And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead

I recently spoke with Jason Reece, guitarist/co-vocalist of And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead about their new album, So Divided.

He fell off for a while, but I think that Weird Al is back. He’s going to reclaim his throne as the guy who makes parodies of popular music.

How’s the tour with the Blood Brothers been going?

Yeah, we’ve been touring with The Blood Brothers, and it’s been going well. It was a great idea to tour with them.

You’ve got a new record coming out. When you first announced it, you kind of got the impression that you were bummed about the response to the last one.

Well I mean, it was kind of like, well you have all these expectations of like how much the album will matter to the American public. Do the kids even give a shit? And I guess, we really believed in that record. We really felt that it was a great piece of work, and we put a lot of energy and heart and honesty into that record and, in America it just kind of fell flat. But in Europe it actually seems to have broadened horizons for us, we’ve managed to go to some different places because of Worlds Apart.

You have a lot of different stuff on this one, in terms of the sound. How would you describe this in relation to your old stuff?

The new one is definitely more keyboard and piano-driven, there’s more and the guitars are part of the sound. It’s a very "grand" sounding album; very epic. Like with the majority of our records, we always try to take people on a little journey, instead of saying: " here’s a bunch of our songs,. Here just listen to these songs and they somehow kind of fit."

We’ve never been that way, we’ve always wanted each song to have a purpose within the album, why they’re placed in a certain order and why we have everything connected, all the music is connected somehow either through segue ways, or just abrupt endings and quick beginnings. I guess for us the new record is just more of a venturing into a grander territory.

Some people find it annoying that we’re changing with every album. Some find it interesting. I never wanted to be in a band that had the same approach to every album. We’ve tried to experiment with a lot of different sounds and ideas.

You’ve got a lot of guests on this one,.

Yes, there’s quite a few people on the record. That came into the picture through mutual friends or just kept happening and them being in town at the time, in Austin. Like Amanda Palmer from The Dresden Dolls was in town because she had to do some press for SXSW, that’s the festival they have down in Austin.

She was in town for a day and we were like "Why don’t you come over to our studio and play on a song or two". She ended up playing piano and adding lot of noise on a track called "Light." She sang some back ups and vocals on some other songs too. We really tried to incorporate different voices on the record too.

It’s surprising to hear you say that you went for more of a grand sound, just because you have a reputation for being a very explosive live band.

(laughs) The funny thing is, is that we’re always fighting with the more ambitious elements to our music and the more visceral side too. Either we’re fighting or trying to connect them together somehow. It’s not easy because live we’re definitely more of a brutal, brutal assault to the ears. (laughs)

A lot of energy that’s involved, a lot of energy is exchanged, but we also don’t want to be like "oh that’s the band that jumps around and destroys all their equipment." I’m tired of all that crap, it’s not very honest. When we’re playing in front of people, it’s not very honest for us to fall into that whole mode or approach to music. It becomes kind of pretentious and kind of tiresome. I think when I go to watch a band, I don’t want them to do the same thing over and over again. It’s always good to be a little bit of change. I’ve seen a lot of groups progress and do different things in the span of their musical endeavours.

Now people always say that you and Conrad are the creative core of the band. Do you write together, or you both show up with completed songs?

We do write together from time to time. Sometimes it will be complete work that is already to go, but that’s never been a strict regimen of how we make music. It’s always been "Well maybe this will work." Maybe us sitting in a room playing riffs over and over again will find the next thing to make it a song, the next motes or progressions make it a song." Or it could be one of those things where everybody’s verbalized certain ideas of what they would want to hear. We don’t try to attain that and find those beautiful chords or noises or sounds or chants or just creepiness or whatever (laughs).

Do you ever feel at all restricted by the way that people look at Source Tags. Just because like so many people have given it incredible reviews, and it’s been kind of dogging you?

Well, I don’t know really, I know Madonna is a really good album to some people, and we play those songs to this day, they still love that music. I just think that with us the answer is that every album from us will always be different. It will always change. We’re not going to stay the same; we will always change every album. One approach might be completely different than the next record. Who knows, maybe we’ll come out with a polka record. Parody of hip hop like Chamillionaire. Have you heard the new Weird Al Yankovic album?

No I got a copy in the mail, its kind of sitting here. I haven’t checked it out yet.

(laughs) It’s pretty brilliant.

Its all the stuff that was hip like, a year ago. Whatever was the hottest track a year ago. Franz Ferdinand or something, its just so weird. The Killers and all these stupid bands, you know, or whatever’s popular. "White and Nerdy" is definitely the highlight of this album.

I’m going to sit down and listen to it, I just .. It’s just not something you put as a priority, y’know?

He fell off for a while, but I think that Weird Al is back. He’s going to reclaim his throne as the guy who makes parodies of popular music.

That’s going to be the pull quote. Your endorsement of Weird Al. (laughs)

(laughs) Cool.

Now, I’m curious about how the tour’s been, because the line up is really - it sounds like its really going to be pummeling. Like I’m going to see you on Sunday, but between you and the Blood Brothers, it sounds like it’s going to be quite intense.

That is what touring is all about, you’re kind of like having a party for the record, or for the music you have made.

I would say yes and no. The opening band Brothers and Sisters are an alt-country band and then Celebration is this cool abstract dancey sort of Bjork-esque music. The woman who sings has a really cool voice. Then you have the Blood Brothers which will be very pummeling, but we’ve been like - I think their pummeling energy is a little different. We have these moments where there will be energetic and more where we’re peaking. I kind of feel like we don’t necessarily play - we try and go up and down. Its like a journey basically, that’s what it comes down to. And we always try to take you to a climactic end.

We do that on purpose because we know that most things - either it fizzles, or it just kind of fades off into the distance, or it can blow up in your face. I think we try to incorporate the blowing up in your place part a lot. As far as taking you to that high point, and letting you drop thousands and thousands of feet onto the planet earth.

I want to take you higher man.

(laughs) Ok, you originally planned this to be an EP and then it turned into a full length?

It was weird because we were like "Okay, we have a few songs that we could use for an EP" We didn’t really do them yet, we were like "maybe we could do an EP so that people know that we’re not completely dormant. But that EP became kind of that way of putting a fire under our asses that we actually started getting creative and becoming more and more active that we thought.

We were like "Oh, this is not an EP, this is sounding like a record. It sounds like this could be a complete body of work. We were like "screw the EP idea, why would we want to waste all of our energy on a few songs that people will probably consider B-sides or whatever. So we just decided that we were actually making a record. We weren’t making an EP. The more the music was being made, the more people were coming up with ideas, it was just a torrent of ideas. Which is good because it means that we will make more records.

I’ve heard - I’ve read some stupid shit where kids are like, they’re on the internet and they’re like talking about how this will be our last record, its just ridiculous.

What else do you have in the works for the coming year after the tour wraps up and the record is out? What are you going to be doing?

Oh well, plans of world domination of course. But of course! Isn’t that what every band wants to do? I think our plan is to try to spread the word. For us we’ve done this a lot in our lives, but it’s always about the creative process, letting it go, and then celebrating it every night - celebrating the work. And that is what touring is all about, you’re kind of like having a party for the record, or for the music you have made.