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Members include Kevin Allen, guitar; Neil Busch (left group, 2005), bass; Conrad Keely, vocals, drums, guitar; Jason Reece, vocals, drums, guitar; Doni Schroader (joined group, 2005), drums; Danny Wood (joined group, 2005), bass. Addresses: Record company--Interscope Records, 2220 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404, website: http://www.interscope.com. Website--...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead Official Website: http://www.trailofdead.com.
Consult the colorful careers of the Who, Black Flag, and Nirvana, and it becomes obvious that bands have been destroying their instruments and getting banned from clubs for years. When it comes to Austin, Texas' ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, however, torturing their instruments is only a small part of the band's mystique. Combining an affection for Bowie-esque '70s glam, '80s hardcore, '90s Sonic Youth-like indie-rock, and classical music, Trail of Dead take these myriad of influences and inject them into their loud, high energy shows, prompting London's The Independent to call them, "one of the most incendiary live bands of the past few years." Through four albums and numerous EP's and singles, Trail of Dead have been, according to a headline in Entertainment Weekly, making "alt-rock as vital as their name is weird."
Trail of Dead formed in 1994 when old friends Jason Reece and Conrad Keely (whom originally met as teenagers in Hawaii) began playing together in Olympia, Washington. After the dissolution of Reece's band the Mukilteo Fairies, Reece and Keely began practicing together, trading off on vocals, guitar, and drums, before deciding to move to the warmer climate of Austin, Texas. The two played a handful of shows as You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead before recruiting guitarist Kevin Allen and bassist Neil Busch. Upon the completion of the lineup, the band added the "...And" to their name, and completed a cassette release for Austin's Golden Hour label.
Even though they had yet to release a full album, the band was already gaining notoriety for their rambunctious and often destructive live shows. In an interview conducted with Dallas Music Guide, Allen addressed their pertinence for breaking their instruments, saying, "I guess some people think it's a shtick or something. I don't know if it's a shtick. It's just something we've always done. It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. There have been a couple of times where it's like, 'Hey, I'm gonna do this. Don't stand in the way.' Most of the time though, it's pretty spontaneous and not really planned out." It was the band's notorious live shows, however, that helped them gain the attention of record labels, prompting Keely to note in an interview with Free Williamsburg, that, "If you are not suffering for your art, then it's probably not good art. We never sent out any demos. Our lives show was our solicitation. That's us."
In 1998, influential Austin label Trance Syndicate decided to take a chance on Trail of Dead, releasing their debut full length ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. Garnering comparisons to My Bloody Valentine, Fugazi, and Sonic Youth, Trail of Dead's debut had the Austin Chronicle's Greg Beets claiming that, "Austin's Trail of Dead revels in the yin-yang of discordant extremes. Their debut gushes forth in a manic pattern of rising and falling, whispers coupled with screams, and quiet, unassuming beginnings followed by torturous, hyper-climactic endings. The real pleasure for the listener is trying to figure out how they're going to get back down from whatever feedback-blistered fix they've willfully thrown themselves into."
In October of 1999, the band issued their second full-length album, this time on Superchunk's Merge Records out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Entitled Madonna, the album was quick to inspire positive reviews in print and online publications alike. Spin Magazine noted that, " 'Mark David Chapman' is the thinking punk's mid-tempo ballad of the year, piling emo elegies like 'It's just another black stare/ To a world that loves or hates you on a dare' onto guitar hooks worthy of [MTV show] Total Request Live. And 'Aged Dolls' is for everyone who thought our great nation ceded the proggy epic to Mogwai and Radiohead in some unfortunate trade agreement." All Music Guide said, "At a point wherein Sonic Youth has achieved little more than short-curve hairpin experimentation, ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead are fueled with a zestier and more intrusive desire to split instrumental hairs. The instruments are interestingly distinct, defining a need to listen to the individual contributions, furthering the contemplative nature of late-'90s hard rock and its idiosyncratically conservative send-ups. The Dead are a max-out outfit in the true hardcore tradition."
After almost two years of extensive touring, Trail of Dead reconvened in the studio to record what would become an album of epic proportions. Not satisfied with delivering an album of simplistic blasts of flailing punk rock, the band set out to incorporate a bevy of instruments, such as piano, strings, and woodwinds into their monstrous brand of indie rock, crafting an entire of album full of interludes and 7-plus minute songs of pure passion and pain. After the release of the Relative Ways EP---their first for Interscope records, who signed the band after the success of Madonna---the band issued Source Tags & Codes on February 26, 2002.
The band received a bit of flack regarding their signing with Interscope, to which Keely said in an interview with Tinymixtapes.com that, "We're not really in this thing for some socio-political or economic battle between corporations and private business. We're artists. Art is transcendent, and exists on a higher plane, whereas those things are earthly, and in the end transitory. Who cares about them? If you do, you shouldn't be an artist, you should be a business major."
Whether or not the band's signing to a major was an issue, the power and ambitiousness of the album was undeniable. Scoring a perfect 10.0 rating on Pitchforkmedia.com, the site's Matt Lemay said, "Dense, beautiful, intricate, haunting, explosive, and dangerous, this is everything rock music aspires to be: intense, incredible songs arranged perfectly and performed with skill and passion. Source Tags and Codes will take you in, rip you to shreds, piece you together, lick your wounds clean, and send you back into the world with a concurrent sense of loss and hope. And you will never, ever be the same."
In 2003, the band released the Secret of Elena's Tomb EP, a release that Keely described as "[a] sort of a divergent project, we just sort of thought we'd throw it out there, for your amusement, or mal-amusement, as it might be. Some people have reacted negatively, others not." Following that, the band hit the road again, playing with bands like Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky, before returning to the studio to record the follow up to Source Tags, 2005's classical music-influenced Worlds Apart. Of the album, London's The Independent said, "Hitherto best known for walls of noise and instrument-trashing, these Texan nut jobs bounce back with an epic album. From the bombastic opener and the punky, waltzing title track, it heads off on an unpredictable, atmospheric sonic journey with everything---including classical violin solos---thrown in. The first masterpiece of 2005."
Following the completion of the album, the band's lineup underwent a change. Busch, who recorded bass on the album, left the band to pursue other interests. In his place, the band brought on bassist Danny Wood and second drummer Doni Schroader (who played on Worlds Apart), expanding the band to a five piece.
by Ryan Allen
...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead's Career
Group formed in Austin, TX, 1994; gained notoriety through live performances, mid-1990s; released self-titled debut album on Austin label Trance Syndicate, 1998; released album Madonna on Merge Records, 1999; toured extensively, 1999-2001; signed with Interscope and released EP Relative Ways, 2001; released Source Tags & Codes on Interscope Records, 2002; released Worlds Apart on Interscope, 2005.
- Selected discography
- ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead Trance Syndicate, 1998.
- Madonna Merge, 1999.
- Relative Ways (EP), Interscope, 2001.
- Source Tags & Codes Interscope, 2002.
- Secret of Elena's Tomb Interscope, 2003.
- Worlds Apart Interscope, 2005.
- Entertainment Weekly, January 28, 2005.
- The Independent (London, England), November 27, 2004; January 22, 2005.
- Spin, January 2000.
- ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead Official Website, http://www.trailofdead.com (June 1, 2005).
- "...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/ (June 1, 2005).
- "...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead," Free Williamsburg, http://www.freewilliamsburg.com/september_2003/dead.html (June 1, 2005).
- "Conrad Keely," Tiny Mix Tapes, http://tinymixtapes.com/interviews/conradkeely.htm (June 1, 2005).
- "Conversing with the Dead," Dallas Music Guide, http://www.dallasmusicguide.com/interviews/trailofdead.htm (June 1, 2005).
- "Source Tags and Codes," Pitchfork Media, http://pitchforkmedia.com/record-reviews/a/and-you-will-know-us-by-the-trail-of-dead/source-tags-and-codes.shtml (June 1, 2005).
- "Worlds Apart," Neumu, http://neumu.net/fortyfour/2005/2005-00023/2005-00023_fortyfour.shtml (June 1, 2005).
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