Yet despite So Divided’s muck and mire, there was an unexpectedly upbeat and accessible Carnaby Street-styled Paisley Pop turnabout, ‘Eight Days Of Hell,’ replete with kitsch-y ‘60s multi-harmonies.
I think that would’ve been accessible in the ‘60s or ‘70s. We were basically trying to make our own little Beach Boys song. I had just gotten into Brian Wilson’s Smile record. But it’s more akin to the Hollies’ “Carrie Ann” or “On A Carousel.” It was fun. The darkness came from its serious lyrics. They’re about a horrible experience opening for Audioslave in the UK. The original lyrics were so dark and mean I was talked into toning them down. Sometimes the whole Shakespeare ‘pen is mightier than the sword’ comes into play. There’s no reason to lash out unreasonably. But it’s fun to get out.
How’d Trail Of Dead get involved with the soundtrack, Hell On Wheels, a documentary about Austin’s new-sprung roller derby scene?
We knew some of those crazy girls. We even performed at one of the roller derby matches. I even sang the national anthem. Austin started the resurrection of roller derby. There was a league that split off and there was a dramatic rivalry.
Speaking of dramatic, have you designed all the eloquent artwork for Trail Of Dead’s album covers?
I’ve done all the design. For the first record, I stole the image from National Geographic. On Worlds Apart, I had someone paint it from a collage I made. So Divided was all done digital. The Century Of Self I did all the art by hand with a ballpoint pen. It took the better part of two years and that’s the stuff I showed at an October ’08 New York exhibition.
Will you remain a transplanted New Yorker for good now?
I loved Austin. One day I’ll go back. There’s an ease to living there. It’s the good life. I was drawn to New York because I felt closer to Europe. I’m still an Irish citizen. I’m not a naturalized American so there’s a yearning to go back to Europe. New York’s supposedly for drunken parties like it’s 1999, but it’s more of a nose-to-the-grindstone-try-to-get-by-and-make-rent city. I’m inspired by everything here. ‘Halcyon Days’ is about making that transition.
At this point, our conversation drifts into the apex of what truly became the premier regenerative thrust of Trail Of Dead’s renaissance. It seems an unwise tour with a Cartoon Network ensemble nearly drove Conrad to quit music before once more getting rejuvenated.
Conrad: There was this terrible tour we did with Dethklok. They’re an Adult Swim cartoon and the band plays in the shadows, like the Gorillaz. But it’s all about death metal. It’s called Metalocalypse. We were invited to go and all the shows were gonna be free, sponsored by Cartoon Network, and it’d be at all these colleges. Interscope dropped the ball on our college play so we thought it’d be a logical way to hit the market. But it went miserably wrong. All the kids wanted to see was Dethklok. They were awfully hostile audiences. We’d never had that. It was more reminiscent of a London audience when you’re opening for a bigger band like Foo Fighters. Sometimes, when we’d improvise, we’d stop the music just to hear the belligerent audience, then make disgruntled noise. Those were confrontational nights with pissed off fans. But we came out a totally different band. The aggressive battles provided energy and righteous anger. The experience helped unify the band.
…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead will be playing Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg Feb. 27 and at Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom, Feb. 28. For more info, visit trailofdead.com.