The Gaslight Anthem

The bell chimed at Rolling Stone – an announcement in a daily blog back in February: The Gaslight Anthem could very well be the next Clash, the next Green Day.

“We’ve had this longstanding rule that no live band sounds good on TV,” RS said. “And then we saw N.J.’s Gaslight Anthem on Letterman and concluded that either a) our rule was wrong, b) they are, in fact, the band of our generation, or c) some combination thereof. Absolutely breathtaking.”

The band’s 2005 debut effort, Sink or Swim, was well received but it was last year’s The ’59 Sound, on indie label SideOneDummy, that made them potential superstars. The New Jersey quartet, armed with 100 percent creative control, produced a unique punk-powered record. They’re breathlessly compared to Bruce Springsteen or The Replacements’ Paul Westerberg – the trick is in catchy (if hardcore) melodies and storyboard lyrics.

“I lit a cigarette on a parking meter,” goes a typical couplet. “Corner boys told her how I was dying to meet her.”

“I think they resonate for a lot of people, for a lot of ages,” manager Anna Jacobson-Leong told Pollstar. “They sing about universal themes. … We knew the moment they were in the studio they were making a classic album.”

Photo: John Davisson

Jacobson-Leong met the band in its “early years” – the bygone days of October 2007.

“The first time I met Anna face to face, she showed up at the Knitting Factory in New York,” frontman Brian Fallon told Pollstar. “We were on tour with The Draft and Dead To Me. We were being courted by every major label in the entire industry. It was the most stressful thing to go from an indie band, playing in basements where I would ask the kid at the door for 50 bucks for gas, to the level we had gotten to in such a brief time.”

Fallon was pro-tem band manager at the time and had enough of it. He had spoken with Jacobson-Leong on the phone and expected to meet with her in a relaxed setting.

“I was at the end of my rope,” Fallon said. “Basically I said, ‘Look, lady, I don’t know you but if I’m going to talk to you, you’ve got to get me out of here.’ And she went into shotgun mode – got me coffee, got me to a coffee shop away from the Knitting Factory and got me out of a circle of people, deflecting all of them politely. She made it look as if I was gold and she was disrupting it because I had somewhere important to be.

“I found myself off Leonard Street, talking to her. She had gotten me out of there in a matter of seconds. I was like, ‘Huh! If she can get me out of this, she can get me out of anything!’”

Now it’s a matter of putting Gaslight Anthem into things. Jacobson-Leong, whose background includes years managing sales teams at various software companies, learned chess at an early age from her father and is looking 18 to 24 months ahead.

“From December last year to December this year, the band will hit every major territory – U.K., Canada, U.S. – three times,” she said. “And by the way, they don’t take tour support.”

Photo: Lisa Johnson
Alex Levine, Benny Horiwitz, Alex Rosamilla & Brian Fallon

Fallon made clear he’s not a big fan of schmooze and industry talk. He’s just a Jersey boy who worked years in construction and can hang with anybody. That night back in 2007, Jacobson-Leong could have pitched herself and management company Esther Creative Group to the band by mentioning what they’ve done for other artists, like Lou Reed or Blonde Redhead. Instead, she just talked about her vision for the band, and that was what made Gaslight Anthem a client.

And the no-bullshit rule goes for agents, too. Fallon saved one of his biggest compliments for the person who routes the tours, Corrie Christopher at APA.

“Corrie is one of the most trusted people that I work with,” he said. “Most want to tell you ‘yes’ when they work for you. But Corrie is so good with, ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea and here’s why.’ She and Anna will not back down and I really like that. They make me think about the decisions. They won’t just let me say, ‘This is what I want or I’m going to kick my feet like a child.’”

The band is making it big overseas as well as in the States. Kerrang! magazine put the band on its cover before Gaslight ever visited the United Kingdom and named The ’59 Sound the No. 2 album of 2008. It was the first time Kerrang! put a band on its cover without writing about it previously.

Here in the States, the band is making noise all the way to the top of the celebrity A-list. Although the band is too busy driving around in a van to be able to measure their success, a little digging by Pollstar has turned up the band has fans in Bruce Springsteen, Green Day, Lance Armstrong and a pitcher in the L.A. Dodgers bullpen. In fact, Springsteen will have an opening act in Europe in June: his New Jersey homeboys.

“We’ve just been really fortunate. We’ve had a good run here,” Fallon said, making clear the band is not going to abandon its fans for a quick buck. “Sometimes you have to ask, when all these things get offered to you, ‘Is it right now? Is it right ever?’ I think there are some things, if they’re right, they get offered. But it just doesn’t have to be right now.”