The 10 best songs by ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead
Guitarist Conrad Keely picks the Texas quartet's ultimate playlist
Conrad Keely is halfway through preparing for a housewarming at his new house in Cambodia when we call to grill him about his favourite records from his career with ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. “I’ve got to choose the music for tonight!” he laughs. He’s been living in the Far East since 2012, but far from emigrating for a quiet life, he says he thrives off the bustling urban lifestyle.
“It’s nice and warm here in Cambodia. That’s a big consideration of mine, I’m not a big fan of winter,” he laughs. “My father is Thai, he grew up in Thailand so it’s not a huge culture shock for me. But there’s a certain freedom that you get here that in the West you kind of surrender to authority. There’s lots going on, people coming in and out all the time, so it’s a really lively place to be. It’s not like a sleepy small town. There are small towns that I get away to, like there’s one that I used when I was working on the record. It’s kind of a writer’s retreat outside of the city.”
It’s a pertinent time to reminisce over ...Trail Of Dead’s career; Conrad has just released his debut solo album, Original Machines, and says he’ll be occupied with solo work for the foreseeable future.
“With ...Trail Of Dead, we’re kind of giving it some time right now and allowing the field to lay fallow before we do anything else,” he explains. “We’ve all got different projects we’re working on, and I’m going to be working on solo stuff for the better part of this year. I’m thinking about another solo record – I have to say it’s a lot easier making a solo record than it is making a band record because I only have myself to please.”
With the future looking quiet for ...Trail Of Dead for the time being, we asked Conrad select his band's essential tracks and what they mean to him.
RICHTER SCALE MADNESS (...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, 1998)
Keely: "This is the first song that the band wrote. It was a very spontaneous composition and it’s one we still play because it’s fun to play. The spirit it captures is a kind of angry nihilism that I remember fondly."
CLAIR DE LUNE (Madonna, 1999)
"That’s one song I was very fond of writing. It’s a break-up song, it came very naturally in that time. I still like it to this day, it’s one I like to play because there’s a really dark waltz to it."
AGED DOLLS (Madonna, 1999)
"That’s one that Jason wrote, but I really loved working on that one because it has a strong symphonic feel to it and I loved his vocal delivery and the way that he sang it. The whole mood of that song, the first two lyrics are ‘drip, drip’ and the music feels like it’s dripping off a ceiling. It’s creepy."
SIGH YOUR CHILDREN (Madonna, 1999)
"This, to me, it’s a message that I really felt strongly about. It’s a song about how the children of the future will look back on the generation we’re living in and accuse us of ruining the world. That’s what that song’s about."
SOURCE TAGS AND CODES (Source Tags and Codes, 2002)
"For me this is a really strong, emotional song. At the heart of a lot of my writing is this really strong sense of sentimentality that I’ve acquired from listening to years of 70s soft rock. That song is also kind of a subject that resonated with me, the idea of outgrowing a place that you’re from, and living away, and become anonymous as opposed to being part of a small tribal unit from a place where everybody knew you."
INTELLIGENCE (The Secret Of Elena’s Tomb EP, 2003)
"This is a weird song for Trail, it was like our early foray into electronic music. It’s another one that Jason wrote, and he kind of co-wrote it with some other people he had a side project with, and it came out so electronic and so different to what we’d done before and I love that. I don’t want us to be pigeonholed, eventually we did, but it was eclectic enough that it would keep our listeners wondering what kind of band we were."
A CLASSIC ARTS SHOWCASE (Worlds Apart, 2005)
"I really enjoy the sentiment of this. At the time we were at the height of our popularity and we had a very demanding social life, and this song is basically about how I’d much rather just stay home and get stoned and watch TV and practice the violin than get caught up in everyone else’s problems. It’s something I can still relate to."
EIGHT DAY HELL (So Divided, 2006)
“It’s a whimsical song about how we had a really crappy tour in the UK opening for another band, a big band. I made it into a humorous thing about the food being bad, and the rain, but I just love the way that it doesn’t sound like a Trail of Dead song. We tried to go for a Beach Boys feel. For the same reason I’m sure a lot of our fans would hate that song, that’s the reason I like it. And it’s funny.”
STRANGE NEWS FROM ANOTHER PLANET (Tao Of The Dead, 2011)
"This was really fun to write and orchestrate. The lyrics were all basically rephrasing lines from the Tao Te Ching [a classic Chinese collection of poems by 6th century sage Lao Tzu containing advice and wisdom for readers], so that saved me a lot of trouble having to write my own lyrics. The sentences from the Ching just fit, they jumped out at me, I wasn’t even trying. A lot of that philosophy applied to that period of my life at the time as well."
AWESTRUCK (Lost Songs, 2012)
"One thing that all these songs have in common for me is that I relate to what they’re about. This one is addressed to a friend I left back home, and it’s a challenge to them risk getting out into the world sometime and seeing a part of the world they’re not familiar with, and allowing themselves to get away from what they consider their stable lives, which maybe aren’t as great as they think they are."