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Alkaline Trio returns to its indie roots

NEW YORK — For their seventh album, This Addiction (due  Feb. 23), the members of Alkaline Trio  decided to make big changes, starting with the way their music was released.

The alt-punk group departed  Epic Records  in May to form its own imprint, Heart & Skull, in a joint venture with  Epitaph Records.

Singer/guitarist Matt Skiba  acknowledges the risk involved with starting a new label, but he says the move hasn’t fazed the band at this point in its decade-long career.

“We already took the biggest leap a long time ago, when we quit our jobs to pursue this band,” he said. “After doing that, starting our own label really isn’t that scary.”

Alkaline Trio established itself on  Vagrant Records  before signing to Epic for 2008’s Agony & Irony and netting a career-best No. 13 debut on the Billboard 200. After personnel changes at Epic left the band members feeling disconnected from the label, the group requested and received a release.

The split was amicable, but Skiba says the band wanted to start recording music on its own terms.

“We just thought, ‘Wow, we’re never going to get in a situation where we might get stuck somewhere,'” he says. Epitaph owner and Skiba’s  friend Brett Gurewitz  soon reached out and formed a partnership that gave the band full control over its album and access to Epitaph’s marketing team.

While Heart & Skull represented a  new business opportunity, This Addiction, the label’s inaugural release, marks a return to Alkaline Trio’s roots. Recording in its native Chicago with  producer Matt Allison, who had worked on the group’s first three albums, the band chose to write all of the songs together with a minimal amount of preproduction.

The result is a fast, tightly wound record with a punk-rock flavor that recalls the band’s early work. Skiba says the group molded This Addiction after such Epitaph acts as  Social Distortion  and Rancid, with songs like “The American Scream” and the title track featuring hook-filled choruses and breakneck percussion.

Alkaline Trio will launch a spring U.S. tour with Cursive February 16 in Pomona, Calif. The members also plan to release some solo material in the coming year. Skiba is aiming for a summer release for Demos, a collection of tracks he recorded on his laptop, and singer/bassist  Dan Andriano  will be working on side project the Emergency Room.

This Addiction remains the only planned release on Heart & Skull, but Skiba says he would love to add more.

“Putting out this record is the priority, but we aspire to put out other bands,” he said. “We’re hoping to build something that’s ours.”

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