Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room's excellent, evocative second album, Party Adjacent, just dropped. (Fuse premiered it; you listened to it, right?) To celebrate, Alkaline Trio's 38-year-old bassist and co-frontman had a long conversation with Fuse about DJing for his wife and daughter, his bandmate Matt Skiba becoming one third of Blink-182, and the best and worst sides of being a musician for more than two decades. Enjoy our interview with Dan Andriano, stream the album and purchase it here.
Your first solo record was great, but Party Adjacent feels like a real album-album in a way that one didn't.
The major difference is that I did Hurricane Season completely by myself, at my house. So when I started writing songs for this new record I really did not want to go down that road again; it's kind of a hard thing to do and it kind of drove me crazy, just not having anyone to bounce ideas off of. I kept starting and scrapping and restarting. It was just a pretty stressful two months for me.
Working at home's rough sometimes.
Yeah. That totally makes it weird; it's easy to get distracted, there's always stuff to do. I have a family, I've got obviously even more important responsibilities than making records. And so when I'm home, it's easier to be like, "Oh, shit, well I gotta do this. So I'll work on this part later." But when you actually go somewhere to record that's easier to deal with, to get things done in a more efficient manner. But I also didn't know how I was going to get away with doing it somewhere else.
How'd you work it out?
I kind of started tripping out a little bit, and I called Mike Park, who runs Asian Man, and he's just a dear friend. He was very helpful in telling me to just chill. He put me in touch with Jeff Rosenstock [of Bomb the Music Industry!] and the other musicians on the record. I just went up to San Jose, stayed at Mike's mom's house and made a record. It was really fun.
On the last Trio album, My Shame Is True, you changed things up with luxe, extended studio session. Did that play a part in how you wanted to do Party Adjacent?
Not really, aside from the fact that I just love recording. I love being in a studio, and recording is sort of my favorite aspect of what I do at this point in my life. It's the most interesting to me, it's the most fun and I think that's where the most ideas really come from. I get way more productive in a studio setting than just sitting around my house trying to write a song. That being said, I knew I was going to have to do something much simpler [than the Trio album], so the idea of going to a studio was pretty important to me, but equally important was not wasting any time. I knew I was going to be working with people I'd never played with before, so there was going to be a little bit of a curve there, and a little bit of, like, "Let's get to know each other and make sure we're vibing." And fortunately everyone that I was working with was just awesome. We all kind of hit it off right away and started having fun. Then because of that we were able to record and mix in just under three weeks. Everyone was very positive and down to just work, and work all day, and that's what I like. I don't like being in a studio and sitting around, looking at menus, ordering lunch and then thinking about what's for dinner. I like to work and I like to listen to amps and then fucking tear everything down and put up different amps and listen to those. That's fun.
It seems like your time is super precious to you, and like it's not your favorite thing to be away from home.
Yeah. I mean, I still love what I do so much, and that's kind of what makes it really difficult. But yeah, I'd always—I think I'd always rather be home. That's just kind of like a given. But having said that, like I said, I still love what I do. That pushes me and motivates me when I go out, like, "I'm out here to play these songs and to make up songs," so I wanna do that not necessarily in the quickest way possible but just in the best way possible. Since I'm gonna be away, I wanna get the most out of my time. I love playing music, so if that's what I'm gonna be doing, that's what I'm still gonna be doing for like, for work, for lack of a better term, and I wanna do it as much as I can in the best way possible.
What's different from four years ago to now, in terms of what you're thinking about and writing about?
Well, Hurricane Season sort of ended up being…I don't wanna call it a concept album, but there's definitely a flow to that record. It's definitely thematically cohesive, there's sort of an arc that starts out pretty bleak and ends pretty happy. I guess with Party Adjacent it's still a very personal record, but not every song is about missing home and wondering about certain decisions I've made. There's different thoughts, it's more of…I'm glad you said it sounds like a full album, because it's definitely not like a thematic type of thing.
Are you pumped to tour this record? You only did acoustic shows for Hurricane Season.
It's definitely going to be a whole different thing. I'm doing a full tour in August—or as much of a full tour as I can do—and yeah, I'm gonna be playing with the band, with everyone that played on the record. I'm very excited about that; get to bring some electric guitars out that I love and never get to play on a stage. Use some amps. It's gonna be fun.
Seeing you play guitar is always a novelty for Alkaline Trio fans.
Yeah…I hope so. [Laughs] We'll see how it goes first.
What's your mental tally of how long you've been this job?
Whoa. I don't know, it's a long time, it's a hard number to think of. When me and Matt and Rob started a band called Slapstick, from then we were playing shows, not necessarily touring right away, but we were driving five and six hours to play in Detroit and St. Louis, you know. I couldn't even drive yet when I started playing with those dudes. So just over 20 years I've been playing actually shows and traveling. That's pretty much the same time I realized I wanted to do this for a long time, 'cause that was so fun.
What's something you wouldn't believe about being a musician today back then, when you were a kid?
Well, that I'm still doing it is pretty mind-blowing. But the way everything got digital, like, overnight. I remember when CDs were new, obviously, and I was like, "This is great, these are gonna last forever, they won't wear out, this can't get tangled up in my car." But the fact that those kinda came in went pretty fuckin' quick…I guess that's kinda strange to me. But I'm a fan, you know? If there's something I really like I usually buy it on vinyl, but I buy tons of stuff on iTunes, I'm not anti. With like Spotify and whatever, you pretty much have access to everything whenever you want; that's pretty insane. I guess the bottom line is to remember that it should always just be about the songs. I'm absolutely a fan of the album, and I'll always record and try to listen to things as an album. I understand that there's a whole generation of people now that don't look at it like that, and it's the same generation of people that don't understand why you'd go and pay $12 for a record when you can pay $10 a month and have every record ever. It's a single-driven industry now, which is just crazy.
What sort of music dad are you?
That's a good question. I'm an album dude; when I'm listening to stuff around the house, it depends. When I'm home alone or if I'm cooking dinner or waiting for Sunshine to get Soph back from swim practice or something, I'll probably have a record on. But when they come in, I might switch it up to a Pandora radio station or an iTunes radio station. Having an 8-year-old, she's easily distracted, and I just kinda want to introduce her to everything. I go all over the place, we go all over. I love classic rock and everything rock 'n' roll. But we also dig Michael Jackson; if it's summertime and it's nice out I'll put on an old ska Spotify mix or something.
You're not in a bad scene to pass stuff on to the kid. There's a lot of pop in pop-punk.
She definitely loves the Ramones and stuff, so we're getting closer to that.
A couple months ago, Alkaline Trio's Crimson album turned 10.
Fuck. Ten years. That was a really interesting record to make, we really felt like we were trying to go for something a little different, a little bigger. At the time I don't really recall anyone really liking it that much. I'm not sure if it's 'cause it was our last record on Vagrant and whether or not there was some behind the scenes stuff going on. I don't really know what happened with that record, but I never really felt like anyone gave a shit about that record until very recently. We've just finished doing a tour where we played all of our records in a bunch of different cities. The night we played Crimson was consistently the best night of each city. It was Crimson and Good Mourning. Most of the nights we'd play the newer record and it would be fun and whatever, but then we'd play the older record and it would go nuts. But the night we did Crimson and Good Mourning it was pretty much rad from start to finish.
I'm pretty sure your fans love those two albums. Crimson was just a hater-magnet.
I dug it. But I guess whenever a band starts to put out a lot of records…
Yeah. And it also probably coincided with things really blowing up on the internet around that time. Everyone has a voice.
Your copilot's out there with a little side project. What's that look like from Dan's point of view?
Oh, that's a good record. [Matt Skiba and the Sekrets' second release, KUTS.] The new—
The Blink-182 stuff, I mean. Matt Skiba is the new Tom DeLonge.
Oh, that little side project; that's good. I'm not really sure what the future holds for that, I really don't know, and I'm not joking when I say that we haven't really talked that much about it, other than the fact that I'm really excited for him. I think he fits right in. But I don't know the ins and outs of what's going on with Tom and Mark and Travis, so I'm not really gonna comment on that. But in terms of Matt having an opportunity to go out and play different kinds of shows—we've known Mark and Travis for a long time and they're great dudes. So the fact that he's out with cool dudes doing fun stuff, I think it's good for Matt. It's obviously some sort of difference in exposure for him, but I just mean in terms of playing, in terms of just staying busy and playing other people's songs and stuff.
What's the next move for Alkaline Trio?
We need to make a new record, pretty much. We're gonna go to England and play some shows with NOFX, do a couple festivals this fall, but it's time for us to make a new record. But I'm doing some Emergency Room stuff and I'm not sure what Matt's gonna be up to with the Sekrets, if he's gonna tour on that, but I think by early next year we're gonna be recording another record.
1999, Equal Vision Records
2003, Fueled By Ramen Records
2002, Drive-Thru Records
2001, Iodine Recordings
2002, Victory Records
1999, Vagrant Records
2001, Geffen Records
2001, Geffen Records
2001, Island Records
2005, Epitaph Records
2002, Drive-Thru Records
2006, Doghouse Records
2005, Fueled By Ramen Records
1995, Interscope Records
1994, Reprise Records
2002, MCA Records
2001, Vagrant Records
1995, Epitaph Records
2004, Reprise Records
1999, MCA Records