Though a bit cumbersome, … And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead is, without a doubt, one of the all-time great band names in rock history. Some say it comes from a Mayan chant, though that theory seems to have been debunked as a band prank. Whatever the origin, no one can debate it?s attention-grabbing impact.
Formed by childhood friends Jason Reece and Conrad Keely in late 1994, … And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead made a name for themselves with riotous live shows, climaxed by instrument-smashing orgies, exotic album art ? painted by Keely, no less ? and epic art-rock compositions that seemed capable of demolishing skyscrapers, or even mountains. In 1998, they released their self-titled debut on the doomed Trance Syndicate label. After Trance closed its doors, the band was scooped up by indie label stalwart, Merge, and released Madonna, a powerhouse record that compared favorably to the destructive skronk and melodic grandeur of Sonic Youth. Nobody was prepared for what was to follow.
After the band signed with Interscope, Source Tags & Codes was birthed in 2002 to boatloads of critical acclaim. A huge, raging mastodon of an album, filled with furious piano, imploding drums and loud, majestic guitars, Source Tags & Codes also had moments of quiet beauty, where Keely and company laid beds of strings and developed subtle melodies that shifted like Tectonic plates to create seismic sonic movements.
In its wake came the experimental EP Secrets Of Elen?s Tomb and the prog-rock epistle, World?s Apart ? two records that represented a shift in approach.
Disappointing commercially, World?s Apart almost destroyed the band. Bassist Neil Busch left amid growing tensions, leaving Reese and Keely ? who switch off on drums, guitars and lead vocals ? to carry on with guitarist Kevin Allen and other recruits. So Divided is the band?s latest endeavor and it?s a different animal altogether, with radiant pop numbers like ?Eight Day Hell? scattered amid the wreckage of Source Tags throwbacks such as ?Sunken Dreams,? ?Stand In Silence? and the heavy title track.
Elements of prog-rock can still be found throughout the work. To that end, current King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto, formerly of Mr. Mister, was recruited to lend Polynesian stick work to the single ?Wasted State Of Mind.? It gave Mastelotto, who also drummed on XTC?s Oranges & Lemons, a chance to broaden his horizons. ?They actually call that Cook Island drumming,? said Mastelotto. ?It gave me a chance to do some research.? Six drummers are usually used to pull it off. Through overdubbing and a Nigerian log Mastelotto acquired, he was able to simulate the sound in a session that lasted long into the evening one night. He plans to use it on future projects. ?It?s so melodic, songs just come right out of it,? Mastelotto said.
Of his … Trail Of Dead experience, Mastelotto said, ?Conrad is a real talent. I?d heard about him around town. I was quite surprised about how sharp he was, not only on music but on world politics and history. We had a good game of chess going and he beat the shit out of me. He was quite specific about his drumming needs. I think that?s because he?s a drummer too.?
Indie-rock?s renaissance man talked recently with Goldmine about the new album:
Goldmine: So Divided came together relatively quickly compared to World?s Apart, which, if I?m not mistaken, took about three years to finish. To what do we owe this surge of creativity?
Conrad Keely: Worlds Apart took nine months to finish. It just took two years to start because we were busy touring away the last remnants of our stellar youths. As far as creativity goes, I don?t like to talk about it because I?m still not quite sure what creativity is.
GM: So often, throughout the history of pop music, it seems like albums or songs that are recorded rather hastily wind up bei