with something that becomes your own, but when you’re a band you have to change after a while. We realized that now is kind of the time for it to become something else and what it was, was great. You can always play those songs, you can always be that, but you kind of have to find your own thing.
We started to do that on American Slang a little bit, but on this record there is definitely a theme where all the songs were written very organically, they were written by hand. I have a notebook of all the songs. It was the first time I’ve ever done that, where every song was written out by hand. It was really cool and then it makes it very personal because you think about every line. When you’re typing on a computer, you can just delete something very quickly and that’s gone and then you can change lines and move your text around. By hand, you have to really think about, ‘I’m writing this by page’. Ya, you can scribble it out. But you don’t really work like that because when you open the notebook there is something blank there and you have to fill it by what you put down and it’s very, very connected.
And I also felt that I didn’t have anything else to say about the characters that I was working with before. I feel like all the bands that I’ve liked, whether it be U2 or Pearl Jam or Bruce Springsteen, they’ve all had a mark in their career where they’ve changed. Something happened and it was exciting. I think as long as you don’t forget what you were and you don’t change completely, it’s okay. We’re finding something that’s ours, which is good.
TMM: Tonight you discovered Tumblr. Are you going to go home and raid all of your Brian Fallon pages?
BF: No, no, no. I don’t read anything. People send me stuff from magazines, like our management and stuff, and I look at the pictures and that’s it. I don’t read anything anybody says anymore. I used to read every little thing and I used to keep up with the Internet. It would start to affect the way that I wrote songs. I would be like ‘well they want to hear this’, but you can’t do it like that because when I used to paint houses, I would paint houses the color that you wanted, but I didn’t get into this to do what people wanted. I did it to be an expression of myself. The true thing is that’s why people liked you in the beginning, because it was a true expression of yourself and it resonated inside of them. In order to fake that and try and make something that is resonating inside of someone else isn’t exactly what I would consider right or artistic. Why would they listen to that when they could just write those songs themselves?
There’s this new thing when people charge money and you can give them a topic and they write a song just for you and I think that is horrible. I think it’s absolutely horrible and I don’t care if it’s the guys from that guy (Max Bemis), I don’t care. I think that it’s lame and that you’ve got some explaining to do and I think you’re taking your art and you’re prostituting it, that’s what you’re doing. Sure, do we all do that by selling CDs and could we all just give our music away, absolutely. Am I going to do that, no way and I don’t think anyone else should do it either. I like that thing where you go to the movies and you pay nine bucks and you see something that’s worth something and I would hate it if someone called me up and was like ‘what do you want me to make a movie about for you?’. That’s ridiculous, man. I want to see what you are thinking and your experiences and I want to hear something that I don’t know. There’s a lot of stuff out there that’s cheapening art. I’m bitter about that. How do you put a price on that?
TMM: You mentioned the elections tonight. Would you ever be willing to offer your political views as a band?
BF: Sure, we all have four separate views, but there is a lot of things that we agree on. We all agree that the whole benefit to the new America is that we have a choice and that we can all go and say ‘well I want to be a musician’ or ‘I want to be a carpenter’ and sometimes your situation dictates that and I’m not naive to that, but if you look at guys like us, like I was a carpenter and decided that I wanted to be in a band. It takes a lot of work, but you can do it in this country. None of us are Republicans or Democrats or Liberals or Conservatives or anything. We strictly look at who is the best for that period in time. I think that we all feel like they are not giving Barrack Obama the chance. We all feel that way, all four of us feel that they’re blaming things on him like the economy. Well, the economy has been in a downturn and he’s trying to pick up the pieces and you’re not giving him the chance because he has a House full of Republicans. There’s nothing wrong with Republicans, but you can’t fight all the time. It’s a country, it’s not a contest. But yeah, as we get older we start to care more about this stuff. We didn’t care in the beginning. We were like, ‘nobody cares what we think’, but people do care what we think and it’s important to stand up for that. It may seem ridiculous that we talk about polar bears and stuff, but it’s important because if ice caps melt, you’re going to have your house flooded. It’s about people.
TMM: It seems like a lot of bands are afraid to state what they think.
BF: I think there’s that and there’s the thing that makes me mad when they say what you want to hear. All of us have such different opinions and we have opinions on things that are not popular. Some of us go along with a more liberal mindset and some of us are much more conservative and that’s just the way it is. You just need to state your opinion. It doesn’t mean you’re right. I think as long as you’re looking out for people and you’re not taking people’s freedoms away, then it doesn’t really matter. I think that you can think that something’s wrong and not be against it, which is tough. That’s a tough line to walk and not be cruel to someone who you think is fighting against you, but I guess that’s how the president feels, but he’s handling it very well. But looking at the candidates is scary. We were watching the Michelle Bachman thing and it’s crazy. There was some weird stuff. I heard that gay people are possessed by the devil. I was like, whoa alright. Geesh! I don’t want to live in your house. Don’t walk by the windows! That’s crazy.
TMM: Alright, last question: What is your favorite Springsteen lyric?
BF: I don’t know. I mean, there’s a lot; he’s a good writer. My favorite song of all time is not one of his, it’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” by Bob Dylan. But lately, actually what I really love is “Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World” by Neil Young. I love that line when he says, about the drug addict that puts her kid away, “That’s one more kid who will never go to school, who will never fall in love, never get to be cool”. That’s my favorite lyric for right now. That’s a good one.