Alkaline Trio: Recording with Bill Stevenson was a dream come true
|Courtesy of the Artist|
Originally hailing from the Second City, pop-punk world-beaters Alkaline Trio are quickly approaching two decades in a scene that isn't known for aging gracefully. Weathering the ebb-and-flow of their style's popularity, the Trio have stayed the course and continued to deliver incredibly catchy, emotive punk tinted with melancholy over their eight albums. Recently settling down with indie powerhouse Epitaph records, Matt Skiba, Dan Adriano, and Derek Grant have finally begun to enjoy the fruits of their labor, dialing back their breakneck touring and dabbling in solo projects.
Guitarist and lead vocalist Skiba got in touch with Gimme Noise to discuss their new album, My Shame is True, and his fascination with a 19th century serial killer.
Gimme Noise: So, your upcoming show at First Avenue in Minneapolis is an all-ages gig. After 17 years in the biz, you're still playing shows for the kids. What does that mean to y'all?
Matt Skiba: I had a fake ID when I was a kid to see 21 and over shows, because a lot of the bands that I liked growing up, bands like Jawbox or Helmet, stuff like that, they would play at 21 and over venues. Luckily I had that fake ID, but I remember a lot of my friends being really bummed that they couldn't see the show, so I knew, being a fan, what it was like to maybe not get into shows. So it's definitely nice to know that everybody of any age can come to the show.
We've been a band so long that many of our fans are now married with children, or divorced with children, whatever. But they have kids that are now Alkaline Trio fans, so they're able to bring their kids to shows and I think that makes it pretty special. A lot of times we're unable to do all-ages shows because of the laws of various states or depending on where the bar is. If it was up to us, we'd always play all-ages shows. It definitely makes the show special when the next generation is there.
You guys have really stuck to your guns over the years despite label and lineup challenges that might have changed other bands. How has you and Dan's writing process evolved over the years, or is it still the same?
Not really, and that's part of the reason things haven't changed. Generally when I go and do other musical projects, they're more studio productions. Where as with the Trio, it kind of starts of like it always has, with me and Dan coming up with these songs, generally on an acoustic guitar, and sending a really simple demo to the other guys in the band, and together we make it an Alkaline Trio song. That formula's always worked with us, but of course we tried incorporating different instrumentation into the records and stuff, but the actual process has not really changed at all, to be honest. Except for the fact that now we all live in different states and email the mp3s to each other.
Has that distance made things a little more difficult?
There was a time where all three band members, we lived together but we were also touring 326 days out of the year. Our touring schedule is about half that now. Once you become fortunate enough to be an established band that does very well, you don't have to tour as much. Plus, for a band like us to tour that much, fans would be like "Why would I pay this money now when I can see them again in 6 months?"
We don't tour like we used to, and we all kind of have our own lives outside of work. On the road, we're together all the time. Me, Dan and Derek and all of our crew, and we're one big happy family, but when we get home Dan has a daughter and a wife, and Derek just bought some land in Vermont with his girl, and I'm with mine in Los Angeles. I think even if we all lived in the same city I think we'd see about as much of each other.
Your last album, This Addiction, somehow got saddled with the expectation that it was going to be a reboot of the Goddamnit era sound of your debut album. Did you guys ever see it that way, or was that just press?
Well, no. Some of our records, production wise, get a little crazy and that's what we meant when we said we were gonna go back to the way we did Goddamnit. We were gonna save the first take, just kind of rawer and a little less polished. I mean, that record sounds really good, and of course it is polished, but it was more akin to the way we did Goddamnit, in that we did it in kind of a vaccum, without thinking about the listeners, just to make something fun. When made Goddamnit, we didn't think anyone was going to hear it.
So didn't go into it saying "we're going to remake that record," it was more of the approach to it, I guess. As time's gone on, we've had more money to make records, we made Goddamnit in 9 days for less than $1,000, and that's not quite the case anymore. So we didn't make it for 900 bucks, but the recording was pretty quick.