I recently had the chance to sit down with The Gaslight Anthem's drummer Benny Horowitz when the band was touring across Canada.
This tour has been going on for awhile now. What has been the most memorable experience youíve had so far?
It might have been karaoke with The Loved Ones the other day. That was fun.
What songs did you do?
Oh, I didnít sing. I was in a pretty low key mood that night, we were just kind of watching the college kids sing. One group of guys came up and did Backstreet Boys and their friend Ricardo took on the solo so Ricardo got a lot of love from us. But this tour has been a highlight all around, just because all of the bands have been so good. Itís just a good show Iíd want to go see every night and weíre old friends with The Loved Ones and everybodyís cool. Weíre really enjoying it, itís like our last tour on this record. Itís exactly what weíve wanted.
So itís true that you are doing a new record after this?
Weíre definitely doing a new record after this.
From what Iíve read in previous interviews, it would be more of a harder rock album?
I donít know. We havenít written it yet and we donít really plan it out so much that I can even say it. But I can definitely say some of the cut back stuff and maybe some of the soul stuff on The í59 Sound that we went for then, maybe isnít as much of a feeling for us right now. I know that thereís going to be a couple of real good straight forward rockers on that record but I donít know exactly how many. Weíll see. Weíll see how that process goes. Maybe weíll get to Jersey. We havenít written a record at home for a long time. So maybe weíll get to Jersey and take whatever feeling we get from home and translate it. Weíre going back in the winter, winters usually in New Jersey are pretty fucking dreary. It should be an interesting state of mind. So weíll see, maybe weíll make a fucking goth metal record, who knows? Weíre going to come out in April with fishnets all over and white makeup, you know? What do you call that? Goth? Weíre going to go goth. Iíd say thatís it, Iíve already seen Brian and Alex playing with leather and really high boots. Stuff like that. Seriously though, I donít know.
The í59 Sound has been a breakthrough record and has opened up many doors. What did you accomplish that you never thought was possible?
I guess at some point in my early 20ís, I definitely considered that as hard as I was going to go for it, Iíd probably never get to be in a band that would be a band and not do anything else. This last year, the fact that the band has become my life as far as work and home and everything, you know? It encapsulates everything because it takes so much time. So I donít know, I think thatís the thing that I thought would never happen, but it actually happened. I donít have a normal job anymore, I just play music and itís pretty cool.
So do you feel a lot of pressure right now? Are you overly worried with how your new record will be received?
No. I donít. I can definitely see where that might come from but weíre making a really conscious effort to go into it the same way weíve always gone into it, you know? Once we get into a room and itís the four of us, we want to keep everything else out. If we start writing music based on what other people have said, or even stupider, potentially will say, then youíre going to fall short personally. So I think the way weíre looking at it is that as long as weíre walking out of the studio proud with what we did, then that is what the goal is you know? That is the intention. Whatever happens after is going to be out of our control regardless. We canít tell people what to say or think so weíve just got to make something that weíre really proud of.
Bruce Springsteen comes up lots whenever the band is mentioned since The í59 Sound came out. Do you ever get tired of all the comparisons?
Yeah. Yes, definitely. I mean, itís just like, ĎCool.í And I donít know, I just donít see it all that much. I see comparisons with lots of other bands more than that. I think people pine on it just because itís easy, you know? Lazy journalism I guess.
Moving back to touring, would you ever play Warped Tour again? In your Alternative Press cover article, it doesn't seem like it went too well.
Yeah. I wouldnít say we had problems though. Itís not an easy tour to do if youíre in a van, but we only did eight days of it and honestly, it was fine. All the other bands were cool and Kevin was super cool so we definitely have nothing against Warped tour. We had already done two months of festival type things and itís rough. At some point, maybe weíll try it again.
What was Lollapalooza like then?
That was fun. Chicago is always a cool place to begin with. I was really happy about it because I remember one of my first concert experiences as a kid was Lollapalooza in 1993. I went with my best friend and his older brother and I had the best time in the world. I was 12 and I saw Rage Against the Machine, Tool, Alice in Chains, Dinosaur Jr., Primus, so I have great memories of being there as a kid. Getting to play it that many years later, like what, 15 years later, is kind of cool. Itís also in the middle of Chicago in a park and you can see the entire city around you so itís really cool. And not to mention, a couple of friends were in town and we went to a pirate museum the day before we played. They took a pirate ship out of water and all of the original pirate treasure, silverware and everything that they wore, it was still on the ship. So the museum tells the story of that ship from its start to its finish, it was originally a normal ship taken over by pirates.
So you do interesting things on your days off?
Sometimes. Weíre going to be in Minneapolis tomorrow and I think some people are going to see Gallows and AFI. I think Iím going to go to the Twins game though. I heard the Twins are in town and Iíve never been to the Metrodome so I think Iím going to see that and then hang out with everyone after. But last night here in Winnipeg, we went to see the Bouncing Souls, Off With Their Heads, Youth Brigade and Saint Alvia. That was cool, I went to that last night and hung out for awhile. It was good to see everyone there. But a lot of the time if weíre in a place where nothing is going on, weíll just go see a movie. A lot of the time we just chill and read too, just use it as a real day off. Weíre pretty low key.
Is there any band on SideOneDummy that makes you particularly happy to be a part of the label?
I guess Fake Problems because I love Fake Problems. Theyíre like our boys from way back, our first proper tour that we ever did. Theyíre good friends of ours too, but itís hard to say. Itís like picking a favourite M and M or something like that.
Where does Chris Wollard appear on The '59 Sound?
Heís in ďMeet Me By The Riverís EdgeĒ in the low harmonies in the verses and the chorus. Yeah, itís pretty soft but if you listen, you can definitely hear it. Chris Wollardís voice is definitely in there.
A long while back Suburban Home/Vinyl Collective mentioned you guys would be a part of their Under the Influence split 7Ē series, with American Steel. Is that still going to happen?
Yeah, I think so. I mean, weíre still tight with Suburban Home, we still talk to them. We just havenít had much of an opportunity to get anything done but I could see that as a possibility for the future. Iím not sure what American Steel is up to right now but Iíd still love to do it with those guys. Maybe when we record the next record, we can work on songs for that too.
Is Maria one person or is she based on a number of women?
I canít answer too deep into those questions but I can definitely say that itís not one person.
How much has Counting Crows influenced the band?
Again, not one I can elaborate on, but I know Brian is a big Counting Crows fan.
Does anyone in the band study music theory?
No, not at all. Iíd say that the only one who even potentially may have is Alex Rosamilia but not on guitar, I think on piano. Iím certain all of us are self taught on our instruments. Anything that you hear in our music thatís weird or anything like that, itís probably not on purpose. At least if it is, we donít know what the fuck weíre doing. Weíre just doing it because we think it sounds good.
If you could spend an evening with any person, who would it be and why?
Wow... Really hard... because I donít know whether to fuck around or give a real answer. Iíve said before that Iíd like to spend a day with like Method Man.
Youíve probably already met a lot of the people you look up to, bands at least.
I have actually, a bunch of them. Mike Ness. Heís scary. Because itís Mike Ness, you know? It was pretty crazy. Like the way I came up in music, I didnít really know about Bruce Springsteen until I was like 25. Mike Ness Iíve known about since I was like 12. But that doesnít really answer the question... I guess a person from history Iím most interested in is my namesake Benjamin Franklin. I just read like an 800 page biography on that guy. It seems like he would have been a really interesting guy to hang out with, get drunk with and tell stories and shit with. I bet he used to smoke pot. I think he did so Iíll go with that. Benjamin Franklin. I think I even played him in a first grade play.
What do you call the two Alexís in the band to tell them apart?
Oh man, you know what? If I told you Alex Levineís nickname in an interview heíd get pissed because he doesnít want me to call him that anymore. Itís like his name that everybody who knows him personally knows him by. But, he doesnít want me calling him that anymore and I started it so Iím not allowed to say but maybe when you post this interview, somebody can unearth it. I canít be responsible for it, heíd get mad at me and his girlfriend would too. (Laughs) Some people call them 46 because of 4 strings on a bass and 6 on a guitar. And sometimes you can tell just by the tones in peopleís voice, they approach them differently.
Lastly, on the side you have another band called Spiro Agnew with Alex Rosamilia.
Yeah, itís a band Alex and I have had for a long time, probably five years. Before the Gaslight Anthem we had it, and it stems from a different band we were in called The Killing Gift, who essentially kicked out our singer and got a different bass player. It sort of turned into this stoner metal kind of thing. Yeah, we still do it and when weíre home in New Jersey weíll practice songs and play once in awhile. Its good fun, Alex and I really enjoy that kind of music.
Do you plan on releasing any material in the future?
Yeah, maybe, we have a few songs. We had a demo and a couple of other songs that we did. I think weíre going to rerecord everything this winter and try to put it all together. Probably on some LP.
I think it's more of a reference to the song than anything. Same with the whole 'Maria' bit.
The whole names of girls thing is pretty much explained in 'Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts'
'call every girl we ever met Maria, but I only love Virginia's heart'
I got that, and I'm fine with referencing other stuff, but to me, the chorus of a song is the anchor, the part that you walk away with after you hear it, and for it to be rooted in another influence... not too sure how I feel about that. Or at least if they straight-up copped to it, I'd be alright with that... like Motion City Soundtrack did in "Let's Get Fucked Up and Die".
"I always kinda sorta wished I looked like elvis" instead of "She said she'd like to meet a boy who looks like Elvis." Pretty sure it's meaning that he's thought about the girl. Get it?
"Maria came from Nashville with a suitcase in her hand" was untouched, and that's the main hook of the chorus. Perhaps calling Brian lazy was not the right wording at all, but it makes me uncomfortable.