Interview with The Gaslight Anthem: Old Friends And Old Sounds

Gaslight AnthemNext year I’ll get an invitation to my decennial high school reunion, an event I’ll laugh off and crack jokes about with the few close friends that experienced it with me. Alex Rosamilia, guitarist from New Jersey’s The Gaslight Anthem, will be getting a similar invitation too, but in all likelihood, he’ll be on tour when it arrives at whatever former address the school still has on file.

It’ll be from the same school.

For editorial disclosure, Rosamilia and myself hung out together through high school for many years, as well as worked at the same music store before college until other jobs gradually set us on separate paths. So the transcription below is pretty much the first time we’ve talked in about five years.

Of course, the majority of the interview was bullshitting, but between anecdotes and catching up, we talked about The Gaslight Anthem, a band whose classic pop-arranged rock-with-a-side-of-punk ethic has been rising steadily over the last year or so, mostly from the sleeper The ’59 Sound. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it slice of Americana from four guys, singer Brian Fallon, bassist Alex Levine, drummer Benny Horowitz and Rosamilia himself, who were born and grew up well after their album’s eponymous aesthetic.

But if it ain’t broke, and you can do it, why not?

That single question is the point of departure for the story of the band, and most particularly for Rosamilia who, of course, first traces the band’s story to a mutual friend and guitar tech we both worked with that I don’t mind namedropping here. When I called, Rosamilia was doing what all New Jersey guys in rock bands, aspiring and otherwise, do with a little free time; he was record shopping at Vintage Vinyl.

I haven’t talked to you in forever. How did you get in this band?

Kyle Roggendorf, technically.

No shit. Of course.

Yeah. We were working together at Guitar Center and his friend’s band was looking for a guitar player, and I joined, and that turned into what was the Killing Gift, which was this atrocious band I was in with a female singer. After that band broke up, another Guitar Center friend was in this other group with Brian and he also knew me and Benny, and Brian had Benny try out for drums for the Gaslight Anthem, which he got.

They did one tour with another guitar player, and then when they came back, they asked if I wanted to play guitar, I said ‘Sure, why not?’ and that’s how I joined. They were signed to Eyeball at the time, and Benny kind of brought it up to me like, ‘This is the last shot to try to make it before we go back to school and do real people things.’ And I’m like, ‘Alright, we’ll do it one last time.’ And I haven’t had to go back to school yet, so it’s working out so far (laughs).

Well, I remember when we were in high school, the first three pages of your CD wallet were all Nine Inch Nails halos, and now you’re in a retro-ish punk band.

Yeah. How I got there, I can’t really tell you (laughs). I still have everything Nine Inch Nails has ever put out to date. That stuff hasn’t gone away.

You like the last two records?

No. But it doesn’t mean I won’t have it. It’s not horrible. You’ve got to weed through the shit, you know. I’ll never hate on him. I can’t.

I will. I’ll turn on him.

(laughs). I guess it’s kind of random where people are like, ‘Hey, check this out, hey, check this out.’ And the band I was in, I was doing all these New Brunswick basement shows, and it’s like, ‘You’ve never heard of Hot Water Music?’ And I’m like, ‘No.’ People were just appalled with how much I didn’t know and then forcefeeding it to me, and stuff I liked I stuck with and stuff I didn’t like I didn’t stick with, I guess.