It’s no surprise that Matt Skiba, founding member and the lead singer of Alkaline Trio, is eager to talk about music and his band’s latest album, This Addiction. Yet Skiba, along with Alkaline’s drummer Derek Grant, express similar passion when ask about their vegetarianism. Not only do these lifelong punk rockers happily impart their how-I-went-veg stories, they rave about veg restaurants across the country as only touring musicians and true veg foodies can. VN caught up with the guys as they gear for the This Addiction tour to talk music, life on the road, and Seitanic Caesar Salad.
VegNews: What sparked your transition to vegetarianism?
Matt Skiba: I used to eat a lot of meat when I was younger, and around the time I was nineteen, when I moved out of my parents’ house, I was eating a piece of meat and looking at my cat looking up at me. I envisioned myself eating my cat and suddenly it didn’t sound so good to me. For me it just became instinctual that meat wasn’t something I wanted in my body. It’s part of who I am. It’s personal and it’s natural to me.
Derek Grant: I was pretty much raised in an entirely vegetarian household. I wasn’t aware that there was a whole community of vegetarians out there. There was a point where I said, “I want to understand the other side of this situation,” and I ate meat for maybe three years. Then right around the time that I phased meat out and became vegetarian, I recognized that I was lactose intolerant. So again, I was completely naïve to the fact that there was a thing called veganism. After a few years, I started going to a lot of hardcore shows where everybody was straight edge and vegan. That was when I found out that there were other people that were like-minded.
VN: How have your friends reacted to your vegetarianism?
MS: I’ve turned friends on [to vegetarian eating] by not saying anything. There’s a place in LA called Veggie Grill, and they have locations throughout Southern California. It’s so good, and if I didn’t tell [my friends] that this “chicken” sandwich was vegetarian [they] would have never known, and it tastes fresher and better than any chicken you’ve ever had. I’ve definitely converted people without having to say anything since there’s a lot of really great food out there that speaks for itself. I think most people are animal lovers. I don’t think because you eat meat you’re a bad person or you don’t love animals. I think ignorance is bliss for a lot of people. People eat vegetarian without even knowing it, and it’s easy and delicious and healthy.
VN: Alkaline Trio got its start in Chicago. Any favorite local veg hotspots?
MS: Chicago Diner is amazing. I love that place. I’ve been eating there since I can remember. Two years ago they took my favorite thing off the menu. Initially it was called the Seitanic Caesar Salad, this vegan Caesar salad that was absolutely killer. Then they changed the name of it-they have funky, fun names for a lot of dishes-and then, I don’t know why they did it, but they took it off the menu and I was so bummed about it that I went in and complained. I was nice about it and they obviously make great food aside from that salad, but I politely protested and said that they should put it back on the menu. And they did! About two weeks ago I got a phone call from a friend of mine saying that they put the Caesar back on the menu.
VN: The band has described This Addiction as both “a step forward” while also retaining “glimmers” of the band’s past. What about this album calls back that earlier sound?
MS: With this record, and with our earlier records, we lived together and would write the record together at home and on the road, and it was something that happened a lot more organically. With This Addiction we did it that way. We did it all in the same room, when we were in sound checks, when we were on tour, when we were together doing band stuff. It was a liberating experience that lent to how it came out. It’s more like a punk rock record because we recorded it like a punk rock band.
Photo courtesy of Epitaph Records.