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Members include Dan Andriano (joined group, 1998), bass, vocals; Rob Doran (left group, 1998), bass; Mike Felumlee (group member, 2000-01), drums; Derek Grant, drums; Glenn Porter (left group, 2000), drums; Matt Skiba (born in Chicago, IL; father an oral surgeon; mother a nurse and teacher), guitar, vocals. Addresses: Record company--Vagrant Records, 2118 Wilshire Blvd. #361, Santa Monica, CA 90403. Website--Alkaline Trio Official Website: http://www.alkalinetrio.com/.
Through various line-ups, Alkaline Trio has been able to hold the line on their hard-core, emo, punk style, and the band has risen from local underground favorite to national success. Originally founded by Matt Skiba, Glenn Porter, and Rob Doran in 1997, Alkaline Trio's constant has been Skiba, who sings lead vocals and plays guitar. Greg Kot of Rolling Stone noted that "the Chicago trio stands apart from most of its post-Green Day brethren with its penchant for transforming sour emotion into sinister fantasy." Always dashingly dressed in button-up shirts, suit pants, and ties, while sporting eyeliner and delivering their dark lyrics, Joe Warminsky of the Washington Post described them as the "hippest undertakers on Earth."
Alkaline Trio was formed in 1997 when Skiba, who had been a drummer in other bands, took up the guitar. He joined forces with Doran, a high school friend. Along with fellow bike messenger Porter on drums, they formed a trio. After a year of practicing and playing, their lineup went through its first shakeup. Doran left the band and Dan Andriano took over bass and vocal duties. Andriano played on their first album, Goddamnit, which was released in 1998. In talking about his experience as part of a trio in contrast to previous bands he was in such as The Traitors, Skiba told Brian Baker of CityBeat, "When we started the band, that was the first time I'd played as a trio. ... I think the lines of communication are a lot more open. Financially, it works a whole lot better."
Another lineup change occurred in 2000, when Porter was asked to leave the band. He was replaced by Mike Felumlee, who had played with the regional group Smoking Popes. That year they released their second album, Maybe I'll Catch Fire. Felumlee's tenure with the band was short, and the band went through several drummers before settling on Derek Grant. The following year saw them releasing their third album, From Here to Infirmary, which debuted at number 199 on the Billboard charts. Discussing Alkaline Trio's success, Skiba told Corey Moss of MTV.com, "Making your band your career just seems like a pipe dream when it's not happening, and when it does, it seems so surreal."
In 2001 the band performed as the opening act for the pop-punk band Blink 182, and caused a stir in the underground punk scene, as many fans felt that touring with a band that appeared routinely on MTV was tantamount to selling out. Skiba and his bandmates felt that the massive criticism was groundless. Skiba explained to Matt Schild of Aversion.com, "We're having a good time. We're completely psyched at the situation we're in and all three of us are big Blink fans."
In addition to being fans of Blink 182, Alkaline Trio's influences range from well-known national acts like Social Distortion and Green Day to Chicago-area punk rock favorites such as Smoking Popes and Naked Raygun. The Trio's Skiba was also highly influenced by the sound and style of singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco, whose self-produced CDs filled with thoughtful and original songs inspired many songwriters of the mid-1990s. Skiba told Gavin Edwards of Rolling Stone, "When the Alkaline Trio started, I wanted us to sound like Ani DiFranco playing Husker Du."
Jim Greer of Entertainment Weekly complimented Alkaline Trio on their style when he wrote, "At a time when most emo-core blandly follows a mall-rat-shallow blueprint, Alkaline Trio provide some much-needed counterpoint. Black humor never sounded so sweet."
The group's sound is the result of a cohesive blending of the three men's talents. Since Andriano joined the band, he and Skiba have shared vocal duties as well as songwriting tasks. Grant's contribution involves his highly respected drumming skills, but also his ability to combine the disparate pieces of the group's sound. Andriano described Grant's talents to Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune: "One of the best things about having Derek in the band ... is his good head for arranging and instrumentation."
In 2004 Alkaline Trio hit the road for summer and fall tours across the United States. They went on the Warped Tour along with other emo and punk rock bands like Flogging Molly, Rise Against, and Coheed and Cambria. They also performed during the 2004 presidential campaign for Rock Against Bush, urging young voters to vote for John Kerry. This wasn't the first time the band had gone out on tour for a cause. In 2000 they toured with the Plea for Peace tour, which sought to raise awareness about substance abuse, homelessness, and other social issues.
Although the band started out based in Chicago, in the succeeding years some of the members have picked different places to call home. Skiba relocated to Berkeley, California, in 2001, and as of 2005 was living in Los Angeles. Grant moved to Indianapolis, Indiana. Andriano continues to live in Chicago, working on solo projects, performing and writing, while also contributing his talents to the trio.
Despite living in three locations, the band managed to create their 2005 album Crimson with a sound that was appealing and tight. Chris McNamara wrote for Chicago Inner View that the album "is more uniform, more fluid, more 'Alkaline Trio' than anything the band has produced." The creation process for the album was made possible by digital technology. Using MP3 recordings of their individual works, the members emailed ideas and tracks to each other for mutual consideration. The band's members hold each others' talents and contributions in high regard, which may be the number one reason they have been able to survive their long-distance relationship.
by Eve M. B. Hermann
Alkaline Trio's Career
Group formed in Chicago, IL, 1997; released first album, Goddamnit, 1998; Andriano joined band on bass and vocals, 1998; released Maybe I'll Catch Fire, 2000; released From Here to Infirmary, opened on tour with Blink 182, toured with Plea for Peace Tour, Grant joined band as drummer, all 2001; released Good Mourning, appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien and Late Show with David Letterman, 2003; part of Warped Tour and Rock Against Bush, 2004; released Crimson, appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, 2005.
- Selected discography
- Goddamnit Asian Man, 1998.
- Maybe I'll Catch Fire Asian Man, 2000.
- Self-Titled (compilation), Asian Man, 2000.
- From Here to Infirmary Vagrant, 2001.
- Good Mourning Vagrant, 2003.
- Crimson Vagrant, 2005.
- Billboard, May 26, 2001, p. 53.
- Chicago Tribune, June 17, 2005.
- Entertainment Weekly, June 20, 2003, p. 73.
- Rolling Stone, July 5, 2001, p. 43; May 29, 2003, p. 62; July 10, 2003, p. 80; July 24, 2003, p. 48.
- Washington Post, November 11, 2003, p. C09.
- "Alkaline Trio: Bastards of Digital Communication," Chicago Inner View, http://www.chicagoinnerview.com/archives/jun05_alkaline_trio.htm (June 25, 2005).
- "The Alkaline Trio Keeps Going and Going," CityBeat, http://www.citybeat.com/2000-06-29/music.shtml (June 25, 2005).
- "Alkaline Trio Won't Let Spinal Tap Curse Slow Them," MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1445360/07232001/alkaline_trio.jhtml (June 25, 2005).
- "Sticks and Stones," Aversion.com, http://www.aversion.com/bands/interviews.cfm?f_id=112 (June 25, 2005).
- "We Want Action," Aversion.com, http://www.aversion.com/bands/interviews.cfm?f_id=241 (June 25, 2005).
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