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Hard-rock bands paving their own ways

Published February 18, 2010 5:55 am

Music » Alkaline Trio and Cursive struggle with darkness and uncertainty.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Punk-rock band Alkaline Trio performs in Boise on Feb. 23 and in Denver on Feb. 25. In between, the band performs in Salt Lake City. There's little, if any, downtime on its tour schedule.

So although lead singer and guitarist Matt Skiba said in an interview he is "dying to get up there" to Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort, it doesn't look like he'll have a lot of time. But, then again, the band is used to doing the unconventional.

The Illinois-based band will release "This Addiction" on its own label Feb. 23 after ditching the major-label marketing power of Epic Records. "It's an idea that's finally come true," said Skiba. "This is a dream come true."

"We didn't have anyone to answer to besides ourselves," said bassist and vocalist Dan Andriano about recording its latest album without the Epic contract.

Alkaline Trio seems like the type of band that major labels, in the midst of an epochal change of fortunes, would strive to hold onto. The trio's last three albums all debuted within the top 25 of the Billboard album charts, an impressive number for a punk-tinged band. But the band, although still under contract with Epic, asked for its release.

"We didn't have the best experience at Epic," Andriano said. "They had too many cooks in the kitchen. ... Midway through, they fired everyone that was working on our [album]. They called it The Project."

"We had a couple of debacles at Epic and [previous label] B2," Skiba said. "They let go all of the people we liked and trusted."

Inspired by the independent marketing successes of Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, the band decided to go its own way. The members also made the decision to go back to their hometown's Atlas Studios and work with Matt Allison, the same studio and producer they used for much of their early recordings. The result, "This Addiction," is reminiscent of the aggressive style of 1998's "Goddamnit" and 2000's "Maybe I'll Catch Fire."

"We wanted to make an urgent record, we wanted to make it in Chicago, and we wanted to make it with Matt," Skiba said.

Representative of the anger infused in the album is "The American Scream":

And that's where she found me

In the cemetery

A smoking gun in my hand now

I'm damned for the land of the free

Sing with me

The song was inspired by a Newsweek article about a returning, battle-scarred Iraq War veteran, said Skiba, who read the story three times on a plane, devastated by the way some veterans were being treated. "Both my parents came back from 'Nam," Skiba said. "But some people were getting f---ed."

Alkaline Trio is being supported by Cursive, a post-hardcore band from Omaha whose most recent album, 2009's "Mama, I'm Swollen," is also a dark document.

"It reflects people who are in a dark place," said Ted Stevens, Cursive's guitarist. "I'd be lying if I said I was a happy person, or that [lead singer and lyricist] Tim Kasher was in a happy place."

Some of the bad feelings are a result of fans' reactions to the band's previous album, "Happy Hollow," a concept album that was more experimental than ferocious. "We alienated most of our fans with 'Happy Hollow,' " Stevens said. "People are still quick to criticize."

Both bands are changing what people expect of them at crucial points in their careers. Such a move can be a slog, but snowboarding at Snowbird couldn't hurt.

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Embrace this addiction

The Alkaline Trio plays; opening acts are Cursive and The Dear & Departed.

When » Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m.

Where » In The Venue, 579 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City

Tickets » $17.50 in advance, $20 day of, at SmithsTix