And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead Interview by Katie Clare

On their recent stop off in Japan Trail Of Dead took time out of their busy schedule to have a chat with Louder Than War about, amongst other things, their latest album & Pussy Riot.

…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead have, for many years, epitomised the band that can’t easily be pinned down in simplistic derivatives: lyrically articulate, musically grandiose and artistically liberated. Live they are a post-punk, post-modern dynamic that offers more than just an explosion of sound. Prior to their sensational performance at Hostess Club Weekender in November, in a windowless whitewashed room comparable to a lift shaft I had the opportunity to chat with Jason Reece, Trail of Dead’s drummer and occasional frontman.

Jason: It’s like an interrogation room right?

LTW: I’ve only questions, honest, guaranteed 100% torture free! Let’s start with ‘Lost Songs’ your eight studio album which was released a couple of weeks ago. What has the initial response been like?

Jason: It seems like the critics are totally digging it, I don’t know if it helps but a whole bunch of magazines like Kerrang! gave it great reviews, so the critical side of things is positive, and our fans seem to really like it so that’s great – it’s all great.

LTW: ‘Lost Songs’ echoes your first three albums with a guitar led aesthetic rather than continuing on the path of you most recent releases. Was this a conscious decision?

Jason: We were kind of inspired by some of the music from the 90’s, the music we listened to when we were growing up, like Fugazi, Karp and Jesus Lizard, all these bands that had an energy we liked so much – it’s fun to play live music with that kind of energy. Also that was the way were writing at the time. I think it is a pretty diverse sounding record, but your right, and I can see what you mean by saying you think it’s more of a guitar based record, compared to anything in our recent past where we’ve layered things, added piano, and strings for example which made it more orchestral.

LTW: Yay guitars, so much current music is ….

Jason: …electro! Yer, well we’ve never been a trendy band because, well, I don’t think we know how to be. I notice that in indie rock, a lot of rock music, actually, whatever – there is always some pulsating Casio beat, it is so keyboard-centric.

And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead Interview by Katie Clare

LTW: So are you trying to recreate that raw stage energy and put that into a studio album then?

Jason: The energy yes, we recorded the album live so it is something we can somewhat duplicate. We try hard not to think it out or to over analyse it so much because it becomes sort of fake.

LTW: You don’t compromise your lyricism either.

Jason: We write about what we are interested in and what we can reflect on. It was a conscious decision not to write about trivial things. We wanted to write something that would come out like literature, which I guess is silly but at the same time not many other people do it. I always loved music that had lyrics that made you think ‘why did they say that?’ ‘Why did they write that?’ ‘What were they trying to conjure up?’ Those are the best lyrics and we have always tried to write lyrics that challenge a listener to go deeper.

LTW: That ethos extends to other artist’s that challenge via their music too: you have dedicated ‘Up to Infinity’ from ‘Lost Songs’ to Pussy Riot.

Jason: We wanted to point attention toward Pussy Riot and their current position; with the album being streamed via Spin it gave us that chance to bring the situation to more people’s attention. We are also covering one of their songs and releasing it as a single, all the money will go to their campaign and hopefully aid a positive outcome.* It’s kind of scary, that kind of tyranny, where a government can silence an artist. In America we have it pretty good, we get to say a lot but really you never know, you could at any time say the wrong thing about someone or something – break the status quo and you’d be off to Guantanamo Bay or whereever. Anyway we all hope for a reasonable and intelligent outcome.

And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead Interview by Katie ClareLTW: Today you are playing your 1999 album ‘Madonna’ why are you doing that rather than a mixed set and will you play the album track by track?

Jason: Well, we have not been here in Japan since 2002 or 2001 so our label felt it would be a good way to reintroduce ourselves to the audience. We have never done it before so it is an experiment, yes we are doing all our old tracks but we’ll put in a couple of new ones too. Usually we try to pick out of every album a little here and little there just to give a show rather than going ‘hay we got all these new songs – fuck you’. Anyway, yes, today is special and we are looking forward to seeing how it goes.

LTW: There will always be someone not happy which ever songs you play…
Jason: Yer, it happens. Sometimes I feel like I just listen to old music, but it’s hard to think of new things at times …

LTW: It’s the way we listen to music today we are not handling those sleeves anymore.

Jason: Yer, sure, taking the vinyl out of the sleeve, that’s interesting. Still, there is a lot out there that I am into. I like Ringo Deathstarr [Read Katie’s interview with them here] – I’m on their new album, I sing chorus on ‘Shadow’. I am into a band called Death Grips which is this crazy fucked up hip hop industrial noise – it’s like if Blade Runner was hip-hop.

LTW: With the new album out and doing well, what is next for Trail of Dead?

Jason: Pretty much we will step off the plane and do Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, Texas. It’s a lot of touring bands; well really there is everything there: new and old stuff musically plus comedians; 30,000 people so it’s not so big, it’s really good, then other dates till the end of the year and we’ll be in the UK next year.

*Trail of Dead together with The Coathangers got together under the name Thee Deadcoats, to cover Pussy Riot’s “Putin Lights Up the Fires”. You can purchase the single with a minimum $1 donation via Bandcamp. Proceeds will benefit Pussy Riot’s legal defence team and the American Red Cross’ Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund.
‘Lost Songs’ (Richter Scale/Superball Music) is available now on CD, MP3 and Special Edition CD and Vinyl formats at all the usual retailers. The band will play the NME Awards Show 2013 at the O2 Brixton Academy on 22nd February along with The Cribs and Deap Vally. Tickets are available now. Keep up with Trail of Dead via Facebook and Twitter.

And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead are to play a handful of UK shows in February. They will return to England to play in Leeds, Southampton, Cambridge as well as a support slot for The Cribs’ NME Awards show at London’s Brixton Academy.

19th February – The Cockpit, Leeds
20th February – The Cellar, Southampton
21st February – Portland Arms – Cambridge
22nd February – Brixton Academy, London w/ The Cribs

Special thanks to Hostess Club Weekend for all their assistance. Louder Than War are looking forward to February 3rd – 4th 2013 when Hostess Club Weekender returns to Zepp’s Diver City, with Vampire Weekend, Palma Violets, Band of Horses and a whole roster of great live acts for further information including a link for tickets hit up the Hostess Club website.

All words by Katie Clare. More of Katie’s writing on Louder Than War can be found at her author archive here.

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