Long time Alkaline Trio bassist and keystone of this year’s Revival Tour, Dan Andriano looks back on his career with Cormac Duffy
Balancing three overlapping musical projects, as well as a busy family life, is certainly a challenge, but one that Dan Andriano has found himself in the midst of. “My life has never been more hectic.” he admits to Otwo, as if we couldn’t tell by the tiredness in his voice. The 43 year old, best known as the bass player and singer for sardonic pop-punk heroes Alkaline Trio, is stepping out on his own this year. First of all his solo project, Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room, released their debut album Hurricane Season, a collection of poignant, acoustic songs that recall Andriano’s gentler moments with Alkaline Trio.
Now he’s taking the material on the road as part of the European stint of The Revival Tour. The tour, the brainchild of former Hot Water Music front man Chuck Ragan and his wife Jill, finds punk musicians leaving behind their electric guitars to pay tribute to folk music by performing acoustic renditions of their own material. Having done the rounds in America with various musicians since 2008, it has established a solid reputation. “I’ve been really excited about what Chuck and his wife have put together over the past few years. When he called to ask me, I was like ‘where do I go and when do I go there?’” Andriano says with a laugh. For its first European leg, the tour’s delegation is made up of Andriano and Ragan, as well as Brian Fallon of blue collar rockers The Gaslight Anthem and Dave Hause of The Loved Ones.
The tour is heavily rooted in Ragan’s ideas about music. Punk and folk are closer than they seem. On a superficial level, one is about aggression, the other about gentle introspection, but they both hold strong grassroots appeal and are common outlets for political opinion. There’s also a sense of community among artists in both scenes that Andriano cherishes. As he sees it, the tour is “based on friendship and camaraderie and is the point of why guys like us got into playing music.”
Even as Andriano sets off on new projects in relatively strange lands, his day job still beckons. “This year is a big year for Alkaline Trio, just in the fact that we’re celebrating our fifteenth anniversary as a band.” In those 15 years, they’ve left behind some quality material. Anyone with even a passing interest in rock should make time to listen to the raucous punk of Goddamnit, the Bukowski-in-corpse-paint wit of From Here to Infirmary, or the refined power-pop of Agony & Irony. In a genre often so resistant to change, they’ve shown a willingness to shift styles when they felt they needed to. “That’s kind of the best thing about Alkaline Trio; we’re always just going to do what we want to do.
But for their crystal anniversary, they thought they’d do something special to commemorate it. “A couple of people suggested that we put out a greatest hits record” Dan explains. “That idea wasn’t appealing to a lot of us. It’s 2011, you can go to iTunes and make your own greatest hits.” They considered a simple acoustic album, but that idea didn’t interest them. “Why just pick a bunch of songs and play them on an acoustic guitar when there’s so much more you can do in the studio?” The culmination of their discussions was Damnesia, an album that presents some of their catalogue highlights in a stripped down format. “Acoustic guitars were the root, but we also used drum loops, keyboards and sound effects to make it as interesting as possible. Try and make it like a real album.” It manages to take on a rare quality for such a project, standing as a distinct volume in their oeuvre as much as any of their studio albums.
Talk moves to Andriano’s solo project, Dan Andriano in The Emergency Room. When quizzed on the genesis of the project, he puts it down to a build up of material more than a master plan. “I’ve tried to always write a little bit here and there. So I’ve had a bunch of these songs, some of them for two to three years. I guess it was just getting down to finding time to record them.” He talks of the stress of writing and recording the entire album by himself. “It kind of drove me crazy, made me a little neurotic for a couple of months. More neurotic, I should say.” Without band mates to encourage or advise him, he was left to obsess over the quality, constantly editing and rerecording until he was satisfied. When you hear the songs that made the cut, it shows.
We end by asking what we can look forward to when the Revival Tour hits Dublin, and are offered a classic rock star guarantee. “Everyone in the house is going to have a good time.” he promises. Given how much he’s done in one year, what’s one more triumph?
Dan Andriano plays The Academy on September 29th as part of The Revival Tour. Tickets are €20. Damnesia and Hurricane Season are out now.