Not to many bands have made such an impact on the rock n' roll landscape like The Gaslight Anthem. What sets them apart from everyone else is their passion and the incredible way they can paint a picture with words and song. They speak romantically of driving with the radio on, along the Jersey streets in which they grew up and of a time where life was simple yet complex at the same time. Where a night with your friends was about the quality time together and not about the booze. Where a girl with a sympathetic smile would capture your heart and where life is complete with a record player, a few dogs in the backyard and a old white Lincoln in the driveway.
In eight years the band have released four classic albums, one EP and toured the globe to millions of fans who haven fallen in love with Brian's words, Alex's weaving guitar lines and a rhythm section that holds the whole thing together. As a (somewhat fanatical) fan, today was a real treat to speak to bass player Alex Levine. We spoke about the best places to go in Jersey, about his love affair with wrestling and about tattoos including the one he had to get as a result from losing a bet with a band member.
Hey Alex, where are you at the moment?
Well actually I'm in a mattress store with a buddy of mine who just moved here to buy a mattress.
Fair enough. We're you affected by the snow storm that hit the other day?
Not so much in the little pocket down by the water where I live. It's pretty sheltered there so we only got like a foot of snow.
You're coming back for a tour in May, what do you remember from the last tour a few years back with the Soundwave festival?
Yeah it was great. We did Soundwave and some side shows with Social Distortion. It was our first time doing a festival tour in Australia. I remember pretty much everyday getting on a flight! It was like rock n' roll band camp, on a plane with Rob Zombie and New Found Glory, Sum 41, Social Distortion. It was funny we would joke that if this plane goes down, we'd be a footnote being on there with Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson all the way up the back.
It's safer at the back of plane anyway.
On that, you guys do tour a lot do you get much of a chance to check out the cities you play in?
Depends we're we are at and how much time we have on the tour. At this point we pretty much try to work out some time before or after the show in cities we really love or want to check out, for instance a place like Venice, we really like Venice a lot so we'll try to schedule some time to hang out there if we're passing through. On the other hand a place like Stuttgart in Germany, we've played there like fifteen times and I couldn't tell you a single thing about that city.
I'm heading to New York and New Jersey in April, as a Jersey boy, what should I check out when I'm there?
We're are you going to be based? In New York?
Yeah New York and looking to come down to Jersey for a day or two.
Oh cool. Honestly I'd try to get down to the Red Bank area and Island Beach. Try Asbury Park. But if your coming from the city it may be easier to head across from New York over the water to New Jersey City or Hoboken. There's a lot of cool things to do out of there. You'll get a different vibe then would from around here which is more of a beach area and more suburban hassle and bustle.
I saw you make a guest appearance on WWE on the JBL & Cole show. How did that all come about?
I'm like a psychotic wrestling fan which people may find a little bit weird! It's been one of my passions my whole life and I've always wanted to do anything with them. Long story short I became friends with Josh Matthews and Michael Cole (announcers for WWE) they're big fans of my band. We hit it off and I was teasing Michael Cole saying 'You got to get me on your show man!' And the weekend that it happened they had a pay-per-view event in New York so I got to go down and hang out and do their YouTube show. Hopefully we can do some more in the future with WWE like play at an event or be on a YouTube show or whatever.
Did you always wanted to be a wrestler yourself or work behind the scenes in creative?
Yeah more behind the scenes. I could never see myself as a character like that! I couldn't believe humans can look that way hahaha.
Are you going to get a chance to go to Wrestlemania as its in New Jersey this year?
Yeah I think so. We come back from a tour in Europe on that Sunday so hopefully it'll coincide and everything will work out.
I've been reading reports you guys have started writing new songs again, is that true?
Yeah actually we wrote a new song last week and demoed it and we're pretty happy with it. I think Brian will be putting some vocals on it tomorrow, then we'll practice for this tour. Every time we get together we try to write a new song.
With the new song, how does it sound compared to the tracks off Handwritten?
I don't know I haven't really thought about it. Anything that's new always sounds way better than anything I've ever done. You know it's a little bit different. There's a lot of riffs going on, there's no melody yet but lots of guitar riffs.
When it comes to writing for this band is it a case of Brian brings in a structure for a song or is it a case of you guys playing and jamming it out?
Well with this song I had riff and Alex (Rosamilia, guitarist) had a riff and we jammed on it and put it in the same key and that was it. Brian wrote all the lyrics to it and put the vocals down. It all depends. Sometimes Brian will come in with a song pretty much done and we just write our own little parts to it and go for there.
One thing I've noticed is there is a lot of online rumours about the band. What's the biggest mistruth you've seen about the band online?
I usually don't read much of any of that stuff. I did read something recently that Brian was gay...that's definitely not true hahaha (Brian is married to Alex's sister)
I remember reading somewhere once that you know your a celebrity when there's an online rumour that your gay, so he's now a celebrity!
Hahaha, yeah I guess he's made it now!
I want to ask about a tattoo you got of a grilled cheese sandwich as a result of losing a bet to (the drummer) Benny. Can you tell us about how that came about?
(To his mate off the phone) he's talking about the grilled cheese eating competition!
Yeah, me and Benny had a competition to see how many grilled cheese sandwiches we could eat in an hour. I ended up eating a eleven which is a lot but Benny did like thirteen and kept on going. It was an amazing performance by him. And the loser had to get a tattoo of a grilled cheese so I got a grilled cheese with wings on my ass! Hahaha
Why with wings?
Just for artistic reasons haha
With your tattoos what do they mean to you and do have a favourite tattoo?
Some have a lot of meaning, if I like something on the other hand my first big tattoo was of a painting I did when I was sixteen. That's probably my favourite on my upper arm. It's a Japanese inspired tattoo. I have my wife's name tattooed on me and then I have a lot of hodge-podge things that don't really mean anything!
The greatest thing about tattoos when you look at it, you always remember the time you got and the experience you had getting it and that means more than anything. Some people make up on the spot meanings for tattoos but its all about the experience and that moment you won't forget. I think that has a bigger meaning than any tattoo I have.
The Gaslight Anthem are touring in May with Dave Hause (ex The Loved Ones) Dates below and tickets are on sale now.
FRI 10 MAY - BRIS, THE TIVOLI – 18+
SUN 12 MAY - SYD, ENMORE THEATRE – Lic A/A
WED 15 MAY - MEL, THE PALACE – 18+
FRI 17 MAY - ADEL, HQ – 18+
SUN 19 MAY - PER, METRO CITY – 18+