Alkaline Trio | This Time It's Political

prof_alkaline_sm.jpgTen years later, the Trio is still cranking out songs on many of the same themes, albeit with a more mainstream sound and a larger fan base.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In 1998, Alkaline Trio released Goddamnit, its first album of melodic punk music, filled with songs of misery, drinking, drugs and death. Ten years later, the Trio is still cranking out songs on many of the same themes, albeit with a more mainstream sound and a larger fan base—this year's Agony & Irony, the group's first release on a major label, charted at #13 on the Billboard 200.

In 1998, the Chicago-based band was comprised of guitarist Matt Skiba, bassist Dan Andriano and drummer Glenn Porter, and was recording Goddamnit for Asian Man Records, a label based in owner Mike Park's parents' garage in California. Earlier this year, Asian Man remastered and rereleased the now-classic album as Goddamnit Redux.

"It feels good that we can still be proud of that record," said Andriano of Goddamnit. "I have a lot of fond memories of that time in my life."

Since then, the band has gone through four drummers and two labels before settling on drummer Derek Grant in 2001 and Epic Records in 2007. During that time, the band's sound has also evolved from Goddamnit's raw punk sound to the multi-layered pop of 2005's Crimson, an ambitious album that included heavy synthesizer use and string backing. Agony & Irony represents a step back production-wise, relying more on catchy riffs than overproduction.

The move wasn't necessarily deliberate, however. "We had a bunch of songs—we had over 30 songs written—and we just picked the best ones to make an album. We just left them at that. We didn't want to overdo it," Andriano said. "We've grown in a lot of ways, but so many aspects of what we do remains the same. The way we write the songs, why we're in the band."

Andriano said that over the years, the band has approached each new album the same way, with songwriting split between Skiba and himself. (The pair also shares time on lead vocals, each almost always singing the songs he has written; one of the rare exceptions is "Emma" off the 2003 release Good Mourning, which Skiba wrote but Andriano sang.) On recent albums, the Trio has also started experimenting with shared vocals and new ways of harmonizing, which Andriano attributed to a desire to keep the music sounding fresh, despite the band's three-voice limitations.

On its last two records, Alkaline Trio has also become more political, drawing attention to issues including suicide prevention and the West Memphis Three, a trio of Arkansas teenagers who were convicted of murder on what some people see as little more than circumstantial evidence. While some may see the move toward social awareness as activism, Andriano says its not. "We feel strongly about [these issues], and we think everybody should feel strongly about them," he said. "I definitely wouldn't call it activism."

The social awareness does, however, reflect a change in the band's offstage priorities, as all three members are married and starting families. "We've grown as people and we take certain responsibilities more seriously," Andriano said.

Both Andriano and Skiba have side projects and solo careers as well, and both plan on releasing more solo work eventually. But their work with the Trio is keeping them busy for the time being—the band is currently touring to support Agony & Irony, and will stop in St. Louis Nov. 16 for a show at The Pageant. This leg of the tour wraps up just before Thanksgiving and the band will have a couple of months off to work on songwriting and to spend the holidays with family. In January, the tour picks up again, heading to Europe for the spring. For tour dates, visit www.myspace.com/alkalinetrio. | Kara Krekeler

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