...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
Ever wondered what inspires …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead's Jason Reece and Conrad Keely? You may be surprised, because according to vocalist/guitarist/drummer Reece, on album number seven it's just as much world affairs as it is Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Brad Pitt. "Just joking," Reece laughs… But is he?
"Yeah, sure, why not," he changes his mind. "They're everywhere, you can't not be influenced with what you're swamped with, right? I'm totally into Brad Pitt, his acting is amazing. I love German prog-rock, I love Kraftwerk. I love stuff from Norway. All kinds of movies and books are pretty great inspiration. I don't know, I'm more the sound guy out of me and Conrad, I'm much more inspired by sounds and textures and noises, on second thought. Conrad is more inspired by visual stuff obviously, he's the art maniac."
And it's …Trail Of Dead's artwork, in fact, which often captures just as much attention as the band's music - with new album Tao Of The Dead being no exception. Exotic, foreign and sometimes just plain weird imagery is what Keely has come to be known for, his work also having been exhibited both in the U.S. and internationally. Musically, however, Reece says on the band's latest effort, it's been a return to good old fashioned rock'n'roll first and foremost - Tao Of The Dead being about as guitar-centric as the band gets since their first album in 1998.
"Ever since the album came out, we've heard some people talking about how we're 'revisiting' some of our older albums," Reece states. "I just don't think I agree with that, and neither does Conrad from what I know. Sure, I think that we've borrowed a lot of the elements from our older stuff, but we're borrowing from our own older stuff. What we've done in the past is maybe more guitar-centric and we've done that on this album too - it's not as orchestral as maybe the past few records we've done. It's definitely more rock'n'roll but that doesn't mean we're trying to repeat the past or like we're going back to the beginning because once you've become a confident musician why would you try to go back to your learning days? It's a terrible thing to do and it's the last thing you should want to do in music. Anybody who likes our music would tell you that our interest has always been in putting new ideas forward."
Perhaps the only similarity between Tao Of The Dead and the band's earlier releases has been their choice in producer, with Chris 'Frenchie' Smith behind the decks who steered …'Trail Of Dead as far away from "doom and gloom" as he could, according to Reece.
"We worked with him on our first [self-titled] album then in more recent years we worked with other, let's call them 'less upbeat' guys," he laughs. "We realised that was exactly what we needed, a little more positivity maybe, a bit of a rejuvenation, a breath of fresh air. He's one of the most positive people I know, he could easily be like a motivational speaker or something. The dark side can be good for making art but if you're dark all the time it's going to end up sounding old very quickly and it will fuck with your head eventually. The best part about this record is that it's turned out to be the kind of album that I'm completely confident with playing from start to finish, for the first time."
For that reason, Reece says …'Trail Of Dead are having the time of their lives during their current European tour, which is precisely where the band's biggest audience is, apparently. As Reece confesses, it's in their native America where most people still haven't really caught on…
"The U.S. is just a vast, massive place, that's what I put it down to. There is a lot going on in America in terms of music, so the best way to go about it is to take it on in pieces, little by little. We've got a great fan-base in places on the East Coast, New York, Boston, Philly, even up to Toronto and Canada. The south is a little harder - I don't think Wallmart exactly supports independent artists and that's just where most Americans get their music from, that and the internet. It's a sad state of affairs in one way, at the same time I wouldn't say that it's hopeless either. We're just one of those bands that are bigger everywhere else but at home! On the opposite side of the scale, we'll go and tour the U.K. and we'll sell out shows in London with like almost 4000 people."
On the eve of the band's Australian tour, Reece also reveals that …'Trail Of Dead have already started work on their next album, barely six months following the release of Tao Of The Dead.
"We're not really there yet, but we've started writing the new album," Reece enthuses. "With this record we definitely had a rush of ideas that happened very quickly but it still took time as far as putting the album together and the logistic side of things. Being on tour at the moment probably won't help with the new one but it's not like we're aiming to have two albums out per year anyway. Don't get me wrong though, they're never easy to make for us, never. If anything, I think they're getting harder to make because every time you're trying to do something a little bit more challenging. I feel like if it ever becomes easy for us then we're doing something wrong. That should be the ultimate barometer for bands, they should ask themselves that question every time they make a record."