Back in 2012, The Gaslight Anthem released their fourth LP, Handwritten. Not only was it the New Jersey band’s fourth record in just five years, Handwritten also brought in higher sales figures than any of its predecessors. After hitting the top ten in eight countries, the band set off on a massive global tour encompassing larger venues than they’d ever seen before.
Following the success of Handwritten, it seemed likely The Gaslight Anthem would choose one of two options: capitalise on their enhanced profile by churning out another record of a similar nature or take some time off to reassess before proceeding any further. However, neither option captured their gaze. Instead, The Gaslight Anthem returned this August, boasting a revised stylistic outlook on album five Get Hurt.
“We’ve kind of been in that cycle since we started this band,” says The Gaslight Anthem guitarist Alex Rosamilia. “We put out our first record, toured on it for a few years and then wrote another record, toured on it for two years, and wrote another record and toured on it. With this record, instead of playing the safe option we went pretty far out.”
In the past, The Gaslight Anthem have been accused of working within immediately discernible and limited stylistic confines. Get Hurt does just about everything it can to upend this view. Right from album opener ‘Stay Vicious’, it’s clear things are going to be different this time around. “That was an extremely conscious effort,” Rosamilia says. “That’s why we made it the first song on the record. We wanted to show people that we were on our way to something different or to say ‘what we’ve been doing, we’re not going to really attempt to do any more.’”
In contrast to the band’s trademark heartland punk rock sound, ‘Stay Vicious’ is a chunky riff-rocker, which resembles the likes of Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots. From here, the record proceeds to adopt a variety of previously unseen guises.
“It’s part of the band that’s always kind of been there,” says Rosamilia, “but it’s something that we never really did. We didn’t think that we would… not be allowed to do it, but that we’d be able to pull it off.”
Get Hurt is still unmistakably The Gaslight Anthem. Brian Fallon’s earnestly delivered, rugged lead vocals sit front and centre, backed up by Rosamilia’s inquisitive lead guitar work. “The way that our personalities come out through our instruments – it sounds like Gaslight because it’s our personalities,” Rosamilia says. “There’s things I do on guitar, there’s stuff that Benny does on drums, Alex on bass, Brian with the lyrics and so on. Those things are not consciously there, that’s just the way that we are. Sorry to use the extremely clichéd phrase, but we ‘go with the flow’, as it were.”
Speaking of going with the flow, since forming in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 2006, The Gaslight Anthem haven’t taken any significant period of rest. It’s rather unusual for contemporary bands with major label deals to produce five albums in seven years. But heeding to convention simply isn’t how The Gaslight Anthem roll.
“We’re constantly writing new stuff, and working on stuff,” says Rosamilia. “You have to be fresh all the time. It’s really easy to get stagnant if you’re not trying to better yourself and write new stuff. I’m not saying that everything we write gets used. Some stuff we write is absolute garbage [laughs], we put it away and we don’t ever hear it again.”
In order to hang on to their prominent position, the band’s quest to continually get better, must go hand in hand with making music that appeals to their mass listenership. Evidently, The Gaslight Anthem haven’t run into any major dilemmas in this respect, but Rosamilia says it’s not something that plays on his mind during album construction.
“I never read reviews, I don’t read the opinions of fans and stuff. I’m here to put out music that I write. If it does well that’s fantastic and that’s what I want, but if it doesn’t then that’s everybody else’s opinion.”
The guitarist mightn’t be particularly concerned about satisfying a commercial criterion, but he is left to the mercy of one extremely harsh critic.
“I go through like a three month period of self loathing between finishing the record and when the record comes out,” he reveals. “Thinking ‘everything I did is miserable, I shouldn’t even be a musician,’ every time we put out a record.”
Considering this habitual onset of crippling self-deprecation, it’s a wonder Rosamilia’s persevered as far as he has. Unfazed, he contends that this attitude is crucial for making artistic progress.
“If you weren’t a perfectionist, that’s where you can become stale. When you think everything you do is going to be fantastic, you’re not going to try as hard. You have to constantly be doing something that you feel uncomfortable with, because that’s what makes you a better musician.
“If you spend your time only doing the simplest things or the things that are easy to you, what you’re doing is eventually going to get worse because you’re going to start doing it almost out of muscle memory. I think that’s truly important, when you’re creating something. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, yeah?”
The Gaslight Anthem will be back in Australia for a string of shows in January and February 2015. For more information visit www.thegaslightanthem.com.