The Gaslight Anthem: Songs For The Working Class The New Jersey punk band is back with a new album, American Slang. In an interview with host Melissa Block, singer Brian Fallon describes his upbringing, the influence of Bruce Springsteen and the importance of singing from the heart.

The Gaslight Anthem: Songs For The Working Class

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.


BLOCK: One of our producers handed me the new CD "American Slang," from the band the Gaslight Anthem, and said: It sounds best when you're driving with the windows down. And he's right. So go ahead, crank it.


THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM: (Singing) Look what you started. I seem to be coming out of my skin. And look what you've forgotten here. The bandages just don't ...

BLOCK: Brian, what does that mean to you - blue-collared soul?

BLOCK: And for us, it was a little different than what maybe would be a Motown sound or the Memphis sound. Where they would be talking about love, we were kind of talking about getting by.

BLOCK: Something native to New Jersey, do you think, in that sound?

BLOCK: Native? I don't know about to New Jersey. It seems more prevalent in New Jersey. Maybe they corralled those kind of people into New Jersey.


BLOCK: That's where they all ended up, you think?

BLOCK: Central Jersey is the backbone of America.


GASLIGHT ANTHEM: (Singing) Oh, well, you told me fortunes in American slang.

BLOCK: Let's get this out of the way right away because Bruce Springsteen, of course, the rock god from New Jersey - and you've talked a lot about his influence on you. You've actually made direct references to lyrics from his songs in your songs before. How much of his sound do you think you hear in yours?

BLOCK: I think it's more of a - he was, you know, like that kind of guy that just, you can come from nothing and be everything to everyone. That's the kind of inspiration. The sound, I think, kind of comes more in the sentiment.

BLOCK: You know, I have to say this was not the first thing I was thinking of when I was listening to this CD, but once I did start thinking about it and listening to your voice, I did start hearing shades of Bruce Springsteen, and I noticed it especially in the song "Old Haunts."

BLOCK: Really?

BLOCK: Yeah, let's take a listen.


GASLIGHT ANTHEM: (Singing) A cherry bomb, you are a mystery, exploded, sparkling quiet nights. My teenage heart pumped all my misery, baby...

BLOCK: There, especially right there. On that word baby, I'm hearing a lot of Bruce in there. Do you hear it, too?

BLOCK: No. Actually, it's kind of funny because those are the moments where were going for a kind of Otis Redding, Joe Strummer vibe. You know, I'm glad that people hear different things than I do, or else it wouldn't be - it would stagnant where I left it off, you know, and there wouldn't be any kind of need for anyone else's interpretation, which is not really good in music.


GASLIGHT ANTHEM: (Singing) So don't sing me your songs about the good times. Those days are gone, and you should just let them go. God help the man who says if you'd have known me when. Old haunts are for forgotten ghosts. Old haunts are for forgotten ghosts.

BLOCK: Brian, do you remember when you were a kid, when you really found music - started thinking, this is where I want to be?

BLOCK: Probably when I was around 12. My mother was very interested in music, and she had said, you know, maybe you want to give this a shot and see what happens with a guitar, and see if you like it. And that's when I really kind of picked it up and decided that there was a whole nother world to be discovered out there.

BLOCK: Was there something you were listening to that made you think, this is really what's got me?

BLOCK: That was in my, you know, point where I was listening to a lot of just big rock 'n' roll bands, like Guns N' Roses and things like that. So I didn't really - that always kind of escaped me. I just thought it was great to listen to, but it wasn't anything that like, really spoke to me that I thought oh, this is a parallel of my life - until I was on a paper route with my mother and "Just Like a Woman" came on the radio, by Bob Dylan. And I didn't know who Bob Dylan was at that age. And that is the moment that kind of - I realized that you could just kind of say what you were saying in your heart, and that could be music. It didn't have to be these big, you know - it wasn't "Appetite for Destruction," by any means.


GASLIGHT ANTHEM: (Singing) Got your pride and your (unintelligible) just like your tommy gun. Somewhere in the smoke, just in case you need it.

BLOCK: I wanted to ask you about the song "Boxer" and the character here, the character who has tattooed knuckles, and he's taking it on the chin. Who is this guy?

BLOCK: Oh, who isn't that guy? I think that it's just about a lot of people that I've seen who've kind of, you know, found some sort of thing that has kind of crippled them or knocked them down and that they've had to be picked up from and find - you have to find something that kind of carries you through your days. And a lot of the time, people find that that's just hearing something on the music and remembering what you started when you were, you know, kind of finding your place in the world.


GASLIGHT ANTHEM: (Singing) And your tattooed knuckles, oh, how they grind down. Try to be a man, tough just like your father. Try to settle down, boy, I could calm down, remember them songs and the reasons we were singing for. But he said he just doesn't miss her and he, he says, it's somewhere in his framework. And I have heard you never really lose it, do you? Do ya? He took it all gracefully on the chin, knowing that the beatings had to someday end. He found the bandages inside the pen and the stitches on the radio...

BLOCK: Do you think there's some redemption in this song?

BLOCK: It has redemption in every song.

BLOCK: Really?

BLOCK: Yeah.

BLOCK: What happens if there's not?

BLOCK: I mean, that's the heavy weight that people carry around, guys like anybody that we've talked about - Bruce or Bob or Tom Waits, or any of those guys. I think there's some sort of, you know, redemption being searched for.

BLOCK: It's interesting that you think there is redemption in these songs because I know a bunch of people have said these songs are quite a bit darker than some of your earlier stuff.

BLOCK: Yeah, yeah, I mean, I would say that when you get away from a little bit of that youthful wonder thing and you grow a little bit older, sometimes you tend to look at things in your past, and you find out that it's not exactly the way that you had planned. And then there's things that you can't change anymore. There's a past that you have to live with, and a future that you have to try and recover rather than create.


BLOCK: What's changed about the Gaslight Anthem, do you think, in the time you've been together? It's been five years now.

BLOCK: Everything pretty much has changed. When we started out, we were just a bunch of kids playing as fast as we could and trying to make a little spot for ourself in the, you know, in the music industry of our local scene. And it's kind of become, you know, four grownups that are looking at each other, trying to find a place in the world in a different way, where they can take care of their families and kind of add something to this chapter of music that we've been listening to, that's worth listening to in 20 years and, you know, write our own story.


GASLIGHT ANTHEM: (Singing) Baby, who sings the rhythm and the blues...

BLOCK: Well, Brian Fallon, it's great to talk to you. Thanks very much.

BLOCK: Thank you very much.

BLOCK: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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