How well do you know the lyrics to Alkaline Trio’s “Mercy Me”?
[Photo by: Jon Weiner]

After reaching what was quite possibly the peak of their goth aesthetic on Crimson, Alkaline Trio dialed down the darkness for their sixth album in favor of a more straight-up rock look and sound. We caught up with vocalist/bassist Dan Andriano to revisit Agony & Irony for our annual Class Of special (pick up a copy of issue 361 featuring Andy Biersack to check out the feature) and learned that during the  album cycle, the band were signed to two labels that ended up closing down operations in the process.

Read more: Alkaline Trio reflect on the 10 biggest moments of their career

The trio were originally slated to release the album on V2 Records (home of the White Stripes, Sugarcult, Blood Brothers), but in early 2007 the label announced it was restructuring to focus on its back catalog and digital distribution, letting go its employees and leaving their roster of artists as free agents.

Alk3 then signed on to Epic who released the album, but within months of its release announced they would be restructuring, dropping their rock division. It was following this that Alkaline Trio started Heart & Skull, their imprint on Epitaph, which they have called home since.

The band just dropped the newest track from their forthcoming album, Is This Thing Cursed?, titled “Demon And Division” today, and you can check it out below. The new LP is out Friday, and the vinyl version will arrive Oct. 19. Preorders are available here.

In the meantime, check out our chat with Andriano looking back at their 2008 release, the time they were on The Hills and how two record labels shut down on them.

Let’s revisit that time you were on The Hills?

It was bizarre. So Audrina Patridge was actually working for Epic, and she’s a fan of the group, and her sister is a fan of the group. So when there was talk about us doing this thing on the show, and we were obviously a little bit skeptical of being part of anything like that, but we thought it was cool that Audrina was actually into the band. We wanted to do something, [so] we were like, “We’re on a major label. We’re trying to get exposure. That’s not a secret. We want people to hear our band.” So we were like, “Sure, let them in and let’s see what happens.” That was basically our thoughts about it. We thought if it was terrible or a horrible experience: Lesson learned. And it was a fine experience. The worst part of it was just getting shit from people, but I don’t really care about that stuff. So if that’s the worst part, we’re fine. It was just funny. Audrina was pretty into being there, and she seemed like she was actively working and interested, but when the cameras were on she’s like, “What do you guys think?” And they’re like, [adopts Valley Girl accent] “Let’s go get sushi,” and it really could not have worked out better because, you know, that’s exactly what was supposed to happen. For everybody.

Lauren Conrad and her friend—what was her name, Lo? They were there for maybe eight, maybe eight-and-a-half minutes. But there was a camera crew, and Audrina was there for a few hours into it and trying to make it painless for us. She kind of recognized that it was weird and, you know, appreciated the situation, so that part of it was great and normal. But like I said, it kind of worked out perfectly. It just couldn’t have gone any other way.

This was your first album on a major label. How did that shape it?

You know, it was wild. We left Vagrant. We didn’t necessarily want to leave or anything; we wanted to see what else was out there. We were free agents, maybe for the last time ever—we never know what’s going to happen with our band. So Vagrant said, “Hey re-sign with us.” And we said, “Well, we probably will, but give us a minute.” Then we ended up talking to people at V2, which was actually how us being on Epic came to be. So Andy Gershon was the guy at V2 Records and they had done like White Stripes and some cool shit, and we were gonna go over there and that was the plan. And as soon as we signed a deal with V2, they shut the doors on the label. Which was pretty weird.

So Andy was like, “Check it out, I’m going to Epic, you guys should come. It’ll be rad.” So when he was there and everyone working under him, everything was kickass. And then within like four or five months of the album’s release, they completely reshaped the model and basically said they weren’t working rock ’n’ roll anymore. And so they let a bunch of people go, including the people working our record. It was just a whole mess. It just like everything you hear about the industry. But fortunately for us, it worked out in a sense that we made the record, [and] we got the record released. They put a bunch of money in the promotion like they said they were going to before they basically stopped working the record. So at least we got something out of it. And then when all was said and done we weren’t contractually bound to do anything else with them. The whole experience, we were very fortunate in the end, but it was definitely different. It’s a big company; it’s Sony, you know what I mean? They do things like put us on The Hills. They really get the marketing train going.

So you guys shut down two record labels?

Yeah, what the hell is that all about?

Is this thing cursed?

Is this band cursed?