Artist picture of Alkaline Trio

Alkaline Trio

39 419 fans

Similar Artists

Playlists

Biography

In 2018, Alkaline Trio created a brand new full-length album behind a veil of secrecy. Is This Thing Cursed?, their first record in over five years, is a spirited conjuring of everything the band has summoned before, electrified with a new urgency. As it turns out, the most important modern rock band to combine heartbreak, power-pop, and a flirtation with the occult was just getting started. A few short years ago, Alkaline Trio put on a massive black celebration of close to a hundred songs, over sold out multi-night residencies in a handful of cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Orange County, tearing through eight studio albums and nearly two decades of history. The devotion of the band’s adoring cult following was repeatedly rewarded, as the twists of phrase and dark melodies that have become a part of the fabric of their lives danced around them in sweaty, intimate, seductive ceremony. For a subculture of outsiders, misfits, and lonely-hearts, songs like “This Addiction,” “Time to Waste,” and “Radio” are perfect anthems. Albums like From Here to Infirmary, Crimson, and Agony & Irony are classics. Now the portal to a new era opens with the fresh vibrancy of Is This Thing Cursed?, a furiously inspired collection of songs created in an unprecedented situation. For the first time in their history, Alkaline Trio booked studio time, arrived with little more than a few ideas, and created an entire album on the spot. “Everyone always thinks that their newest record is their best record and I'm no different,” says vocalist/guitarist Matt Skiba. “Of course we think it's our best record. We wouldn't put it out if we didn't think it was our best record. As far as where it sits in our ‘catalog’? Hopefully, it's a big step, but a logical one.” Vocalist, bassist, and co-songwriter Dan Andriano concurs. “We made a record in a way we’ve never done it before and it worked. I'm really excited about it. Everything sounds fun and fresh. I suppose any band making their ninth record would like to hope that their longtime fans are going to be into it, but I really feel like we made a record that the old school fans are going to dig. I really, really do.” Good Mourning (2003) cracked the Billboard Top 20. This Addiction (2010) debuted at Number 1 on Billboard’s Rock, Independent, and Alternative charts. But even with strong record sales, radio play, and several late night talk show performances, the Alkaline Trio torch burns brightest for the diehards. It’s a legion of fans that crisscross the globe for shows; faithful devotees who remain proudly connected to Skiba, Andriano, and longtime drummer Derek Grant. As Noisey once summarized, ALK3 “cut themselves from a unique enough black cloth to standout” in a sea of punk lookalikes in the late 90s and early 2000s, mining the poeticism of Jawbreaker, the campy vintage goth of horror rock, and the three-chord driven punk bombast so beloved in their native Chicago scene. Is This Thing Cursed? hearkens to the creative process of the early days, when the band rehearsed in a tiny apartment on the edge of Chicago’s Humboldt Park, at the intersection of Damen Avenue and Division Street, near D&D Liquor. The appropriately titled “Demon and Division” recalls the vibe of the song “San Franciso,” one of the beloved tracks from the very first album, Goddamnit (1998). “It has an old Trio vibe to it. Somewhere in the back of my mind I was thinking I wanted it to sound like an old school Trio song,” Skiba explains. In fact, much of Is This Thing Cursed? shares exciting psychic similarities with the discography. “We slowly realized that in a completely different way there were a lot of parallels between this new record and [2000’s] Maybe I'll Catch Fire,” Skiba confirms. “The process, the themes, there are just a lot of similarities from our perspective. It almost feels like a sister record to it or something, or like a first cousin.” The album was tracked in Los Angeles at The Lair. With its weird antiques, big wooden doorways, large velvet drapery, and eye candy sconces, Andriano describes The Lair as “what it would look like if Alkaline Trio designed a studio.” Producer Cameron Webb (Motörhead, Megadeth) was an essential part of the creative process, encouraging the band to power through their ideas and flesh out their songs with a mixture of spontaneity and certainty. Over the years, Alkaline Trio has worked with the A-list of the genre’s producers, including Webb, Matt Allison (Smoking Popes, Rise Against), Josh Abraham (Thirty Seconds To Mars, Slayer), and Bill Stevenson (Descendents, A Day To Remember). But the advice of the late Jerry Finn (Blink-182, Morrissey) was a pivotal guiding force. “Jerry's sort of mantra was, 'first thought best thought.' Not that it works every time, but it works a lot,” Skiba explains. “[Another thing he taught us] is that just because something wasn't intentional, that doesn't mean it was a ‘mistake’… In the past we’d spend a lot of time in preproduction. With this record we went in with pretty much nothing. Dan had a couple of demos. I didn't have a single complete demo for the new album, just a few ideas on my phone. We pretty much wrote the whole thing as we recorded it. We wrote a song or two a day.” “That old school style writing process, combined with how we feel now about what we want when we listen to a record made for a nice combo,” says Andriano. As ever, the storytelling remains of paramount importance. As co-lyricists, both of the band’s frontmen avoid empty imagery and flowery words absent of meaning. The songs always tell a story, a mixture of fact and fiction, reality and metaphor. The title track began as something very personal for the group’s bassist. “Everyone gets to a point where you feel like you can’t win, you’re up against it,” he explains. “It’s totally irrational but that’s how you feel when you’re completely lost in the throes of depression. You feel like everything you look at, everything you touch, all of it must be cursed. Then it becomes inward, like, ‘Maybe it’s me that’s the problem. Is it this body of mine, this host that I walk around in?’” Webb suggested Skiba sing a verse on “Is This Thing Cursed?” as well. “Dan sings most of the song’s vocals. It's his baby,” the guitarist says. “He and I work really well together. As corny as it might sound, I'm sure there are a lot of times we're communicating without speaking. Sometimes things are left unsaid or I can tell that he doesn't want me to ask what it's about. There isn't really much that Dan and I wouldn't tell each other, but sometimes it's nice to have the mystery. [This song] is a rare occurrence where [the subject] never came up specifically.” “Blackbird” is another product of the duo’s collaboration. It was one of the few instrumentals Andriano had worked out before they arrived. He loved the music but wasn’t happy with his own lyrics or melodies before he passed it over to Skiba, who was obsessed with the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird as a kid. Skiba drew the military airplane on everything, built model kits, and even as an adult, devoured books on it. Around the time the lyrics came together, “Blackbird” was the nickname for a girl he was dating. “She didn't look like a bird, but she has this sleekness, this sexiness, that I felt just reminded me in some way of that plane.” “I Can’t Believe” is brand new territory for Alkaline Trio. “It's about the current administration,” says Skiba, who traditionally had shied away from political topics. “It’s even more so about the people that continue to think that Trump is a good idea, regardless of all the racism, sexual abuse, and pig-nature of this person. So much damage has been done. I can't believe why anyone would think that's a good idea. It blows my mind. It's the first time I've ever written a song like that.” Andriano wrote “Little Help” about a type of person he’s “been close to becoming and I don’t care to become.” Another new song, “Pale Blue Ribbon,” is even more personal. It’s about the death of a friend. “It’s about wishing I could go back and talk to him.” As the song declares, “There’s no prize for winning this race.” Is This Thing Cursed? is filled with the type of naked self reflection and authentic personal revelations that have drawn so many punks, goths, alternative rock advocates, and music fans of all stripes to Alkaline Trio, assuring the band’s continued relevance and vibrancy, now more than 20 years into their story. It’s a passionate display of truth telling emotion set to timeless melodies that’s inspired a type of reverence usually reserved for longer running icons and trailblazers. Like the Misfits “fiend skull,” the Black Flag “bars,” or the Bad Religion “crossbuster,” Alkaline Trio’s iconic Heart & Skull symbol is bigger than the band it represents. It’s a badge of honor for diverse and defiant individuals who share a passionate commitment to the triumph of the outsider. Like the heart that surrounds the skull, while the band may celebrate the macabre, there’s an ever-beckoning black light within their darkness. No matter how bleak things may seem, the music of Alkaline Trio is there, with a sly phrase and a sweet melody.