Keely and Reece have been friends since their youth; they met originally in Hawaii. They each formed their first band in 1993, soon after moving to Olympia, Washington, where Keely studied at The Evergreen State College. Keely started a band called Benedict Gehlen that lasted only a year. Nancyville was Keely's next project, though it also was short-lived. Reece played drums with Honeybucket and then queercore band Mukilteo Fairies (the name is a play on words, referencing the ferry boat that travels between Mukilteo and Clinton, Washington) while living in Olympia. The two moved to Austin, Texas and started playing as a duo under the moniker You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. The band expanded to include guitarist Kevin Allen and bassist Neil Busch. They then officially lengthened their name to ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. Conrad's girlfriend from Olympia, Deanne Rowley (later Deanne McAdams), briefly played with them as a live back-up guitarist.
According to the band's website, their name is taken from an ancient Mayan ritual chant, which shows a striking similarity to an ancient Egyptian chant. This explanation, however, is said to be merely an ongoing joke.
By 1995, they had issued their first release (one song on cassette-only compilation called Austin Live Houses), followed by another self-titled four-song cassette on Golden Hour, and in January 1998 a self-titled full-length on Trance Syndicate.
Trail of Dead soon moved on to Merge Records after the Trance label folded. The band released Madonna on Merge in late 1999, and toured the U.S. opening for labelmates Superchunk to promote it. They signed to Interscope Records and released the Relative Ways EP in 2001.
In early 2002, the Trail of Dead released Source Tags & Codes, which received universal acclaim, including a 10/10 rating from Pitchfork Media, later saying it is "one of indie rock's truly epic albums". Their following tour was chronicled by Rolling Stone, with Andrew Dansby commenting on their group dynamic as a "post-punk Voltron, that just might be the most exciting unit working today."
A follow-up EP to Source Tags & Codes was released in April 2003, titled The Secret of Elena's Tomb. The EP featured contained the electronic track "Intelligence" which featured, and was co-written by, Tyler Jacobson from A Roman Scandal, Reece's other band.
In July 2004, it was announced that Neil Busch had been removed from the band and Danny Wood would be taking his place on bass. Second drummer/percussionist Doni Schroader also joined the band around this time. Trail of Dead released Worlds Apart on January 25, 2005. Music videos were filmed for singles "And the Rest Will Follow" and "Caterwaul". The band also added live keyboardist David Longoria to their touring lineup. Now a six-piece, the band toured heavily on the album, with its trademark explosive live performances and a two-drummer attack. Opening for part of this tour was Longoria's band The Black, which featured Longoria on vocals and guitarist Alan Schaefer, with the rest of TOD filling out the group. The band's fifth album, So Divided, was released on November 14, 2006. Clay Morris replaced Longoria as live keyboardist, and eventually became a full-time member.
In late summer of 2007, the Trail of Dead once again toured Europe, this time with drummer Aaron Ford replacing Doni Schroader. Danny Wood was absent from these performances, having quietly left the band. He would eventually be replaced by Jay Leo Phillips. The band provided the soundtrack to the 2007 film Hell on Wheels, a documentary about the formation of Roller Derby in Austin, Texas. After their overseas tour ended on March 15, 2007, the Trail of Dead returned to the studio to begin recording their sixth record. In October they supported the virtual band Dethklok on an Adult Swim college tour. In that same month, the band became independent, having left Interscope Records after lack of support.
In early 2008, Trail of Dead went back into the studio, without a record contract. Using their own capital, they filmed their recording experiences and released them on YouTube. On October 21, they released an EP, resembling an "album teaser", titled Festival Thyme on Richter Scale Records. On February 17, 2009, a 13-track album, The Century of Self was released. In September 2010, Conrad Keely posted news of an upcoming album 2011 release, produced by Chris "Frenchie" Smith, with an accompanying comic book. Frenchie Smith is also set to re-mix their debut eponymous album. On November 10, 2010, it was announced that their seventh album, Tao of the Dead, would be released in North America on February 8, 2011. It was also revealed that the band had stripped down to a core four-piece, and that Jay Phillips, Clay Morris and longtime guitarist Kevin Allen had been removed from the lineup. Circumstances of these departures are currently unknown. Aaron Ford recorded all of the drums for Tao of the Dead, but has left the band. The band performed live on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on February 7, 2011, debuting bassist Autry Fulbright II (from Reece side project Midnight Masses) and drummer/guitarist Jamie Miller, of the band theSTART. On February 17, 2011, it was announced that Jason Reece would guest host Toby Ryan's radio show on Austin's KROX-FM (101X).
In 2012, the band recorded material for a new album in Hanover, Germany with producer, Chris "Frenchie" Smith. On August 22 the band announced their eighth studio album, Lost Songs, and released song entitled "Up To Infinity", which is dedicated to Pussy Riot. Cover art was revealed on September 6, 2012. On September 25, they released "Catatonic" through Spotify.
In May 2013, the band announced a forthcoming EP Tao of the Dead Part III via Twitter. Using PledgeMusic, they are taking pre-orders for special editions of the EP. In February 2014, the band announced a limited U.S. tour focused on playing music from Source Tags and Codes and plans to record their next album, a sequel to Tao of the Dead, in the spring and summer of 2014. In April 2014, the album Live at Rockpalast 2009 was released. In August 2014, the band announced their ninth album, IX, using an online jigsaw puzzle.
The band themselves claim to be influenced by Fugazi, Melvins, Bikini Kill, KARP, Unwound, Sonic Youth, Led Zeppelin, Rush, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Public Enemy, Yes, J.S. Bach and Vivaldi, amongst others.Albums
2000: "Mistakes & Regrets" UK No. 69
2002: "Another Morning Stoner" UK No. 54
2002: "Relative Ways"
2004: "Worlds Apart"
2005: "The Rest Will Follow"
2006: "A Classic Art Showcase" UK Download No. 49
2006: "Wasted State of Mind"
2009: "Isis Unveiled" (Radio Edit) promo only for radio stations (e.g. Germany)
2010: "Summer of All Dead Souls"
Self-titled CD-R (October 1998, self-released) (Limited edition of 60 copies; all three songs would later appear on Madonna)
Relative Ways (November 6, 2001)
The Secret of Elena's Tomb (April 1, 2003)
Worlds Apart - EP (October 12, 2004)
Festival Thyme (October 21, 2008)
Tao of the Dead Part III (December 16, 2013)
Adult Swim Presents: ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead on Tour with Dethklok (October 29, 2007)
"Let It Dive" from Worlds Apart was featured on EA Sports' MVP Baseball 2005"Mistakes & Regrets"
"Another Morning Stoner"
"All St. Day" (on the Worlds Apart' bonus DVD)
"The Rest Will Follow"
"Naked Sun" (Edit)
"Isis Unveiled" (Radio Edit)
"Summer of all Dead Souls"
"The Ghost Within"
"The Lie Without a Liar"