I wasn’t sure which was my favorite record, but Handwritten was definitely a contender. Handwritten is one where the whole band was firing on all cylinders. We accepted our place in the world, we were playing in front of a lot of people, and there were a lot of people watching us. So we were just writing a record that was a good, fun record to listen to.
The problems we have in America right now are giant problems that are not easily fixed. But one thing I am behind is the people that are saying things about mental health and about talking. You know, you’re not a spoiled brat if you’re in a band to say “hey, my band got really famous and I’m not sure how to handle that and it’s kinda messing with my personal life and I’m developing anxiety disorders and depression. It’s not what I thought it was going to be.” You’re not being a whiny brat. What you’re doing is mismanaging your emotions. Or maybe – maybe – you have something wrong inside that it took this to come out. I probably had issues with anxiety my whole life and didn’t know it until the catalyst of the band getting huge.
He was conscious, he seems keen to say, of the expectation that weighs on an artist making their second album: “When you do a second record, you have to sort of firm up what you’re gonna do. You’ve gotta be like, ‘Am I doing this kind of music? Or am I doing this kind of music?’” He explains further: “The first record that people do, you get a little leeway. You get like, ‘Oh! He tried some weird stuff, that’s cool.’ But then with the next one they’ve expected you to figure it out.”
Everything has to line up for something to be successful, it’s not just simply whether it’s good or bad. You have to have a lot of favorable things happen in the process in order for it to actually reach a large number of people. Sometimes timing is one of those things that you can’t plan for. I’m glad we don’t have to do it again (laughs). If I had to put that out now would I be able to manage a career? I have no idea if that would work so I’m glad it did then.
Not too long ago, Brian Fallon sounded like he was broken. Get Hurt, The Gaslight Anthem’s fifth (and as-yet, last) album, sounded like a band on its last legs. Written and recorded in the wake of a grueling, never-ending tour schedule—as well as Fallon’s divorce from his first wife—Get Hurt felt like the end of something. When Fallon resurfaced on 2015’s Painkillers, his solo debut, he was retreating from the fallout of it all. “I don’t want to survive/I want a wonderful life” he sang in the first single, but the most revealing line came on the closing track: “You can’t make me whole/I have to find that on my own.” That song, and that album as a whole, were the sounds of a man whose recovery was still a work in progress.
Sleepwalkers, Fallon’s sophomore solo LP, is the natural conclusion to the trilogy that began on Get Hurt. It’s also the most wholly satisfying album of the three, blowing up an array of different influences to make the most vibrant, lively LP that Fallon has put his name on since the early Gaslight Anthem days.
“Whenever someone mentions a record, that’s when I step away. And the reason for that is because right now, I can’t see what a new Gaslight record would sound like. When you take the records that we’ve done that I’m very proud of – and I’m proud of all of them, even the later ones – I don’t know what I would add to that right now.”
I’ll bring it over to the review section in the next few days.↩
We had call, and we were just like, ‘Hey, are we gonna just ignore this?’ I know we’re on hiatus — we’re not doing anything, everybody’s off doing their own thing, and everybody’s fine. But if we let this go, that says something. That would come across as apathetic to me. I was like, ‘I don’t feel apathetic about this. How do you guys feel?’ They didn’t feel apathetic at all. They felt like, yeah, we should probably do something.
Then we thought, ‘if we play some shows, what happens? Do we have to start the whole thing up again?’ What realized, well, no, because of this record, we can do what we did in the beginning, which is [anything] we wanted.
Due for release in February, Sleepwalkers was recorded over the summer of 2017 with ’59 Sound producer Tedd Hutt. Despite the familiar faces, Fallon is still trying to push the way he writes songs in new directions. “I had these handclaps loops like drum loops. So I would start out with that kind of shuffle and look at it through the eyes of the punk rock that I grew up on and then add the Vox Continental [organ], writing riffs on that and almost using that riff as a loop, which I’ve never done before.”
“The record flipped a little bit from the more folk-oriented thing on Painkillers to a more R&B, punk-leaning thing. It’s such a drastic shift that you’ve got to get some different people and some new blood sometimes to do that because it requires a different finesse and a different perspective.”
Spoiler: I’m a fan, I think it’s a nice, confident step up from Painkillers.