...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead is a new band. Sort of. The Austin prog-punks apprenticed on legendarily freaky Central Texas label Trance Syndicate (Pain Teens, Ed Hall, Crust) after founders Conrad Keely and Jason Reece to the Texas capital from Olympia, Wash., in 1994, then went overground with 2002's Interscope debut Source Tags and Codes, which was met with almost universal acclaim by a blogosphere that was still in its infancy. Unfortunately, not long after, Interscope - like the rest of the record biz - underwent regime change, leaving uneven (but hardly unworthy) follow-ups Worlds Apart (2005) and So Divided (2006) high and dry.
Now an honest-to-God indie band again, ...Trail of Dead has just released A Century of Self, which reconciles the group's classical aspirations and seismic hardcore eruptions better than either Worlds or Divided. And they're doing it on their own terms: Last year the band struck a deal with Houston-based Justice Records to start its own imprint, Richter Scale Records, which, drummer and occasional frontman/guitarist Reece told Rocks Off last week, the band hopes to eventually turn into a Trance-like haven for misfit groups like his own.
Rocks Off: Because Source Tags did so well, did you guys ever feel that it eventually turned into an albatross?
Jason Reece: I guess in one way it has - for America. But in Europe, no, not really. In Europe, when we released Worlds Apart it broadened our fanbase even more. Mainland Europe embraced that album where America just shunned it. We got stuck in that transitional period where you hope the next time you release a record it'll be better. It feels like we're getting a better reaction to this record for sure.
RO: Reading over some of the press clippings, a lot of people have said Self is a throwback to Source Tags. Is that simplistic, or would you agree?
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JR: I think maybe they just think we're more guitar-driven on this record. I don't know - we weren't trying to rehash anything. We were definitely trying to look forward. We had some historical moments we wanted to revisit, but not rehash. More like use as a template. If [it] brings back people who liked our older records, then that's fine. I hope it brings in new listeners, too. We're still very obscure.
RO: I think the general impression when it comes to you guys is the more classically-oriented stuff comes from Conrad, and the more straight-up rock and roll/Led Zeppelin type stuff comes from you. Is that accurate?
JR: I know that on this album, "Halcyon Days" is like a movement in six parts - it starts out in one place, goes to another place and comes back again. That's definitely a Conrad song. I think he was definitely influenced by Genesis on that one. I guess I'm not as complex in my approach to writing. It's more like get to the guts, you know?
With Midnight Masses and Funeral Party, 9 p.m. tonight at Walter's on Washington, 4215 Washington, 713-862-2513 or www.4215washington.com.