Dan Andriano has been involved in various projects throughout recent years. His latest endeavor is a solo effort officially deemed Dan Andriano and The Emergency Room, whose debut full-length is scheduled for release on Asian Man Records this summer. Additionally, Dan has kept busy with his full-time band by putting together an album of reworked Alkaline Trio songs in celebration of the band’s fifteenth anniversary. After playing Toad’s Place in New Haven, Connecticut, Dan, despite a painful foot injury, shared some of his thoughts regarding the upcoming solo material and Alkaline Trio’s longevity while he and I walked from the venue to his hotel. Derek Grant arrived near the end of the interview to help contribute.
You’ve mentioned that you’re in the process of putting together your debut solo album. Can you talk about your current progress with The Emergency Room?
DAN: Basically, today I started talking to the guy, Carl, who’s gonna master the record. I’m almost done. Right now it is a solo project because I was the only person to really play anything on it. I had a couple of guest musicians that ended up working out really well. A couple of my good friends in Florida helped me out. I’m wrapping up mixes over the weekend while I’m on the road. By the end of next week or by the middle of the week after that, he’s gonna be done mastering it, and that’s about all I can do. It’s something I did completely by myself. Like I said, I had the help of a few friends in Florida in Saint Augustine, where I live. I wrote all the songs. I recorded it. I “produced” it. I mixed it, and then it goes to the mastering guy, Carl. So we’ll see. I don’t know how good it is. I don’t know what it’s going to mean to anyone, but I’m pretty excited about it.
You said that you’re playing nearly all the instruments on the record. Did you find that to be particularly challenging?
DAN: Yeah, it sucks. I like to play guitar. I play bass in a band, so I like to play bass too, but I just want to learn how to record good guitar sounds. I’ve been listening to Jimmy Page and Pete Townsend and Elvis Costello, all these more contemporary people like Ryan Adams, dudes that just have amazing guitar tones, like Jack White. I want to be able to put a microphone in front of an amp and press record and get that kind of tone. That’s what I want to do. I’d rather get those kinds of tones than get good songs. I figure if I can get sounds like that, the songs will come, you know what I mean? I just want to be able to record shit like that, and I want to do it myself. That’s what I’m trying to do. I don’t think I’ve even come close to that. Next record, maybe I’ll be a little bit closer. I’m also trying to write my own kind of songs, so it’s kind of hard to try to put a target on what kind of tone you’re going for when you’re trying to record something totally different. I look to those guys as inspiration, tone-wise and production-wise.
How did your songwriting approach compare and contrast to that of Alkaline Trio?
DAN: With Alkaline Trio, I write a song that’s got a verse, a chorus — this is generalizing — but it’s usually… I’ll write a song that’s eighty percent done. Lyrics, melody, notes, rhythm. But then as soon as I bring it to Matt and Derek, then it becomes Alkaline Trio. They add so much in terms of idiosyncrasies. Derek plays drums like nobody I’ve ever heard. Matt is a very idiosyncratic guitar player. He does things in a very certain way that only remind me of Matt. As soon as they hear a song, they start playing it a certain way, and then, naturally, structural changes occur. If I’m doing it myself, I’m the one who wrote the song, basically on an acoustic guitar, or on an electric guitar by myself. I write the lyrics like ten times. When it comes to recording it, that’s when it becomes maddening. I just drive myself nuts. I’ll record it, and I won’t like it, or I’ll read something on the internet about the way someone used a compressor on this thing and then I’ll be like, “Shit, I want to try that,” and then I end up just scrapping everything and redoing it, so it’s actually very different. With the Trio, I can basically write a song and count on the fact that I’m in a band with two of my heroes that can help me finish the song, and then I trust it’s good. And then we usually work with good producers to finish. With The Emergency Room, or Dan Andriano and The Emergency Room, as I’m going to call it, there’s no one to ask, “Does this suck?” or “Is this fine? Should I move on?” It becomes a neurotic process. Much more neurotic.
You’ve had several acoustic tracks available on The Emergency Room’s MySpace page. Will these songs reappear on your full-length, and if so, will they remain acoustic?
DAN: They’re all gonna be on the record. Two of them sound pretty similar. Two of them sound pretty different.
Having your own imprint on Epitaph, what made you decide to release the album on Asian Man Records?
DAN: The Heart & Skull thing with Epitaph is something that’s so important to Alkaline Trio, and it’s so important to me, but the way I wanted to do this reminded me so much of what Mike does with Asian Man. It’s all me. It’s all independent. I don’t have anything but myself and Mike Park and someone who’s gonna book shows for me, if and when I play. Epitaph is one of the best independent labels in the world, but I wanted to do it more like, no pressure. Epitaph is independent, but they still really try to push what they do. I know Mike’s not gonna over-push it. That sounds silly, because obviously I want people to hear it, but I don’t want to feel indebted to someone. I just want to do it because I’m kind of nervous about it. I want to do it, get it out there, and not have too much pressure to actually do all this work to support it. I’d rather see what people think and then start doing more stuff. I’m really proud of it. I think people might like it, I hope. With Mike doing it, that’s someone that I’ve known for like twenty years, so if it doesn’t go that well, he’ll be like, “Let’s do another record. Let’s see what happens.” Epitaph, they’re a big independent label, and a good one. I’m a little too self-conscious to put out a record on a label like that right now.
Slapstick has been added to the lineup at Asian Man Fest in June. What are some of your expectations of that event, and have you been practicing for the set?
DAN: No, but the setlist is pretty much set. I need to start practicing. I know that Matt and Rob have been playing, so Matt and Rob are gonna be good, and as long as they’re good, we’ll be fine. The e-mails that have been going back and forth between all six of us are fuckin’ hilarious. Setlists, “let’s talk about playing this song.” It’s all a joke. We talk about some of the lyrics that we’d written and some of the dumb shit that we used to do, but also some of the awesome shit that we used to do that was kind of like, wow, we were like sixteen and we did that, you know? It’s gonna be really fun. We’re excited.
The Falcon’s critically-acclaimed full-length Unicornography was released in 2006. Has there been any talk of writing new material with The Falcon?
DAN: The thing about The Falcon is it’s like a revolving door. I was almost an original member of The Falcon. It was started by Brendan and another dude. We were at breakfast talking about it, and Brendan was like, “Actually, you should be the other dude.” It’s become kind of a revolving door thing. If not me… I heard Jason Black from Hot Water Music might be doing some stuff with The Falcon. Eli from the Smoking Popes plays in The Falcon sometimes. Basically, The Falcon is Brendan. Brendan is a genius in the most amazing way. He does The Falcon and puts together what he can. And Neil. I mean, Neil is pretty much always involved. I would love to be a part of another Falcon record. I just don’t see it in the cards soon. I hope they play.
This Addiction was recorded by Matt Allison, who recorded your early releases as well as 2004’s split with One Man Army. Do you have any plans of working with him again on the next Alkaline Trio album?
DAN: We haven’t even talked about our next record, so I don’t know. I love Matt. He’s not just a dude who records our stuff. He’s one of my best friends. We’ll talk about that, you know?
“Kick Rocks” and “Those Lungs” appeared on This Addiction, but only on the deluxe edition. Is there any particular reason why you chose not to include them in the main track list?
DAN: We always listen to our records when they’re done and try to make what fits. We make a record and we listen to everything we’ve recorded and then just pick what fits on the record, and those two songs, we all liked them. These days, with iTunes, it’s kind of easy to be like, “Yeah, we’ll make this the record and then we can still release these songs that we like without having to put them on the record.” I’m glad you liked them, though.
The album of reworked Alkaline Trio songs is being released in conjunction with the band’s fifteenth anniversary. Can you share some of your thoughts as to how it feels to have been a band for so long?
DAN: (To Derek) Oh my god, did you see me walking over here, fucking limping? Seriously. Mental anguish has turned into physical foot pain. [laughs] No, it’s been a dream come true, dude. Me and Matt talked about this in like 1997. We were like, “If we could just do this, go on tour, play clubs…” Like this club that we played tonight, Toad’s, would equate in the picture. If we could go on tour and play clubs like that in every city and have fun, we’ll do it forever. Apparently, it’s happening. We were at a Superchunk concert in Chicago at Lounge Ax. One of our favorite bands, an important band to us, they were playing at Lounge Ax. It’s closed now, but it was an amazing bar, an important bar in Chicago and in indie-rock history. It was sold out, about four-hundred people, probably. I had just joined the band and we were like, “This would be the dream, right?” And he was like, “Yeah. Let’s try and do this.” So fifteen years later, here we are. I’d say we’ve done it and more.
DEREK: Mission accomplished.
Now that you’ve released This Addiction, which has been noted for its return to punk rock dynamics, what will the future musical direction of Alkaline Trio entail? Will you continue to draw from punk rock influences or explore something entirely new?
DEREK: It’s not premeditated in any way, shape, or form. We have no idea what’s gonna happen. We still have, in large part, the same influences that we had when we started playing music individually. But there’s always going to be new things that creep into our subconscious and are gonna influence the band in some way. I’m as excited as anybody to see what the next album is gonna sound like.
DAN: That’s been the driving force behind why so many of our records sound a little bit different. There’s always that Alkaline Trio vibe, but a lot of our records sound a little different. It’s kind of about, at that certain time, how much we’re willing to be like, “Let’s fucking really try to do something weird here.” Sometimes we’re like, “Yeah, all these songs are fine as they are. Let’s record them,” like This Addiction. Other albums, we’ve been like, “These songs are really good, but they almost call for more of a weird gothy-electric vibe or more of a weird classic rock vibe,” and that’s why you get records like Good Mourning and Crimson and Agony and Irony, where me and Derek were just like, “Let’s just go for it, classic rock, straight up.” This Addiction, more like punk rock. We write songs in the same manner for every record, and then it’s about how we’re feeling in the studio. That’s how they end up.
An immense thank you to Dan and Derek. Alkaline Trio’s as-of-yet untitled album of re-imagined songs is finished, as is the debut of Dan Andriano and The Emergency Room. Both records should see a release later this year. San Francisco residents should also make sure to attend Slapstick’s reunion set at Asian Man Fest this June.