Texas rockers …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead will release their 11th studio album, XI: Bleed Here Now, on July 15 through Dine Alone Records. And this time, there’s a twist: the project was mixed in quadrophonic sound with the help of an audio plug-in called QUARK, providing a true widescreen feel to the music.
Two preview tracks are out today: the stomping, organ-drenched “No Confidence” and the more concise, almost sing-song-y “Salt in Your Eyes,” which builds to a loud guitar freakout and random studio chatter about checking the potatoes cooking outside on the grill. Bleed Here Now was produced by Trail of Dead leaders Conrad Keely and Jason Reece in tandem with Charles Godfrey, who was behind the boards for the group’s 2020 release, X: The Godless Void and Other Stories.
The album features appearances by the Tosca String Quartet on the opening theme, “Our Epic Attempts,” as well as Amanda Palmer on “Millennium Actress” (Palmer previously guested on the band’s 2006 album So Divided). Elsewhere, fellow Texas all-star Britt Daniel of Spoon sings on “Growing Divide.” Says Keely of that track, “We thought it would be fun to have our friend Britt come in to sing one of the harmonies, so that we could have four different voices separated out between two stereo mixes.”
Bleed Here Now was recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic at Wolfshield, a barn studio on a ranch in south Austin. The group was inspired to make albums in the way its musical inspirations such as Rush, Fleetwood Mac and Kate Bush used to: “instead of paying hourly rates at some hip, high-tech professional studio, we would find a spot we could afford to lease for a couple months so that we never felt stressed for time, and in a relaxing location that would put us at complete ease and make us look forward to showing up every day,” Keely says.
In a surprising twist, Trail Of Dead stumbled on the quadrophonic sound idea after randomly reconnecting with KamranV, who worked with the group during its early 2000s stint at Interscope Records. They bonded over their shared love of synthesizers, prompting KamranV to mention having recorded a recent album from synth legend Suzanne Ciani in quadrophonic sound with the help of the QUARK software plugin he’d received a National Endowment for the Arts grant to develop.
“I wish I’d recorded that conversation, actually,” Keely says. “Because by the next day, that’s what we all agreed we were now working on. Without actually knowing yet how we were going to do it, of course. But it made perfect sense — we had two drum kits set up. And with three guitars going, and the keyboards, and the new harmony parts we were trying out, why not do it in surround? Sure, there hadn’t been a rock album recorded in quad since the ’70s, and we’d have to sell the idea to the label. Would it play on vinyl? Even if it did, none of us had a quad system to listen to it on at home. But…”
Trail Of Dead has no 2022 tour dates confirmed at the moment, but the group’s Web site says they “will be announced shortly.”