Kerrang! (UK)


It’s been two years since ALKALINE TRIO released IS THIS THING CURSED?. But they’ve been back in the studio lately, releasing the threetrack E.P. last month. And their eyes are focused on the road ahead…


Like so many other bands, Alkaline Trio are supposed to be on tour right now. The Chicago titans were gearing up for a U.S. run with fellow legendary punks Bad Religion when the plug was pulled on live music almost instantly. But, rather than sit and stew on the situation, the trio unveiled a three-track release – simply titled E.P. – early to keep fans’ spirits up.

“I’m not trying to say that our songs are going to change anyone’s lives, or save anyone’s situations,” co-vocalist/bassist Dan Andriano tells Kerrang! from his home, in between bouts of watching Lord Of The Rings and Disney Plus, “but we definitely hope that this gives someone something to think about. We’re very fortunate to have created the sort of community that we have with our fans, and the people that have been coming to see us for so long. We just wanted to give people these new songs as soon as possible.”

Now, with more unexpected time to work on music at home, Dan is going to see what else Alkaline Trio – completed by frontman Matt Skiba and drummer Derek Grant – can come up with remotely, and what fresh ideas might potentiall­y lead to a follow-up to 2018’s Is This Thing Cursed? album.

“We’re going to release these songs, but who knows how long this drags out?” Dan ponders. “I could record something, send it to Matt, and let him fuck with it, and then he could send it on to Derek who can change it, and we’ll have some sort of weird coronaviru­s song (laughs) that’s been created out of necessity. That could be fun…”

Before that, though, Dan reveals everything there is to know about the band’s new EP – and whether it’s a sign of what else is to come…

Alkaline Trio got back in the studio in January. How did that come about? “Well, the fact that we were able to get into the studio and have anything at all, with the way our band is spread out over the country and involved in different bands, it’s sort of amazing at this point (laughs). Honestly, we were getting together in January to play with our new drummer who was going to be doing the tour – a guy named Tony Barsotti [longtime drummer Derek Grant had taken some time off]. He was going to come on the tour with us playing drums. He got introduced to us through friends of friends, so I went out to LA, and so did Tony – who is from Dallas. We both went out to LA to rehearse with Matt, and try to get to know Tony and get comfortabl­e playing our songs. The plan then was to just go into the studio and see what happened. Matt and I both had a couple of ideas kicking around, so we just wanted to see what we could get done while I was out there. Matt and I being together led to us having a lot of conversati­ons, which then led to what was going to be Derek coming back for this tour – and he still will be at some point. But it’s interestin­g, because none of that had anything to do with Tony (laughs). It was such a pleasure to get to know him, though, and I think that the drum tracks are completely amazing on this EP – and I think everyone else will agree, too. It was just this togetherne­ss in the studio, and the atmosphere, and Matt and I being together and talking about stuff very openly, all led to us getting in touch with Derek and seeing how he was doing, and realising that he was in a place that he could actually probably come back. And then all this shit went down! But we wanted to figure out where Derek was at, and he’s in a much better place now.”


So everything just fell into place in a very natural way? “Exactly. We were gonna leave the studio with six songs, or zero songs! It was just whatever ended up happening. And in this case, it was three songs. If nothing panned out then at least we were gonna have tried, and been together. It’s always fun to try to write and create music. But I think we got three really good songs out of the situation. It was a really good experience.”

Each of the three songs have a very different feel from one another. Was that intentiona­l? “Uh… no! It was just what came out. I had the most complete idea for Radio Violence, and when I played it for Matt at rehearsal, he was like, ‘Okay, that’s a good song – let’s work on that.’ And once we worked out that one, Matt said he had this idea that he’d been kinda kicking around [which became Minds Like Minefields], and it was a little bit more of a loose interpreta­tion of an idea. But once he sat down with it and worked on it more, he thought about what he actually wanted from the song, and we all got really excited about it. It was all pretty organic – but we don’t ever really intentiona­lly say, ‘This is the kind of song or album we’re going to write.’ I think what we learned after Is This Thing Cursed? is that the more we can write together, the more we’re gonna enjoy the songs – and the more it’s gonna sound like Alkaline Trio. That’s the way we started the band: writing together in a rehearsal space, or an apartment when Matt and I lived together, or in Glenn [Porter, former drummer]’s apartment, which was right down the stairs from ours. That was how the band started and where all the songs came from in the beginning. Things change in life and you naturally move apart, but I think we’re going to do more stuff like that in the future. Obviously I’m not going to stop actively writing at home or anything either, but I want to just come up with more ideas, and then finish them with the other guys, instead of finalising songs and bringing them in and saying, ‘We have to record this.’ That’s sort of where I took my songwritin­g for quite a few years after the first couple of records were done.”

Tell us about the opening song, Minds Like Minefields… “Matt wrote that one when we were all together, and I love the drum track to it. I love the weird directions it takes, and Matt got really excited about that one when we were in the studio and once it was all tracked. We were coming up with ideas and harmonies and weirdness, and Matt was in the live room having so much fun yelling weird noises! There’s a lot of cool piano overdubs in that song that are more textural, and artistic layering. It was just so fun watching Matt in the studio coming up with idea after idea. We actually probably recorded so many more bits that didn’t make the final cut, but what was important was trying these ideas. It was very spur-ofthe-moment, and I like those moments.”

What about Radio Violence? “I’ve been trying to explore different ways of writing songs, of the keys that I’m writing in, and musical theory. I really like that song, just because I think I put in some weird twists and turns, musically, but that’s pretty much stuff only I’m going to notice and noone else will give a shit about (laughs). It’s a fairly personal song about how something as simple as a lack of communicat­ion can lead to really disastrous ends of friendship­s, and, ultimately, isolation.”

And Smokestack? That was another one of yours… “Smokestack is a song that I wrote, like, 20 years ago, and I hadn’t actually thought about it in quite a long time. But I recently discovered some weird recordings on the internet that someone had put up that I didn’t know about – they were bootleg recordings from a bar show I played in Chicago many years ago, when I was first dipping my toe into the acoustic show waters. And it wasn’t a good show (laughs). I didn’t know what I was doing, and I was trying to play these punk rock songs on an acoustic guitar, and just trying to figure that whole game out. If a comedian goes out and tries some material and bombs, he doesn’t want that on the internet, right? That’s how I felt about it! But this person put the song on itunes and Spotify and all that, and it was as if it was an actual release, so I was like, ‘What the fuck do you think you’re doing?!’ So then I played a version of the song that reminded me of it, and a lot of these other old songs that I never did anything with, really, because I didn’t like a lot of them. I played this one idea for Cameron [Webb, producer], and asked him what he thought, and he said he really liked it, and we worked out a chorus together for it. I really like the fact that it was something that I wrote when I was 22 or whatever. It has a younger spirit still alive in it, and our youth is always something we try to recapture, right? This is like a time capsule that no-one had ever really heard. I’m really happy with it now, and I don’t feel like it’s just a ‘whatever’ song. I’m really glad that we revisited it.”

Has that inspired you to go back over these older or lesser-known songs? “Yes, it has. And they’re all still terrible – they will never be heard (laughs).”

Is E.P. a sign of what’s to come from a new Alkaline Trio album? “I hope so, because I really like them! I guess that’s fair to say. But we’re a one-thing-at-a-time kind of band, so I don’t know. I’ve got some weird ideas for songs – and they only get weirder in the age of the virus! I’ve been listening to a lot of different stuff, and I know Matt has, too. It’s always going to sound like Alkaline Trio, no matter what, but who knows what could happen?”


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 ??  ?? Dan Andriano: “It’s like a time capsule that no-one had ever really heard…”
Dan Andriano: “It’s like a time capsule that no-one had ever really heard…”

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