Known as the singer and guitarist of The Gaslight Anthem, Brian Fallon has teamed up with the band’s long-time guitar tech Ian Perkins for one hell of a side project known as The Horrible Crowes. With the guys releasing their debut offering "Elsie" in September, we caught up with Mr Fallon to talk Medieval Scottish poetry, antiques shopping and of course Bruce Springsteen.
Hey man, for the sake of our readers can you tell us who you are?
I’m Brian Fallon and I play in the Horrible Crowes. I’m the singer and sometimes I play guitar.
First things first, how did you decide to get together with Ian Perkins to do this project?
Well, Ian, you know, he’s is a good friend of mine and he was around and we hang out a lot. He plays and I play so it was just, you know, a natural progression.
From what I understand the Horrible Crowes wrote most of the material for “Elsie” while you dudes were on the road with The Gaslight Anthem. Do you think had an impact on the music you wrote in any way?
Um, maybe. I mean I write a lot on the road so I don’t really look at the road as different than home cause I try to make it as homely as possible. So it’s not really that different, it’s not like I’m incorporating places or something like that. I know a lot of people do that. They write about what’s immediately in front of them and kinda adapt to the places that they’re in but I don’t, I’m too stubborn for that.
So where did you get your name from? A poem right?
Yeah, yeah. There’s this poem, a Scottish poem. It’s poem called the “The Twa Corbies”, it’s all over the place actually right now. It’s a poem that’s from like the 12th or 13th Century so it’s an old one. And I was reading it and it kinda ah … you have to read it to understand, like I can’t quote it verbatim. But the way they that they were writing about it and the things they were writing about, it’s these crows deciding what they’re going to do with this dead knight, which sounds kinda bizarre. But when you read it there’s like a deep underlying human connection to it, like how we all ravage each other. It’s weird. I was just like “Woah! That’s terrible!”, and you know like The Horrible Crows, ah “that’s a good name for a band”. So it came out like that.
Some comparisons with Gaslight are probably inevitable because of your distinctive voice and writing style. What would you say differentiates the Horrible Crowes from Gaslight?
Ah, I would say the music is the big one. But you know, that’s the tell-tale thing whether people think it sounds like that or if they don’t, if they think it’s the same. It’s kinda up to them. But either way, it doesn’t really bother me whether they think it sounds like Gaslight or if it doesn’t because it’s me writing it. It’s tough to change your personality to a point where people can’t recognise it, you know what I mean? Like if I wrote something that people were just like, “woah this doesn’t sound anything like anything that he’s done before and it doesn’t even sound like him”, that would be bizarre. So I think that the comparisons are inevitable. That’s okay though.
You’ve said that Horrible Crowes is a bit more personal than Gaslight. Can you elaborate on that?
I don’t think I said that, I think somebody else might have said that I said that. I don’t think it’s more personal, I think the lyrics just sound more direct and about specific things. You know I didn’t just set out and say “okay I’m going to write really personal songs, I’m gonna hit people with the personal stuff that I’ve been saving up”. You develop as you write songs, hopefully you get better, and I think I just got better. And I think that it just happened to be on the Crowes record because that’s what I was doing at the time that I realised what was going on lyrically. So it was something that I learned to do kinda by accident and it was while I wrote that record. Now I’m writing the next Gaslight record so now you’ll hear more of that in The Gaslight Anthem. You’ll see more personal stuff rather than stories, and that was just a time I think. Especially being influenced by Bruce Springsteen and stuff like that, he’s a big story guy, and I was doing that thing because that’s what I grew up on. Now I feel like I’ve found my own legs a little bit more, so getting a little bit more personal and maybe just the style of writing is changing a little bit from like strictly “okay I’m gonna write a song like Bruce would write”. It still will probably sound like Bruce to people and to me too because I love him so much, but it might change a little too because you sorta find your own after a while, you know?
Speaking of that, for “Elsie” you’ve used a wider range of instruments than you’re probably used to, from strings to kettle drums. Was it difficult to translate your ideas you had on guitar to that array of instruments?
Yeah big time, that took me like eight months to figure out how to do that. I was writing the songs a lot earlier and I really had to sit down at the organ and the piano and try and like learn … I can’t read sheet music still, even after this big process. I learnt how to write our songs, like I can’t play anybody else’s songs on the piano, but I can play Horrible Crowes songs and I can play a few Gaslight songs. So I think that once I learnt how to do it I was able to communicate to the strings section and say “okay look, here’s where I’m playing, and I want you to play this melody, on this line, in this register” and they got it really easily. But that’s because they were so good. We used these sisters, their name’s the Parkington Sisters, and they really knew how to play. A lot of times string instruments if it’s not on sheet music they don’t know what they’re doing. I can’t write sheet music so I needed someone who could listen to what I was playing and then copy it.
I saw on Facebook the other day that you wrote you’d received the vinyl for “Elsie” and it was the best record you’d ever made for vinyl. Why do you think that is?
I don’t know! I didn’t notice until I actually listened to it on vinyl, but then I listened to it and I was just like “Man! This is the best sounding record that has ever been on vinyl” and I think that’s because a lot of the stuff that I’ve done, we haven’t had a lot of layers to it. It’s just been guitars, bass, drums, and that’s it. So there wasn’t a lot of layers to come out. And you know on vinyl your strings, your organs and things they really pop. That’s why I think that I feel that way.
Are you a big vinyl head yourself?
Um, I collect some records. I’m not like a crazy one but the records I really like I collect, that’s really the records I buy. I don’t have a big collection of old 70s records or anything like that, I don’t really care about that. I collect Bruce’s records, I collect different presses of Bruce’s records. So I have “Born To Run” on like six different versions (laughs) but I don’t have like … Bruce and The Clash and Pearl Jam, they’re the only three that I collect.
You guys will play your first shows at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC and the Troubadour in LA which are both pretty iconic old venues. Does it feel weird to be playing your first show, again?
Yeah totally! It’s totally weird because we didn’t know, we were like “are people going to come? Are they going to show up or what’s gonna happen?” We were like starting over again, it was a little weird. But I think it’s gonna do well, they’re both sold out so it went well (laughs). It’s kind of cheating though because it’s not really your first shows because people come to see it just because you’re the guy from Gaslight so, it’s a little bit of a boost.
What can fans expect a Horrible Crowes live performance?
You know what I don’t know, because I don’t really know what we’re going to do yet! The guys are coming not next week but the week after so we’re going to figure it out. We have seven days of rehearsals so we’re just gonna go kinda set up the stage and draw it out and buy some stuff from the antiques store and try and figure it out how we’re going to have it look.
You guys are heading over to Europe and the UK for a run of dates in September and October. What are you expecting from those shows?
Yeah that’s the Revival Tour so that’s like a collective thing, that’s just acoustic. So that’s like Gaslight … just everything I’ve done all mixed together, it’s not really one thing. It’s not a Horrible Crowes tour at all. We will play some songs but we’ll play mostly Gaslight songs, the rest is just an excuse to play with Danny and Dave and Chuck.
Obviously Gaslight have been down under a couple of times now, might we ever have the privilege of seeing the Horrible Crowes?
I hope so, you know, if an opportunity presents itself. If Soundwave calls and says “hey man, are you doing anything during February?” and we’re like no, then you know, sure why not! I would love to come there, especially for the summer.
Clearly Gaslight is pretty much a full time thing with you guys. Do you think it will be difficult to maintain both projects at the same time?
Um, no because I have a really good sense of scheduling. I’m really well disciplined and that kind of thing so I know how to separate stuff pretty well. The trick with that is you work on one project at a time, like I wrote The Horrible Crowes record and I wasn’t writing Gaslight songs, and now I’m writing Gaslight songs but not Horrible Crowes songs. So it works out pretty well with that.
Aside from releasing “Elsie”, what does the rest of the year hold for you guys?
Just the Gaslight record, that’s pretty much it. We’re likely to record that in December or January so hopefully a summer release, which would be cool. I think we’re going to record it in Nashville, I think. It’s so early that I can’t really tell, but that’s where I hope to record it.
Great to chat man, thanks for your time.