Agony’ return to form for talented Trio

Matt Skiba is one of the most talented men in music, and hard work has paid off for his band, Alkaline Trio, as its Epic Records’ debut Agony and Irony ranked No.13 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. Alkaline Trio is no stranger to the music scene with an impressive catalogue of music and legions of fans. So what took major labels so long to come around?

"When we were free from our old contract (with Vagrant) we signed to V2, and our friend from V2 bought us over to Epic when V2 was no more," Skiba said.

Agony and Irony has been met with solid reviews, and even older fans who wish every album would sound like Alkaline Trio’s first, Goddamnit!, appear to be enjoying the new songs on the band’s current tour.

"(The new songs) take a little time, and it seems people are very into it," Skiba said. "It seems as though people are going just as crazy for the new stuff as they did the old."

The band wrote and demoed 40 songs for Agony and Irony, but only 11 made the final cut. B-side tracks such as amazing acoustic-based "Burned is this House" have surfaced, showing Alkaline Trio’s continuing tendency to release quality B-sides. Another song, tentatively titled "Fruit, Please," wasn’t recorded but has been played at live shows. What will become of these tracks?

"I’m not sure. I think a couple ended up on various deluxe editions of record," Skiba said. "’Fruit, Please’ is used as the live intro to our show. And I’m sure we will release it eventually, but I don’t think it will be called ‘Fruit, Please.’"

In addition to music, Alkaline Trio has been an integral part in Macbeth Footwear, a shoe company started by Tom Delonge (Angels and Airwaves, blink-182) that offers vegan-friendly products and artist-designed shoes. Alkaline Trio also has a limited edition pair of custom designed Nikes.

"We went on tour with blink-182 right around when those guys were starting their companies, and they wanted us to be a part of (Macbeth), so we wore and still wear the stuff today," Skiba said. "And with Macbeth, there was no problem with us doing a shoe with Nike too."

Alkaline Trio is no stranger to late-night TV, with past performances on Conan O’Brien and David Letterman’s shows, but the band recently made a surprising appearance on MTV’s The Hills.

"The girl Audrina on the show works for our label and her sister is a huge fan, even named her daughter after the Trio song ‘Sadie,’" Skiba said. "We did it because she was a fan and we had no idea the show was watched by over 6 million people, because I don’t watch TV. We come to find out that over 6 million people watch and it is a show that everyone seems to hate yet everyone watches for some reason."

Agony and Irony can be described somewhat as a return to form, as opposed to 2005’s experimental Crimson. The demo versions of Crimson were officially released by Vagrant in 2006 and the songs sound different than the finished product.

"(The songs) took a transformation from demo to studio, a lot of it was production and in a different environment, and each song took on a new life," Skiba said. "What made the final record sounded a lot more accurate on what we were trying to do. The producer that we had also had something to do with it, too."

With Agony and Irony, Alkaline Trio relied less on keyboards and electronics and the end was result was a more familiar Trio. Skiba was also influenced by the discovery of new bands.

"Ghostland Observatory, I like them a lot, but our new record sounds nothing like that," he said. "Tegan and Sarah’s album, The Con, we are huge fans….Their record The Con was a big influence on how we wrote our new record, we even covered their song ‘Wake Up Exhausted’ and we are going back to L.A in a couple of days to work on a project with Tegan."

Alkaline Trio played Monday night in Austin, selling out La Zona Rosa. The 20-song set covered every Alkaline Trio album and also featured rarely played live songs "Dead and Broken" and "Warbrain."

The band reached deep into its past, satisfying the fans who have been there from the very beginning, performing songs that don’t normally get played anymore, such as "Bleeder," "I Lied My Face Off" and "For Your Lungs Only."

Alkaline Trio will return to Texas in October with Rise Against, Thrice and The Gaslight Anthem.

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