Trails And Ways - Photo by David Wallace

Oakland-based Trails and Ways will be performing at The Independent tonight to celebrate the release of their debut full-length album, Pathology, and you should be losing your mind.

Initially formed in Berkeley, the band is influenced by sounds from around the world, and they sculpted the foundation of a growing fan base with 2013’s Trilingual. On Pathology, their songs are varied, yet they remain consistent in character. Perhaps it’s precisely how they bring their collective interests together that allows their music to speak to listeners on a deeper level. One thing is for sure: we ravenously look forward to the future for this group, whose artistry and creativity continue to grow.

We chatted with Keith Brown from Trails and Ways via e-mail to discuss the band’s new album, songwriting, and experiences on tour.

The Bay Bridged: What did making this album mean to you? What were some of the hurdles you experienced in its creation?

Keith Brown (Trails and Ways): The album sounds to me like how we sound as four people and four voices, coming together. I’m proud of that. We got to work on this album right after our first national tour, after quitting our day jobs. That deepened commitment meant higher emotional stakes for us. We try to run the band with real equity, with all four of us having an equal say in whatever pieces we want to. That takes hard work when the stakes are high. I think this album came out sounding like the balance and creative trust we’ve found with each other.

TBB: I noticed that you take pieces of music from the various cultures you’ve interacted with in your travels. How would you say they influence you as artists?

KB: Why take when you can learn? I definitely learned a lot from Brazilian pop and bossa, especially from musicians and my cuica teacher down there. I think of our songs that play with foreign traditions as an experiment in finding the real fun & power in listening, with humility, across borders. Bossa has taught me a lot about rhythm and lyrical intimacy, chimurenga music taught us a lot about guitar hooks and bass grooves, but at the end of the day, our music has got to be real to who we are and where we come from.

TBB: I think that it’s interesting that each person in the band has to write and do vocals for at least one of the tracks in this new release. How did that idea come to fruition? Were you always collectively minded?

KB: While in the songwriting, each of

[us] wrote at least a couple of tracks, and as we whittled it down, it felt important and special to keep at least a song from everybody. Three of us met living in a co-op at Berkeley, the one big co-op that is self-run by consensus. I think that gave us some tools and ideas for group process. In any tight group there’ll always be knotty power dynamics, visible and invisible ones. Any awareness of those challenges makes it feel unfair to call us a 100% egalitarian utopian collective. But given how much we respect each other, and how much each of us gives creatively to the band, it would feel weird to me for us not to keep striving towards that egalitarian goal.

TBB: What are your personal favorites from the album, and which one would you like for us to post?

KB: “Heavy Sleeper” is a favorite for all of us. Hannah wrote it, the melodies are amazing, and Sandra’s guest vocals are so gorgeous. The sound on that one came out in a way we love, really glowy and fat and hypnotic.

“Vines,” the album closer, is the most live-style recording on the record, and I love how we groove together on it. It’s a special one for me personally, trying to write in a more open & honest way than I have before.

Of the songs on Soundcloud, tough call, but “Jacaranda” is the one I’d say you should post. I like the upbeat, sun-glinty sound and grooviness we got on it, and the lyrics, about not living your life just to entertain others, keep feeling very fresh to me.

TBB: What is one of your craziest experiences from your recent touring so far?

KB: We often find places to crash through Two nights last tour were the ultimate couchsurfing rollercoaster. Night one was with a couple in the Denver suburbs, whose kids had gone to college, now have three spare bedrooms, and are insanely warm welcoming hosts. We slept like babies, hotly showered babies.

Next night, in Omaha, our host never showed up apparently because he had a hookup opportunity come up. His housemates let us in, and we made camp on the living room floor, only to learn they had a pet rabbit that they let roam free all the time. The bunny jumped our drummer’s face about 8 times that night while he tried to sleep

TBB: I noticed that your press release makes your music very politically minded. What are some of the motives that push you when it comes to trying to spread a message to your listeners?

KB: Ecological destruction and huge social injustice are a part of the world right now, and we don’t want to make music that ignores that. We don’t have any interest in preaching. We want to get at how those problems make us feel, and open space for our listeners to explore and talk about how they feel.

Trails and Ways, Bells Atlas, Perhapsy
The Independent
June 5, 2015
8:30pm, $15, 21+