The Gaslight Anthem's fifth album, Get Hurt, arrives on August 19. But don’t expect the folk- and punk-tinged anthems of their prior efforts. Frontman Brian Fallon tells Amazon that this record was a chance for the New Jersey group to explore unfamiliar territory.
"It definitely sounds different than the previous records," Fallon says. "There are some songs that just don’t sound like anything we’ve ever done before. We got to really push the limits. We were looking at what else inspires us without changing the core of the band. There are definitely some moments where we went off the deep end."
If that makes you nervous, well, just know that getting there was a tough process. The band, which released their last album Handwritten in 2012, didn’t sit down and decide to pen a new album. Instead, they sought new material simply because it felt like the right time. Or, maybe, because they are bunch of masochists.
"I think you know when the next batch is gonna come," Fallon says. "Usually it’s when you get an idea. Or it comes out of a sense of discontentment with not creating something new. You desire to be put through the punishment again. It must be a need for punishment because when things are going well you make a new record because it’s the hardest possible thing you could do. This wasn’t hard like the other ones – the other albums were extraordinarily difficult to write and then the recording is easy. That’s not the case with this one. It was incredibly difficult to record and fairly easy to write."
The recording process lasted nearly seven weeks at Nashville’s Blackbird Studio in March and April, a long time compared with the band’s usual three-week recording sessions on past records. The group enlisted British producer Mike Crossey, known for his work with acts like Arctic Monkeys, Foals and The 1975, to helm the album. They selected Nashville not because of the town itself, but because they liked the studio. The recording took double the usual time because the musicians felt inclined to try things various ways before settling on the right sounds. Those sounds recur throughout each song on the album, according to Fallon, and involve some very specific aesthetics. So much so that the band spent several weeks searching for a way to recreate a certain “bink” sound The Cure used on "In Between Days" with old synthesizers. “It was terrible,” Fallon says. “We looked for weeks. It’s so silly but we were so obsessed with it.”
The underlying idea was to eschew the musicians’ past methods and try something completely out of the box, whether that meant writing a song in a different way or adding unusual flourishes. “We set out to do this one without using any of the techniques we had used in the past,” Fallon says. “It really opened up a lot of possibilities, to do songs with different tempos. Your creativity was widened. It was like if you’d been using a pencil your whole life and then somebody gave you a box of crayons.”
"It doesn’t sound like a Pink Floyd record, but it was like a Pink Floyd record,” he says of the process. “You’re building everything from scratch. You’re making these sounds and you don’t know what they are yet or how to achieve them. You hear something in your head and you have to make that somehow. It’s really just the four of us so we don’t call string sections if we want strings. We have to create something that sounds similar to strings.”
Inspiration came from a lot of sources, including Bob Dylan and The Who's "Baba O’Riley," which The Gaslight Anthem have covered live. Fallon didn’t, however, cite the band’s OG spirit animal Bruce Springsteen as an influence.
You won’t have to wait long to hear something from the album, either: a new video trailer (watch below) teases the track “Stay Viscous” and the yet-to-be-named first single arrives in June. The first single will serve as a bridge between the old material and the new album. It should ring familiar for fans of the group, but Fallon says it also showcases the “sonic shifts that may or may not have been heard from us before. It’s a good introductory fast song.”
But as for the album as a whole? Fallon is not necessarily nervous about the fans’ reaction to The Gaslight Anthem’s fifth album, but he does have a sense that there may be some extreme and divisive responses.
"The first time they hear the record people are going to have a heart attack," Fallon laughs. "Some people are going to cry. Some people are going to throw up. I don’t know what’s going to happen. They might throw it out the window or smash their car. Don’t drive the first time you listen to this record. There should be a parental advisory." — Emily Zemler