Alkaline Trio’s Dan Andriano talks to jason collie about the bleak inspiration behind their music and their forthcoming Oxford gig
It's a rather questionable statement Dan Andriano makes when asked whether the set list for Alkaline Trio’s latest UK tour will be new material, early punk pieces or greatest hits.
“Greatest hits?” he says. “We don’t have that many hits so you can cross greatest hits off right now.”
Now while it may be true that recognition of the Chicago threesome’s name by many is not necessarily accompanied by signature tunes immediately playing in the head, no band lasts 18 years and nine albums without building a body of core songs regarded as musts by their fans.
Indeed, a week before Alkaline Trio take the stage at the O2 Academy Oxford on Tuesday, your reporter is moved to challenge the bass player. “I’ll give you a set list of 20 songs to play right now,” Andriano is informed across a scratchy Transatlantic line.
There is a laugh and the rapport is established.
The conversation that unwinds is unashamedly a fan looking for confirmation about what drives the band, and largely receiving it.
The thing to understand about Alkaline Trio – Andriano, lead guitarist and main singer Matt Skiba and drummer Derek Grant – is the delicate blend struck in their music.
They can have incredibly bleak lyrics. Suicide, addiction, isolation, anger at others’ love and even an ode to Sadie Mae Glutz of Manson Family noteriety are themes, but they wrap it all in melodies that lift the subject matter to an almost empowering level.
Andriano agrees with this rather amateurish dissection. “The songs come from a place very personal to Matt or myself,” the 37-year-old explains.
“We are never shy about some of the darker things that we think about or that are personal issues.
“We try to, as strange as it sounds, leave that in the songs and once the catharsis has taken place, we move on to the fun.
“As a by-product of doing this, music has taken me to some dark places but you just have to be careful and keep your heart right and keep going.
“As we get through things we should celebrate that and grow as people. It can be horrible out there if you have the wrong kind of outlook.
“I don’t want to say (music) is an escape, but it’s what keeps me driven.”
Progression is an interesting subject. The band has unsurprisingly grown over its two decades from the very typical garage punk sound of the mid-’90s to a far deeper and resonant sound.
Andriano credits the addition of percussionist Grant before 2003’s classic Good Mourning album as being key: “That was huge because he really helped us expand our music instrument library.
“He had a lot of good production ideas right from the start of being in the band. We experimented with a lot of stuff. Some is used and some is not, but that is super fun for us just for the sake of doing it.”
So, coming back to the beginning, what can Oxford expect next week?
This is the third year straight Alkaline Trio have been over to the UK, but the first full headlining tour for a while.
Andriano believes next Tuesday will be the trio’s second gig in the city from memory and jokes that it being the opening gig is an advantage.
“We will still be excited and happy,” he said. “Later we’ll be haggard and miserable – that only takes three days – so Oxford will be cool and fresh. We’ll have been over for a few days.”
The tour will be based largely around last year’s new album My Shame Will Be True and Andriano adds: “It is in support of that record but we will play a little bit of everything.”
And with that the line to his mobile begins to crackle before he can be badgered with that promised list of 20 songs.
Alkaline Trio play O2 Academy Oxford on Tuesday, April 15. Support is from Bayside. Tickets £20 from ticketweb.co.uk