The last time Alkaline Trio fans had the opportunity to see the band in Orange County, they were standing in the Observatory’s parking lot in the middle of the afternoon during last April’s When We Were Young festival. Before that, it was 2015’s career-spanning Past Lives showcase and a whole lot of murkiness over how often the pleasantly grim rockers would actually perform together after vocalist and guitarist Matt Skiba joined Blink-182.
So when news broke that Skiba, bassist Dan Andriano, and drummer Derek Grant would be releasing a new record and going on a full American tour for the first time in years, those who prefer morbidity over dick jokes (although no one says you can’t have both) immediately marked their calendars in anticipation of the band’s first release since 2013, August’s Is This thing Cursed?
“It was an absolute labor of love,” Skiba says of Is This Thing Cursed? “We worked very hard on this record — mostly because we wrote it in the studio together, much like we did back in the day. It was really fun to get back in the studio and rather than have elaborate demos that we’d sent to each other and everything. We’ve never gone into the studio with demos and said ‘It has to be exactly like this,’ but it’s a starting point that guides it, and the possibilities aren’t as open as they are when you go in without anything. This has an energy and an openness that we’ve lacked on recent records, and it’s a return to our original form.”
Recorded and mixed by OC producer Cameron Webb, Is This Thing Cursed? certainly sounds like the perfect marriage between Alkaline Trio’s punk rock roots and their later dives into more heavily produced material. With an appropriately wide variety of dark tracks, Skiba and Andriano don’t sound too different than they did two decades ago when Goddamnit first came out. According to the guitarist, the biggest differences between their initial record and most current offering are mostly just time and money, although the years of added experience make the process quite a bit easier as well.
Of course, while other bands might cash in on the easy nostalgia of their first major record turning 20, it’s no surprise that the band willing to make a tour out of playing two albums a night (plus a handful of non-album songs) for four nights in a row at each venue has a slightly different view on the milestone.
“I thought [Goddamnit] was so long ago until Jason [Pettigrew of Alternative Press] told me The Land of Rape and Honey by Ministry is about to turn 30,” Skiba says. “At first, that made me feel old, but then I was like ‘Wait a minute, Al Jourgensen is still alive, so fuck him.’”
As for being back on the road with his original band, Skiba sounds both relieved and ecstatic to be back in the thick of it. Although the pyro-laden arena shows of Blink-182 may provide a different kind of joy for one of the best modern songwriters, they were never meant to be a replacement for the band that gained him an unquestionably devoted following in the first place. Everything has its time and place, but it sounds like regardless of what happens in the future, Alkaline Trio will always come back from the dead to please its fans.
“We’ve played shows here and there, but we haven’t done [a full tour] in what feels like a really long time,” Skiba says. “From the beginning, Alkaline Trio was never going to be secondary, it just took the backseat for a number of years. Now that we’re all riding shotgun, it’s a lot of fun. It’s really great to see old fans, new fans, and everything in between. It’s been a fucking blast.
“People should pack an extra pair of socks, you know what I’m saying?” Skiba continues. ”You’re probably going to be tired after your shoes get blown off, so you’ll need relaxing socks.”
Alkaline Trio is at the Observatory in Santa Ana on October 3 and 4 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are still available for October 3 and cost $25.
Josh Chesler used to play baseball for some pretty cool teams, but now he just writes about awesome stuff like tattoos, music, MMA and sneakers. He enjoys injuring himself by skateboarding, training for fights, and playing musical instruments in his off time.