I had the opportunity to catch up with some great artists this weekend in Asbury Park, New Jersey during the 2012 Bamboozle festival. One of my favorite conversations was with Benny Horowitz of The Gaslight Anthem. We talked about their new album, Handwritten coming out this spring, how the record came to life and what the band has planned next.
He was a pleasure to chat with, enjoy!
Can you tell me about the new album coming out in June?
Its our fourth full length album, we went down to Nashville to record it with Brendan O’Brien. You know its our first major label owned, first big producer one. That whole deal. So it was a different experience but you know the sound of the record ended up coming out almost more natural than a lot of the other records even have sounded so all of that stuff didn’t result in a more flashy record or anything like that, if anything its more brought back to kind of the old days.
How does the songwriting process work with you guys?
Well typically some idea will start with Brian and that can be an acoustic version of something that’s almost done or something he messed around on garage band or it could just be a lead, it could be anything. And then sometimes when we’re jamming it could be one of Alex’s lead or a beat or something that kind of sparks it, but usually we go in with a pretty solid idea and then Brian will bring it to the table and we all right our own parts and put it together and then that’s when we can hash it out as far as what needs to be cut, what needs to be put where. It’s a fairly democratic process.
So "45" is the single and you guys did a video for it (and my friend was there) and you played a set afterwards?
Well kind of laced in-between. We figured hearing the same song nineteen times would just get annoying for everyone, the crowd and us. We figured if people are there and they spent the time we need to practice anyways so... it was good. It worked out well. I think it definitely made people have a better time then they would’ve, like I said myself included. That’s my least favorite part about recording videos, I usually walk away hating the song. So doing that kind of saved it a little bit.
What do you think is different about this festival verses other festivals that you’ve played?
Well its in America which is like… we’re really accustomed to playing festivals in Europe, its definitely the festival scene and the people who go to them its almost like culturally inside of those countries to have these festivals. You know like Glastonbury Festivals sold out every year before the bands were even announced, and these festivals around Germany where you know, kids don’t have as much access to bands and transportation to cities and stuff like that so they get so amped up for stuff like that. I think around here we’re all a little spoiled the fact that we’re so close to New York and Philly and even down here when bands play its all bands that people have access to so I think its harder to get a festival going in a place like this because of those things BUT that being said for this one, I mean especially now that they’re really putting it on the beach and setting this nice thing for it that’s kind of special, you don’t see a lot of that usually you’re out in the middle of a field somewhere or a parking lot. That’ll just help the vibe of everything, like the bands and the people here and just the nature of it all – I mean I’m pretty excited to play right in front of the beach like that, that’s cool to have the nice breeze.
Did you see anything yesterday?
No, we played in Los Angeles on Friday and we were flying back all day yesterday so we didn’t get to see anything. And I live far away like up in Jersey City so I couldn’t come down last night.
Whats the craziest thing you’ve seen happen in a crowd while you were performing?
Well one jumps to mind. I don’t want to call them out too bad because the people come to see us often so I’m not gonna say what city its in but there’s this couple- like an older couple probably in their 40 to 50’s where there’s some kind of like sado-masochistic relationship going on, so they’re both shaved bald and she wears these mesh shirts with her boobies visible and I think its one of the power things or something where he has to hold on to a boob the whole show – I swear- and they sit front row staring right at us and we always make eye contact on stage like ‘they’re here again’ and they’ve come to like three of our shows. I mean they seam very loving its just... its odd. I mean it doesn’t hurt anybody.
Have you ever met them?
No they never wait or anything but they must always be there early because they’re always like at the front but we’ve never seen them outside or anything.
Is there anywhere that you haven’t toured that you really want to?
I’m dying to go to South America. I’ve always just wanted to go there anyways and there have been opportunities where we might be able to get down there.
Are you going to have a big tour when the record comes out?
We’re actually already booked for touring from a week after today till pretty much Thanksgiving and then we’ll see from there but anytime we start a record cycle its just what we do you know? Put out records and go on tour.
How do you prepare for that mentally?
Spend a lot of time with your dog you know, I miss my dog a lot. But its hard, that’s the one part of this lifestyle that’s hard, especially if you have something cool at home that you could potentially miss. It was a lot easier when I was single and sort of homeless or just living in a shitty place, going on tour was a relief cause I was like “uh fuck yeah life sucks, whatever I’ll go on tour”. But now I’ve got a girl and a dog and a decent place and my life’s pretty settled at home, so it’s a little harder to leave then it used to be. But then once you get out there I mean... if I was a business man I don’t know if I could handle it but playing shows.. that’s it. Anytime I finish a show or I’m on stage and I have one of those really good feelings about the show or something I mean, its all worth it you know? Its something so unique that not a lot of people get to do. It is hard but its hard for a reason.
The payoffs pretty big, you have a pretty cool job (laughs).
I mean I didn’t even quit my full time job until I was 27, I spent a lot of years on the other side I mean I know how special what we do is and how lucky we are to be able to do it. Especially because you know, I know a hundred musicians who are potentially as good or better than us who didn’t get to do it for whatever variables- so many things can come in to play like just a group dynamic and having the ability and the time to do things and just fucking having luck. You’ve gotta work hard and you’ve gotta have skill and you’ve gotta be good at what you do but there’s so much more lucky things that go into it to that people don’t realize you know- the whole right place right time thing and stuff is true.
When did you start playing music? How long has this career been for you?
I started in my first band when I was 12.
What was the name of the band?
That’s actually kind of a cool name for a band, what kind of music was it?
It was like.. early 90s melodic hardcore I guess. It was almost XdilemmaX, my singer was a straight edge kid at the time but we weren’t so… he didn’t get his way with that. We were around for a while we were pretty big in the summer sid county basement scene (laughs). That’s definitely where I got my start, and that’s where I got into promoting shows was thru that band- so I guess since then, 19 years.
Do you like to have as many friends as possible on stage while you are performing?
I dig it, I think its fun especially when you’re a drummer because its hard to connect with the crowd sometimes especially when you’re on a big stage. If there’s crew and people you know on the stage you fuck around with them and stuff its fun I like it.
Let's talk music, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Are you excited for The Gaslight Anthem's new record?