Dialing in from a tour stop in Rochester, New York, Dan Andriano, bassist for punk rock veterans Alkaline Trio, recently caught up with The Inertia’s Corey Jones about the release of his debut solo record (Hurricane Season), touring with The Smoking Popes, and whose idea it was to cover the The Violent Femmes on Alkaline Trio’s latest retrospective project, Damnesia. Here’s what Dan had to say…
First off, congrats on the release of your new solo record, Hurricane Season. The album is definitely an interesting contrast to the work you’ve done with Alkaline Trio. How does your songwriting approach as a solo artist differ from the approach you take in writing music for Alkaline Trio?
You know, it’s hard to say. I mean, I guess I just kind of write songs to write, not based on what I think it’s going to fit with. The stuff that I wrote for Hurricane Season is definitely the most personal stuff I’ve written in a while.
In the spirit of a lot of Alkaline Trio albums, Hurricane Season has some very melancholy, sullen themes. Are these based on life experiences or are you generally just more comfortable writing about topics that are a little on the darker side?
Everything on [Hurricane Season] is based on life experiences, but I feel like Hurricane Season has can art that goes from kind of…well, from beginning to end, it goes from dark to light, and it’s kind of a nice. I feel like the record actually has a happy ending, you know what I mean?
The song “Me and Denver,” what’s that about?
Well, it’s about kind of being stuck somewhere – whether that’s metaphorically or literally – and kind of wanting to get a little more out of life, wanting to be able to contribute and not knowing how, you know?
Definitely. So what’s with all the country western-ish elements intertwined in the new songs? Was that intentional? Is that a genre you listen to much?
I do. I listen to a lot of everything, really. I wasn’t trying to make like an alt-country record or whatever, but it’s definitely starting to come out more and more in the space of what I listen to. I listen to all kinds of stuff, but I do dig that kind of vibe.
I know if I was going to write a song, I already have a list of jams that I would like to borrow an idea from. Honestly, when you’re writing songs, do you ever have a similar temptation to steal?
(Laughs) Ummm, I suppose I do. I mean, I probably have already without thinking about it. There are only so many chords you can play, you know? That’s the problem. Something’s going to slip out, you’re going to wear an influence a little too close to the chest, but not intentionally. (Laughs)
So what are you trying to accomplish as a solo artist that Alkaline Trio fame hasn’t already brought you?
I guess I just wanted to do something else. I kind of just wanted to try my hand at recording – I pretty much did everything for this album. So really, I just wanted to do something that was completely me, if that makes sense. I wanted to record the songs myself and see how they turned out, see if I could pull something like that off.
So did you pretty much play all the instruments yourself? Was it just you and the studio and that’s it?
Yeah it was just me and that was it. I had a friend come over and play keyboards on two of the songs and then I did the rest of the keys. And then I had two guys come over and sing harmony on Me and Denver. Other than that, I did everything on there.
Hurricane Season is very acoustic-driven, but obviously you play the bass for the most part in Alkaline Trio. Generally speaking, do you prefer to play bass or guitar?
You know, I love them both. I’ve been playing bass and guitar for about the same amount of time. But since I’ve been playing bass for twenty years, now I’m like “I want to play guitar!” If I had been playing guitar my whole life I’d probably want to play bass now or something. I love them both.
I think This Addiction is really good and heavily underrated. Do you feel your band has reached that point of success where it’s becoming increasingly harder to get people’s attention?
Absolutely. I think that’s kind of inevitable though, you know? We’re lucky though. We’re super fortunate and blessed to be in the position that we’re in because we’ve made a nice niche for ourselves in this industry. But we’ve never actually had a “hit,” you know what I mean? It’s tricky when you don’t have a big push behind you for each album.
There’s an Alkaline Trio tribute compilation album coming out soon. Does something like this validate your efforts as a band or give you a sense achievement in terms of reaching of some sort of rock pinnacle, or is it just a nice gesture?
I just see it as an incredibly nice gesture, like you said. It’s really cool that some bands wanted to be a part of that. It was very nice to hear when someone first told me that was happening. I can’t really believe it, but it’s pretty awesome.
So what do you make of a lot of the younger bands coming up these days? I mean, even at 27, I feel like it’s harder for me to get into new music these days.
You know, honestly, I don’t really know too much about a lot of the younger bands that are out these days. Yeah, there are definitely some good ones out there. I’ve been in a mode the past bunch of years where I’m just trying to go back in time and really appreciate all the bands and artists that inspired punk rock bands and inspired me.
What artists are you listening to in particular?
Lots of Led Zeppelin, always. I recently got into ZZ Top – like old ’70s-era ZZ Top. As far as contemporary stuff, I really dig Ryan Adams and The Cardinals. And there’s kind of a heavy band from south Florida called Torch. They’re fuckin’ amazing.
I’ve got two more for you real quick. On Damnesia, whose idea was it to cover the Violent Femmes’ “I Held Her in My Arms”?
That’s actually a song that Matt and I used to play back in the late ’90s when we lived together. We’d just sit around and drink some beers and play some songs and that was one that we always messed around with. So when it came time to think about a cover for this Damnesia record, that one seemed to make sense since we were talking about honoring the 15 years.
You’ve obviously been on the road a lot over the years. Do you have a most memorable tour or any bands you’ve enjoyed sharing the stage with more so than others?
Well, I’ve got to say, this tour that we’re on right now. We’ve still got a couple weeks left, but we did the first three weeks with a band called Smoking Popes from Chicago. They were the first punk rock show I ever saw. Ever since then, I’ve loved everything that band has ever done. Those guys are just amazing, fun people. They’re one of the best bands I’ve ever heard or seen.