When Gaslight Anthem’s debut, Sink or Swim, was released in 2007, it spread virally amongst the punk community. The album fused the post-punk sensibility and passion of Hot Water Music and the Loved Ones with a lyrical approach and sense of Americana akin to Bruce Springsteen. As vocalist/guitarist Brian Fallon explains, it wasn’t until their stint on this summer’s Warped Tour that they realized things were picking up speed. "When we saw everybody at Warped Tour, all these famous bands were coming up to us and watching us and saying ‘you're the band.’ I don't know how they even know us. I would be talking to [Blink 182’s] Tom Delong and he said ‘Woah, you are my tour manager’s favourite band.’ We started to realize on Warped Tour that something was happening.”
As commonly happens with bands from the punk scene when they start to appeal to a wider audience, there was some backlash. Fallon explains that while he understands why that happens, he doesn’t know why it happened to them; from his perspective, they hadn’t done anything to warrant it. Message board backlash started before the band had written a new album, signed to a new label, or done anything other than tour.
"Nobody really understands what happens with a band, but it’s so funny how a band is perceived — it's the opposite of what actually happens,” he says. "We’re learning to be a band that's always scrutinized, and that's interesting. You just learn to not pay attention. I don't think the kids realize the people in a band are real people. Some of the things really do sting. You try to be legit, but if you want a career and want to remain faithful and loyal to the people that supported you, you don’t want to let anyone down. I didn’t handle it that well — I got bummed out, asking ‘Why do they hate us? I don't get it.’”
Unlike some of their more DIY-conscious peers, it was never Gaslight Anthem’s intention to lurk in the unsigned underground. "People hold us to ideals, but we never said they were our ideals,” Fallon laments. "We were never a DIY band, we are a rock band, a soul band, that’s what we tell everyone. It’s not like we’ve done anything to earn a backlash from those people.”
If anything, the mix of growing popularity and discontent caused Gaslight Anthem to further solidify both their identity and sound. New effort The ’59 Sound showcases a band with less emphasis on punk and Springsteen and more focus on rock and soul. "Our main goal was to try to show our influences and show that what we are doing is kind of different than what everyone is doing. The Hold Steady and Constantines are great bands, but they are better than us, so we said ‘Let's do something that’s our own.’ The thing that nobody was doing was this soul thing from the ’50s and ’60s. We made it with a mission that it’s what we want it to sound like. We were really [happy] with this record. It doesn't matter if people like it or not.”