FFF Fest Interviews: Trail of Dead

After …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead’s rowdy set at Funx3 Fest this weekend, ATH had the opportunity to speak with band members Conrad Keely, Jason Reece & Kevin Allen. The Austin-based guys tell us why two drummers are really necessary, what we can expect from their new LP, and how music in Austin has changed over the years. Follow the jump for the full interview.

ATH: What are some of the keys to success for a band that has been around for over 10 years?
Conrad: One of the big keys is that you have to actually like to travel and tour.  It’s really hard for people who don’t like it to keep with the stamina and endurance of it all.
Jason: You’ve got to be somewhat resilient.  There’s all these different trials and tribulations you deal with being out and you’ve got to be sure to take your multi-vitamins…
Conrad: On an artistic level, you have to keep challenging yourself with ideas that you’ve never done before.  After a little bit of success, it’s easy to stagnate so you’ve always got to be up for a new challenge.  Take whatever you’ve been doing and push it as far as it can go.

ATH: You guys use two drummers on a regular basis live and in the studio.  Why do some songs need that extra drummer?
JR: Sometimes it makes the song more powerful live and provides a better visual element.
CK: There’s an orchestral element to is as well because the difference between a beat and percussion is pretty vast.  While one someone is playing a beat and the other is adding percussion instruments, it’s not like they are both playing beats but rather you’re adding different layers.  When I was writing songs that I specifically wanted two drummers on, I’d been watching that movie Drumline.  For as cheesy as that movie is story wise, it was an awesome sonic soundtrack and I love that sound.

ATH: The release of your new album seems to keep being pushed back and pushed back.  Why the long wait and do you have a more solid release date for us at this point?
CK: We’re pushing for February and it was delayed because we switched producers halfway through recording.  We went from using the producer from our very first album Chris Smith and then we moved to Chris Cody in New York who has done the last few Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV on the Radio records.

ATH: What can we expect on the upcoming LP?
CK: A lot of storytelling and narratives.  A lot of white noise actually.  I really got into the percussion for this record as well.  I’m not talking about the double drum thing, but more like the shakers and the vibraslaps.  We also got a bunch of friends to sing back up on this record including the guy from Yeasayer(Chris Keating) and the guy from another Brooklyn band called Dragons of Zynth.

ATH: You had some critical backlash with some of your recent material.  Want to give the critics a piece of your mind?
CK: If you’re talking about the most recent record we put out, So Divided, it wasn’t really meant to please anybody.  I think at the time when we made it, we were trying to put out an EP and not an LP.  It was really just more an experiment with genres and pastiches.  I still don’t even consider it an LP, it’s more a long EP to me.  There was no theme behind it and there was no unity of concepts.  This record goes back to our old vision of coming out with book ended type of dramatic records.  I know that fans of our old records will like the new record for that reason.  As we continue to write these epic rock songs, I think people will look at the last record as standing on its own.  We will probably never make another record like that because there was a time and a place for it, but it still has its place in our repitroire.

ATH: What is the music scene like in Austin nowadays?  How has it changed from when you started in the 90s to now?
CK: I haven’t been around town… What would you say Kevin?
KA: It’s a lot bigger.  In the 90s you had trance and all these small indie labels and the music community seemed like it was a little bit tighter.  Now it’s just a lot more people and ACL and SXSW have just gotten really big.
CK: Austin has almost become an international institution.  Back in the 90s, it was a lot more regional so it had more of a community feel.  I moved away a couple of years ago so I’m not able to keep up with what’s going on locally as much.  It seems to me like there has been great success for local bands.  Voxtrot have done great, Okkervil River, Explosions in the Sky, The Sword, Octopus Project and a bunch of other bands.  Back in the 90s, I don’t think Austin had near as many bands that were international.  Like The Sword just went on tour with Metallica and back in the day that would’ve just been unthinkable to us.

ATH: Okay so a quick rapid fire round about a few things in Austin.  Don’t think, just fire fast:
ATH: Old school Emos v. new school Mohawk?
CK: I’d have to say Emo’s because I haven’t experienced the new Mohawk.
KA: Old school Emo’s.  Mohawk seems like it’s more of just a cooler place to hang out.  It’s kind of what Emo’s used to be.

ATH: Austin band?
CK: Explosions in the Sky

ATH: Fun Fest v. ACL?
CK: Fun Fest because I’ve never even been to an ACL.  I hear it’s hot and dusty.

ATH: Best Record Store in town?
KA: End of an Ear
CK: We just played End of an Ear so I’m going with that as well.

ATH: Best tunes/jukebox at a bar?
CK: Casino el Camino.  Best jukebox, best burgers and best fries.

ATH: Best band in town no one knows about yet?
CK: The Black

ATH: What Austin band would you want to be in if you weren’t in Trail of Dead?
CK: Willie Nelson’s band
KA: I don’t think I would be in a band.

ATH: We recently ran a feature about the worst trends in music/music industry.  What are some things you would do away with?
CK: I would like for the music industry to be less single oriented and more album oriented.  I don’t think that has as much to do with the music industry as much as it has to do with the bands.  I think band’s would need to start thinking on those terms for that to change.  The music industry will only do what the musicians and artists want to do.  I still love the 70s for that reason because bands were really making albums.  When artists start making real albums for their fans, then people will buy the album.  Like the new Fleet Foxes or Yeasayer records, you can’t just buy one song off those albums.  More artists need to make records like that.

Many thanks again to Conrad, Jason and Kevin of Trail of Dead.  We can’t wait to hear what the new album sounds like.

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