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Interview: … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead

… And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead has a reputation as intimidating as their name.

The veteran Texas rock band — which has seven albums under its belt — is known for ferocious live performances and onstage fights, where they sometimes break their instruments. Next to them, current tour mates Surfer Blood look like a pail of cherub-faced puppies.

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Still, Conrad Keely, the band's lead singer and founder, said the new album, "Tao of the Dead," was inspired in part by the ancient book of Chinese proverbs. The rest of the album is more political, and takes its cues from Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk and Rush.

How did the tour with Surfer Blood come together? They're not the first band I'd associate with Trail of Dead. You guys look like you could break them in half. Do I have them wrong?

Not necessarily. But that doesn't mean we're not friends with them. It's one of those things where we're I've hung out with them more than I've seen them play. You know what, I'm curious myself how it's going to be.

"Tao of the Dead" is 16 tracks. How long did it take to record?

We started recording "Tao" maybe around May 2010. We only worked on it for a total of three months off and on. It was very quick. Our average production is nine months. We just didn't want to waste time recording.

Where did the album's name come from?

When we're working on the album, the only book in the studio happened to be the Tao Te Ching, a five-part manuscript from the fifth century B.C., written in China. People assume it's a heady text about reaching enlightenment. But it's about day-to-day business and how to behave in an ethical manner. The first part of the album isn't about that. It's about America. The current state of America, its crumbling empirical power.

Musically, what inspired the album? In the press notes, you mention Rush, another band I wouldn't associate with you guys.

A: We were listing to Kraftwerk and even Depeche Mode. I was really into early electronic stuff. My mom got me into Rush. It's one of those relationships with a band that [I've] been listening to since I was a kid. I respect their longevity. But I also kind of relate to [drummer] Neil Peart, the way he had these literary aspirations with their music. I relate to that in a big way.

Well, the album comes with a comic you've written that seems to mix a lot of historical genres.

The comic is an introduction to a novel I've been working on. It's a novel with a big epic scope, a trilogy set in another planet. … I find the music and the book to be interrelated. Wherever I take the story and the novel, the music will follow.

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If you go

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… And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead performs Wednesday at the Ottobar, 2549 N. Howard St. Surfer Blood opens. Doors are at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Call 410-662-0069 or go to theottobar.com

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