INTERVIEW: Dan Andriano of Alkaline Trio talks ‘Is This Thing Cursed?’ and the future

alkaline trio

In early-2015, Tom DeLonge left blink-182 — again. It was his second departure from blink-182, following his departure from blink-182 in early-2005 that lead to their hiatus. Determined to carry on, blink-182’s Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker enlisted Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba to perform a handful of shows with the band. After working out things with DeLonge, blink-182 was able to welcome Skiba as an official member later in 2015 and then they began working on their album, which would later become California.

This all left the future of Alkaline Trio up in the air, although the band themselves never said they were breaking up or anything remotely similar to that. “It was disappointing to hear a lot of people think we were done. I just don’t think we’re ever gonna be done, I think Matt and I still love it so much, and I think that’s pretty apparent right now,” Alkaline Trio’s bassist/vocalist Dan Andriano explains to me. “We’ve been doing this for this long and we’re still having as much fun as we’re having now, there’s no reason to stop. We never said we were gonna stop.”

The last thing Alkaline Trio did before things slowed down was an anthology tour of sorts, in which they band would spend four nights in one city allowing them to perform two albums per night covering their entire discography. That made their current tour — their first since this anthology run and announcing their new album, Is This Thing Cursed? — all the more harder to prepare for. Andriano mentions that the band found themselves rehearsing quite a bit — flying out to California weeks before the tour to rehearse, and then four days before the tour kicked off in Dallas, Texas, the band were able to rehearse again for the tour, which was incredibly important given that they also had new material to perform live. “That’s always an interesting moment when you create something in the studio and then you get together — you write it as a band and play through it as a band — but once the basic stuff gets done and you start adding parts and adding little bits and pieces of stuff, figuring out the live show gets interesting,” Andriano states.

“It just felt like the right time,” Andriano begins when explaining why now, in 2018, was the right time for Alkaline Trio to become active again and work on new music. Skiba had been busy with blink and Andriano also had various different musical commitments that kept him busy. However, he highlights the beginning of the year when they were set to appear at Self Help Festival, as when the band knew they would be working on new music.  Ultimately, the band had to cancel their appearance due to Skiba’s throat surgery that happened prior and hadn’t healed in time.

Despite this canceling of the festival appearance, the band we determined to not give up on working on new music. “We just got on the phone and were like ‘Well, now is the time.’ Matt had a big break in the future and I didn’t have anything going on, so he and I both decided now is the time. He said ‘Alright, I’ll fly out in a few weeks and we’ll get started,'” Andriano begins to explain. “We didn’t have much; I had a few songs worked out that I sent around and a couple other instrumental ideas that I sent around, but we just showed up and started working and said we weren’t gonna go home until we got a record,” he finishes.

Alkaline Trio’s new album Is This Thing Cursed? — their first since 2013’s My Shame Is True — will be out next Friday, August 31st via Epitaph Records. The band might have set out to make sure they came out of that aforementioned writing session with a new album, and they did, but they had no shortage of inspiration to draw from when it came to writing which was one less road black to overcome. “Unfortunately, it’s sort of the same old stuff. I wish it wasn’t, but we’ve had really good friends pass away recently, far too young. We draw inspiration from that as we’ve always done,” Andriano explains. “Matt and I have always written from a place where it’s a cathartic exercise, really. We get something off our chest and then we’re able to go on having fun with our lives. That’s always been what we do, for the most part, because we like to have fun with fun people, but there’s so many things in the world that you can’t ignore. We all deal with it in different ways, and that’s sort of how we deal with it. Obviously, we’re not big fans of the current White House administration. There’s a little bit of politics on there, but it’s a lot of just things we know, things we experience personally, written in a metaphorical sense.”

With no shortage of material to write about –things ranging from personal loss to the current political state the U.S. finds itself in — I posed the question as if there was anything the band found off limits or too hard to write about. “I don’t think so. I mean, if I’m writing something and I feel like it’s coming from a place of honesty and I like the way I’m portraying my idea, then I’m gonna put it out there. I mean, things are hard to write about sometimes — but like I said, I always feel better when I’m done with it,” Andriano states. “I don’t try to put limits on what I’ll write about, for the most part.”

With all of this, what was it like being back in the studio for the first time in five years as Alkaline Trio? Andriano mentions that it was a liberating feeling, especially after there were doubts about whether the band would be done with Skiab joining blink-182. “In the sense of being in the studio again after so long, it was sort of liberating to just be like ‘Alright, we can do whatever the hell we want.’ We’ve always felt like that, but you know, we were like ‘Let’s just have fun and see what happens. Nobody knows we’re here, nobody knows we’re recording.’ We just looked at it like, let’s just do everything we want to do and see what it sounds like. It was really fun,” he explains.

Upon announcement Is This Thing Cursed?, one of the first things that popped into my mind was: is what cursed? It’s an appropriate title if you want to expand it to the state of our country, or sometimes the outlook on life. Not only is it the album title, but it also serves as the title-track and first song on the album. Andriano had written this title-track prior to joining Skiba for a writing session, but only had about half of the song. He wasn’t sure what to do with it, or if it should even make the cut, but he credits Skiba for keeping the song alive. “I didn’t know if we should finish it as a song and write more parts, or if we should leave it as is as sort of a weird intro idea to sort of establish the theme. Matt was the one that was like ‘I love these words, I love this title. Let’ just finish it,'” he states.

“You can’t start to fix something until you find what the problem is,” Andriano states as he explains where exactly the lyrical content of the title-track came from. “That song began as a song written from a perspective of someone who’s just in that bad low of depression, anxiety, and just kind of look around and feel like there’s no help coming from anywhere, and it’s just everything you try to do is backfiring. You start looking for things to blame, you start to try to externalize the problems and put them on other things, when really you have to look inward,” he finishes.

All of this ties into the album cover, which shows a phone that Skiba bought off of eBay during the middle of their recording process. The artwork, specifically, is something that Skiba and Jonathan Weiner came up with, and Andriano believes it’s very dark and open to interpretation. “I think you can read into that a couple different ways, you know? Especially when I look at it from the angle I was coming from when I wrote the song — the connection between the phone and news coming in all of the time, information coming in. When you’re feeling like that, it never seems to be good news, either,” he mentions, highlighting the fleeting feeling of expecting good news, while it never comes in.

Throughout our conversation, Andriano mentions a few different times how happy everyone is in the band. Alkaline Trio never were going to stay away or break-up, but he highlights that it still feels good to still be back. The first leg of their massive headlining tour is about to wrap up in a few days, then comes the release of Is This Thing Cursed? next Friday, and then Alkaline Trio pick back up with a second leg of touring in October. Alkaline Trio, Andriano mentions, have no intentions of slowing down — they’d like to get overseas, and then come back to the states after the record has been out for a while. The future is alive and well, and

“The world is our oyster, Logan, as they say,” Andriano states, and Alkaline Tiro plan on taking advantage of that for a very long time.