A trooper, a vagabond, a minstrel and an artist - over the course of fifteen years and eight full-length albums as the lead singer/songwriter for Chicago’s Alkaline Trio, Matt Skiba has been all of these things. Touring the world, heart on sleeve, Skiba has consistently penned some of the great dark pop anthems of the past decade. For both major labels and indies, whether it be acoustic ballads or antagonistic anthems, Skiba is an icon of the outsider and he has remained a singular voice of a sub-genre he helped to create. Now, after so many years as part of the band that has come to define him, Skiba has stepped out from the Trio to create Babylon, the debut album from Matt Skiba and the Sekrets.
Babylon doesn’t mark a major sonic departure from the infectiously catchy, sanguine-stained tunesmanship Skiba is known for. The songs are still cleverly-crafted and instantly memorable, but the details of the tracks on Babylon are what separate this album from all of his previous output. His independence from the confines of a group dynamic allow the songs to take flight, subtleties intact, and elevate the music from mere songs to exquisite songcraft. Of his unfettered creativity, Skiba explains, “Working as part of a group is great, but it’s a democracy. You hear something in your head and play it, then the other guys comment and you compromise. That’s what being in a band is about. I wanted to create that music in my head – not a dissected and altered version of it.”
Teaming up with AFI’s Hunter Burgan on bass and My Chemical Romance’s Jarrod Alexander on drums, Babylon remains the creation of Skiba himself. “It’s a band, but it’s not a band. It was great to have Hunter and Jarrod come in and play. They are both great musicians and it was a thrill to play with them. Everyone involved in the album breathed life into the ideas, making them songs and giving those songs a foundation that couldn't be stronger or more inspired.” His singular vision shows the true breadth of his songwriting skills, from the uptempo chant of the album opener and lead single “Voices” to the heartfelt, acoustic strains of its closer, “Angel of Deaf”
In between tracks like “Olivia”, a paean to the pain only someone you love can cause, and the tongue in cheek devil’s hook of “Luciferian Blues” take the listener on aural adventure that is simultaneously familiar and fresh. “My songwriting – whether it be for Alkaline or for Skiba and the Sekrets – comes from the same place. I craft songs a certain way and there is always going to be a piece of what I’ve done before in it,” he explains. Fans of Alkaline Trio will immediately fall in love with tracks like “You” and “The End of Joy”, while the 80’s post-punk new wave synth of “Falling Like Rain” may take some by surprise. Babylon offers something for those just coming to the party and those who have been there for years.
Not merely a studio experiment, Matt Skiba and the Sekrets will be touring extensively behind Babylon. The shows are sure to be equal parts intimate and explosive, with Skiba performing the entire album along with a few unexpected surprises. “I can’t wait to play these songs live. It’s always exciting to try new stuff out, and to do it with an all new band – who knows who’ll be coming along for the ride when we do this live – is going to be great.”