Gaslight Anthem bassist Alex Levine loves his fashion. In fact, Levine doesn't have just a passing interest in looking good; it's been a part of his life for years. "I used to cut hair in gentlemen's barbershops and [have] always taken an interest in being well put together," says Levine, who also runs the clothing label Tiger Cuts. "I'm all about leather jackets and greased-back hair."
Beginning with the New Jersey alt-rock/punk band's first album, 2007's Sink or Swim, and up until their recent Get Hurt, singer/guitarist Brian Fallon has blurred 1950s greaser imagery with his real-life experiences. Just as Grease and Happy Days evoked simpler, nostalgic times, the combination of The Gaslight Anthem's music and image does so in spades.
"In music, whether or not people like to admit it, you have to present yourself as a total package if you want to be a performer. Take The Clash, The Ramones, David Bowie—they all looked fucking cool. It's a part of the creative process," Levine says. "With any great band, there's an underlying theme. People yearn for nostalgia, themes or for something that they know. I think with our band, no matter what our story is, there is something deep down that keeps our fans coming back."
Although the band still looks the part, The Gaslight Anthem's newest offering, Billboard Top 5 charting Get Hurt—released in summer 2014—finds the band shelving their greaser third-person narratives for more personal fare. With the upside-down heart album-cover art perhaps signifying the band wearing their hearts on their sleeves, Get Hurt found The Gaslight Anthem searching for new sounds that deviated from their punk tendencies (e.g. the blistering fuzz of "Stay Vicious" and the delicate synths of the title track) while staying true to themselves—despite public reaction.
"Whatever happened in anyone's personal life aside, our goal was to make something sonically different than before," Levine says. "Some of our fans don't necessarily know what to do with the record. Some love it, some hate it, but we aren't going to apologize for any of it."
The Gaslight Anthem have come a long way from their humble beginnings ("We were practically homeless when we played Kilby Court," Levine says) to where they are now (headlining festivals across America and Europe), but what hasn't changed is the band's devotion to expressing their style.
"The story back then was four dudes in a van, trying to fulfill our dreams. Eight, nine years later, it's completely different," Levine says. "At the end of the day, there is a theme to our band and it's who we are. We are true to ourselves and our music is honest. We're unapologetic about anything we do."