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By: Matt Stevens

I first encountered And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead in the early 2000’s. Contemporary mainstream rock was all about bands like Coldplay and Stereophonics or Nu-Metal. It was a bit of a bleak time for music. An interest in “progressive” rock music was one down from being a pornographer or model railway enthusiast.  Now an interest in interest in weird rock music seems to be OK, tolerated even. Trail Of The Dead and At The Drive-In (alongside Radiohead in the UK) gave me a bit of hope, taking the best of US Hardcore with more adventurous influences. I wanted to hear interesting chords with the energy of Husker Du and Black Flag and these bands were doing some of that.

I got a chance to talk to Jason from And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead about their new record IX.

(((o))): What were you trying to achieve with this album in comparison to your previous work?

We were trying to create a bunch of instrumental music that could be used for people’s movies. And that kind of just didn’t happen. We did write a bunch of instrumental music but we did ended up writing a bunch of songs that had a more personal lyrical bent. The last record was very aggressive and and political, more like a tribute to the earlier Trail Of The Dead.

(((o))): I can see you’ve tried some new things with the instrumentals. What would you say were your main musical influences for the this record?

The War On Drugs, their last couple of albums. This layered Krautrock kind of vibe. We were thinking of Echo And The Bunnymen, Ocean Rain. These dense and bigger sounding albums. We were kind of into some 80’s music, Psychedelic Furs. Which is funny cause we’re not really a band that’s into the new wave sound, I don’t think we’ve ever made an 80’s sounding record. That’s kind of what we were jamming out to, the early 80’s sounds. Going for more of a Peter Gabriel thing, where you don’t use any cymbals, heavy toms and stuff like that were sort of the things we were kind of touching upon.

(((o))): I could hear PIL in there.

Public Image Limited. The song ‘Rise’, it’s broad and huge.

(((o))): Do you think the concept of an album as a whole thing is important to you?

For us it’s all about the way you hear it in one setting. It’s always been our goal to make a sequence that makes sense, that’s not a hodge pitch of songs. Something that sets the mood and gives you a nice journey. We always think of albums as something that you pop in your car stereo on a long drive.

(((o))): How do you approach instrumentals in comparisons to writing songs with vocals?

We have 2 hours worth of instrumentals. Those are very drastically different to anything we’re doing at the moment, which is a little nerve racking. If we put an album out of these people will think we’re crazy. People will think we’ve lost the direction. It would seem like a very big change for a Trail Of The Dead listener. The thing we were kind of counting on was that there would be some sort of film that would take on the music or it would be a calling card for people who would like to use it in their film. If you don’t have the context it might throw people off a little bit. We still have the music so we could possibly do something with in the future.  We’re going for the beautiful grandiose with those. I was thinking of something pretty but maybe heavy like a Mastodon song.

(((o))): You guys have done some pretty impressive packaging and artwork over the years. It has this very distinct style with your art, like Dead Kennedys or Black Flag. How important is that to you?

It’s because of the Trail Of The Dead/Conrad Keely artistic visual presentation. He’s always been the band artist, we have used band artists before. He usually comes up with all the art, although there are other people who are involved. It kind of ads to the quirkiness and the weirdness of the band. We’re kind of a weird band cause we don’t fit in, we’re not presenting it in this slick way. There is always this ragtag thing to it.

(((o))): You’re with the Superball/Inside Out label in the UK, they’re known as a progressive rock/post rock label. Do you fit in with that?

I think with the label Thomas who is the owner he is very supportive of whatever we wanted to do so we never really thought about how we fitted on his label. We thought about how we got along with him, he was a very big champion of the band. Maybeshewill are a really cool band we’ve toured with and they’re on the label. Flood Of Red who signed to the label are named after a Trail Of The Dead song, so that’s pretty cool.

(((o))): You’re not a band I’d called prog, you have lots of other influences, but it seems to be in there. Do you think there is a progressive rock revival at the moment?

From our early childhood from the music we grew up with we were listening to punk rock and Led Zeppelin and Yes and Rush. There was a bunch of bands we were into that had the crazy prog thing going on. Definitely with Yes that was kind of a band were all into. Rush is a big influence. Are Rush popular in the UK?

(((o))): They’re massive for a progressive band. They play arenas here.

I also grew up with Iron Maiden if we touch on a weird fantastical prog moment, I think of Maiden. They take that prog metal and it rocks. You don’t want to get too esoteric, arty so it doesn’t rock. You can’t forget the rock n roll roll man.

(((o))): Where do you see yourselves in 5 years time?

Well we’re all very busy, we definitely all have a lot going on. Conrad has his art and he has a kid now. I have 2 kids and I have another band I’m working on that’s more metal, more heavy called Spiritual Wives. But when it comes time to do Trail of Dread we’re all pretty there for it. It’s been a constant thing for us for 20 years. I don’t know how long we’ll keep it going but right now we have a good album and we’re willing to stand by it. There is always a new song that could happen and be very special and part of our history. We’re always looking for that. Something to move us.

And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead are on tour in Europe in November. Matt Stevens is the guitarist in The Fierce And The Dead.

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