Last month, the second full-length from Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room was released by Asian Man Records. Entitled Party Adjacent, the album is much more of a collaborative, full-band effort than the first Emergency Room record. We spoke with Dan about how he brought together this group of musicians and what it was like working with producer Jeff Rosenstock. We also talked about how this project compares to Dan’s principal gig as the singer/bassist for Alkaline Trio. Also discussed was the album’s writing and recording process, the meaning behind some of its songs, future touring plans and more.
Bill – What inspired the title of this record?
Dan – I guess it sort of started just me talking to those dudes in the studio, like Jeff and Mike Park, (Asian Man Records owner) and everyone around. We were goofing on the fact that I’m getting older and I was sort of just talking to Jeff about what the songs are about. It’s sort of a reflection of where I’m at in my life I guess. I’m not really looking to get crazy anymore these days, but I still love having fun. I was saying, “I’m not really heading to the party, I’m more party adjacent.” Then I was like, “I like that. Maybe that’s the name of the record.” And then I couldn’t really think of anything else that I really liked. It’s sort of a goof, but it’s also sort of true, (laughs).
Bill – How did you go about assembling the musicians that played on Party Adjacent?
Dan – Well, I had a lot of help from Mike Park. Basically I called Mike last summer and I was kind of going through a thing. I didn’t know what I was going to be able to do with these songs. I didn’t want to make another record by myself. And I hadn’t exactly made the right relationships in Florida, at least not yet, where I live now in St. Augustine. I haven’t really gotten any sort of studio I can go work at or people that would just be down to come and play or whatever. So I called Mike and I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen and had started to get some anxiety and he just kind of helped me calm down. He was like, “Dude, just chill.” He heard some of the demos and was like, “Songs are good, when you’re ready just come out here. I’ll find you a cheap studio and we’ll just work. I’ll find some musicians.” So that kind of calmed me down and then he put me in touch with Jeff Rosenstock. He sent me his latest solo record and I was totally blown away by it. I love that record. So I met Jeff when Alkaline Trio went through New York and we hung out a little bit. We talked about him playing bass, Mike Huguenor from Hard Girls playing guitar and Kevin Higuchi, (The Chinkees, Bruce Lee Band) on drums. Everything went really smoothly. Everyone was available when I wanted to get it done, which was great. All three of those guys, they just want to play music, like all day every day. That’s what I needed was some dudes to keep me motivated. I like that too. Being in the studio is kind of my favorite part of all this. Having other people around that like being in the studio is very helpful too. It doesn’t always go down like that. It can get kind of frustrating and days can get long in the studio, but it was great.
Bill – What was it like working with Jeff Rosenstock as a producer?
Dan – He’s great. Like I said, I hadn’t really known him before, but I quickly got some good impressions. He had the demos and most of the songs on the record sound really similar to the way I demoed them, but a couple of them I sent him with the intention of him kind of reworking. I liked the basic idea of the song and I liked the melody and the words, but I wanted it to be different and I was having a hard time of thinking outside of the little box that I made my demo in. Sometimes it’s nice to have an outside set of ears and he sent me back a version of one of the songs that I asked him to kind of change up and he just made it exactly like what I couldn’t make it. That was before we even got together. Then when we did get there I just appreciated, like I was saying before, his love for music and his love for working nonstop. It was a good relationship. He’s very scattered and crazed in like the best way possible, and I try and be organized. It worked well together. Sometimes I had a hard time seeing the vision that he had for a part or something until we got it right and then I was really stoked on it. It was a healthy relationship. We just said what was on our minds. If he was trying to drag me in a direction I really didn’t want to go, I would just be like “Nah. This isn’t for me.” It would pretty much end there. If it was something I wasn’t sure about, I would be like “Alright. Let’s try it.”
Bill – How would you say that this record compares to your last solo effort, Hurricane Season?
Dan – It’s totally different. As we were getting it done I was like, “Wow. This really is real different.” I think it’s sort of like a natural progression but that’s because I’m writing the songs. There’s certain things on Hurricane Season that I wish I could have done more with, but the fact that I recoded that whole thing at my house by myself, it sort of limited me with what I could do. I always had the intention of making this thing into more of a band. That’s why there are some songs on Hurricane Season where I made them sound more instrumental with drums and all kinds of other stuff going on. For the most part I kept it pretty simple, but with this one I wanted it to be mostly full-band and then a couple songs fairly simple. It still sounds like it’s coming from the same songwriter, you know?
Bill – “Don’t Have a Thing” is one of the more stripped-down and personal songs on the album. What motivated you to write this one?
Dan – The fact that it’s sort of easy for me to feel like I’m not content and I hate that about myself. I’ve gotten a lot better about it recently, but I’m a really fortunate person and sometimes I need to be reminded of that. I get spoiled from all angles. I’ve gotten really lucky with the fact that Alkaline Trio’s fan-base has always been so nice and has stuck with us for a very long time. Like I said, I’m fortunate in many ways. I need to be reminded sometimes that the things I need are the people in my life, that kind of thing. If I can just keep it simple, that’s when I’m happiest.
Bill – In terms of its musical style, “Enemies” is one of the record’s most distinctive entries. Where did the idea for this song come from?
Dan – That was actually the last song that I wrote for the record. I had the lyrics pretty much done, but it was over a totally different kind of song. It was sort of a mellow, jangly almost like old Wilco vibe, but it just wasn’t coming through. I’m not Jeff Tweedy, (laughs). I kind of gave up on it, but two days before I left for the studio I wrote that guitar part, the weird chords in the intro. I thought it all of a sudden had this Johnny Marr, Smiths kind of feel. Like something that could have been on Strangeways, Here We Come. I got excited about it and then I reworked those lyrics that I had sitting around into this completely new song. I sent it to Jeff and then when I got out there we just worked it out. Mike, our guitarist, was able to add so much cool, little guitar stuff. Like the little bits that he does, I was super-excited about it.
Bill – “Lost” is extremely catchy and one of my favorite songs on the album. What inspired its creation?
Dan – That one just sort of happened. It was a song that I wrote very quickly. It’s not about the same thing as “Don’t Have a Thing,” it’s more about personal stuff and just trying to stay focused and keep my head right so I can do the most stuff, know what I mean? That was one that Jeff had a lot to do with. That song, when I wrote it was pretty straightforward. The demo was just on acoustic guitar, but that was one I really didn’t like too much in the beginning. I thought the melodies were good and I liked the lyrics, but it just had this kind of boring pop punk feel to it that I wasn’t really interested in. So that was one I asked Jeff to just completely tear apart. This was after we got to the studio. I was like, “I’m going to go outside and take a walk and you guys can completely fuck this song up. Do whatever you want.” When I came back they were working on that drum-loop. It didn’t end up being a loop, Kevin played the whole thing, but we were just going to have him do that and then we were going to chop it up and make it a loop and blow it out. We ended up obviously not doing that, but it sort of sounds like that repetitive sort of drum thing until the song completely changes. Once the song changes, that’s pretty much how I had it, just faster and more distorted. Like I said, it was a pop punk song and I had those high backing vocals in there and some weird breakdown. We kept that, but everything else was written in the studio.
Bill – When you go back and listen to Party Adjacent, what aspects of it are you most pleased with?
Dan – I’m really excited about the production. I love the songs and I’m really proud of the lyrics. I’m really proud of all the guys that played on it and how awesome they were to work with and how well I think we worked together. I don’t know if anyone out there even cares about this anymore, but there’s no Auto-Tune on the record. There’s no pitch-correction. I was honestly bummed at first because there was a couple things that I was having a hard time with. I was like, “Just fuckin’ fix it,” and Jeff wouldn’t let me do that while we were tracking. He’s like, “Nope. Sing it again.” Now I’m really glad. He’s like, “Come on. We’re almost done. You’re not going to be able to say the record is 98% Auto-Tune free, because nobody cares about that. 100%. You want to know that.” I was like, “Yeah, you’re right.” So we got it done and then where we mixed it, with Jack Shirley, was a really fun experience. We were able to do a lot of cool stuff to keep a lot of the effects and the production of the record natural. It was recorded digitally into Pro Tools, but we were able to do some stuff like where he slapped echo on the vocals. He sent it through a tape machine and then back to get that delay effect. That’s what they would have done 30 years ago. I was excited about that. It’s the little things like that that make me happy. Pretty much only we know them, but it’s exciting for me.
Bill – What do you enjoy most about the sort of creative outlet that this project provides?
Dan – Just that I sort of get the best of both worlds, which is exciting for me as a songwriter. I get to do a collaborative thing with Alkaline Trio where each of us is fully a third of the thing. Nothing really happens with an Alkaline Trio song until all three of us are together. That’s when it really takes shape. So I get to do that with two of my best friends in the world and that’s amazing. And now I’ve got something that I don’t really consider a side project or whatever, this is just another band that I’m in, but I get to sort of have final say. I’m writing the songs. I don’t have to worry about what the songs are about. Not that Alkaline Trio really tries to fit a certain mold, but at this point it’s just a different thing. But with the Emergency Room I can do whatever I want whenever I want, or whenever I have time. So that’s cool too. It allows me to have a totally other outlet and I’m focused on both of them equally.
Bill – After the current tour wraps up, what else do you have planned for this year with the Emergency Room?
Dan – We just announced that I’m going to the UK in November to do some shows, so I’m putting together a UK version of the band, which is going to be exciting. An all British Emergency Room, which will be good. That’s about it for this year. I’ve got a couple more things with Alkaline Trio and then that UK tour. But it’s already been a pretty busy year for me, so I’m looking forward to a mellow fall. I’d like to do more stuff. I’m doing this tour now with Jeff and I’d like go out again at some point soon. Maybe just like opening up for someone, doing something different. Maybe someone I wouldn’t normally get to tour with.