Interview: …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead’s Conrad Keely Talks 11th LP

Being in an industry for over 25 years is impressive in any field, but when you see a band repeatedly outdoing themselves and reinventing themselves for that period of time, it is even more impressive than usual. The music industry is constantly shifting, and in the current period where singles rule all, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead have decided it is time to rediscover a historical format and put their focus on a quadraphonic record sound on their eleventh album, XI: BLEED HERE NOW, out now on Dine Alone Records.

“Mixing in quad actually makes mixing easier, and it doesn’t take away from the stereo mix at all, but rather improves it by somehow magically widening the stereo mix,” says vocalist Conrad Keely. “I feel like I’m giving away some secret here, but to be honest, I’d much rather that the current bands I know and love catch on and start doing it as well.”

This album is the band’s longest record and the one with the most songs to date. Experimenting with shorter songwriting but longer album structuring is a way the band found themselves catching a new creative wind. Other ways of capturing that magic and pouring fuel on to a steadfast flame was adding a sixth member, unorthodox recording environments (most of the record was done in a barn) and inventing a new sport during recording known as Frisball. XI: BLEED HERE NOW, while a little dour in the name and some of the subject matter, is an album of reconnecting with the parts of art that you love.

“One luxury of getting old (and there are very few) is being able to look back on the dark times, the low times, and identify what it was that burned you out,” Keely says. “What it was that beat you. And if you can learn from these, you can anticipate and take steps to eliminate as many negative outcomes as possible. 

“When it comes to making albums, one of the worst feelings is when it simply isn’t fun… But when it turns into a career, the fun can sometimes be sucked out of what should be a joyous process. The last album, X (The Godless Void) was like that; it was an excruciating, laborious process. So with that fresh in our minds, we made sure to do everything possible to make this album a joyous occasion, from start to finish. We were playful, joking, but at the same time deliberate and focused, and I hope that some of that managed to be conveyed in the music.”

Grandiose, gorgeous, and brimming with passionate odes to classic rock sensibilities rediscovered through sharing favorite past performance accounts of legends like Santana, Grateful Dead, and Black Sabbath, XI: BLEED HERE NOW is a stunning and poignant production. From string arrangements in multiple songs (including the Satoshi Kon-inspired “Millennium Actress”) to guest vocals from Spoon’s Britt Daniels to masterful prog rock anthems, the album has what you want and— more importantly— what you need. More than anything else, it has a focus on change, even if it feels like forever since there’s been any.

“I hope that people understand that music can be the rallying cry for the upcoming changes that we’re about to experience in the world at large… Music has to begin to reflect the urgency of us coming together as a species and making sure that the species is still here in another 50 years. If a documentary on the subject isn’t enough to wake people up, then maybe we need more music that does.” 

Watch the video for “Kill Everyone” here:

For more from …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, find them on Facebook and their official website.

Photo courtesy of Dave Creaney

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