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'Everything Falls On Me': Dan Andriano Returns To The Emergency Room

Wednesday, 15 July 2015 Written by Huw Baines

“I hope the devil’s not waiting for me. I’ve got some shit to figure out before he and I speak.”

Dan Andriano has covered a lot of ground in the last couple of decades. Much of it has been as the wry, self-deprecating voice in Alkaline Trio’s songwriting machinery, all biting one-liners and grisly asides, but he’s about to take a second trip to the Emergency Room. Since ‘Hurricane Season’ blew in four years ago, his solo project has flitted in and out of focus. Now, though, it looks as he always intended it to: like a band. And it's one built on the spirit of collaboration that has helped to define his music.

Sat at a high table outside the Hatchet, the ancient pub across the road from Bristol’s O2 Academy, Andriano is happy to reflect on a confluence of old and new. The arrival of ‘Party Adjacent’ is a matter of days away, but later that night he’ll join Matt Skiba and Derek Grant in knocking ‘From Here To Infirmary’ out of the park, with every one of its pitch black words still on the lips of the crowd 14 years after its release.

It’s clear, both from his enduring love for Alkaline Trio and the effort that has gone into ‘Party Adjacent’, that the Emergency Room is a case of as well as, rather than instead of. “People are going to say whatever they’re going to say, they’re going to call it whatever they’re going to call it, but for me this isn’t a side project,” he says. “I’m in Alkaline Trio and I’m in the Emergency Room. There’s no sides. I care about both equally. One of them is different because it’s entirely me. Everything falls on me. If it falls flat, it’s on me. With this other thing I get to have this beautiful collaboration with my best friends. I’ve taken my cake and I’m eating it.”

The Emergency Room began as a resolutely DIY undertaking. Recorded at his home in Florida and toured solo, ‘Hurricane Season’ was an exhausting process eventually met with considerable warmth, positioning him as an ideal Revival Tour addition. ‘Party Adjacent’ represents a similar task, with Andriano writing each of its songs, crafting the artwork and designing its accompanying merch, but there’s a twist.

Album two features a broader range of instrumentation and calls upon Jeff Rosenstock, who produced and played bass and keys, among other bits and pieces, drummer Kevin Higuchi and Mike Huguenor, guitarist of Hard Girls, to add elements of their own personalities. Fittingly, those seeds were sown by Mike Park, whose labels, Dill and Asian Man, have been a constant in Andriano’s career since the days of Slapstick and Tuesday.

“I called Mike last summer,” he says. “I had a lot of anxiety about what I was going to do with these songs. I knew I didn’t want to make another record the same way I did ‘Hurricane Season’. That record came out fine and I like it, but I knew I didn’t want to do it all myself at the house again. I wanted to do it with other musicians in a studio, like a normal record. Semi-live, learn songs organically, teach songs to people, get some input and then track it.

“I didn’t really know Jeff at all. I’d heard a couple of Bomb The Music Industry! songs. Mike’s a good barometer of people’s values and work ethic. If he’s into something, I at least know it’s not going to be a bummer. Even if I end up not liking the ideas, I know it’s going to be a good person. Fortunately, I liked his ideas and he’s a good person. He’s super fun and weird. Mike told me to check out this record by The Smith Street Band, that Jeff produced. I listened to that and I was fucking blown away. It’s so good. I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to work with this dude.’”

Rosenstock is a noted workaholic. His most recent solo record, ‘We Cool?’, is a few months old, while an Antarctigo Vespucci LP is on the way, following up two EPs released in the last year or so. On ‘Party Adjacent’, there are moments where he and Huguenor shine through. Noticeably, though, their contributions are in service to songs that are singularly Andriano’s. His melodies, even when cast in a folk-punk or, as Brendan Kelly recently pointed out, Elvis Costello-style setting, make the same clever, unorthodox moves as the best of Alkaline Trio’s ‘Dan songs’.

“They’re my songs, you know? I asked Jeff to produce it, so I wanted his input. I could veto anything, but I didn’t feel the need to,” he says. “We went back and forth on a couple things. A couple times he ended up having the better idea, a couple times I ended up having a better idea. That’s the nature of a good, healthy working relationship. I felt very comfortable being able to be like: ‘No, you’re wrong.’ Or: ‘Yep, you’re right. I was questioning that while we were rehearsing but now it fucking sounds rad.’

“I love being in the studio and I love working. I get there at the crack of noon and work all day and all night. I like 12 hour days. You can get a little fried and, every once in a while, you gotta look around and see how everyone’s feeling. You gotta be ready to let people go and rest, but Jeff’s sort of the same way. We got along good like that. Recording is my favourite thing about this at this point. I like gear. I like sounds and fucking with shit. Try it this way, try it that way.”

While Rosenstock has left musical fingerprints on ‘Party Adjacent’, lyrically it is an introspective piece. Where ‘Hurricane Season’ found Andriano framing his touring life against his love for his family and desire to be at home, its follow up takes in change and the will to improve on a personal note, even if that entails running in circles for a while as things become clearer. ‘Party Adjacent’ begins as ‘Hurricane Season’ ended, with Andriano speaking to his daughter.

“I think everyone should be trying to better themselves, but it’s easier said than done,” he says. “At a certain point within the past few years I’ve felt that if I didn’t make a change, I was going to lose not just friendships but a grip on everything I’ve known to this point. Not to be uber dramatic about it, but I had to make changes. Take some steps, cut some things out of my life and welcome some other things in. The first song is about my daughter, just asking for help from a very innocent standpoint, from someone who hasn’t been all fucked up and embittered by a world that’s so gross right now. From there it just grows.”

The balancing act, between life on the road and at home, that made up so much of ‘Hurricane Season’ remains a fixture. Andriano's Emergency Room workload will soon extend to a run of US shows, alongside Rosenstock, while Alkaline Trio are rarely quiet for long. Into the mix you can now add the logistical pressures of taking a band on the road and also a possible UK tour later this year.

“I’m really thankful that I’ve been able to do this for so long,” Andriano says. “Alkaline Trio’s done so much different stuff and we’re going to continue to do so much different stuff. I’ve sort of been able to figure this out. It’s hard doing the Emergency Room stuff. It’s a lot of work. Every once in a while I feel overwhelmed. Answering emails for an hour, or five hours or staring at Photoshop a week straight.

“I do all my artwork, I do everything. It gets a little old and it’s taxing on my family, too. Alkaline Trio was just on tour for six weeks, but then if I come home and I’ve got to work on artwork for the Emergency Room, that gets old for my wife. ‘You were just fucking gone,’ you know. Not like she’s bummed or bitter. I see her point. What I need to do is learn how to organise my time better and get right. Learn how to do both. I know I can, I just have to do it.”

There’s something else too. This year the Falcon will fly again, and that is a very exciting prospect. It’s been almost 10 years since the band, in which Andriano plays alongside Kelly and Neil Hennessy of the Lawrence Arms and a new face in Loved Ones frontman Dave Hause, put out ‘Unicornography’. Album two is taking shape, amid a few geographical issues thrown up by the fact that the four men are scattered across the US, and looking good if their contribution to Red Scare’s recent 10 year compilation is anything to go by.

“It’s in the works. It’s currently half recorded,” Andriano says. “I’m in Florida, Brendan’s in Chicago, Neil’s in LA now, Dave’s in southern California. It’s fucking crazy, I’ve got a lot going on. I’m going to record my parts for The Falcon in September. But I can tell you the record is fucking awesome. The drums are done and they’re insane. It’s a really, really fucking good, furious, weird, scary punk rock record.”

Is Andriano going to bat two for two for the year? Seems like a distinct possibility.

'Party Adjacent' is out on July 17 through Asian Man/Xtra Mile.
Huw Baines is editor of Stereoboard. Find him on Twitter.

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