It’s been 11 years since Alkaline Trio released their first full-length album, ‘Goddamnit.’ In that time, they’ve been signed to three different labels and expanded their sound beyond their original straight-ahead punk style, incorporating more melody and production. Now, with the pending release of their seventh album on their newly formed Heart & Skull label — a joint venture with Epitaph — the Chicago rockers are heading back to their roots.
“This record is a rock record but our punk rock upbringing definitely shines through, more so than our last few records,” singer/guitarist Matt Skiba tells Spinner. “The vibe is similar to our humble beginnings. It’s a step forward but I also think it has glimmers of our past in it.”
To recapture the sound of the early days, Skiba says the band took a simpler approach to recording the album, which will feature 11 tracks and be released in February. While Skiba says there’s a little bit of synth on the record and one trumpet solo in the style of Neutral Milk Hotel, not ska-punk, the band mainly kept things straightforward. “We went with a less-is-more approach on this record. A lot of it is just one guitar rather than overdubs or three or four guitars,” he says. “We wanted a record that we could easily play live. For the most part, it’s pretty bare bones while still sounding full and big.”
But that’s not the only way Alkaline Trio is getting back to their origins. “Another thing that makes it resemble our earlier records, especially our first record, is that it’s really personal,” Skiba says. “A couple of us have gone through some pretty serious life changes. We had a good friend of ours pass away since the last record. There’s a song on the record, ‘Dorothy,’ that was really influenced by the film ‘Blue Velvet’ but it’s a metaphor for someone and something else. Everything on the record is stuff that definitely hits close to home for us and we tried to communicate that in the songs.”
That said, Skiba also takes on politics, though it’s still within the traditional dark themes of Alkaline’s best work. “There is a song on the record called ‘The American Scream’ that is political,” he says. “For a long time we were afraid to write overtly political songs but I read this article about a US soldier that came back from a tour of duty in Afghanistan and blew his head off on his mother’s grave and I wrote a song about that.”
Skiba is currently approving the final artwork for the album — the title of which is still being kept under wraps — and says he can’t wait for fans to hear it. “We’re really excited to get back on the road and see everybody. We’ve been playing some of these songs live but most of them nobody’s heard so we’re really excited,” he says. “We’re very, very proud of the record and we hope that everybody digs it.”