Alkaline Trio have spoken to NME about their “apocalyptic” 10th album ‘Blood, Hair And Eyeballs’. Check out our interview with Matt Skiba and Dan Andriano below.
‘Blood, Hair And Eyeballs’ is the first album Alkaline Trio have released since 2018’s ‘Is This Thing Cursed?’ – and finally arrives this Friday (January 26).
“Trio took a bit of a backseat for a while,” admitted Skiba, who joined Blink-182 in 2015 and released two albums with the pop-punk icons (2016’s ‘California’ and 2019’s ‘Nine’) before leaving to make way for the returning Tom DeLonge in 2022. “It’s been the longest break Alkaline Trio has taken from putting out a new album, so I felt like we owed our fans the best record we could make,” he said.
“If we’re going to album 10, let’s make it fucking awesome,” continued Andriano. “We wanted it to be different. We wanted it to be special. We didn’t see any point in making an Alkaline Trio record that we’ve already made. We want to move forward.”
He contonued: “No matter what we do though, Alkaline Trio is going to seep in there. As hard as we try sometimes, we can’t escape ourselves.”
At first, the pair worked on demos separately, with Skiba telling NME in 2021 that he was pulling inspiration from The Strokes. However, the band realised they needed to shake things up. “If we really wanted to accomplish something new, maybe we should try something we haven’t done in a long while,” said Skiba.
After taking a snowboarding trip together to set the course for the record, Skiba and Andriano made the “daunting” decision to scrap everything they’d worked on separately. “We easily had an album’s worth of song ideas,” said Skiba, but they wanted to write the album together in the same room, which is how they created their first two albums, 1998’s ‘Goddamnit’ and 2000’s ‘Maybe I’ll Catch Fire’.
It’s also how Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker worked with Skiba on those two Blink-182 records. “The whole idea of building a record from the ground up was a great deal of fun and very effective. When there’s three people doing it together, there’s an urgency and an inspiration that doesn’t really happen when you’re on your own,” Skiba offered.
Leaning into that idea, Alkaline Trio pulled influence from other iconic three-piece bands for ‘Blood, Hair And Eyeballs’ including The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Police and Nirvana. “There was a lot of me listening to some of my favourite bands of all time, asking how they achieved what they did,” said Andriano. “Everything The Police put out sounds so full.”
Recording a bulk of the album at Dave Grohl’s Studio 606 was also “so fucking cool and inspirational,” Andriano revealed.
“There isn’t a cooler place to work,” Skiba agreed. “The Neve console has been signed by Stevie Nicks, Paul McCartney and all these other heroes, so the history is right in front of you. We really took our time crafting this record.”
After going through the mindset of “it’s not done until we all love it,” the band landed on an album with some familiar noir themes. “Unfortunately, ‘Blood, Hair And Eyeballs’ is a dark record but I don’t think we had a choice,” Andriano explained. “There’s a fairly apocalyptic theme that runs through the record, because it seems like we’re living through the end of time right now.
“Humanity really needs to get its shit together, which means the record is broader than just Matt and I writing about our personal lives. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to pull that off.”
While there are no songs directly about the COVID-19 pandemic, living through it had a “big influence” on the record, according to Skiba. “I honestly thought it was curtains for all of us, and I just didn’t care. In retrospect, that’s incredibly dark,” he said. “Coming out the other side and getting comfortable with socialising again, I realised that as horrible as it can be, life is quite beautiful.”
Netflix documentary Turning Point: 9/11 And The War On Terror also inspired the record, with one scene involving recordings of phone calls from inside the planes that crashed into the Twin Towers proving particularly impactful. “You’re hearing people’s last words to husbands, wives, daughters, brothers, and sons,” said Skiba. “Hearing the absolute terror, but also the absolute courage, and love in people’s voices was very powerful.” It’s what the driving ‘Meet Me’ is about, but also helped inspire ‘Blood, Hair And Eyeballs’ overarching message of “tragedy and survival”.
“It’s shining a light on the horror show that our world has been and keeps being, but we also wanted to make something that people could hopefully dance to,” Skiba continued, with the gallows humour title coming from something his mum would say while working particularly busy nights in the emergency room in Chicago.
“There’s so much evil in the world right now – kids dying from drugs, kids killing each other with assault rifles as well as a multitude of wars happening all over the world – but I want people to know we’re here for them. It is a dark record but there are moments of hope,” added Andriano, who described writing ‘Blood Hair And Eyeballs as a “cathartic” experience. “The power of music is pretty wild.”
‘Blood, Hair And Eyeballs’ was written and recorded throughout 2023. The same year, the band’s fourth album ‘Good Mourning’ turned 20 while eighth album ‘My Shame Is True’ turned 10. Why did Alkaline Trio prioritise new music over what could have been very lucrative anniversary tours?
“I think it’s lazy,” said Skiba. “We’re very proud of all our records, and we’re thankful fans still care but if I love a band, I want to hear a new record.”
Andriano agreed: “If you feel like you’ve got new places to grow and new realms to explore as a band, you’ve got to do it. We’ve got so many records now, we could spend the rest of our lives celebrating anniversaries but we’d rather make new shit.“
He went on to call ‘Blood, Hair And Eyeballs’ the start of a new era for the punk-noir trio, following the departure of long-serving drummer Derek Grant in June last year due to the “demands” of being in a touring band.
“It has to be a new era. Derek is irreplaceable, so we have to embrace moving forward with Atom [Willard],” Andriano offered. “I don’t feel like we think we have anything to prove with this album. We just feel like there’s more shit we want to do.”
Skiba continued: “There’s also just this influx of new music from bands like Green Day and Blink. Of course we’re all different bands, but seeing that creativity and having a new generation invested in the scene is very, very inspiring.”
In the break between Alkaline Trio albums, Andriano worked with brothers Randy and Dylan Moore on Dan Andriano And The Bygones, – a solo project that quickly evolved into something more. They released their debut album ‘Dear Darkness’ in 2022 with standalone single ‘Dry’ following in 2023. “I would love there to be more,” said Andriano. “I think it’s something we’re going to continue doing in some capacity for a long time, but I have no idea what that’ll be right now.”
He also joined hardcore supergroup The Damned Things for their 2019 album ‘High Crimes’ alongside Fall Out Boy’s Joe Trohnman and Andy Hurley, Anthrax’s Scott Ian and former Every Time I Die vocalist Keith Buckley. “I don’t know if there’s anything more coming from that band, but if Joe called me up tomorrow, hell yeah I’d want to do it,” said Andriano.
Skiba doesn’t know if any of those songs will be released. “That’s up to them,” he explained. “But I was just talking to Mark. I spoke to Tom a couple of nights ago and I talked to Travis last week. We’re still great friends. The whole thing happened very amicably, even if people want there to be some sort of drama.”
“I’m really grateful that Blink fans embraced my contribution as much as they did and I’m still pinching myself about it. It was an amazing experience, I learned a lot but it was time for me to come back to my band and for Tom to come back to his. I think everyone’s where they’re supposed to be.”
Despite the various projects both Skiba and Andriano have worked on over the years, they’ve always returned to Alkaline Trio. “I don’t feel like the band’s going anywhere,” said Andriano. “When Matt joined Blink, I didn’t need to ask about the future of Trio. We always said we’d do this until it wasn’t fun, and we haven’t got there yet.”
Skiba added: “I had a great time with Blink but it felt like I was staying on somebody’s very fancy floor. With Alkaline Trio, Dan and I are basically brothers. There’s a closeness there. The band feels like home to me.”
Alkaline Trio release ‘Blood, Hair And Eyeballs’ on Friday January 26. The band kick off US dates next month, before hitting the road with Fall Out Boy and Bring Me The Horizon in the States later this summer. Visit here for tickets and more information.