Conflicted. Brash. Lovely. Texas alt rockers …AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD have been consistent due to their qualities (see forthcoming disc Tao Of The Dead). In one of the first interviews for the album, singer/guitarist Conrad Keely touched on how rock has lost its fearsome quality and why their recent approach in the studio presented both a challenge and a solution.
From your perspective, which genre ruled 2010?
I don’t really believe in genres. Part of it is due to the fact I don’t listen to genres as I more or less listen to time periods. I didn’t listen to any new music that came out last year because it’s disillusioned; it’s disappointing and infuriating that it needs to be classified so people can categorize it in iTunes and for their iPod. We play rock n’ roll. To me, music is about songwriting and the craft behind it.
Do you think music has abandoned tapping into imagination?
It’s hard to say whether it has or not. It takes imagination to create. But the problem with music is people have stopped looking for inspiration even though there’s so much to draw from.
Now it seems like a few artists are drawing from their past. Foo Fighters announced they recorded a heavy album and your latest release is as energetic as ever. Is 2011 going to put the word “loud” back into rock?
It might. If it does, then cool. Safety shouldn’t be allowed to dominate music and it is right now. There’s nothing out there in this world that I’ve listened to that has shaken or frightened me. Rock has always been a part of me as I was raised on it. I remember when I was younger I’d go through albums and discover bands and doing that in itself evoked fear. Being loud can do that, but safety is dominating right now.
“Weight Of The Sun” seems born to inflict noise.
It’s funny that you say that. It’s hard to talk about that song without mentioning the part before it as they blend together. The most interesting part of Tao Of The Dead is the bit starting at “The Wasteland” leading into “The Spiral Jetty” and then that song. They can’t really be listened to separately as they compliment each other.
Can the powerful, atmospheric sound be attributed to the disc’s lyrics which discuss topics needed to be projected at a high volume?
Those topics about the state of society and the state of the music industry interest me. Lyrics have now become irrelevant to what’s taking place in the world. We try our best to address important issues and avoid writing and singing about things like relationship break-ups.
Was it a challenge to record the material in ten days?
It was the least challenging record we’ve ever made. Everything went smoothly, songs were written quickly and there wasn’t any drama. Most of all, it was a fun album to make. I’d honestly say, it’s the first record I’ve ever enjoyed creating.
Why did you choose to divide the record into two parts?
It was written that way. The second part was written as one entire song and the first part was conceived after. There’s no real reason as to why that happened; we just combined one song with others we wrote and recorded.
“We never really focused on creating material that flowed together. Then it became something we wanted to achieve.”
How will the Side A/Side B approach work with your tour with Surfer Blood?
I’m not too sure. The second part of Tao Of The Dead will have to be played in it’s entirety. Who knows about the first part. We’ll have to sit down and figure out which songs we’ll perform and which ones we’ll leave out.
The continuous flow may seem foreign to some, but it’s how most alternative albums are recorded before they’re split. You’ve done it before with “Ode To Isis/Will You Smile Again”, did you feel as if you needed to revisit that?
Before, we never really focused on creating material that flowed together. Then it became something we wanted to achieve. There was just a feeling to do it more. Our influences played a part too as there are similar albums from Pink Floyd and Genesis that use the same kind of style. Since they did it, creating an album that flows became a goal to accomplish.
Why are other artists afraid to do the same?
The less I know about artists, the less disillusioned I’ll become (laughs). Seriously, the less I know about anybody helps. One artist I’ve paid any attention to is Die Antwoord , no joke. Their music and videos were disturbing. The thing with them is their work is horrifying at first and then it delights you.
Is it vital to challenge yourself artistically or emotionally?
Artistically. Concentrating on emotions is important, and both are as art evokes emotion, but if you’re an artist, you challenge yourself creatively. If you don’t challenge yourself, then what’s the alternative?
[Find more album reviews plus news updates and videos on Twitter]