Alkaline Trio's songwriting formula works -- Matt Skiba and Dan Andriano share vocal duties in a Jekyll-and-Hyde-like fashion, singing songs about heartache and the macabre. The band has progressed quite a bit from the tongue-in-cheek breakup anthem "Stupid Kid" from 2001's From Here to Infirmary.
The band's latest album, My Shame Is True, takes a very personal look at Skiba's recent breakup. "[The relationship] just didn't work out and it was really sad, and I wrote a record about it, and now it's getting better," Skiba says on the cathartic songwriting process.
We recently caught up with Matt Skiba to discuss My Shame Is True, what it's like working with Milla Jovovich, and the meaning behind the song "5-3-10-4." Check it out after the jump.
How much of your live set will comprise new songs?
We shall see. I think a lot of it [will], but we also want to play a lot of stuff that we haven't really played much at all in the last 10 years. We're going to bring out some stuff that people haven't really heard live before, some older stuff. There will be a bit of everything. We put out a record that we're very proud of, so there will be some new songs from it for sure.
My Shame Is True is about a recent breakup. How did writing the album help you cope with the breakup?
This [record] is a little more heart-on-sleeve and less play-on-words or use-of-metaphor, except for the album title, of course. It was very cathartic. Anything that we do is cathartic in one way or another, but this one especially. It was a bit of sting . . . And I don't mean Sting the performer, that Sting was over a lot.
It stung a bit, but everything's cool. [She] and I are still friends, and I don't hang onto anger or resentment or things like that -- it's just baggage. It just didn't work out and it was really sad and I wrote a record about it and now it's getting better.
Have you received any feedback from her about the record?
She was the first one to get a copy. She's actually on the cover of the record, so she knows about it. I'm just fucking forcing it upon everybody.
You guys have written your share of love and breakup songs. Does it feel strange to revisit any of those songs or feelings today?
It's romantic, it's a story from the days of yesteryear. That happened and it's fun to sing about it now. And even this thing that's pretty fresh, it feels good to sing about it. The catharsis comes from writing the song and playing it live, which is just a fucking blast, having a party with a bunch of fans. It's really easy to get over things when you have that outlet and have that response from other humans.
Do you and [bassist/vocalist] Dan [Andriano] generally sing the songs you write personally?
We just sing the songs we write. We have one song on the record, a song called "Emma," that I wrote and Dan sang, that's the only time that's happened. We definitely help each other; like if Dan gets stuck on bridges, we'll talk about what the song's about and I'll help him work out melodies or lyrical ideas. But they're usually based on his ideas and what he's trying to say. We generally sing our own songs.
Why did you stream My Shame Is True on YouTube before the album was released?
If we didn't do it, somebody else would, and it wouldn't have all those bitchin' videos attached to it. If we control it, no one's gonna start digging for it if we're already putting it out there and there's a visual. The actual video that I wrote with Milla Jovovich and our director Rob Soucy, it was such a fun project making that short little film. Those lyric videos I think deterred people from going to try to find it and steal it. The album didn't leak, which is unheard-of on every record release, because we did it ourselves.
What was it like working with Milla Jovovich?
It's great. We've been working on music together -- it was our first foray into working on a film together or on camera together. We've been friends for years, and I play percussion and help her with backup vocals and I play a drum kit that's kind of a drum kit -- it's hard to explain. You can see it on YouTube.
She's got an amazing voice; she's a very talented individual. She's great in every medium that she involves herself in, so working with her is a breeze, and she's really fun to look at and really fun to hang out with. We're buds, she did us a huge solid, she came in and did it as a favor. She's my homie.
You said you just got out of the studio today. What are you working on?
I'm at the Foo Fighters' 606 Studio and [I'm with] Atom [Willard, formerly of] Rocket from the Crypt and Pat Smear from Foo Fighters and Germs. I'm doing some final vocals and I just did some guitar before I got on the phone with you. The Hell is the name of the band. We're putting out another self-released 10-inch EP. It will be finished today.
Me and Adam press the records ourselves and we put it out on our own, punk rock-style. Whenever we want to release it, we will. We don't really try to market it or anything, but we just do it via word of mouth. It's a really fun punk band.
Do you have any non-music downtime?
I'm on my bike or a surfboard. Or hiking up Runyon Canyon. I like being outside and I like going fast.
What do the numbers in "5-3-10-4" mean?
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5-3 was my friend Virgil's number when I was a bike messenger. They don't call you by your name, over the radio it gets too confusing. I was 5-0, but everyone called me "fitty." It was our call numbers on the radio from dispatch and to each other. Me and Virgil would meet up to get stoned. We'd be out in downtown Chicago delivering packages and Virgil would say come to Lower Wacker and Michigan or whatever, so I'd go down there and we'd get stoned. Whenever he would call me, I would say "5-3-10-4."
It's about riding downtown. I'd ride by the stockyards and where the trains were in the meat packing district in the freezing-ass fucking winter of Chicago. If you rode over those tracks, there's nothing un-dark about it. It's fucking disgusting. It's dark out at 7 in the morning in Chicago, so literally and figuratively dark.
Alkaline Trio is scheduled to perform on Sunday, April 28 at Marquee Theatre with Bayside and Off with Their Heads.