Interview: Brian Fallon still has something to say with The Gaslight Anthem

The Gaslight Anthem, Brian Fallon

The Gaslight Anthem, courtesy.

There was a time when Brian Fallon, the chief songwriter and bandleader of New Jersey rockers The Gaslight Anthem, was afraid that he’d lost his love for the rock and roll that had inspired him throughout his life.

The Gaslight Anthem
Tigers Jaw

8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 16
The Masonic
Tickets: $40-$60.

The 42-year-old Fallon, whose band just announced its return after a seven-year hiatus, had been questioning whether he was still inspired to make The Gaslight Anthem’s brand of anthemic, rough-around-the edges garage rock like “45” and “American Slang.” He wondered if he even liked that kind of music.

Speaking from Manchester, England, where the band had just played Wembley Arena the previous night and was mid-way through a European tour that kicked off in Germany, Fallon recalled the “strange feeling” he’d experienced; and one that scared him a little.

“It felt like getting old, to be honest with you,” Fallon said. “I was like, ‘Wait, do I not like fast music? Am I not current?’ I know I’m not current with all the music that’s coming out, but I’m as current as I can be. … I’m still interested in what the youth is doing and what the new ideas are—whether they have me and what I do included in it, or whether it’s beyond us—and I think that that’s still exciting to me. But I was worried that maybe the music I had grown up on—I was kind of like, ‘Am I into this anymore?’ We all felt like that. I think it’s just called burnout.”

This crisis of heart eventually led to an extended break for the band, starting in 2015. Fallon, guitarist Alex Rosamilia, bassist Alex Levine and drummer Benny Horowitz, continued to pursue music during that time (the two Alexes former a side project, Forgivers, and Fallon made solo albums in the singer-songwriter vein. The Gaslight Anthem was shelved for the sake of finding normalcy again.

By that point, Fallon and co. were burned out from nonstop album-making and touring at a time that saw the band hit the top of U.S. charts and performing with the likes of their hero Bruce Springsteen. There was a short run of shows commemorating the 10th anniversary of 2008 album The ’59 Sound in 2018, but never any possibility of the band getting back together. The pressure they’d felt from their management and the music industry in general—that if they ever turned down an opportunity their career would be snuffed out—had taken a mental toll on Fallon.

For all of the members of The Gaslight Anthem, the band stopped being any fun.

“When you’re put in that kind of position and [success] goes … as quickly as it did for us— you go from playing in little houses and basement shows to playing with Bruce Springsteen in a matter of three years or two and a half years, it’s pretty wild,” Fallon said. “It takes like a toll on you emotionally, whether you have problems or not.”

And yet, unlike a band that calls it quits because the members don’t like each other, The Gaslight Anthem simply weren’t happy with their situation. There was no talk of a formal breakup.

The four remained in each other’s lives; occasionally at first and increasingly as time went on. They listened to the music they would make or had a recording on the way, said Fallon, adding that he stayed in constant contact with Horowitz weekly without putting any thought into it. The conversations were often not about music but their family lives.

After Fallon released his third solo album, Local Honey, at the outset of the pandemic, his attention finally again started wandering to the idea of playing in a band again. By 2021’s record covering traditional hymns, Night Divine, he was inspired again.

He broached the idea to his bandmates after writing several songs he felt good about. For Fallon, having two quiet years at home to reflect on where he was at and what he wanted to do became clarified.

“I think a lot of it had to do with not being able to play and taking stock of things. It was just also time,” he said. “You can’t really pick when that stuff happens. You just sort of have to like let things naturally happen. It works itself out or it doesn’t, you know what I mean?”

Fallon is now writing the band’s sixth album and said he’s got five songs done that he’s happy with and 40 more ideas he’s exploring. He wants to write as much as possible before the band goes into the studio, but the focus right now is on the tour, which arrives in the U.S. later this week. He expects the band to record sometime this winter.

The new music won’t be a departure from the band’s sound, he said. He’s not able to describe the sound of what he’s written so far, comparing the request to describing the feel of a dinosaur. The songs will show the band’s musical progression, he said.

“I can tell you what it feels like. It feels incredibly energizing and affirming to me just to be able to be like, ‘Oh yeah, right! I’ve still got something to say in this kind of arrangement, as well!’ he added. I can still turn up the guitars and have the drums going and get excited by that. That’s not something that I think is over or gone.”

It’s safe to say that the rock version of Brian Fallon is here to stay. The Gaslight Anthem is not playing any of his folky acoustic solo songs on this tour, and he’s taking a break from his solo project. He doesn’t want to distract Gaslight fans, either.

“In this world of massive attention-grabbing, it’s really hard to have people just pay attention to whatever one thing you’re doing. Two or three or five would be tough,” he said.

The Gaslight Anthem, Brian Fallon

The Gaslight Anthem, courtesy Kelsey Ayres.

But he’s already looking to the future of his band, and what the quartet will do next. This reunion is a permanent one. He finds encouragement from the longevity of Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers reuniting with John Frusciante, another of his heroes.

“You’re just like, ‘Wow, this really could be never-ending,” he said. “In this modern world where we’re not really supposed to be agists … you still get that annoying talk in the back of your head that’s like, ‘Nah dude, you’re too old. You’ve aged out. This isn’t for you.’ And you have to sort of go, ‘Maybe it’s not [correct], though.’ Because you can keep growing and changing these things. Everybody that I looked up to; if they’re still living, they’re still doing it.”

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