Dan Andriano in The Emergency Room Inteview - Dan Andriano | ThePunkSite.com
Dan Andriano in The Emergency Room
Asian Man Records
Bottom Lounge - Chicago, IL
September 24, 2011
The Emergency Room, the place you go after one too many beers and decide you can ride a skateboard. Dan Andriano, the bassist and ½ of the singing in Alkaline Trio. When you combine the two, you end up with Dan’s solo powerhouse. Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room released his first solo record this past August, Hurricane Season. We caught up with Dan at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago to discuss dealing with hurricane season in St. Augustine, Florida, the lack of a band to jam with onstage, what is going on with Alkaline Trio, and if will Slapstick ever return.
Amy: You just released your first solo studio record, what was the process like recording on your own? This is your first time recording anything for a solo project, right?
Dan: Yes, this is the first time I have done anything like this. A bunch of years back, I did a split record that was only three songs with our old drummer Mike, but I had help with that in terms of drummer, engineer, and things like that. I did this at my house all by myself, with the exception of two or three songs. My friend Aaron played keyboard on two songs and my friends Pete and Brian sang harmonies on one song; I did everything other than that. In terms of process, I did it how I know how to do it. In terms of building it, I did it similar to the way Alkaline Trio would do it. I add drums, then I add other things, and you build it until you are done. Mentally it was very different, it was nerve-racking and I got very neurotic and started erasing and redoing things. It still does not sound...I shouldn’t say this on tape -- but it does not sound great to me, but it sounds good. It sounds like what I wanted to achieve, which was something relatively simple and honest. There’s not a lot of horseshit on there that is unnecessary.
Amy: So you did all the instruments on the record as well, for the most part you did everything?
Amy: How long have you been thinking about doing this solo material? Is this something you have been thinking about doing for a long time?
Dan: Pretty much. I started doing shows by myself around Chicago a long time ago, or a friend’s band would come through and ask me if I wanted to play with them. It was always a real regrettable experience because you say yes and get excited about the prospects of doing it and doing something different for the sake of doing something different, and then, you know, I don’t practice enough and I don’t really devote the time necessary to get really good at something. I mean, I am doing more of that now, but I am older now -- I was never really that focused until pretty recently. I would get up there (on stage) and not know what I was going to play or how to play it, and I wouldn’t realize until I was on stage that singing over an acoustic guitar is night-and-day different than singing over a loud punk rock band; it’s like a whole over game.
Amy: It’s all on you.
Dan: Exactly, it’s all on me and there are mess-ups. I can’t look over at Matt or Derek and be like, what are you guys doing, and try to blame them because it’s all on me; it’s kind of a nightmare in that regard. Anyway, this is becoming a long story... I’ve always been writing songs that are different than Alkaline Trio songs, so quite a few years back I knew in the back of my mind I wanted to be in a different band or do some solo stuff. Finally, I had some time over this past winter and just decided to get into it; kind of lock myself in my office and figure out what I had, and make a record out of it.
Amy: How long did it take you to write this record? I know on Myspace, maybe like two years ago, you did have two Emergency Room songs posted.
Dan: Those were the songs that I had for a couple of years, and then the rest of them are pretty new and pretty much were written right before this recording.
Amy: For this project in particular, did you write this on the road, at home, or both? You kind of mentioned you locked yourself in your office for a while.
Dan: Yup, I probably write most of this stuff on the road; that’s when I have the most time to just sit down and play guitar for a couple of hours at a time. That’s what I’m doing on the bus usually, watching a movie or playing a guitar, it is kind of a toss-up. That’s when most of the writing gets done, but in terms of finishing song and thinking of ideas to make the songs a little bit more creative, that all happens at home generally.
Amy: Do you go through a different writing process than Alkaline Trio?
Dan: The beautiful thing about Alkaline Trio is that we are very much a band. Matt (Skiba, singer) will write a song and have the skeleton of the song done, or I will write a song and have verses, choruses, lyrics, and a rough structure -- enough to show it to those guys and have it sound like a tune, but it does not really become an Alkaline Trio song until we are finally all together in the same room and playing. Generally, it’s Derek (Grant, drummer) who has the most ideas about rearranging and restructuring a tune, and he is really gifted when it comes to making the song sound more like a real song than what I initially bring in. That whole thing is a very band mentality. If I bring a song to practice or the studio and we do not spend that much time changing it with their ideas, then I get really self-conscious about it; I don’t trust it.
With these songs and the nature of these tunes content-wise, I really wanted them to feel different because of the nature of what I was writing about. The record started to take on a theme that was unintentional at first, but apparently it was there because I write about the same stuff a lot. When it came to that I was like alright, I have this song and I wrote it relatively quick, so I don’t want to mess with it that much. If I’m going to be doing this all by myself, and I am not going to have Matt and Derek, if I cannot depend on those guys to make the song better, I just have to trust the initial vibe that I had. I tried to do that as much as possible.
Amy: So there is a theme on this record? Where did the title Hurricane Season come from?
Dan: There is a theme; hurricane season is something I did not really know about until I moved to Florida about four years ago.
Amy: What part of Florida?
Dan: I live in St. Augustine in Northeast Florida, and I am in kind of a nice part of Florida in terms of weather, but we still get crazy big surf in September and October with a lot of rain and things like that. Most of the hurricanes cut either South across the state or go up into the Carolinas, so I am in this weird little pocket, knock on wood, which seems to avoid destructive storms.
Title-wise, I really started working on these tunes after I moved there, so that is kind of what I settled on. There is a theme like I was saying, and it kind of appeared to me after I was almost done writing the record. I did not write it on purpose as a conceptual thing, but after I knew it was there I kind of sequenced the record on purpose to try and get that point across and make it seem like a record, like a whole you want to listen to the songs from front to back.
It’s a record about me missing my family. Everyone second guesses decisions they make, but I seem to constantly be worried [about if I'm] away from home too long. Should I be on the road more with my band and trying harder to be in a big rock band? It’s a tough balance, and I know it’s not like getting shipped off to Afghanistan to get shot in the chest, but it is what I have to deal with, and I take it seriously. It was a tough thing for me when I first had my daughter. These things are rough, and so that is sort of where the theme of the record came from. It is kind of most apparent if you look at the first line of record, I say it’s going to rain all day, and the last line of the record I say we’ll die in the sunlight. It’s kind of getting from A to B, that’s kind of the record.
Amy: Why did you decide to go with Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room opposed to just Dan Andriano, what is the significance in the solo name?
Dan: I like the name The Emergency Room as a band name. Initially, I was not sure what I was going to do with this, I did and still do want to play with other people and be in a band. It is really hard to get up there by yourself, it really sucks. I want other people to play with, and have a drummer and guitar player I can, for lack of a better term, jam with. So that is something I am trying to get in the works for the future. I like that name, that’s just what I was going to call it, and it was just going to be me.
After I recorded the record, I was still going to call it The Emergency Room, and then I started talking to some people who are infinitely wiser than me. They started making me infinitely nervous about not using my name because... I know I am not like Chris Martin (Coldplay), but thanks to being in Alkaline Trio, people, or at least a small amount of people do recognize my name. More people recognize my name than would recognize The Emergency Room, to them that would just be some new band that they have never heard of. I did not want to just be like, alright, Dan Andriano solo record, so I tried to figure out a way to combine them. Dan Andriano in The Emergency Room is what I came up with because I do want people to want to buy the record and hear it so maybe that will help them hear it.
Amy: Is the Emergency Room the kind of thing you want to take on the road or would you rather just play a few shows here and there?
Dan: I am excited to take it on the road, and I would be more excited if I knew I had some people to travel with. Dave Hause (The Loved Ones) and I just did a week in the Southeast together. He’s a very special talent, Dave. I rented a car and we just drove around the Southeast for a week playing a few shows in Florida and the Carolinas, and that was so fun. Tomorrow we are flying to England and doing shows as part of the Revival Tour that Chuck [Ragan] from Hot Water Music puts on. I am really excited to be a part of that; it is pretty much all people I have known for years like Dave, Chuck, and Brian [Fallon] from Gaslight Anthem. We are all old friends and we are going to have a really awesome time playing over there. I am doing another tour by myself with other dudes in the early part of next year, like January, February. Until Alkaline Trio makes another record, and we probably will at some point next year, but until that happens, Alkaline Trio is not doing anything. We are going to England in November for about two weeks and that is it, so I need to stay busy and try to get comfortable doing this if it is something I want to do.
Amy: I believe a few tracks were left off the record, any future plans for those tracks, or am I mistaken?
Dan: No, there are tunes I have played at live shows, but I never recorded them. I did not record anything and then not put it on there. Some people on Facebook and Twitter, right after the record came out, were sending me these tweets like, "Why didn’t you put this song (on the record)?" There’s a song called "Drive," and someone very much wants that song to be recorded, and I did not even know anyone had heard and remembered it. These weren’t real tunes, when I do stuff like this or I would in the past, I would pretty much play the song a different way every time -- to me it was never complete. I will probably end up doing something with those songs at some point or try to make them better.
Amy: Okay, I have three Alkaline Trio questions if you do not mind. How did you get involved with Muppets: The Green Album?
Dan: At the same time that we recorded that, we were under a management company that works with Weezer, who was going to be on this thing. They basically just contacted Walt Disney Records, and we knew it was going to be a fun thing and we’re all big fans of the Muppet movie and Jason Segel, who I think is a big part of making that happen. I think he personally had a lot to do with this movie being made. We were like come on, we want to be a part of that too. When they found out that we wanted to be a part of it, they were really excited and we had one of the first picks of songs. We were very stoked and happy about that. We are big fans of Paul Williams, who wrote that song. He also wrote "Rainbow Connection" and some Carpenters songs; he is a very big deal in the world of songwriting. We have a small world kind of connection with him, he is married to our good friend’s sister out in California, so we were able to record it and then get him the song pretty quickly. It was cool to know he actually heard it and approved of it.
Amy: The last Alkaline Trio record, Damnesia, it was sort of a re-visioning of old songs. It was a neat idea, I can’t think of any other band that has done something like that. Where did the idea come to release a record of new, old songs?
Dan: This was the fifteenth anniversary of the band this year. Matt started the band in 1996, and so we were trying to think of ways to celebrate that and not have it be super cheesy or whatever. Some people suggested we put out a greatest hits record and I thought that was a terrible idea.
Amy: It’s been done by everyone.
Dan: Everyone does it, and why would you do it these days? You can go on iTunes and build your own greatest hits record. If you are a fan of a band, you can make your own 25 song playlist for that band and everybody wins. That idea got shelved rather quickly and then the idea came up -- "Why don’t you do an acoustic record?" Well, that does not seem that exciting. I mean we all said that, then some people at our record label they agreed that that was kind of a boring idea. Anyone can do that; if you want to do it, just do some b-sides or whatever. We decided to take more of an unplugged route like The Cure and Nirvana did, and base the songs in acoustic guitars and totally rethink the way we would do it. How would we write this song now -- 13 years, 15 years later; would we record it differently? Who knows? We are all so different as people and as fans of music that some of these songs might have ended up sounding more like they do on Damnesia if we were to write them now, so it was interesting and super fun. We got to base everything with drums, acoustic bass, acoustic guitar, and then build with drum loops, synthesizers, piano, distortion pedals, and all kinds of fun stuff.
I thought it turned out really good. I was skeptical, I’m not going to lie. I was excited to go out there and hang out with Matt and Derek, and being in the studio is like my third favorite thing in the world. I was excited about doing that, but I was nervous because we did not know what we were going to record before we all got on airplanes to go out there. I was nervous about what we were going to pick and how it was going to get done, and how working with Cameron (Webb, producer) was going to be in that situation because we all know and like Cameron, but with songs that we all know so well, I did not want to end up butting heads with someone about how the song should be when I already know how the song should be because it was written 12 years ago or whatever. I was skeptical about all these things I did not need to be skeptical about at all because working with Cameron on these songs was amazing. I think the songs we picked are a really good selection and well-rounded choices, and it just turned out to be super fun and a way better record than I thought it could be.
Amy: I know this was over three months ago, but how was your San Francisco Slapstick experience?
Dan: Oh man, so fun, very priceless. It kind of ruined me for the week. The whole deal was in San Francisco, and our friend Mike [Park] was having a 15-year anniversary celebration for his label, Asian Man Records, that we have all been a part of in some way. Slapstick played the first night, which was a Wednesday. I got there on Monday and started rehearsing with Slapstick. Monday and Tuesday we rehearsed, but it was just non-stop drinking and catching up with old friends. By the time that show happened Wednesday night, my voice had already blown out. We were rehearsing in someone’s garage that Mike Park knew. Really nice people, but barely a sound system, so straining to hear yourself and make sure you are singing the parts right... I totally blew my voice out. Alkaline Trio played the next night, and then I played by myself very late Friday night, so by the time that show happened, I was wrecked and exhausted. It was pretty much my wife and I, and Brendan (Kelly) and his wife walking around San Francisco drinking Irish coffee and beer for five days. It was just that kind of reunion vibe, so it was awesome. It was very fun, but exhausting.
Amy: Do you think it is something that will ever happen again for the people that were not in San Francisco?
Dan: I think it will happen again, I mean we talked about it. If I’m not mistaken, we actually had an opportunity to play in Chicago this fall, but I am going to be in Europe with this Revival (Tour) deal. Unfortunately, we could not do that, but [another reunion] is not off the table. We all had a lot of fun and it is definitely not out of the question. I would like to make it happen again at some point.
Amy: I went to San Francisco, but I know some of the people here were sour that it was not in Chicago.
Dan: It does feel a little weird to have done it and not do it here.
Amy: What about The Emergency Room would appeal to an Alkaline Trio fan that has never listened to your solo material? How do those two intertwine?
Dan: I am only so creative of a guy…I am really selling it here by the way. If you are a fan of my tunes from Alkaline Trio, they are not entirely that different. That being said, some guy on Alkaline Trio’s Facebook page the other day just had a very simple message. I posted something through the Alkaline Trio Facebook about this show, just kind of gratuitously abusing the advertising potential of Facebook and all of Alkaline Trio’s "likes," and this guy just responded, "This shit is way too depressing, go back to Alkaline Trio." I was like, "This is too depressing, but you like Alkaline Trio." I mean it is all the same shit, but it was funny; I do not necessarily think it’s that depressing. It [the solo record] seems a little lonelier because it is just me, but the sentiments are not really that different than songs Matt or I would write for the band. I have been in that band for almost 15 years -- it is kind of all I know how to do, so trying to do this there is going to be some crossover, at least for the time being. I guess I would say if you like those tunes, this definitely sounds different. It is recorded different, it has a different vibe, but the sentiment is kind of the same, so maybe you will dig it.