I've been a pretty big fan of the Gaslight Anthem ever since I heard their first album, 2007's Sink Or Swim, and found the band crashing on my living room floor numerous times over the next year or so. Yet somehow, in spite of my fervent fandom, the band's achieved a level of success I doubt any of them could have ever predicted—their newest album, American Slang, just debuted at No. 16 on the Billboard 200 selling over 27,000 copies.
Wait, did I just say "in spite of," not "because of"? You better believe it.
In my time at AP, I've come across hundreds of great bands and tried to work them into the magazine wherever I could—a blurb in AP&R here, a mention in In The Studio's "Also Recording" section there, maybe even sneaking ’em into one of our annual 100 Bands You Need To Know special if no one was looking. But generally, the bands I really champion rarely are able to transition from "dudes making awesome music" to "dudes making awesome music for a living." I don't know what it is, but I just have a knack for picking the darkest of dark horses—usually the ones that get turned into glue after the race. Thankfully, my co-workers have a better track record than I do (and frequently remind me of my foibles, too).
Example: When we were brainstorming the lineup for the 2009 AP Tour, Rachel Lux kept on throwing out 3OH!3's name, but I wasn't sold, saying something like "They'd maybe work as an opening act—1 of 5, maybe 2 of 5." Of course, they went onto co-headline the tour (which sold out largely because of their presence), and they snagged a platinum single for "Don't Trust Me" in the process. Thankfully I don't wear hats, otherwise I would've been choking one down at the tour finale in Cleveland that year.
I'm also reminded of when we were coming up with this past spring's AP Tour lineup (a process we started last August—and if you don't think we're not already coming up with next spring's AP Tour lineup, you're not paying attention), and Never Shout Never's name kept on popping up. I wrote him off because I hadn't seen him in action, only to have Tim Karan write the following in an e-mail to all the editors:
"Nevershoutnever=huge. I don't know where you guys are with the negotiations, but I'd say this kid needs to be on our spring tour. He only played 2 or 3 days of Warped Tour, but he was the must-see attraction during that span. When the Smartpunk stage would be on an amphitheater stage split with Hurley.com, he straight up nearly filled it. Just a kid in his bare feet saying, "Where my ladies at." If I had to choose this year's 3OH!3, it would have to be NSN."
Yeah, I'd say he just about nailed it—thankfully, he hasn't delivered any crow to my office (although I keep a variety of condiment packets in my desk drawer just in case).
I don't know what it is, but for some reason, I have the hardest time locking in on what the "next big thing" is really going to be. But I'm kind of okay with that. It's fun picking the dark horses; even though a lot of them might not win the race (or even finish), every once in a while, you get lucky and throw your support behind a band that can win over just about anyone listening. So here's to the Gaslight Anthem—congrats on your continued success, and good luck with the upcoming tour. My floor's always open if you're coming through town.