The Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon is a no nonsense, no frills kind of guy, a Jersey kid who made it big with an old school kind of rock band. He isn’t into gimmicks or pretensions, which makes him the right guy for the job of hand-picking up-and-coming, promising young bands to feature in Red Bull’s Sound Select music series. Fallon has partnered with the energy drink company for the unique program, which puts on a monthly showcase in which young bands get to share stages with established artists.
On Monday, Sept. 30, Fallon plays a Brooklyn Vegan co-curated show in Williamsburg with the Bouncing Souls and the two bands he picked, Aye Nako and Nude Beach. We got Fallon on the line to talk about the series.
How did you get involved with this program?
When I looked into it, all these bands that are out there touring and working, I thought, 'Wow, it kind of reminds me of us and how we started.' So I said, ‘Send me some of these bands’ and they sent them over, and a couple of them I really liked.
Do you see a lot of yourself in these young bands?
Yeah, sure, because it’s rare to find that these days. I don’t run into a lot of young bands that are touring as much. It’s kind of nice to see when people are just kind of doing the same thing we did, but a new generation. [laughs] I feel like we’re old now.
How do you choose the bands?
They send me a bunch of bands they’re working with, anywhere between five and 20 bands, and I just sit there and listen to them for a little while. I go through their songs and just kind of look for... something. You know, something that sticks out to me. And sometimes there’s nothing and I have to tell them that I don’t like any of these bands. But then sometimes I like all of them, and I have to choose one, which is tough.
Most of the time if I really like two bands I’ll look into them and see who’s kind of working the hardest. Who’s out there just touring, and who’s sort of less gimmicky. Who’s the one who are just looking to me like a band who are just out there doing it. But you can’t really judge what people are doing either, though, so it’s tough. Like, there’s this band – they’re not associated with Red Bull at all — but this band, Foxy Shazam, where if you looked at them you’d be like, ‘Wow, that’s like a thing, man, like what are they doing?’ But then if you actually see them play you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is not a thing, this is amazing.’ And so it’s hard to judge a band by its cover, I guess.
Another part of what the program does is work to help keep kids involved in music and out of trouble. Was that another thing you related to, did you get in trouble a lot as a kid?
I mean, I got into trouble like any other kid, but I didn’t get into any exceptional trouble. To me, it’s more about giving kids a chance to play in a band. Just helping them out, that means a lot. Whether they’re kids, meaning, like 22-year-olds, or whether they’re 15. That kind of resonates with me a lot, because when we were younger, you know, the Internet wasn’t invented. So you were really, really lucky if you could find three other guys who would play with you, and who liked all the same music you did. It was a real godsend.
Do you think that struggle made the experience more authentic?
No, because I think kids mean it just as much as they ever did. When they’re at that age where they’re like, ‘Hey, I’m going to get in a van and I’m going to start a band,’ it doesn’t matter whether they found it on the Internet or not. That’s coming from a real place, or else you wouldn’t do it.
Gaslight’s music is marked by a kind of raw honesty, and a kind of authenticity, is that something you’re looking for in these bands?
No, because, you know, like, I like Tom Waits. And he writes crazy songs about, you know, a guy building something in his basement. And I love Pink Floyd, and who knows what they’re writing about sometimes. But, I don’t try to put myself into anything else. It’s not about relating. [laughs] You know, maybe I should see a therapist, because I don’t like to relate to people. It’s really odd. Like, that’s my job, I relate to people, but I almost feel like, if you feel the same way I do, well, we should probably never hang out. Because if you feel the same way I do — I’m out of my mind — so I don’t want to meet you. But then I feel sort of better that they feel the same way, and I’m not the only one. So, maybe that’s weird.
That is odd, because the majority of your music is about, well, feelings.
[laughs] Well, I feel feelings, you know? I feel a lot of feelings.
Tell me about Aye Nako. How do you pronounce that?
See, that’s another thing! It’s really hard to pronounce some of these band’s names. I wish they’d come with, like, pronunciation keys. But no, they resonated with me in the way that — they don’t sound like them — but in the way that Bon Iver did. I just caught this wave of melancholy and I was like, you know what, I dig that. I’m really liking this vibe that you’re putting out.
So where are they from?
I don’t know. I stop at the music. I know it sounds stupid but I really want to know as little as I can about the bands I like.
I guess I can understand that. Like, if you found out something that you didn't like, it could ruin the music for you?
Yeah, like one of my favorite bands that I recently discovered is Wilco. And I don’t know a thing about Jeff Tweedy. And I don’t think I ever want to know a thing about him. He doesn’t do a lot of interviews and there’s not a lot about them... Like, I watched that DVD that they made, and it didn’t really say much. It’s kind of like, here’s what we do, you can see it on film, and we don’t really need to explain it. And I kind of feel that way about music. I think that interviews are the funniest thing — no offense to you — but they’re the funniest thing in the world, because I don’t have anything to say! Everything I have to say, I said on the record.
Were the Bouncing Souls a big influence for you, starting out?
When I was a kid they were one of my favorite bands and still are. And now, on the opposite end of what I just said, to contradict myself, because that’s what I’m good at, they are literally some of my best friends in the world. I love those guys more than anything. They’re some of the nicest, most humble people you’ll ever meet. I feel like my life is better for knowing them, and that makes their music even more cool.
See, it can work both ways.
It can, but it usually doesn’t.
Tickets for the show are only $3, what's the motivation behind keeping them so cheap?
It’s sort of a way of saying, you know we’re going to do this thing that you’ve probably never seen before, and you’re not going to see it often, and we know it’s special but, you know what? We’re not going to charge you an arm and a leg for it. We want you to see it for the music and not so some fool can make money off of it. Which I think is super cool.
Red Bull Sound Select Presents NYC Showcase
With Brian Fallon, The Bouncing Souls, Aye Nako and Nude Beach
Sept. 30, 6:30 p.m.
Music Hall of Williamsburg, 66 N. Sixth St., Brooklyn