...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead

...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead

. . . And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead's explosive indie-prog is defined by the push and pull of Conrad Keely's epic mysticism and Jason Reece's primal punk surge. But when it came time to write their eighth studio album, Lost Songs, the two songwriters weren't even living in the same country: Reece remained in Austin, the band's longtime home base, while Keely had relocated to Phnom Penh, the vibrant capital city of Cambodia. Fittingly, the raw, guitar-driven urgency of Lost Songs was inspired by disconnect – mainly the juxtaposition of American cynicism with the cultural freedom Keely has experienced abroad.

Earlier this year, the band (which now includes drummer/guitarist Jamie Miller, along with bassist Autry Fulbright II) regrouped in Austin, where they rented a house and spent a month writing new music.

"A lot of the ideas were so fast and aggressive," Reece says. "When we started shaping them into songs, it felt like they were angry. There was this intensity, this urgency." At the recommendation of their label, the quartet relocated to Hanover, Germany, recording at a studio previously used by metal bands like Celtic Frost and the Scorpions. "Isolated from America and from friends," Reece says, the album's intense lyrical themes started taking shape.

"There was a lot on our minds at the time," he continues. "We were thinking about what was going on in the world and all the conflicts and wars going on around us. It was kind of food for thought. We just plugged into that and used it as inspiration."

Inspired by the Syrian civil war and dedicated to Russian punk-rock activists Pussy Riot, "Up to Infinity" finds both singers snarling and shouting over grimy distortion before a trippy mid-section breakdown. "Opera Obscura" swells to a proggy, percussive climax ("We were just trying to play as loud as possible," Reece says, laughing).

The album's most aggressive track, however, is Reece's show-stopper "Catatonic."

"The music was there first, and I kept thinking 'Catatonic Youth,' he says. "I just ran with the idea of 'Catatonic/ always looking for something new.' We need something new every day, something to make us feel alive. That was kind of the impetus, the fuel for the song – that, in a sense, everybody's pretty complacent in America."

Lost Songs clearly flirts with political and social commentary, but as Reece notes, "It's really more observations and reflections. We're not trying to shove any sort of gospel down someone's throat – we're just trying to question things for ourselves. As kids in the Nineties, we were into bands like Fugazi and Public Enemy – bands that were very politically wrapped up in a bunch of stuff. It seemed like there was a sense of trying to find the truth, or at least speaking out."

And even as Trail of Dead continue to expand their vision outward, Reece feels the band's internal chemistry hasn't been this rich in years. "It felt like we were really bonding and becoming a band again," he says.

An "ume" is a Japanese plum blossom that symbolizes devotion, perseverance, and hope. It is also the fitting namesake of an unrelenting Austin power-trio featuring Lauren Larson on guitar and vocals, Rachel Fuhrer on drums, and Eric Larson on bass. Their sound is that of passion, of rock emancipated from those "wimpier tendencies," wild and honest.

Lauren and Eric met at a skatepark and began making music together in high-school. Lauren was a 15 year old guitarist playing in her first punk band Twelve Blades – a politically charged hardcore band from a small Texas town. Years later Lauren and Eric formed a band named Ume (pronounced "ooo-may") with longtime friend Jeff Barrera. Navigating between Lauren's PhD pursuit and two distant states, they played a couple hundred shows, opened for bands like Arcade Fire, Polvo, Oneida, and The Fall, and began growing a fan-base that included the likes of Gang of Four's Dave Allen and Joan Jett.

2011 dawned and so did a new era for the band. Ume welcomed new powerhouse drummer Rachel Fuhrer, was named one of the top unsigned bands by Rolling Stone Magazine, and released their LP Phantoms on the Austin indie-label Modern Outsider. After logging tens of thousands of miles playing basement shows and dive bars, Ume finally found themselves on a festival stage playing next to such acts The Flaming Lips, TV on the Radio, and Wu-Tang.

The band's momentum and non-stop touring continued into 2012. The trio was hand-picked by Perry Farrell (he actually called the band's cell phone) to open for Jane's Addiction and Franz Ferdinand at their Lollapalooza After-Party at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, IL. The band also made their European debut at the massive Rock en Seine Festival in Paris, France. And Ume reached their largest audience yet as they appeared on the 2012 Season Premiere of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations – sharing their music and love of local food with Tony during his visit to Austin's SXSW Music Festival.

The rest of 2012 found the band playing Austin's Fun Fun Fun Fest, opening for The Smashing Pumpkins, completing two tours with Helmet and The Toadies, and their most important project yet. This fall, Ume began recording a new album with Grammy-winning producer Adam Kasper (Queens of the Stone Age, Cat Power, Foo Fighters, Nirvana) at Robert Lang Studios in Seattle, WA. The record was funded with the help of fans through Kickstarter. With the support of a loyal grassroots fanbase, the band reached their Kickstarter goal in less that 24 hours. Ume wrapped up recording in January 2013 at Seattle's Studio X…



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