THE ´59 SOUND could only start out one way: with the sound of a record player needle set down on a scratched-up record. Although New Brunswick, New Jersey’s The Gaslight Anthem have only technically been a band for two-and-a-half years, in that short amount of time they’ve managed to become one of the punk underground’s most celebrated acts, spurring a cultish fan base with their music and completing successful tours with acts like Against Me!, the Loved Ones and the Bouncing Souls. If The Gaslight Anthem’s ascent from an obscure New Jersey band to punk message board favorites seems sudden to you, imagine what it’s like to actually be in the band. “Things have happened so fast for us that we haven’t really had time to sit back and reflect or go ‘What just happened?’” candidly admits front man Brian Fallon. “I can’t say that we were prepared for any of this at all; I’m just very grateful that we’re here.”
That level of excitement is only going to increase with the band’s SideOneDummy debut, THE ´59 SOUND. Whereas last year’s full-length SINK OR SWIM (XOXO Records) was recorded in under two weeks, for THE ´59 SOUND the band—which also features bassist Alex Levine, drummer Benny Horowitz and guitarist Alex Rosamilia—spent six weeks in the studio with producer and former Flogging Molly guitarist Ted Hutt (Chuck Ragan, The Bouncing Souls) to craft an album that reconciles the band’s love for classic rock and soul icons such as Bruce Springsteen, Otis Redding and Tom Petty with their New Jersey punk roots to create a unique musical amalgam that transcends genres and stereotypes. “Making this record was a completely different recording process than anything we’ve ever done before,” Horowitz explains. “It’s the first time we ever worked with a producer and I think we all had to get used to that, but it allowed us to do a ton of stuff that we wouldn’t have tried before.”
However, despite the professional set-up that went into making THE ´59 SOUND, the disc retains the band’s dynamic and youthful live energy, which has become a hallmark of the band’s performance style. “We tried to make these songs feel as alive as possible and approach it like we were writing a set list,” Fallon describes. “Instead of thinking about it like writing a record, we just wanted to write the coolest live songs that we could. We wrote this record with the intention of playing it live and it’s really a preview of seeing us onstage,” he adds. The result is an album that is so timeless that it could have been recorded in 1978 or 2008, eschewing distorted guitars and endless layering in favor of carefully arranged tracks that were painstakingly thought out and flawlessly executed.
Correspondingly, from the anthemic rallying cry of title track “The ’59 Sound” and the arena-ready syncopated rocker “Miles Davis & The Cool,” to stripped-down ballads such as “Here’s Looking At You, Kid” and the neo-soul crooner “Even Cowgirls Get The Blues,” THE ´59 SOUND is far and away the most adventurous release in the band’s short but prolific career, picking up exactly where the band’s recent Señor And The Queen EP left off. “When I was a little kid listening to Springsteen I remember thinking these aren’t songs, these are gigantic rides you went on—and I thought if I could even attempt to do that that would be excellent, so that’s what we tried to do this time around,” Fallon says, noting that aside from The Boss, The Gaslight Anthem were highly influenced by classic soul artists like Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke, each of whom are directly referenced in the mythology of THE ´59 SOUND.
Lyrically, Fallon isn’t afraid to wear his influences on his tattooed sleeves, and his growth as a songwriter is evident in the way he’s been able to step outside of himself on THE ´59 SOUND. “I’m actually telling a few stories about some of my friends this time around because it fits in with this theme of growing up and stepping into adulthood,” Fallon explains. “Some of my friends are having kids, some are getting married, some are getting divorced,” he says, adding that like many songwriters, when he writes in the first-person it isn’t necessarily about him. “This was the first time any of us had gone through these things in life and I kept talking to them on the phone and all these things came out. I felt like I should tell their stories instead of just my own, because after you write so many songs you get bored writing about yourself.”
This summer the band has already completed headline tours of Europe and Australia, as well as a string of Warped Tour dates. September 2008 will see them headlining around the Eastern US, followed by joining Rise Against, Alkaline Trio and Thrice on an extensive tour of North America throughout October and November.
Unlike a lot of today’s rock sensations, The Gaslight Anthem aren’t going to take a single second of their ride for granted. “We’re not that young and we’ve already had our hands in the real world, working terrible jobs,” Horowitz explains, adding that The Gaslight Anthem’s line-up has never changed, and that there’s a bond between all of them that’s difficult to describe. “We didn’t go straight from underground music to this fantasy world of being a professional musician, we all did the other side and didn’t like it,” he summarizes, sounding palpably excited. “If this is in front of us and this is actually possible, well that’s the best thing in the world, you know,” he adds with a grin, “and we’ll smile every time we play, that’s a fact.”