This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Madison Pontz.
The Gaslight Anthem. Photo Courtesy of Big Hassle Media.
After the release of The Gaslight Anthem’s fifth full-length album, “Get Hurt,” last month, the band is setting out on tour, with stops at the 9:30 Club for two sold-out shows Wednesday and Thursday.
We sat down with the band’s bassist, Alex Levine, to chat about the new album, how the group’s sound has changed and, of course, midnight snack preferences. The interview was edited for length.
Hatchet: “Get Hurt” feels a bit different from your last two albums, “American Slang” (2010) and “Handwritten” (2012). Would you agree?
Levine: Yeah, I think all of that is true. We definitely tried a bunch of new things, loops and whatnot. We went about writing the songs a bit differently. We were more conscious of writing more riffs. We never really wrote a lot of riffs in our songs. Well, we never really wrote melodies around our riffs. It was more like we just kind of tried a bunch of different things, taking a bunch of our other influences. At the end of the day, it’s kind of weird as an artist when you’re trying something else. I don’t know how much at the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, you revert back to what you know and what’s natural to you.
Hatchet: Do you feel more free to experiment musically now than on the first few albums? We saw you performed the title track “Get Hurt” with strings backing you on the “Late Show with David Letterman.”
Levine:I think that, not being an expert on it, but just kind of seeing how musicians and bands kind of work, when bands want to try things differently, I think sometimes if it doesn’t work, usually the problem is it’s a 360-degree change overnight. It’s night and day. You go from a rock-and-roll record to a melodic-synth record or whatnot. I think that, at least in my opinion, it kind of organically, for us, found its way. We think of it as the last few songs we write on every record kind of set the tone for the next record. If we wrote a song like ‘Get Hurt’ with accompanied strings five years ago, people would’ve been like, ‘What the hell is this band doing?’
Hatchet: If someone was going to listen to Gaslight for the first time, which record would you suggest he or she listen to first?
Levine: I’d start from the beginning, but if you really wanted to understand what we were all about, I’d get ‘The ‘59 Sound.’ ‘Sink or Swim’ was our first record, but ‘The ‘59 Sound,’ I think people look at it as our first record. That was really our launching point, where we kind of came into ourselves as a band. Everything kind of represents, or goes back to, ‘The ‘59 Sound,’ so I’d say that.
If you had to pick just one Gaslight song that you’ve always really connected with and really loved, which would you choose?
Levine: ‘The Backseat,’ off of ‘The ‘59 Sound.’ It’s the last song on the record. We play it 90 percent of the time as the last song in our set. There’s something about that song. It’s like everything just kind of stops and that song matters. It makes everything OK. There’s like a 30-second clip of that song toward the end that I think we, as a band, caught magic when we wrote it and recorded it and when we play it that we’ve never done with any other song. It’s like the stars align and we become completely in synch with each other.
Hatchet: Tell me a bit about Tiger Cuts, your new men’s clothing and lifestyle brand.
Levine: We’re about to launch the full fall collection in the next couple weeks, so the website is going to be back up and everything is going to be running at full speed. It’s a clothing company. It’s also a lifestyle brand. I’m a barber and I really enjoy the style of what old world barbershops represent. During that time period, fashionable, stylish men cared about the way they looked. It was the way that their appearance was a big deal. It’s kind of a nod to that time period, taking the essence of that time period and putting it out through clothing.
Hatchet: You tweeted that you were going to be giving fans haircuts while on tour.
Levine: Yeah, it’s crazy. I always get people to ask me, ‘Can I get a haircut? When are you going to open a barbershop?’ And I was like, ‘Well, I don’t really have time’ (laughs). But now I thought you know what, with these VIP packages, we’re doing a pre-show hangout where we’re going to hang out with everybody that comes to it. I figured it might be kind of cool if people want haircuts, I’ll figure it out on the road. Maybe it’ll be whoever contacts me first on Twitter, from whoever’s coming to the pre-show. We’ll do it right before the pre-show, outside the bus or something.
Hatchet: What is your favorite band, just in terms of personal appreciation?
Levine: Of all time, ever? The Clash, that’s an easy one.
Hatchet: It’s 3 a.m. and you’re hungry. What would you grab to eat?
Levine: I guess depending on what’s in the fridge. A bowl of cinnamon Life cereal, that’s always a good standby.