The state of New Jersey seems to have several unshakable stigmas attached to it: It's dirty, full of gangsters and is the possible resting place of John Gotti. As off-base as those notions might be, one thing is certain: Jersey is a breeding ground for great working-class music, from Bruce Springsteen to Bon Jovi. New Brunswick's Gaslight Anthem strives to carry on that tradition. Guitarist Alex Rosamilia talked to us about the Garden State, and why — as enticing as other places are — he doesn't want to leave.
Westword: The band has allowed you to travel all over the world. Is there a city you've been to that tempts you to move out of Jersey and relocate or will you always live there?
Alex Rosamilia: I always swore that I'd never leave Jersey, but over the past couple years, I have to admit I've been tempted by a few places, with Seattle and Portland being at the top of the list. There's also a rather large list of places I'd like to go back to in a non-touring environment, like London or Tokyo, but I wouldn't say I want to move there.
Would you rather play headlining shows and take out smaller acts or play main support to bigger bands?
Both have their pros and cons. I think I would prefer headlining, though, only because in that scenario you can bring out your friends' bands. Any band we've had support us has either already been friends or has become friends with us. It's also a plus to start a tour knowing what you're getting into, and not spend the first two weeks wondering if everyone is going to get along.
Despite your success, what qualities would you like to maintain from when you were a smaller band?
Not to sound trite, but our integrity as a band and our work ethic. I really think those two things are what helped us get to where we are in the first place. If we want to keep going, I think it's integral that we keep them.
Describe the experience of playing talk shows like Conan and Letterman. Is it something you would like to do in the future?
Of course I'd like to do more. They're a different animal, though, as far as playing goes. All of this preparation goes into filming one three-minute song. There's all this buildup, your adrenaline kicks in, and before you can realize what you're doing, it's over. Then you have to wait to watch it to see what it was really like. That's at least my experience with them.
Several reoccurring characters come up in your songs, most notably Maria. Are these fictional characters, metaphors or real people?
I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.
Is it tough to maintain enthusiasm for a show when you play as many shows as you do? If so, how do you rise above that?
Of course you have good days and bad days. The one thing I try to tell myself, though, is that even though I've played however many days in a row, tonight's the only night the kids will get to see it. So it doesn't matter what happened yesterday or the day before — tonight's the only night that matters. Plus, for all intents and purposes, my bad days pale in comparison to other people's bad days.