The Pitch: You guys are playing some smaller venues this tour. Last time you came through, it was at the Midland in Kansas City. Now it's the Bottleneck in Lawrence. What's the rationale behind that — trying to connect to your core audience?
Alex Rosamila: Honestly, it's because we haven't played the States in, like, two years. We haven't played the States at all, aside from a couple festivals or one-offs, y'know? They thought it would be better to play smaller places and have them totally packed and everything sell out real quick than play shows where we're, like, hoping for people to come in and fill up the spot, and playing to half-empty rooms.
Why so long since the last U.S. tour?
It just kinda happened. Usually, our summers are spent doing festivals in Europe. That's something we keep doing, anyway. We just kinda kept going back to Europe, and our booking agent didn't think that we should play the States again on American Slang — to wait until we put out another record. So we didn't do much besides festivals and stuff. I honestly can't tell you why we didn't. We should've at least done one more tour in that time.
We weren't trying to make it sound like another record, but we did look at it like we're on a major, so it's kind of like our first record again. We wanted to write a record that kinda felt like the first record, y'know? We're just writing songs for the sake of writing songs, just having a good time and doing that. We weren't about pressure from the label or pressure to write a radio hit, which we kind of put on ourselves for the last record.
So I think the idea that we just wrote a bunch of songs for fun, and because we enjoy playing — it kind of had that feeling of being more like our older stuff than the last record. You could hear the pressure we put on ourselves on American Slang — not that I'm saying it was a bad record. It was like, I feel that it was too calculated, y'know? We worried about it too much or something, rather than making songs good for our sake.
You're also a band that embraces its influences a lot. Every 7-inch the Gaslight Anthem releases seems to have a cover on it — Tom Petty, Pearl Jam, the Stones.
Covers are fum, man. Most them are Petty covers. [laughs]
Is that a way to get your fans to connect with your influences, to show where you're coming from?
I mean, yeah — it's a way to show where we're coming from, and besides, they're songs that we love, kinda wish we wrote, and — we really like covering songs because it's just fun to have that kind of stuff in your arsenal, in your repertoire, to pull that sort of stuff out. We've been playing “House of the Rising Sun” on this last tour in Europe. We're doing it again in the States. “Baba O'Reilly.” It's just — we cover the songs we loved growing up, y'know? Why not play them? We still love them. Just because we didn't write them, doesn't mean we don't get to play them.
No. It's just kind of what we like. We're not trying to tell everybody that things were better way back when or what-have-you. It's just kind of what we we're into. We all pretty much grew up listening to the music our parents listened to, which encompasses all that stuff. I think it's just beneficial to all four of us that our parents were really into music, so we didn't have to wait until we were 12 and 13 to start buying our own records and figure stuff out.
My mom — when she drove outside of radio distance and couldn't get the one radio station she listened to — Pet Sounds was the only thing that would play in the car. That's a pretty awesome record to listen to, when you only have the one record. Especially growing up, like 5 or 6 years old, before you realize exactly how amazing a record like that is. It's just like, kind of ingrained into your head. I think it kind of helped skew how I looked at writing music when I grew up.
As the band's guitarist — lead guitarist, specifically —
You say that. I don't. [Laughs.]
Your style is fairly unique. You're not playing all rock-and-roll power chords. There's some intricate work, there. Where does that come from?
Thank you. Early '80s Brit pop. Things like the Cure, the Smiths — that kind of stuff.
I was gonna say, yeah. There's a lot of that mid-'80s chiming guitar sound.
That's kind of my bread and butter. That's what I grew up on. When I started getting into my own kind of stuff, that's where I kind of went.
How did you come across that?
It's one of those memories that you kind of never forget: I must have been 1989, so I was ... 7? And, my parents were gone, and the my babysitter had already supposedly put me to bed, but I snuck back downstairs, and she was watching MTV and the video for “Love Song.” I was just like, blown away.
I don't even remember what — I remember Robert Smith scared the shit out of me. [laughs] Creepy dude with lipstick on, lookin' all weird. But, at the same time, it kind of reminded me of Edward Scissorhands, and I was kind of into it. That was the first record of theirs I got, and it's kind of been my favorite record of all time ever since.