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Interview w/ Trails and Ways

Team B3SCI recently got to chatting with guitar and synthsmith K B B from hotly tipped, Oakland based quartet, Trails and Ways. Back-and-forth we went about geography, the band’s explosion to the heights of the blogosphere, and even philosophical aesthetics. For those of you in Los Angeles, you can catch Trails and Ways at The Bootleg on Thursday, October 25th for their first ever gig in town. Tickets and details for the show here, and take a look at our conversation with the band below.

B3SCI: What inspired the formation of Trails and Ways, and is there a particular vision behind the tropical rhythms and melodies that the band explore?

T&W: We all knew each other living in the student cooperative houses at Berkeley; after graduating, Emma and I lived in Spain and Brazil, respectively, and came home full of little skeletons of songs. Quirk and I started playing shows in the middle of 2011, and Emma and Hannah joined us later that year.

B3SCI: You guys have mentioned Jorge Ben and Joao Gilberto as influences. We love Brazilian
music. What can you tell us about the impact the music of that country has had on the band as writers and as people, etc…?

T&W: When I lived there, the music was a way for me to understand something more whole than what I got through the colander of words. If I were to make a list of what really left an impression on me from Brazilian music, that list would start: how the old samba or forro songs are cultural bedrocks to the point where everybody at the street parties sings along to every word; how the music isn’t about a spectacle of famous musicians, but about amateurs showing up at bars and playing the hits as a community ritual; how Joao, in “Corcovado”, says “que lindo”.

B3SCI: There’s so many textures and colors throughout your recordings. What’s the most unique instrument that you’ve ever used on one of your tracks?

T&W: The bass drum on our cover of “Animal” is a sample of Quirk rhythmically dropping a large book.

B3SCI: No secrets that Trails and Ways has taken the music blogosphere by storm. How has this effected the band, it’s career and what’s next?

T&W: Definitely feels like it’s opened a lot of doors to us, and it’s great to have felt that a range of folks out there are touched by what we’re doing. We’re cruising along on recording our album right now, getting our live act super on-point, and getting set for an LA tour.

B3SCI: What else can you tell us about the album?

T&W: We’re working on it now, it’s called Trilingual and it’s about what language can and can’t say, and it’ll be out when it’s ready.

B3SCI: Any more details on touring?

T&W: We’re touring to LA 10/25, with a few other Southern California dates around that. We play SF like once a month, so hopefully everybody here knows that! We aim to do some serious touring behind Trilingual when it’s done, so NYC, we’ll see yall in 2013.

B3SCI: When the band isn’t making sun drenched tunes, what do the members of Trails and Ways find themselves doing to bide their time?

T&W: Quirk and Emma are surfers, Hannah and I rockclimb, also Emma and Hannah urban homestead and paint, Quirk and I also work in the clean energy bizness, ACTIVE LIFESTYLES.

B3SCI: Where does Trails and Ways see itself in five years? Where has the band’s evolution lead to?

T&W: Where we wanna be in five years is feminist socialist utopia.

B3SCI: We loved the Marxicized cover of Miguel’s “Sure Thing” (which is really great song btw). Where’d the idea come from to do that with it?

T&W: I’d been living over the summer at a house full of community organizers who loved R&B and Grace Lee Boggs with about the same heft; we blasted Miguel all the time. I knew if we were going to cover an R&B standard I wanted it to speak more from our Oakland reality than Miguel’s LA original.

B3SCI: Troy from our crew studied aesthetics in college. Theodor Adorno’s notion of pseudo-individualization is pretty apt in describing the current indie milieu. Any thoughts?

T&W: Shit, you’re trying to get me to write an essay. Indie music has become part and parcel of the culture industry; it’s a DIY outsourcing of the formerly-studio-centralized songwriting/recording process, and it just leads to nominally quirkier pop music that is no less challenging to the capitalist reproduction of art than is Katy Perry (much respect to her though, she worked damn hard to get what she’s got). This makes me think about something Mike Davis asked in regards to the crass commercialization of NWA; “If the dream factories are equally as happy to manufacture nightmare as idyll, what happens to the oppositional power of documentary realism…?” Indie music does documentation of cool subcultures and bizarre minds, and the culture industry has found a way to package up and resell nearly all of it, from Nirvana pitch-dark or Bombay Bicycle Club sugary. In deep ways, the music business model is changing to make advertising the most lucrative source of revenue for most young indie artists. Advertising becomes dependent on indie music to do its social networking—to make you say, “Whoa cool song, this product must be targeted towards people like me.” And the artists become slyly dependent on the ad revenue, and maybe unconsciously start to make pseudo-individualized hooks and safely quirky production choices that suit 30-second TV spots. In the long run, there is only one solution; public financing of art, like Sweden and Brazil do already in a limited way. In the short term, what’s a band to do? To come back to Mike Davis (can you tell I’m transfixedly reading City of Quartz right now in preparation for our LA tour?), I think we need to make art that is not “advertising art that advertises itself as art that hates advertising”. I don’t know exactly how to always do that, but I think you start by making music that is explicit and proud in its politics, and then by setting clear lines as a band as to what kind of advertising and business bullshit you will not ever take part in.

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TRAILS AND WAYS – Mtn Tune (Facebook)

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