Interview with Gasoline Heart (4-16-08)
As a 19-year-old, it was a little awkward walking into the Green Rock Tavern in Philly for a 21+ show asking for Gasoline Heart, but their manager Jimi met me pretty quickly since I was early enough to be the only one there not with the band. After Louis finished his sound checking, we walked outside to look for a place to do the interview while he had a “smokerette.” We chatted about the problems with liberal Bible colleges and my possibility of sneaking back inside to watch the show after our interview, which I was lucky enough to be able to do. Realizing there was nowhere to go, we first tried just standing outside and doing the interview in front of the venue, but that was soon to change.
Eric, IVM: You can start with your name and what you do in the band.
Louis, GH: Louis DeFabrizio, I sing and play guitar. What’s your name?
E: Eric Pettersson.
L: What do you do?
E: I write for Indie Vision Music dot Com [laughs].
L: There we go! We have artist on artist profile.
E: Alright, so what’s new with Gasoline Heart? What are you guys doing lately?
L: We just got a tour with Murder by Death in May. That should be awesome. So that’s all of May, and it’s all like West Coast, and Gasoline Heart’s never been to the West Coast, so my old band The Kick, and our bass player was in Squad Five-O and they played there, and we always played West Coast then, so I’m excited about Gasoline Heart doing a West Coast thing because it will be good shows. I think there’ll be a lot of people there, so…
E: Would you mind holding the tape recorder a little closer?
L: Sorry about that.
E: The mic’s right there. [Points]
L: There we go, could you hear that?
E: I’ve had problems with that before, so…
L: Alright, we’re gonna go sit in my car. Let’s make that happen. [Louis narrates into the mic] Alright, now we’re walking to my car. It’s over here.
E: OK. Is it the van?
L: No, it’s not the van, man. It’s just me. I’m driving by myself. I’ve so far logged about 1800 miles.
E: Is this just a solo tour?
L: Mmhmm, yup. You can sit in the front. [Continues to narrate into the mic, as my girlfriend and I continue to laugh in the background] We’re opening the car. [Unlocks the doors] There you go. Into the mobile. That’s better. I’ll unroll this window. Yeah, so I’ve logged… let’s see how many miles I’ve logged… 1827.2 miles to get to you. Isn’t that cool?
E: Alright, your first album, You Know Who You Are, was on Mono Vs Stereo. Now you’re doing it independently. Why make that switch?
L: Well, it wasn’t on purpose. Mono Vs Stereo went out of business.
L: Yeah, they folded about eight days before we were supposed to make our new record, so we had all the studio time booked and everything. But since we were still in contract with Mono Vs Stereo, like the way record labels work is as soon they agree to do your next album, they have to make your next album. But the record label wasn’t going to be around anymore, so what they did is gave us a couple of thousand dollars. And we just, instead of dumping more money… I was like $25,000 in debt with my old band The Kick from doing everything so DIY and punk rock. And I was like, “Why don’t we just take the money, and let’s just record an EP.” And we just recorded six songs, so… yeah, so then we were like, “Instead of dumping any money into it, let’s just put it on iTunes and press 1000 of them, and see what we can do.” Like completely word of mouth. And it was probably inspired by Radiohead who just put out their record out of nowhere. And we’re like, “We can do that too! Wait, we don’t have millions of fans.” But we still sold a decent amount. I just want to see how many we can sell with nothing. Like no ads, no anything, just word of mouth. So we’ve sold about probably 500, so that’s not that bad, like just completely on iTunes and stuff. So… and then, it looks like we’re probably going to be signing with a label this summer, but I can’t tell who. But it’ll come out pretty soon. And it’s somebody that you’ll probably know of or whatever. So I’m excited about that. But that’s why we did that. We just put it out ourselves, and blah blah blah.
E: You can’t say any more about the other label?
L: No, not yet. Soon though! Really soon. But you’ll know a guy who’s doing it. He’s been a part of some other labels, so… yeah, I was told not to tell.
E: For everyone who didn’t get a chance to hear the new EP, what should they expect from it, compared to the old stuff?
L: The EP that we did, I think it’s a little bit more… like the first album, I wrote that record, and I didn’t think… like when The Kick and Squad Five-O and stuff, when we broke up, I don’t think we ever thought we’d be in a band again that would jump in a van and go on tour and stuff, so I just started writing songs that I never really thought about performing live or anything, like just writing kinda some slower, prettier songs—not necessarily prettier. But I was just doing something different because I never thought about playing it live. And our buddy that we go to church with, he played like piano and organ, we just started messing with some demos and stuff, and then all of a sudden Mono Vs Stereo was like “We want to put out your record,” and we’re like, “Oh, okay, great.” So it was just all a lot of like singer/songwriter kind of songs, and then we went on tour for like a year, and then when it was time to make a new record, we were like “We want to make it a little bit more kick ass, like just a little bit more rock and roll.” So, I mean, it’s the same thing, it’s just probably a little bit more angry. I joke around, I say the first album was miserably married, and the second album is miserably divorced. [All laugh]
E: You just put some cover songs on myspace. Two part question: why those songs, and what was it like recording that and putting it out for everyone?
L: I recorded them right on my Mac with Garage Band. Actually, my buddy Adam who played on the new Gasoline Heart record, he also plays in a band called Adam and Dave’s Bloodline, and he played with a band called Marah, he played with Squad Five-O as well… But um, he was in Orlando, and we were just sitting there, and he started playing “Glad Girls” by Guided by Voices, and then we just pressed record on it. And one night I was just like, “I should put this on myspace.” And then I put the Tom Petty song on there too, “Apartment Song,” just because I’m doing this solo tour… or not tour, but like I’m playing shows just me by myself. So that way people can, you know, if they see me just with a guitar, they can hear what I do without a big rock band behind me. And then I decided to make all the downloads free one night too. I think a lot of things happen, bad decisions, after a couple of drinks. So I’m like “Ah, I’m putting all of the songs on for free! Yeah, this song’s going up!” It’s kinda funny, our manager always gets pissed. “You put all your songs for free last night!” I’m like, “Yeah.” “Well no one’s gonna buy them!” And then he goes on there and takes them down. I’m like, “Who cares?” [All laughing throughout this story] It’s kinda funny.
E: So does that mean you’re playing cover songs on this tour right now?
L: Yeah, some. I don’t know many. A couple, I’ll play a couple. I’ll play that Tom Petty song, and then maybe a Neil Young song. But mostly mine and some new ones. I’ve actually been covering a song that I want to put on the next record. I think it’ll be awesome. “The Mighty Jungle.” You know that song? [Sings “In the jungle, the mighty jungle”] Yeah, so I’ve been playing that a lot. It goes over kind of well. Oh, there’s Adam right there. [Points at Adam walking from his car to the venue] Ooo, that’s a cool hat he’s wearing.
E: Alright, you talked a lot about The Kick, Squad Five-O. How did being in those old bands and having that experience sort of..
Adam: [Steps up to Louis’s window, along with a friend] What’s up asshole?
A: What’s up?
L: I’m an asshole?
L: Why? What did I do? The way that I parked?
A: Just messing with you. What’s up?
L: What’s going on? Just hanging out. You’re looking good with that straw hat!
A: Thanks dude. How’s the tour?
L: It’s awesome. The vehicle’s doing well. I was telling them, 1827.2 miles.
L: You wanna say hello?
A: Who’s that?
L: Indie Music Vision something.
A: Is this like a tour diary?
L: It’s like an online magazine or something?
L: Here you go, say hello.
A: What’s up? This is Adam Garbinski. I’m a loose friend. [All laugh]
L: He was just asking me about “Glad Girls” on the myspace [Laughs].
A: Oh yeah, [Laughs] that’s me too!
L: Yeah yeah, that’s Adam singing on that too.
A: We’re gonna get some food cause we’re starving, dude.
L: Yeah, I’ll be in in a couple of minutes. Are you gonna eat there? [Points to the venue]
L: Alright, cool. [Turns back to me] Sorry about that.
E: It’s cool.
E: So yeah, The Kick, Squad Five-O, being in old bands, learning experiences, transitioning to now, how did that help you with Gasoline Heart?
L: I think we stopped, like, with those bands we always tried so hard to like, I don’t know, we were always on Ten or something like we… like now we just don’t really care as much, like we’re just all friends playing music, where before it was a little bit of an attitude or something. I… not that, not like a bad attitude or something. But nowadays it’s just like, “Eh, let’s play some songs.” And it’s a lot less stressful. It’s more like buddies just hanging out.
E: What role does faith play in Gasoline Heart?
L: Well, I think it plays a lot in just that I am a Christian. Even though sometimes I’m not… Not sometimes I’m not a Christian, but like sometimes I have major doubts or whatever, but it just affects my outlook on life or whatever. You know, like I never try and think I’m gonna write a song that expresses my faith. I always just think, “I’m gonna write some sort of song about the type of stuff that’s going on in my life.” And my faith is a part of my life, so that’s always going to be expressed somewhat. Which I always think is funny, because we don’t have a lot of fans from the Christian scene or whatever, if there even is a Christian scene anymore because it’s so crossed-over now. But so many people… I’ll get emails like, “I saw you guys, and you guys have bad attitudes,” and how like “You lost a fan.” And I’m like, “Huh?” I’m just so confused. Like, if you like the music, like the music. I mean, if you wanna hear a song that is like a faith-based song or something, then go to church or buy like a Delirious? CD or something. You know what I mean? It’s just kind of weird, that whole scene. I don’t even know if it even exists anymore. I mean, faith definitely plays a part of Gasoline Heart. That is where I lean. I lean towards the Christian faith, you know.
E: What else influences you as a musician and a lyricist?
L: Lyricist, I always say I’m really not that good of one, even though a lot of people like my lyrics. It’s just I don’t write like 500 songs a year or anything. It’s just whatever’s going on in my life. That’s the thing with that first record, I never thought anyone would hear those songs, and then all of a sudden they’re on a record. I’m like, “Oh…” You know, people asking “What’s that about? Is that about me?” And I’m like, “Yeah, kind of.” [All laugh] It’s like a little bit more like a journal, you know? So, it’s probably that I don’t write in a journal, I write songs. But just life, everyday life. I love music. I love rock and roll. And I always try and… most songs that I write I’m always hoping, if any of my fellow musicians and songwriters that I’m friends with or who I may not even know but who I really respect, if they heard this, would they like it? Would they get off on it or whatever, so… I just played a couple of shows with the guy from Hot Water Music, and that was awesome, because he loved it. I’m like, “Man, I remember buying Hot Water Music seven inches!” You know? And then I played a show with David Bazaan. He’s from Pedro the Lion. He’s one of my favorites. I’ve been going to his shows for like forever, and my old band Dear Ephesus played a couple shows with his band too. So just you know whenever they say anything nice is kinda cool. They’re probably just being polite, but who knows? But that’s the thinking. Actually, there’s not much thinking. It’s like, “Just don’t let this suck or be corny.”
E: Any record releases you’re looking forward to this year?
L: New albums? Umm… what albums? I got a record by this guy named Damien Sumie. It’s awesome. You can get him on iTunes. And then I got the Adam and Dave’s Bloodline record is really good. What else did I get? Let’s see… ooo, my iPod [Begins digging around the car looking for it]… the new Patty Griffin album is awesome. [Still digging, now under my seat] We’re looking for my iPod, I’m not looking to do something weird to you. [Laughs] Um, no, I can’t if I… it’s under your seat somewhere… I can’t think of any new records that are coming out that I’m looking forward to. I like that Spoon record was really cool. But there’s just so much music that’s been made, I feel like I’m always finding new artists that I’m getting into. I like that new Bruce Springsteen record, that’s pretty sweet. And then I’ve been listening to Simon & Garfunkel a lot, and then I got this Bob Dylan live album that I’m really liking. And I’m always listening to a lot of Pearl Jam. Neil Young… I like Neil Young’s new record is awesome. Living with War, that’s a great record. But yeah, nothing really… what about you? Any new records you like?
L: Oh, you know what I like? Oh, I love The Strokes’ record, but that’s not all that new. First Impressions of Earth, that record rules. But, yup, that’s it for records I’ve been liking. My top five… yeah, I don’t even know.
E: Do you have a favorite band?
L: Mmhmm, Pearl Jam is probably my favorite band. Everyone kinda makes fun of me for that. My top five is probably Pearl Jam, The Who… I love The Clash, I love Patty Griffin, love Pedro the Lion, I love the Boss (Bruce Springsteen), Tom Petty. That’s my top five, even though I gave you seven. [All laugh]
E: Okay, that looks like everything. Anything else you want to say?
L: Cool man. No, just we’re probably going to make another new record this summer. It’ll probably come out in the fall. I think it’s gonna be called Scram. We’ll see. I think it’s gonna be good. [Laughs] Murder by Death tour, it’s all West Coast. Come out to that. And then other than that, thanks a lot. I hope you like us. We love you. [All laugh] Alright, goodbye.
We went back inside and I sat with my glass of water watching Louis perform one of the most fun shows I’ve ever been to. He was super friendly and added hilarious stage banter to keep the mood going. He even did a cover of “Stairway to Eternity,” the song that Led Zeppelin ripped off when they wrote their hit. This one was earlier and really obscure, only appearing on a British three-inch. Or so the story goes, according to Louis.