Alkaline Trio in their earliest incarnation were born if someone was to specify a year in 1996. Formed through a mutual love and appreciation of music three men then set out to exercise their passion for music in the only way they saw fit.
The Alkaline Trio we know now could have been so different and so many little things throughout Alkaline Trios history has contributed to this. Singer, song writer and guitarist Matt Skiba originally played drums for bands such as Blunt, Jerkwater and The Traitors before switching to guitar and joining Alkaline Trio with high school friends, Rob Doran and Glenn Porter in 1996.
After having put out a self released demo tape with “d.i.y” art and casing, they set out to put out their first 7 inch. Titled “Sundials” then bassist Rob Doran designed the devil artwork that many fans associate with them today. Their focus was primarily on getting their name out and about, through the old fashioned way of touring themselves senseless, getting shows anywhere and everywhere possible. Rob was in art school at the time and had a really serious girlfriend and wasn’t in the position to devote all his time to a band on the road. So he was quickly replaced by Dan Andriano.
Dan was already no stranger to hard work in touring bands, where he previously played with Slapstick, The Flowers, Dulcet Tone and Tuesday. Matt and he were friends for a while before they were even in a band together so there were no tricky transitional periods. It all went pretty smoothly for a long time.
They signed to Asian Man Records to record their first proper full length and this was a huge move for them at the time. This was to be their home for a while releasing Goddamnit, Maybe I’ll Catch Fire, Self Titled compilation, I Lied My Face Off, For Your Lungs Only and more recently they put out The Halloween 7 inch. Which was a special release only for those who attended one of the Halloween shows in 2002. Bear in mind this was put out at a time when they are contracted under another label, it shows that various labels at this level can be understanding and value what is most in this industry which is the music itself. It shows that Alkaline Trio have always had a good relationship with their labels which is most definitely a good thing.
They also made their first ever video for Asian Man Records. Which was for Goodbye Forever, originally appearing on the I Lied My Face Off EP. There was no real apparent concept to the video, just a straight out honest looking approach to what ended up being one hell of a cool video. You got to see Matt tearing up the streets in an old white Ford van as well as some potentially dangerous fooling around with lawnmowers. Oh and lets not forget the washing of the faces. The low budget shows but by no means is that a negative criticism, it just goes to show what can be done with the right skills.
It wasn’t until, just before they left Asian Man, that it became increasingly clear that Matt and Dan were having personal difficulties with Glen and he was asked to leave the band. This time you may think it would be much tougher to replace a member but they came out swinging again.
They then found talent in the form of Mike Felumlee another friend of Dan and Matt’s. Felumlee recorded just one album with Alkaline Trio but when it was released was by far their most successful release to date, reaching even more people and on a newer label. Their new home was Vagrant Records. Not a major label but still seen as a bad move from the older supposedly hardcore fans who were so uptight over the fact that they left Asian Man Records. The band went through the extremes here for sure receiving quite possibly the best and worst opinions from people. A move like that would quite obviously divide people. Not that it should but its always been apparent that there is a group of fans who will always support a band for the right reason and here there was the group who thought that they only cared about lining their pockets.
The music at the end of the day speaks for itself and Alkaline Trio put out some of their most emotionally moving music at this time with songs such as You’re Dead, Trucks and Trains and Crawl. So their integrity and passion to me and most other people was as high as ever.
Again looking to do something extra than put out a few singles then album, few singles then album they released another 7 Inch. This time on Lookout Records the home of Operation Ivy and the child of Lawrence Livermore. They recorded songs Hell Yes and Standard Break for this release and then included both tracks on the UK release of From Here To Infirmary.
Vagrant Records ushered them into semi-legendary Pachyderm Studios in Minnesota to release From Here To Infirmary. It was again produced by long time associate to the band, Matt Allison and mixed very well by Jerry Finn (who has worked with other artists such as Green Day, Jawbreaker and Blink 182). Not a band to rest on having an already respected name they set out to tour every place they could imaginably reach at the time. Playing the Warped Tour, Plea For Peace Tour, Vagrant America Tour and the Blink 182 tour. December 2001 also marked there first visit to the UK playing a number of club shows and selling them out too.
The UK music press and fans alike certainly caught onto something around this time. Their new video for Stupid Kid was being played a tremendous amount. They were featured in magazines and best of all they came out with a number of UK only releases. Which included CD singles for Stupid Kid and Private Eye as well as 7 Inch picture disks for the same songs.
Somewhere in-between there, drummer Mike Felumlee left the band. Seemingly Alkaline Trio didn’t have continual luck with drummers. Not that they didn’t suit the band or didn’t play well enough, personal circumstances just made it difficult for them so they had to set out, look for another drummer and find one that will cement their success and passion for doing what they all love.
They actually went through a couple of drummers filling in various shows, Pete Parada from Face to Face and Saves The Day fame stepped in as one. It seemed there was no shortage of people willing to help them out. In steped Derek Grant, a native of Detroit and quite simply one of the best drummers on the planet. Derek was an old friend of Danny’s but they all properly met and got acquainted when Alkaline Trio were in Japan. Derek was filling in on the drums for Face To Face and Alkaline Trio. Being friends of that band from before as well, Matt then became strong friends with Derek and they kept in touch.
So the current line up was set there in Tokyo, Derek later officially joined Alkaline Trio. Their first proper release together was the split record with Hot Water Music. Which saw them record two new songs and an excellent cover of HWM’s “Rooftops”. HWM then respectively recorded two new songs and covered Alkaline Trios “Radio” and “Bleeder”.
Later on in 2002 Matt Skiba and Dan Andriano completed recording on both their first solo releases. Matt recording 5 new songs along with Kevin Seconds contribution and Dan interestingly paired with old Alkaline Trio drummer, Mike Felumlee, to release their own split CD. So it seemed as though there was no end to these guys creative outlet, they were always putting out releases, keeping busy, doing press, touring and now their own solo ventures.
A spot of trouble arose but I’m not completely sure how high it escalated within the band. Vagrant Records had sold their label out to the huge multinational Interscope Records. Meaning Alkaline Trio were automatically under new distribution, not necessarily a worse distribution than before but a deal that Alkaline Trio weren’t sure how it was going to affect them. It was eventually all cleared up and Alkaline Trio understood that they were on the same label but were going to receive even better distribution and reach more people. They weren’t under any major control so they set out to record their first full length with Derek in place.
Alkaline Trio have always delivered punk rock with conviction but with that little difference. It was the relation to darker subtexts and imagery that Alkaline Trio are more associated with, and although I’m not one to pigeonhole a band to doing one thing they done what they set out to do damn well.
Good Mourning came to light mid way into 2003 and was subject to a few timing set backs throughout its production. Matt’s voice had blown out completely at one point and things were really hanging in the balance, it was one of those seriously need to sit down and think moments. They done what was best, they persevered and everything became right again. They got back to writing and recording and actually played Donner Party as early as November 1ST 2002 at the second of two Halloween shows.
Good Mourning was littered with everything that makes an album incredibly coherent. Dan this time seemed to have a more positive outlook on life, quite understandably too as he became a married man and settled down somewhat in Chicago. Dan has always utilized his influences very well to his musical style and his vocal chords. On this album being in comparison to Morrisey and Elvis Costello he done a hard thing and brought to the table just as emotive songs as before and with a happier frame of mind.
Matt still dealing with more morbid and striking subjects still manages to strain himself as much as possible and you can hear how much he has pushed himself on this album. Dealing with subjects such as his own death and the loss of a friend to a drug addiction it is clear that this is a man who values his music so much as an outlet to his emotions. He is a very well composed man on speaking to him, his genuine respect for his fans and other people is astounding, as are Alkaline Trios feelings as a whole.
Its even more rewarding now in listening to Alkaline Trio, just to hear Derek play the drums. The sound he brings to Alkaline Trio is unrivalled in almost any other drummer I have ever heard for any band. Not only does he play drums but he plays guitar, bass, sings back up vocals and even played the Piano on their cover of The Misfits “Halloween”. He brings a whole new aspect to Alkaline Trio and together they form the most cohesive Alkaline Trio line up.
There is no sign of this band slowing down either. Since Good Mourning has been released they put out a live DVD of the Halloween show from their show at the Metro in Chicago. This was put out by their friends on Kung Fu Records and is a showcase of Alkaline Trios best material over an incredible set. The tone of the DVD is set perfectly to how the band wish to be perceived and I suppose you could call it a milestone release of sorts for them.
In August of 2003 Alkaline Trio played to their biggest ever crowd in the UK. Playing to thousands upon thousands at the Reading festival at the Concrete Jungle stage. This was followed by another full UK tour again selling out venues around the 1500-2000 capacity. Which more or less brings us to now. They have been back home but certainly keeping busy. They recently finished recording 7 new songs. 6 of which are finding their way to the upcoming BYO release of their split series, where this one is to feature Alkaline Trio and One Man Army. The 7th song is to be found on the upcoming Fat Wreck compilation “Rock Against Bush” showcasing a group of bands revolt against the Bush Administration in the US, which will be very interesting to hear. Both CD’s to my latest knowledge are out in April so look out for them.
People will always misunderstand and misinterpret bands and the messages they set out to convey. It’s also human nature nowadays to fear change so Alkaline Trio will always have that small group of people who aren’t going to like some of their decisions and you will have a group of people who will stay with them to the death. I support Alkaline Trio in every way I can. I consider myself proud to be an Alkaline Trio fan. I got my first Alkaline Trio tattoo just after my 18th birthday two years ago and since then I have also inked my arm with the “Sundials” design. A band who strive to do the best they can in themselves which reflects so well on all their fans. They put out great records time after time and there is no messing about. Rarely have I known or met a band so honest and genuine. I have seen them 7 times live and not once did they put on a bad show, really they better themselves each time. They break the rock star cliché and are known as what they should be. Normal people fueling their passion for music. It just so happens that a lot of other people seem to like it as well.
Although it may sound like a typical thing to say Alkaline Trio have helped me through a lot. Music like that which I identify so close to gives me a reason to live. Not that im unhappy just now, far from it, im as happy as I could ever be. But the fact of the matter is music is something that will always be there no matter what. A band as good as them, as honest as them make me proud that I have ears and give me an outlet for emotions I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I have one last thing to say and its directly to them…….Thank You