You know a band is serious when the biography that accompanies its new album is titled "Death of the Enlightened Amateur: A Brief Summary of Key Developments in Western Music" and features the following passage:
"Western Music has had as its motivating force the idea of progress and development which appears to have run concurrently to great cumulative leaps in technological development."
But given that said bio comes attached to Worlds Apart, the new album from Austin, Texas' ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, it's really not all that surprising. For the better part of a decade, they've been making grandiose, challenging and slightly pretentious music with little to no fanfare. That all changed when they joined Interscope and released 2002's Source Tags & Codes, an album that didn't exactly set the charts on fire. Now with Worlds, they're taking aim at their competitors — and gunning for world domination.
"When I was writing the album and I was stuck for inspiration, I would turn on 101X [Austin's alternative rock radio station] and listen to how bad the music was," said frontman Conrad Keely, who, incidentally, also penned the aforementioned bio. "It was really inspiring to listen to Staind or Puddle of Mudd and AFI. They gave me an idea of how I didn't want this album to sound."
"You need stuff like that to fuel the fire, to know that there's mediocrity out there and that it's your choice to rise above that," added drummer/singer Jason Reece. "You have the chance to make something substantial and do something really great, and that's what we're trying to do. We're setting ourselves apart with this album because it doesn't sound like any of our peers."
There's only one thing holding them back: Their album doesn't hit shelves until January 25. Interscope decided to hold it until the new financial quarter to protect it from the bevy of late-year releases by big-name stars (Eminem's Encore, Destiny's Child’s Destiny Fulfilled, et al) and give it the push the label feels the record deserves. And though the waiting is tough, ... Trail of Dead know that with the added promotional muscle, Worlds Apart could become next year's Good News for People Who Love Bad News, the Modest Mouse album that Epic held until early this year that has since gone platinum.
"Waiting sucks," Reece said. "It would be nice to have the album out now, but I don't think it's ready. We need to make a video for MTV, and we want to make a great video."
Keely is not so certain that Worlds is destined for success. And you can't really blame him. After all, most records that open with a soaring string arrangement and a full choir chanting the names of Egyptian Gods ("Isis! Horus! Ra!") aren't exactly chart-burners. But he'd like to think people will be willing to give the album a listen.
"I don't think we make music that we want people to dislike, and I certainly don't want to make music for one small minority of people," Keely said. "I have constant anxiety that the record won't sell. We hope we appeal to not just people of this generation, but people of future generations. We're trying to do something that's timeless and timely. Something that's culturally significant. To have it overlooked would be, for me, a nightmare."
The fact that ... Trail of Dead have such lofty ambitions isn't the only thing that separates them from most of their rock brethren. They're also more willing to talk smack about other bands and the music industry than probably any major-label act out there (see "Trail Of Dead Smash Guitars, Conformity, Emo Bands"). It's a trait that has pretty much left them as loners. And they couldn't care less. They've got rock and roll to save.
"What excites me about music today? That there's a lot of room for improvement," Keely laughed. "Rock is so whiny and so full of complaints. And I blame Nirvana for that. All this whining about 'my life' and 'how miserable I am.' And it's so conceited and selfish. Especially since it's a bunch of white, privileged guys who are singing this sh--. What do they have to complain about?
"I just don't see why rock has to be stupid. Rock is our cultural idiom — it's the framework in which we work," he continued. "And it can be anything we want it to be. It doesn't have to be some backward-looking, Neanderthal, monosyllabic stuff."
Track list for ... And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead's Worlds Apart, according to Interscope:
- "Will You Smile Again for Me"
- "Worlds Apart"
- "Summer 91"
- "And the Rest Will Follow"
- "Classic Art Showcase"
- "Let It Dive"
- "Russia My Homeland"
- "All White"
- "The Best"
- "City of Refuge"