“It’s kind of an unspoken feeling,” Alkaline Trio bassist Dan Andriano tells Rolling Stone, breaking down how he and his bandmates know it’s time to put aside their respective side projects and join forces in the studio for a new album. That feeling struck again last year: in short order, the three Chicago-native punk-rockers that comprise Alkaline Trio, including guitarist-vocalist Matt Skiba and drummer Derek Grant, made the trek to Bill Stevenson’s Blasting Room studios in Fort Collins, Colorado, to record My Shame Is True – their ninth studio album, and the first with the drummer and founder of the seminal punk act Descendents serving as producer.
Despite never having worked with Alkaline Trio, Stevenson has a long history with the cult punk band: Skiba forged a friendship with the drummer when Alkaline toured with the Descendents on several occasions over their career. Grant, meanwhile, first met Stevenson at a More gig in Detroit at age 14; the drummer happily relays a story in which he challenged the accomplished Stevenson to a drum-off. (Sadly, such a battle never came to fruition.)
Grant says Stevenson is the “most comprehensive producer” the band has ever worked with. Skiba appreciated the producer’s candor: “He’ll tell you whether [your music] is shit or champagne,” the singer says.
Having a keen ear like Stevenson’s in the fold helped Alkaline Trio cook up their most soul-baring and personal album yet. My Shame Is True, due April 2nd on Epitaph Records, retains the threesome’s trademark hard-charging punk ethos, anchored by a slew of gnarly riffs. It also leans heavily on sentiment. That’s not surprising: 2010’s confessional This Addiction hinted at a band eager to spill its guts.
Grant admits that when Skiba and Andriano, the band’s lyricists, first brought the new songs to the table, he was a bit uneasy with the album’s blatant honesty. “It just shocked me,” he says. “I was taken aback by how forward and heart-on-the-sleeve that a lot of the lyrics were.”
The band’s open-book attitude is palpable throughout My Shame: amid the staccato riffing of “I’m Only Here to Disappoint,” Andriano drowns himself in a whirlpool of emotion. “I’m hurting for someone else to feel this pain,” he wails. Elsewhere, on the chant-aided lead single “I Wanna Be a Warhol,” Skiba, 37, contemplates his legacy, imagining himself a work of the iconic artist – “I wanna be a little piece of history/ I wanna be a painting for all to see.”
“I’m not scared to share,” Skiba says. The singer adds that he finds it increasingly difficult to recognize himself even only a few albums back. “I don’t even know who that guy was 10 years ago,” he says of the band’s breakout album, 2003’s Good Mourning.
Despite a collective insistence on looking ahead, the three members of Alkaline Trio share the belief that their years spent together have made songwriting a far smoother process. “There’s no secrets anymore,” Andriano says. “It’s not hard to read between the lines to [gauge] someone’s reaction to a song.” Adds Grant, “[The band] seems to be one of the most natural, organic things I’ve ever experienced in my life.”
That’s not to say there aren’t occasional obstacles. “You’ve got three guys with attention disorders that all want to play the other guy’s instruments,” Grant says, laughing.
Nearly two decades on, Alkaline Trio have no plans to slow down. In fact, Skiba says he feels as fresh as ever. “I can’t fucking believe we’re pushing 20 years,” he says. “I don’t even feel like I’m 20 years old!”