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Foot off the gas

I'm not good at much," says Brian Fallon. He, the flat-cap wearing ringleader of New Jersey rock band The Gaslight Anthem. Which doesn't make much sense given the 31-year-old's enormous, Springsteen-approved talent. "Yeah, well . . ." he shrugs.

Jeez man -- learn to take a compliment.

"I don't think it's something that I can really take too much credit for," he replies. "Like, if you're born being able to do something, you can't really take any credit for that. You didn't do anything."

Woah . . . that's deep. A bit like Fallon's shiny new project, -- a two-man guitar band called The Horrible Crowes.

It's "the darker side of soul music", says Fallon of their debut album, Elsie. Truth be told, it sounds more like The Gaslight Anthem with their feet on the brakes -- and without the punk. Which is a good thing as Fallon and long-time friend and collaborator Ian Perkins deliver an intriguing collection of sweeping rock numbers with splashes of folk, country, and even jazz.

But it is just over a year since The Gaslight Anthem followed their hugely successful 2008 album The '59 Sound with their third album, American Slang. Somebody likes to keep busy.

"Well, I get these ideas that I have to kind of get out," he says. "Rather than sit around on the road, I write songs."


As Fallon explains, the other half of The Horrible Crowes is a member of The Gaslight Anthem's crew. They just didn't realise how good a musician Perkins was.

"We discovered he was a really good guitar player and it was like, 'why aren't you in a band?'" he laughs.

"He and I are really close friends and, one day, we were sharing records and I said 'hey man, let's write some songs'."

So, Brian and Ian put away their PJ Harvey and Tom Waits records and decided to give it a shot.

"It's something that I was always into," he offers. "When I was a kid I would always listen to weird records, like Afghan Whigs records. And none of my friends were into that. They were like 'we're into punk rock and that's for girls because it's got slow songs on it'. And I like that stuff!"

The songs are very personal, he insists. But who's Elsie?

"That's just a name that we decided on. I mean, that's not anybody in particular. It kind of seemed like a real classy . . ." Brian pauses for a second, "Elsie sounds like a woman that wouldn't do the things to you that has been done in the songs."

Gotcha. And the name The Horrible Crowes you got from a poem, right?

"Yeah, it was a Scottish poem called The Twa Corbies," he explains. "It's about these two crows deciding what to do with a dead knight -- what parts of them they're gonna eat. It's horrible. I mean, it's more than that . . . you'd have to read it. But it's pretty insightful."

I'm sure it is. And I'm sure the guys in The Gaslight Anthem weren't worried at all when their lead singer told them he was going it alone for a while.

"At first, it was like, 50/50," he nods. "Some of the guys were like, 'that's cool, go ahead -- do it'. And then some of the guys were a little bit like 'what are you doing? Why are you doing something else?' And then I think once they heard it, they realised 'oh, okay --I see why you're not bringing that here because it doesn't make sense'."

Brian doesn't see The Horrible Crowes as a side project. Instead, it's as if he has joined another band. Come September, he'll have another group of musicians to contend with when he joins US musician Chuck Ragan's Revival Tour -- an "acoustic collaborative event" featuring a handful of American punk artists reinterpreting each other's songs.


Meanwhile, The Gaslight Anthem will begin work on a new record later this year. Must be a good position to be in, I say -- selling records, touring the world, making famous friends (Springsteen joined Fallon and the gang at Glastonbury in 2009), and yet, at the end of the day, you can still walk down the street unrecognised.

"I think that that's the goal," says Brian, "to be able to live off the music but to not really have the celebrity thing. Hopefully it stays that way," he smiles. "But I'm not gonna complain if one day I'm Bono . . ."

Elsie is out now. Brian Fallon appears live as part of The Revival Tour at the Academy, Thursday, September 29