…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead: If You Want Blood, You Got It

Austin, TX’s own “Punk Floyd” goes Quadrophonic on their latest LP

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead (Image: Facebook)

“I feel like there’s a lot of hopefulness,” says Jason Reece, co-vocalist and multi-instrumentalist for the innovative alternative rock band …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead.

He’s talking about XI: Bleed Here Now, their eleventh studio album, which was released on July 15th via Dine Alone Records. “We made this quadraphonic album, so there’s definitely this newer conceptual idea that we really are excited about because I don’t think there are a lot of people doing that at the moment. Not yet.”

Quadrophonic albums are recorded and mixed in such a way that the music “takes over the room,” Reece says, calling from his home in Austin, Texas. “It’s almost like you’re in the middle of the room with a band. If you can find a way to listen to it in quadraphonic sound, it’s definitely worth it. You can listen to it in stereo and it’s fine. But if you find a way to listen to it in surround sound, it is definitely a more engulfing and immersive experience.”

Reece explains how the band got the idea to make this unusual type of album: “We ran into this old friend of ours, and he was working with an experimental electronic artist named Suzanne Ciani. He was doing a quadraphonic album with her. She’d made it more like easily accessible for the average listener back in the ‘70s, when that stuff was [first] going on. So when we were talking with him about our new album that we were working on, he was like, ‘What do you guys think about trying it in quadraphonic?’ And he flew down to Austin and worked on the album with us for a little bit and helped us gain perspective.”

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead XI: Bleed Here Now, Dine Alone Records 2022

Beyond the quadrophonic aspect, Bleed Here Now is also ambitious because it’s a double album. Again, Reece points to rock history as their inspiration. “Maybe there’s a sense of looking forward as well as looking back in time, with the idea of double albums,” he explains, believing Trail of Dead fans will have the attention span to tackle such a sizable collections of songs. “I think people listen to three-hour podcasts, watching three-hour movies, or binge-watch Netflix for eight hours a day. So why not make it a long-form album?” 

Titling this album Bleed Here Now is, as Reece says, “Kind of a joke. And a tribute. It’s a take on [The Beatles’] Let It Be and Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones and Be Here Now by Oasis. And then the [1971 spirituality] book Be Here Now by Ram Dass, so there’s all these tie-ins to that whole psychedelic mentality, but at the same time, we put our stamp on it.”

The songs themselves are equally multi-layered, wide-ranging, and eclectic. “We have a lot of things that we were trying to convey,” Reece says. “Some songs are more about a certain subject, like “Kill Everyone,” [which is] a question of, ‘Why do we have to kill everyone?’ It’s basically an anti-war song. “Millennium Actress” is about a story about an anime film [of the same name, released in 2001] that’s really quite different from any anime that’s out there. Then “Growing Divide” is about the way society can be. There’s such a division in American society.”

Trail of Dead have always had this unusual way of looking at the world, backed with edgy, engrossing melodic rock that heightens the sometimes surreal lyrical vibe. Reece says he and co-frontman Conrad Keely had this vision when they first formed the band in Austin in 1994.

“We had some real definite ideas of where we wanted to go with it in the beginning,” Reece says. “We were always influenced by our heroes, whether it’s Kate Bush or Public Enemy or Sonic Youth or Peter Gabriel and Genesis or Black Flag. There’s all these things, like a template of ideas of past musicians and artists and filmmakers and writers. We were like, ‘Okay, this is what we’re going to try to base the band on.’ But,” he says with a laugh, “we didn’t really know how to play our instruments that well. Whatever is going on in your head, and whatever happens in the real world, it takes a while to get to. So I think we’re getting closer. Every album gets us closer to what we’re shooting for.”

Reece and Keely had actually first met years before, when they were growing up in Hawaii. While many people view that place as a paradise, Reece recalls feeling isolated from the music scenes he longed to join. “There wasn’t access to music as we have now, so people passed mixed tapes,” he says. “There was only one record store, and it was on Oahu. You’re basically crate-digging and trying to find all these treasures of music. You had to work for it, in a sense. The more you worked for it, the more it seemed like you wanted to leave and do something more. There was something more out there that you wanted to find, and you wanted to see these bands. Or you wanted to be a part of a punk scene.”

Trail Of Dead Summer 2022 Tour Dates (Image: Twitter)

Reece moved to the mainland to attend college in Washington state. After that, and Keely ended up moving to Austin at the same time, and they decided it was time to form a band together. They released their debut, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, in 1998, and even Reece himself sounds surprised when he talks about their ensuing successful career. 

“Every once in a while, I’m like, ‘Wow, yeah, we’ve been a band forever,’” he says. “To me, it’s kind of mind-blowing. Kind of messes with you a little bit.” But it helps, he adds, “if you find something that keeps the dynamic alive.” He feels they’ve done exactly that with their far-reaching approach to Bleed Here Now.

As Trail of Dead prepare to tour the U.S. starting in August, Reece says he’s happy that they survived the pandemic and are continuing what they started more than twenty years ago.

“It’s what I made – it’s what Conrad and I have built,” he says of his reasons for being so loyal to this band. “It’s one of those things where you see the influence, and you realize how fortunate you are to help create interesting art for people out there.”

 

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Katherine Yeske Taylor

Katherine Yeske Taylor began her rock critic career in Atlanta in the late '80s, when she interviewed Georgia musical royalty such as the Indigo Girls, R.E.M. and the Black Crowes while she was still a teenager. Since then, she has done hundreds of interviews with a wide range of artists. She has written for dozens of magazines, including The Big Takeover, Aquarian Weekly, Stomp & Stammer, Creative Loafing, Jam Magazine, Color Red, Boston Rock, and many others. She contributed to two books (several entries for The Trouser Press Guide to the '90s, and a chapter for Rolling Stone's Alt-Rock-A-Rama). Additionally, she has written liner notes and artist bios for several major acts. She currently lives in New York City.  

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