After filling vacancy with an old friend, this pop-punk band is coming to NC reinvigorated

Pop-punk band Alkaline Trio’s curiously titled 10th album — “Blood, Hair, and Eyeballs” — has that curious title for a simple reason.

“It’s a term (co-lead vocalist and guitarist) Matt (Skiba)’s mom used when she was a paramedic in triage in Vietnam,” explains the band’s new drummer, Atom Willard. “It was a saying for when s--- was hitting the fan: ‘It’s blood, hair, and eyeballs out there.’”

After hearing the phrase so much growing up, Skiba adopted it but realized his friends weren’t familiar with that old adage.

“It seemed appropriate to many things that are happening in 2024,” adds Willard, explaining that for their sake the album title is a nod to the global chaos depicted through the 24-hour news cycle and social-media noise.

Willard — who joined the band after longtime drummer Derek Grant departed following the recording of the album — has officially made Alkaline Trio a trio once more, and the band brings its “Blood, Hair, and Eyeballs Tour” to The Fillmore Charlotte on Sunday with Drug Church and Worriers.

Skiba and bassist/vocalist Dan Andriano didn’t need to look far for a replacement for Grant. Willard did a short run with them back in 2001 and even appeared in a music video. A veteran of Rocket From the Crypt, Against Me!, The Offspring, and other acts, Willard had also worked with Skiba in side projects like theHELL and Lektron.

“I’ve got such a long history with Matt,” says Willard from the San Diego native’s-now adopted home of Nashville. “Back when I played with them in 2001, Dan and I hit it off. It was really a natural, easy progression.”

Willard, in fact, has his own branch on the pop-punk family tree that connects Alkaline Trio with the band Skiba spent seven years with: Blink-182. Willard was the original drummer in Tom DeLonge’s Angels & Airwaves during the Blink guitarist’s first departure. And like Skiba — who was first hired to briefly fill in for DeLonge — Willard has manned the kit for other acts in a pinch.

“I’ve done it with Taking Back Sunday and Gaslight Anthem, several bands that were in need that hadn’t planned on being in need,” says Willard, who was last in Charlotte backing Bully in October. “That’s how I started with Against Me! in 2013. They were going to Australia and needed a drummer.”

Willard’s energy and drive only adds to a feeling of re-invigoration that’s palpable on the songs from the new album as they’re transferred to the stage.

“They’re such incredibly great songs,” he adds. “It’s so easy to listen to that record.”

That energy and drive is colored by Willard’s renewed appreciation for his job following a debilitating 2022 motorcycle accident.

“It happened a week after I got home from touring with The Bronx and I was so fit and so strong, in good drumming shape for the first time since 2020,” he says. Among his injuries were a broken thumb, hand and wrist that required surgery.

“I was very optimistic after my surgery, but about three months later I got really nervous about the rate of recovery,” he continues. “I started getting scared it wasn’t going to happen. Will I be able to play the drums the way I’m used to and the way I’m known for playing them? It took a little while to push that down and continue to do the work and the rehab. I came back on the other side.

“I am grateful for the perspective it’s given me. (It) shined a light on how amazing my life is as a human that gets to do what I love to do.”

Alkaline Trio

When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Where: The Fillmore, 820 Hamilton St.

Tickets: $47.