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Cover story: Alkaline Trio

| June 30, 2008 | 0 Comments

Alkaline Trio
No Place Like L.A.

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Season Three, Episode 27: “No Place Like Home.” It’s a sunny morning in Los Angeles, and the stars of the most-watched TV show among 12- to 34-year-olds are in front of the cameras as usual. Heidi is at the office, accepting an offer for an out-of-town job that could end her relationship with Spencer. Lauren and Lo are sunbathing poolside at the Hollywood house they share with Audrina. “It’s such a nice day,” Lo comments, sipping lemonade and clinking ice cubes. “Let’s do something fun today.” They make plans to go shopping. Audrina, who interns at Epic Records, greets her housemates by the pool. “I’m going to work with Alkaline Trio today — this band,” she says, flashing a nervous smile to the girls. “They’re in the studio recording their new album.”

Appearing: Tuesday, July 1st at Lakeshore Theatre and Wednesday, July 9th at House Of Blues in Chicago.

It’s just another episode of reality show “The Hills,” the spinoff of “Laguna Beach” that has become MTV’s highest-rated series since 2004’s “Real World XIV: San Diego.” It’s a not-so-ordinary episode for former-Chicago pop punks Alkaline Trio, who, despite having sold a respectable 1 million records through their 12-year history, have yet to crack into MTV’s most-successful program. One million equals only 1/43 the viewers “The Hills” will reach this season. Today, they get a shot at the top. “Targeting men and women, 12–34,” states Viacom, MTV’s parent company, on the corporation’s investor-lingo Web site. Viacom describes MTV as “the leading multimedia brand for today’s youth” in all caps and bold text.

Before Audrina leaves home, she invites Lauren and Lo to stop by the studio. “Maybe you’ll like the song,” Audrina says. Lauren jokes, “We could be groupies for the day.” Later, the housemates gather inside what looks to be a control room. An exterior shot implies they’re at Pulse Recording. Alkaline Trio break into “In Vein,” one of bassist/vocalist Dan Andriano’s Vampire Weekend-meet-The Clash songs from the band’s new album, Agony & Irony (Epic). The scene is meticulously arranged — a pork pie hat here, sunglasses there, warm lighting, flattering camera angles, pristine audio.

There is no evidence of successful interaction between the band and the girls. The two camps are separated by glass, and maybe more, and the dialogue that does occur on the girls’ side is itself awkward. “He’s got a good voice,” Audrina’s co-worker Chiara says of Andriano. “You don’t mind if I, like, flip a few switches,” Lo jokes to a man sitting next to them, at the soundboard. No reply. Lauren and Lo are present for exactly one song, as Audrina foreshadowed. They wave goodbye to the band and take off for sushi. No one on the band’s side appears to notice.

Bands commonly record instruments individually in the studio, often in separate rooms. In this segment, Alkaline Trio play together as if they were onstage — all at once, within a few feet of one another. According to Wikipedia, when “The Hills” airs in the United Kingdom, it bears a disclaimer stating some scenes are created for entertainment purposes. Is the Alkaline Trio studio segment one such creation?

“The version they played on the air was the recorded version, for the sake of it sounding good,” Andriano acknowledges by telephone, after the episode first airs in May. He continues: “That was us going over the song as we were recording it and doing drum tracks,” adding, “I don’t know what the deal is with most of the show, but they pretty much popped in and filmed a bunch of stuff and then split.”

The bassist says he doesn’t watch “The Hills,” but soon after the episode debuted and the segment was uploaded to video-streaming Web sites, he noticed mostly negative comments accumulating on several punk news sites that had reported the appearance. He didn’t take it to heart — certainly not as much as one commenter on Absolutepunk.net, who fretted: “I’ve died and I’m in fuckin’ hell, right? Someone please tell me this is hell.”

“For us, it was fun,” Andriano says. “I think a lot of people watch that show, and I think it was really good for our band, because we want people to see and hear our band. That’s why we do it, because we want people to hear it.”

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Category: Features, Monthly

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