Origin - Kevin Allen, Neil Busch, Conrad Keely and Jason Reece grew up in the small Christian community of Planoe, Texas (not to be confused with Plano, the suburb of Dallas) - a place more known for cattle ranches and it's single corner grocer than for it's music.
The four boys grew up in close proximity; Conrad, Neil and Jason attended the same Sunday school at the Planoe Anabaptist Ministry (Kevin's parents were Presbyterian). The four shared an interest in the sciences and literature, but also shared a love of singing. In Junior High they joined the church choir where they competed internationally in vocal ensemble competitions (Planoe Methodist Choir won the National Boys Choir Award in 1983).
During college the four lost touch briefly, then reunited in Austin, Texas, where Neil was attending UT. There they rekindled their old love of singing, and performed for a while as a four piece vocal ensemble for church revivals. During a recording session for the Austin All-Male Ensemble they were introduced to Mike McCarthy, who would later wean them into recording artists. For the present, McCarthy infused the four with his interest in audio recording, fascinating them with the idea that the technology for sound recording predated the steam engine, and had actually existed for several thousand years.
It was also during this time that the four took an interest in the budding field of Maya, a field that was progressing with leaps and bounds at the University of Texas. Another research project they had started in high school and continued through college had also become an obsession - thinking along the precepts of Greil Marcus, Guy Debord, and Anton Levay, they had begun to search for a unifying link which would tie patterns in popular and ancient cultures with a singular repeating theme. In other words, to anthropology what the Theory of Grand Unification would be to physics. Studies in both fields lead them to the "...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead," a glyph discovered to be present in distantly related ancient cultures that was currently being investigated at the Mayan department at UT.
The four agreed to try an experiment. With their limited knowledge of the arts and music, they would attempt to create an entity which would express, in some ways, the theory of anthropological unity: in other words find a singular expression for the various aspects of science and humanities in a form that would reflect the pattern that is present throughout the history of man's ability to create art form, literature and music. If it worked, the multiple aspects would function together, giving abstract credence to the theory. If it failed, the separate functions would negate each other, and the experiment would cease to exist. They would call the experiment "...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead," after the glyph that was currently challenging the archeological and anthropological community.
Meanwhile McCarthy, who had become a constant presence in their lives, had coaxed the four into a studio at the Hamstien offices in the Austin Hill Country which he was using as a laboratory for his own experiments in sound manipulation, continuing the unfinished investigations into the field started by the likes of Wilhelm Reich, Michael Oldfield, and even the unpublished speculations of Thomas Edison. Originally planning to record the group performing two versions of the popular hymns "Lord of All Hopefulness" and "Bell of Creation," they decided instead to put their recent hypothesis into practice. The four's explorations into music anthropology had lead them to experiment with idioms in rock music and it's commonalties with primitive folk music, especially that originating in Papua New Guinea, Hindu Kush, and Polynesia. Converting the tonal and rhythmic variants of the hymn "Lord of All Hopefulness" along a random logarithmic arc, they made the first recording of the Ã¢â‚¬Å"...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of DeadÃ¢â‚¬? experiment - "Richter Scale Madness."
Over the past several years the four boys, under the name "...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead" have toured continuously throughout the US and Europe, also finding time to record three albums. Their first, comparably rawer eponymous LP (Trance Records) saw the four expanding upon the conversion of ecclesiastic hymnal into secular rock disaster theory. Their second foray into sound manipulations, "Madonna" (Merge Records) dealt heavily with the themes of iconoclastic worship, the creation and subsequent defamation of popular idols in the post-industrial age, and the premature development of cynicism among modern children due to the pressures of our hastening information age. ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead's latest album, to be released on Interscope, reflects upon the loss of agrarian innocence in a world preoccupied with numbers and record-keeping, attempting to give us a glimpse into a future that could be either scintillatingly utopic or unlivably desolate.
...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead is currently continuing its research into it's theory of Anthropological Unification, which they intend to publish in full in the near future.
Interview by tosnob
...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead are set to release their new sutdio album, Century Of Self, on February 17th.
Recently I had the opportunity to do a Q&A with the band's drummer Jason Reece about the new album and upcoming tour.
Here it is: T.O. Snob: You have your new album coming out on February 17th. What can fans expect from the new record? Jason Reece: A gracefully bombastic head trip in to the history of our many journeys. This is a historical account of our tumultuous lives in this beautifully fucked world.
T.O. Snob: Last year you had a nasty split with your then record label Interscope. How does it feel to be releasing this album without the support of a major label? JR: It's a challenge... but the payoff is worth it. We will receive more for our hard efforts. More love and more care... because it is up to us to look in that mirror at tell ourselves that we matter .
T.O. Snob: Do any of the songs reflect the conflict you had with the label? JR: Nah... we have moved on and worked on themes that we thought would fit in to a cohesive musical statement. We don't need to be petty... it's a relationship that's over.
T.O. Snob: The band released the Festival Thyme EP last fall. Why did you feel the need to put out an EP? Were those songs recorded at the same time as the album? JR: It's like a progress report. It was a way to show the people that care that we were working on something that we're proud about.
T.O. Snob: Your tour is pulling into Lee's Palace in Toronto on March 4th (date here). Do you enjoy touring or do you view it as a necessary evil? JR: Touring can be full of adventure or grueling. It's what we do... you have the bad days and the good...
T.O. Snob: Do you get to really experience a town when you come in on tour or are you too busy to soak it in? JR: Yeah... we manage to get out and feel the city or town... sometimes you find some real cool sights...
T.O. Snob: If you could tour with any artist in the world who would it be? JR: Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem. Those muppets rock dude.
T.O. Snob: I think the band still has one of the greatest names ever (challenged possibly only by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin). Who came up with the name? JR: Jesus Christ the King of Kings Lord of Lords The Almighty one.
T.O. Snob: What is your guiltiest musical pleasure? JR: Playing the skin flute.
T.O. Snob: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to say to your fans in Toronto? JR: Give us your love bitches.
T.O. Snob: Thanks again for taking the time to speak with us. All the best on the new record and have a great show on March 4th!