EQ Interview Extras: …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
By Jack Britton
The March 2011 issue of EQ magazine profiles …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead’s Tao of the Dead. Here, read interview outtakes with the band and crew.
Leader Conrad Keely on the main sessions: “We had ten days of basics that went really fast because we had the roadmap of what we wanted to do. We usually would do more than one song a day, so with the extra days at the end, we would come back and do vocal ideas or guitar ideas that were specific to that studio.
“Also, we allowed some of the spontaneous ideas to be left on the record. In fact there were so many ideas I liked from the demo that there are a number of times I asked to float audio straight from the demo because we weren’t able to replicate it, or I didn’t feel like I wanted to replicate it—I wanted the sound we made on the demo.
“One example of that would be the end of Part I, [‘The Fairlight Pendant’]: that section was an improv we did during the demos, however when we tried to replicate it in the studio, we were never able to match it. So we just used the audio from the demo that we had and overdubbed onto that.”
Keely on leaving past recording experiences behind: “I was really fed up with how our old recording sessions had gone. They were always so painful and logistically they were a nightmare. I had this idea that albums were supposed to be painful and difficult, but I threw that out this time. I wanted to try a whole different approach, where everything was done with fun in mind. So any time we did have a difficulty, we moved right along; we didn’t allow ourselves to get bogged down with some problem; we would push past it.”
Band co-leader Jason Reece: “We used to run our own studio with [former TOD producer/engineer] Mike McCarthy so when we worked with him we could sit there for days and weeks working on one track. There was no time or money frame and that’s why it sometimes took us nine months to make a record, which is ridiculous. Working with the roadmap on this album made us hone in and focus.
“When we ran into [engineers] Chris Coady and Frenchie Smith it was like this breath of fresh air, a changing of the guard—they had different attitudes toward the band. These guys were excited about what we were doing!
Engineer Frenchie Smith on working with TOD again ten years after their debut album: “I think it was nice for both parties to revisit the relationship with all the different experiences we’ve had away from each other. When I see them, I see they’re still a huge part of my identity, a huge part of my story, so it doesn’t feel like we went that far away from each other. It’s in my rock ’n’ roll DNA.
“Technologically, the rise of Pro Tools had happened in the interim. I learned on tape machines. Tape demanded that people perform, and with Pro Tools you can loop a section and play till you’ve chased the vibe right out of the room, and then comp it. They had definitely gone very far down the Pro Tools path, and what I connected with them on was ‘Let’s make a record as a band.’ All their fans already know they can make a layered sonic record, but I seriously questioned whether people knew they could make a kick-ass rock ’n’ roll record that you could actually hear the ingredients in and that was performance-driven. So that was part of the ethos we all agreed on for this album.”