It’d been 10 long years between full-length albums from the punk rockers in No Trigger before they released Dr. Album back in August. But while that may seem like forever for some artists, it’s almost par for the course for the Massachusetts-based sextet. After all, Dr. Album is only their third full-length, despite being a band for more than two decades.
Speaking of doing things their own way, the new release was written by No Trigger’s six members during the COVID lockdown largely under the influence of LSD. The result is an acid-soaked album unlike anything the group has done before. Entirely unregulated by expectations — including those of No Trigger’s fanbase — the 13-track amalgamation is a nostalgic and experimental ride through early-aughts rock land. Sometimes it’s punk. Other times, it delivers pop-punk, hardcore, emo and even ska. But with each song, the foundation is always discernibly constructed from drug-fueled fun.
Curated with a collective “everything’s fucked so let’s live it up” sentiment, Dr. Album still manages to buck authority, earnestly showcase technical commitment to the craft, and unapologetically call out conformity (the sixth song on the album, “No Tattoos,” throws shade at the body-art bandwagon).
SPIN caught up with frontman Tom “Teach” Rheault and rhythm guitarist Jon “Hollywood” Strader for some album-centric discussion, including their latest anti-indoctrination anthem “Brainwashed.”
SPIN: Considering the wide range of genres on Dr. Album, how would you describe No Trigger’s current sound?
Tom Rheault: I think our new era is kind of a mix of everything. We came from a more melodic hardcore background, but this new record touches on different genres from song to song. Literally every song is a different type of music, and that was kind of on purpose. We just wanted to see what we could accomplish, and somehow it came out cohesive. We’re super proud of it.
Jon Strader: Every member of the band really stepped up to the plate and put the songs together from start to finish, so what you’re hearing is everyone’s creativity all at once. We love what happened.
Whose idea was it to write Dr. Album on acid? Were there any adverse side effects to the method?
Rheault: It was mostly Jon and me. We were the ones who were on it the most. The pandemic had just hit, and we were like “Work’s over! What an opportunity to write a record!” So we all just microdosed constantly and wrote all of the time. That’s just what we did. There was no accountability, but there’ve been no adverse effects yet. Not for me, at least. Do you remember that story about the guy who pitched a no-hitter while on LSD in the ‘70s? I forget his name, but there has to be a connection there.
Strader: No-hitters and Dr. Album!
Rheault: If anything, I just look back and I’m like “Woah, we got really silly.”
Was there anything you guys wrote that, in sober retrospect, seems too ridiculous?
Strader: No, nothing! All of the stuff that made us say, “Oh my God, this is so ridiculous” ended up on the album. We didn’t say “No” this time.
Rheault: If it made us laugh, we kept it. You can tell when you listen to the album that we had fun making it.
Were you concerned with how fans would react to Dr. Album after a decade of silence? How has the feedback been thus far?
Strader: I think it’s been extremely positive. Of course, we have a lot of people comparing it to our earlier work — specifically Canyoneer, which we put out almost 15 years ago. But Dr. Album is a big progression in musical writing for all of us, and we didn’t hold back.
Rheault: Bands fucking change. The people who get it, get it. And the ones who don’t… There’s a whole subset of our fans who are like “Really?” I’m just like “Go listen to fucking Pennywise then. I don’t know what else to tell you guys.”
Aside from the obvious musical differences, how has No Trigger changed over the years?
Rheault: I think we’re more serious now. We’re actually taking punk seriously. I know I am. I’m more punk than every punk lead singer out there right now. I really believe that shit. I know these other bands. I see what they’re doing, and I’m like “I’m saying more real shit than all these motherfuckers.” Even though No Trigger just wrote the craziest, most non-serious record and it’s funny and silly, it’s not a joke.
Strader: I’d agree, this is the most serious we’ve ever gotten. We’re more real.
You just put out the video for “Brainwashed” recently. What went into that?
Rheault: I wrote “Brainwashed” mostly at my parents’ house during the lockdown. I was living there all bubbled up during the pandemic, feeling like I was fucking 17 years old again — which probably explains why “Brainwashed” is the most immature song we have. But while it’s immature, it’s also lyrically very smart and catchy as fuck. And then [Strader] turned it into a ska song.
Strader: The second verse was going to randomly be ska, but it sounded way too good, so we just applied it to both verses.
Rheault: The video for “Brainwashed” — unlike our other videos — is animated, so we didn’t really have to do anything. Instead, we just told the awesome animator, Callum Scott-Dyson, what we wanted and he made it incredibly insane. [The video for] “Brainwashed” is a lot of animated storytelling that follows the lyrics of the song. It’s pretty literal.
What’s your favorite track from Dr. Album?
Strader: Collectively, I think we’d probably go with “Anti-Fantasy” because it was like a kick-the-doors-down return that really showcased what we’d been up to. We also put together a really wild music video for that one that we’re all a part of. If you haven’t seen it, you’ve got to check it out. It’s a lot of fun. Personally, my favorite track off Dr. Album is “Take Your Time.” That’s a song I pretty much put together from start to finish during the lockdown. I took it in a way different direction. Once Tom attacked it with the vocals, it just made so much sense. It’s a lyrically timeless piece for No Trigger.
Rheault: My favorite song on the record is “Too High to Die.” It was the first song I brought to the table. It uses keyboards and acoustic guitars and it’s all about drugs. I was like “Hey guys, what do you think?” and Hollywood was like “Yeah, man. Maybe this will work for your side project.” But I convinced them to use it as a template for how far we could take things.
Strader: That actually became a personal favorite for me too, and we had the opportunity to perform it for the first time the other night in Brooklyn.
Speaking of performing, what was it like to get back on the stage after such a long hiatus?
Rheault: It’s been the best fucking feeling. We just played Riot Fest, and that was unbelievable. It was easily in the top three shows No Trigger has played. It was unbelievable on every level.
Strader: We also just played Punk in Drublic in our hometown of Worcester. These shows we’ve been playing recently are levels up from what we’re used to, because we really don’t play that often. So getting to play Punk in Drublic with Face to Face, Descendents and NOFX in our hometown was a fucking treat. Tom literally rode his bike to the show.
What’s next for No Trigger?
Strader: Go listen to Dr. Album! We poured almost two years into this. Also, come see us at a festival or show soon, because we’re going to be playing a lot more in 2023.
Rheault: We’re just going to continue riding this lightning. The world’s going to fucking burn and die in no time, so we’re just like “Let’s have fun!” We’re also going to write more quickly now. We’ll probably put something else out within the next couple of years, as opposed to 10.