Trail of Dead Kicks Off Tour in Denver

Conrad Keely and Jason Reece are the founding members of … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead.
Conrad Keely and Jason Reece are the founding members of … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. Viktor Skot
Jason Reece, one half of the creative force behind the art-punk, post-hardcore band … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, was spending a Monday morning at his Austin, Texas, home excavating ten-year-old tour merch from a tool shed. He’s not selling it on eBay.

“We’re gonna bring it [on tour] — why not?” he says. “That’s what happens when you're in a band. You collect shit.”

Trail of Dead, as the band is more often called, has been around for over 25 years and is known for its genre-blending sound that has gripped its widespread fan base. Reece and Conrad Keely, the band's two permanent members since playing their first show in 1995, trade duties as drummers and frontmen. Throughout the decades, the group has operated with a revolving lineup, and currently has five members.

Now the band is making up for lost time. The pandemic shuttered last year's tour to celebrate its 25th anniversary and its tenth album, X: The Godless Void and Other Stories. Trail of Dead hasn't played a show in months and is champing at the bit to kick off its first tour since the pandemic lockdown on Saturday, December 4, at the Larimer Lounge.

The band has several connections to Colorado: Reece has family here, and guitar tech and tour manager Gordon Allison married a woman from Denver whom he met on tour. Allison started brewing beer during the pandemic using Ratio Beerworks' equipment, eventually making a Trail of Dead-themed Kölsch through his Sire Brew Co that the group hopes to promote on tour.

“We're lucky to go on tour,” Reece says. “The idea is to just get back out there and be a part of the world again after being isolated, just playing shows and doing normal things. It seems strange to think that was on pause for a year and a half.”
click to enlarge Conrad Keely and Jason Reece - KRYSTAL MORRIS
Conrad Keely and Jason Reece
Krystal Morris

He notes that Trail of Dead will be touring with “basically a fucking orchestra" and will play songs it has rarely or never played live, which includes some fan favorites. But that's where the teasers end: He wants to keep an element of mystery for the band's fans.

“[The songs] sound really good,” he adds. “We're wondering why we never played them in the first place. We have so many records, and when we go on tour, we have to be selective. … The approach is to make a show that’s as completely energetic as possible.”

Reece and Keely started working on X: The Godless Void and Other Stories in 2018 after Keely returned to Austin from Cambodia, where he lived for five years and played in a local punk band called Kampot Playboys. Reece describes that band as akin to Celtic punk act the Pogues, but with Cambodian flair — a “crazy, rough-and-tumble punk band with a little country, folky thing going on.” For his part, he says he likes Austin and has never felt the urge to leave.

“When someone is living across the globe, it becomes trickier to make something happen,” he points out. “We have succeeded when people lived in different parts of the United States. But when Conrad lived in Cambodia, it was too remote, in a lot of ways.”

When Trail of Dead's tour was canceled last year, Reece and Keely took advantage of the lockdown to record another album, which is now being mastered and will be released next year.

“We made a really, really insane record we are very hopeful about,” Reece says. “We approached it in a very different manner. It’s going to be a quadraphonic record.”

Trail of Dead's sound varies widely from record to record, but there's always a layer of post-hardcore rock. Reece jokes that the band has always been too arty for punk rockers, too punk for arty people, and not metal enough for metal kids.

The upcoming record marks a new sonic direction for the band, he says, calling it a "blockbuster" in comparison to the last album.

In spite of being around for more than a quarter of a century, he adds, Trail of Dead keeps experimenting with new sounds and musicians to keep things fresh. In his opinion, with X: The Godless Void, it felt as though the band had only been around for a year.

“Time is definitely a bizarre thing,” he muses. “I guess we're lucky to keep it going for so long. A lot of our peers have broken up and gone on to other things. It’s definitely bizarre.”

He and Keely have matured in their approach to music, Reece adds. They used to be known for trashing their gear at the end of shows, but they’ve grown out of such campy antics and can rely more on the excitement of the music and the audience.

“When the band first started, we had a real burn-it-down, don’t-give-a-fuck attitude that ties in with your youth in a lot of ways,” he recalls. “It’s good to retain that youthful mentality, but do it in a way that’s not as destructive to your well-being."
click to enlarge Album art for X: The Godless Void and Other Stories. - COURTESY OF ...AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD
Album art for X: The Godless Void and Other Stories.
Courtesy of ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead

…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead plays the Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer Street, at 9 p.m. Saturday, December 4, with Death Valley Girls. Tickets, $19.99,
are available at
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.