Violent rock, lush reverberations and unworldly rumbles are
some sounds I associate with ...And You Will Know Us By
The Trail Of Dead. The Austin-based band has been creating
masterful musical moments for a few years, but is finally
gaining much required respect in the US with their 3rd full
length album, Source Tags & Codes, their first
on Interscope Records, is a masterpiece consisting
of intoxicating melodies and apocalyptic rock, usually at
the same time.
I was lucky enough to witness two nights of mayhem at Emo’s
in Austin, Texas; Trail of Dead played two sold out shows
featuring many local favorites divided conveniently into a
mellow night and a rock night. The first evening was something
special, as the Tosca string quartet backed up the
band in a carefully constructed set-list comprised mainly
of the new album plus couple of songs from their upcoming
EP, tentatively titled, The Secret of Elena’s Tomb.
Pure aggression could have been the theme for the 2nd night
as they plowed through old classics and current favorites.
And they played Half Of What. I spoke with Conrad Keely;
singer, guitarist and drummer; a couple of days before the
double bill in Austin.
HYBRID: Firstly, congratulations on the success of
Source Tags & Codes, it is a great album and deserves
all the good reviews. Any work on a 4th album yet?
CONRAD KEELY: Not physical work, but the sort of
preliminary psychological work that goes into deciding the
feel and concept of.. a future work. I'm trying to flush out
this past year’s experiences and influences, and I'm seeing
how I'm going to channel them into my composition. We've been
exposed to a lot of things this year, both positive and negative,
and all those things inevitably find their way into our music.
How was the tour with the Queens Of The Stone Age, any
exciting incidents that spring to mind immediately?
Like Jason (Reece)'s fight with Mark Lanegan?
No, that was all fun and games. For me the tour was really
a test of stamina. I'd never been on tour for eight months
straight before, and it was ... horrendous? No, but it did
make me appreciate Austin in a way I will never forget, and
coming back here during the tour was probably my favorite
night. The Queens guys themselves were all very easy to get
along with, and more than supportive. I think they understood
our difficulties. We're different, I think, though, as bands.
They are somewhat traditional in their rock, and we're slightly
more ... obtuse.
Do you mind going into that incident you just mentioned?
Oh, Lanegan. Well, Jason went onto the Queens bus and stole
their porno, and Mark chased him off again.
I want to ask a quick question about THAT show at SXSW
at the Red Eyed Fly a couple of years ago. Rumor has it that
your instruments were at the bottom of the creek before the
end of the night, what went on there?
I think we had some sort of beef with the club... oh yes,
that was it, we played a show there, and they dared to charge
us all this money for broken mikes. Which were not broken.
So when we heard that our booking agent had booked his SXSW
showcase there, we planned, before hand, that we would demolish
the place. Actually, we didn't do half what we wanted. I was
seriously ready to take the drums and smash them against the
bar. I wanted to burn the place down. I don't take well to
being shorted, and I only wish I could have skewered the owner
with my cymbal stand that night.
I think I was elsewhere that SXSW night, how many songs
did you manage to finish before the demolition?
Oh, we did four songs. THAT was an accident, we really did
plan to play more, but when our bass drum broke, no one would
lend us another one because of our reputation. So FUCK THEM.
You have had relatively a much bigger fan base in the
UK than the USA (at least until recently), how has the UK
experience been in general?
Well, I grew up for a time in England, and I have a lot
of family there, so for me it was definitely like going back
home. I got to see cousins I'd not seen in fourteen years,
and some I'd never seen, and aunts and uncles would come to
Where in England?
I grew up in a small town called Bedworth, just outside
of where I was born, Nuneaton. They're both near Coventry,
Birmingham, where the specials and all the Ska stuff happened
in the eighties.
I bet the cousins loved you.
Yes, the family in general found it quite novel. Well,
I was always pretty peculiar to them, my mother was the adventurer
of the family. And I was the only child raised abroad, so
they kind of looked upon me as somewhat special. Especially
bratty, that is.
Go to any soccer matches?
I didn't attend any soccer matches, but we've been invited
to by Nottingham Forest, because somehow they found out that
I wear a forest shirt.
You do? I will bring you a Texas chapter for Liverpool
Football Club supporters shirt at the next show, will you
If it's medium. I can't wear big things, like Mogwai
Did you go to the University of Texas here in Austin?
No, I worked there for four years though in the education
building, Special Ed. department. That was where I found all
the time to design our website and album covers! I guess it
was more like three years, but that was the longest job I
ever held down.
Sorry to bring politics in, but what are you views on
the current “war”?
We're at war? No (laughs). Well, I decided I wasn't going
to bother having a view, because it's already set into motion,
and there really is no stopping it now. I mean, obviously
war is atrocious, but I think in our life time we've been
fairly lucky, we haven't had any big ones, and in some ways
I wonder if we've been too lucky. I am still curious to travel
over in that area; to me war always means that that country
must be very fascinating. At one time my dream was to be
a war correspondent photographer.
I have done my research, but for our readers, why “And
You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead”
Oh, can't talk about that, sorry. Next question please.
How did you guys get together? First shows?
Jason and I met in Hawaii, where the sun is green and the
woman carry knives. My first show ever, really, was the
Melvins with Nirvana and Beat Happening,
1988. Nirvana sucked at the time, and the Melvins were awesome.
I was just a wee bairn, and it was in a room about the size
of... half the size of B Beerland.
What do you remember as your first show as Trail Of Dead
(as per my research, it was only you and Jason the first few
times, and it was somewhat of a mixed bag, like music, comedy,
When we first came to Austin, we couldn’t' get arrested
in this town. So basically we had to INVENT a venue from scratch.
Jason went to a coffee shop on Congress (Ave.), I think it
was called Cafe Soleil (it's gone, but it was next to the
Paramount), and asked if we could put on a live show. The
guys said yes, and so that was our first show. It just happened
to be coincidental that an Austinite musician named Paul
Streckfus and his girlfriend Lauren happened to be riding
their bikes past us, stopped in and loved it. Paul was in
the band Glorium, and they asked us to open for them.
That was how we got our start here.
On to this weekend’s two shows at Emo’s, I am so ready
for that! I read that Tosca is joining you on stage for the
1st night, what is that going to involve?
It's going to involve me staying home all day writing string
parts, is what it'll involve! Luckily, I have a couple strings
lying around, so it shoudn't be too painful. I generally
arrange on piano.
What have been some of your favorite bands that you have
been lucky enough to play with?
Explosions In The Sky is one. Obviously I always
mention Mogwai, but there you go. Um... I don't know, the
Sex Pistols were pretty great. Obviously, I judge that
by a careful balance of loving the music and liking the people.
It has to be both. And the pistols were really nice folks!
What are your (and the bands’) biggest influences?
(I thought I was asking for bands, but Steven Hall
from the Young Heart Attack answered Tequila to this,
so I am guessing it can be anything)
Yes, Tequilla. He's right. Well, I'm pretty influenced
by Bach. I just got into this violinist named Nadja
Solerno-Sonnenburg, I love her playing. I am very much
into Chopin, and as a child I was raised listening to Kate
Bush. of course, the Beatles rank high on my all-time
influences, but so does early Pete Gabriel Genesis.
It's really all in there. As producers we borrowed a lot from
Public Enemy, I think Chuck-D has always been
a role model for me. But then, so were the Sex Pistols, and
that's why I was really excited to play that show.
Quick facts with Conrad Keely:
- Last album bought: I haven't even listened to
all the ones I've been given, I’m not going to buy any.
- Favorite restaurant: My favorite Tex Mex is Maria's
Taco Express. Favorite Asian is Kim Chi Sushi, and favorite
Bar-B-Que is Sam's on the east side 12th St.
- Last movie watched (and enjoyed): We watched Quest
For Fire last night, one of my all-time favorites.
- Religious affiliation: I don't agree with religion,
I think it needs to be left behind, and I think a new awareness
of personal spirituality needs to replace it.
- Favorite sports team team: Nottingham Forest?
- Favorite file sharing software: I use Limewire.
Thanks Conrad, appreciate your time.
Adi Anand is a hybrid staff writer,
based in Austin.
Neil Schield for the header photo.
Pull quote photo by Adi Anand.
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