Imagine going from playing shows in dingy New Jersey basements to opening for [artist id="975"]Bruce Springsteen[/artist] in London's massive Hyde Park. Then imagine it all happening in less than two years.
That's the case for the [artist id="2549906"]Gaslight Anthem[/artist], the Garden State's latest progenitors of blue-collar, heart-on-your-sleeve punk. The secret to their success? It's as simple as timing, according to lead singer Brian Fallon.
"I think it was just that the right record struck a right chord with people. I really don't know — you can't plan for that sort of thing," Fallon told MTV News last week from a tour stop in Germany. "That's what people were looking for and we just happened to be the ones there to do it. I'd say we're pretty fortunate to be here."
Formed in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 2005, Fallon and the Anthem — guitarist Alex Rosamilia, bassist Alex Levine and drummer Benny Horowitz — earned a dedicated following based on the strength of their debut, 2007's Sink or Swim, but surged into the spotlight with last year's The '59 Sound, a sandpaper-rough yet strangely saccharine blast of retro punk that owed as much to Springsteen's sweaty live sets as it did to the buttoned-down, dreamy pop of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
The album gained international acclaim (it even placed at #3 on MTV's "Best Albums of 2008" list) and an exponentially growing fan base ... one that includes everything from teen punks to middle-aged parents who welcome the Boss-like tradition the band embraces.
"It's totally weird because you don't expect people to be singing your songs when you're touring all over the world, and for people to know your songs just like they do at home," Fallon said. "It's exciting, but you get the whole mixture — you're partly unsure about it, and you're partly happy about it. You're not sure where it's all coming from or if it's going too fast."
And to that point, though they were tapped by the Boss himself to serve as the opening act at June's Hard Rock Calling Festival in London, Fallon still doesn't consider the Gaslight Anthem to be anything more than proud carriers of the New Brunswick banner. Emerging from a decades-old scene that has given rise to bands like [artist id="1165826"]Thursday[/artist], the [artist id="878"]Bouncing Souls[/artist] and [artist id="502649"]Lifetime[/artist], the band still hold their Jersey ties close.
"Geoff [Rickly] and the guys from Thursday have always rooted for us. They always helped us out, even from the beginning. Frankie [Iero] from My Chemical Romance always comes to our shows, and the Bouncing Souls have helped us out a ton, along with a bunch of other dudes," Fallon said. "They're our peers, our friends and the people who we've come from the same scene as, and they've embraced us. It's weird because they're these big bands, but they treat us like we're the kid down the block."
But for these new kids on the Jersey block, the whole ride has been a quick one to the top. Currently on tour in Europe and slated to kick off their first U.S. headlining jaunt in a few weeks, they'll spend the summer doing the rounds on the festival circuit. Still, despite the critical praise and the full touring schedule, Fallon isn't buying the hype. To him, music is his job ... and things have been pretty busy at the office of late.
"Especially lately, people are always like, 'How do you deal with fame?' And I'm like, 'Listen man, we're not famous. It's not like it's different from anything else. This is my job and I'm just trying to do the best I can,'" he sighed. "I just want to put on a good show and make good records that honestly deserve the $15.99 or whatever it is to buy them. I'm more worried about that than whether we're the biggest band or how fast we got anywhere. To me, it's still the same as it was back then."