If you’ve been following You Sing I Write at all over the past four years then you know of my love for New Jersey punk rockers the Gaslight Anthem. In fact, it’d be fair to say that my obsession runs deep.
In college I worked with drummer Benny Horowitz at Rutgers University’s award-winning newspaper The Daily Targum. It was during that time that I realized my dream career of becoming a music journalist. I knew he was in a rock band but I was too into my pop music and boy bands to pay any attention. Fast forward to an internship and later freelance work at Rolling Stone in 2008 when Gaslight Anthem were featured in the magazine as a breaking band.
I still remember that day so vividly. Looking at the photo of Gaslight Anthem and thinking, “That looks a lot like Benny. What does the caption say?” It read Benny Horowitz. When I went home I IM’d everyone on my buddy list from college to see if they knew anything about his band, a group that was compared to Bruce Springsteen.
No one knew of Benny’s blossoming rock star career. So, I went to my closest record store to investigate (Virgin Megastore RIP) and bought a copy of The ’59 Sound and Sink or Swim. I instantly fell in love with the music, the stories and imagery in the songs.
Benny being featured in Rolling Stone was HUGE. It meant that it was possible and attainable to follow your dreams and make things happen. I knew I wanted to be a music journalist from the first time I watched Almost Famous and the first concert I covered in college for that very same paper I worked with Benny at.
Sometimes all it takes is one success story close to home to make you realize you NEED to pursue your dream. Seeing Benny succeed was a confirmation. If he can do it, so can I. What do I have to lose?
After numerous failed interview attempts I finally interviewed Benny on the phone this year, just days after I attended the taping of their music video for “45” in Asbury Park. As luck would have it, my recorder didn’t work. But for some reason it didn’t matter. It was as if we just needed to have a conversation one on one to learn each other’s back story. I told him exactly what I just wrote (in fewer words), and he revealed that the day he joined Gaslight Anthem he told himself it’d be the last band he would play in. If it didn’t work out he’d just have to settle for that boring 9-5 job and live in the suburbs.
“I think that’s why you hear that desperation on Sink or Swim,” he told me.
He and some of the other band members felt that the album might be the last album they ever made so they gave it their all. It’s funny how sometimes in your darkest hour something grandeur can be created.
Benny has gone on to become a member of my favorite band and even directed their latest video for “Handwritten.” Frontman Brian Fallon reflected on this in a recent interview, saying, “It was a cool experience to be directed by your friend who you’ve known for 6-7 years. You’re watching him blossom into another facet of his personality.”
That’s exactly how I feel seeing Benny rock all the big stages on a nightly basis.
So now you know where my obsession of Gaslight Anthem comes from. It’s something even bigger than their music. It’s knowing that it’s possible for dreams to come true firsthand.
The boys continue their ongoing success having landed No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot 200 chart this week for their latest album Handwritten which is the chart’s highest debut with 40,000 sold. I have a feeling this is just the beginning for them.