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...Trail of Dead: Shrinking band, growing ambitions

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2011

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...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead got smaller between albums. But its ambitions are as big as always — and possibly bigger than before.

The new “Tao of the Dead” finds the Austin, Texas, group trimmed from a sextet to a quartet. But the album is a challenging, highly conceptual piece composed in two lengthy suites, each written to a particular musical tuning (D for Part I and F for Part II).

“We’ve always wanted to do these kind of large-sounding albums, albums that had a lot going on in them,” explains co-founder Jason Reece, who plays drums and guitar. “It’s probably because we’re influenced by stuff like Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and Public Enemy’s ‘Fear of a Black Planet,’ ‘Del La Soul is Dead’ or Yes’ ‘Relayer.’

“So we’re taking a lot of different sorts of backgrounds of music. We just go and get into something and try to soak it up, and then it turns into another form of expression for us. In this case, we were trying to think of a way to connect the music, and the tunings were something that could help us do that.”

But even though the musical design is advanced, Reece adds it was actually easier accomplishing it with the smaller lineup, which also includes frontman Conrad Keely, bassist Autry Fulbright II and drummer-guitarist Jamie Miller.

“It’s more of a simple energy,” Reece notes. “When you have two drummers and a piano player and all these other people in the mix, it starts to get a little convoluted. So this time, our intention was that whatever part went down, it was there for a reason and a purpose and not just because we could do it.

“We did it that (other) way where, ‘OK, we’ll put piano on every song’ ’cause we wanted the layers. But this time we were very particular about what we wanted and how we approached it. And it really comes off live, which is cool, too.”

...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, Surfer Blood and True Widow perform Wednesday, May 4, at the Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Call 313-833-9700 or visit www.majesticdetroit.com.

Web Site: www.majesticdetroit.com

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