Alkaline Trio: “It’s like we’re living in the apocalypse… it’s end-of-days stuff out there”

Mining a seam of seemingly inexhaustible darkness, the group’s new album, the sparkling and layered Blood, Hair, And Eyeballs, continues the trend. Not only does the group that both men refer as “Trio” view every glass as being half-empty, but what liquid remains looks a lot like blood. On Bad Time, Matt recalls that day when he was high and might have died. ‘I’m being stalked by Latin royalty and me and Bobby just ate ’shrooms, it’s a bad time,’ he sings. On the LP’s title-track, the listener is told how, ‘I got nightmares up and down my walls… [I] walk like a zombie up and down these halls.’ Make no mistake, whatever this band are selling, it sure ain’t sunshine.

“It has a lot to do with the state of the world,” is how Dan Andriano accounts for the turbulent skies, under which the narrators and characters populating Alkaline Trio’s songs labour to stay alive. “It’s not just here in the States, either, it seems like it’s everywhere. It just seems very much like we’re living in the apocalypse. It’s end-of-days stuff out there. It’s just so sad, really. I do like to think there’s a little bit of hope involved with the record, although that wasn’t intentional… but there’s definitely a dark and maybe a tinged theme that ties the whole thing together.”

Matt Skiba and Dan Andriano’s world of musical turmoil came together over drinks at a bar called the Empty Bottle on the West Side of Chicago in the closing months of 1997. Matt, who had founded Alkaline Trio a year earlier, was in the market for a bass player willing to commit to a life of touring America’s vast terrain in an Ecoline van that would at night be parked outside the homes of strangers on whose floors they would sleep following gigs, at least at first, in the smallest venues in each city. For Dan, whose own prospects had been frustrated by musicians who only wanted to rock’n’roll on a part-time basis, such a life seemed perfect. It still does, as it goes. During this time, he went to see the indie rock band Superchunk play to 500 people at Lounge Acts, a club in Lincoln Park, on the city’s North Side. ‘This is it,’ he thought, ‘this is the dream.’

“That’s a great level to get to, but at the same time we didn’t set our sights very high,” Dan says today. “There are bigger places than Lounge Acts in every city. But we were content. We would have done it in every city at that level if we could. But life throws you curveballs and obviously as I got older and started a family, you want to move on and do bigger and better things. But [even back then] I would have said that I could easily see us doing this forever.”